The beginning of the gospel – Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The gospel message, euangelion or “good news,” begins with Jesus Christ.  It is the message about him and his coming and about his work.  Mark’s book gives us the story of his life, death and resurrection.  Unlike the quotation that allegedly comes from St. Francis of Assisi, it is full of words from beginning to end.

You may know the little saying that I am talking about, the one that says,

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.

With respect to this saying, a little debunking is in order.  First of all, it is not likely that Francis ever said it.  Second, he did gobs of verbal preaching, so he evidently thought using words was necessary pretty much all the time.  

How on earth can news, bad or good, be faithfully and continuously communicated without words anyway?  This is no criticism of good deeds.  It is simply stating the obvious that deeds and words are different things and the gospel is something that takes words.  That is no doubt why Francis preached so much verbally, out loud and in public.  It is also why Mark wrote a book with words rather than a coloring book or a comic book without captions.

Mark Galli wrote a little biography of St. Francis, which is short and readable enough to enjoy by almost anyone.  It is presently available on Amazon for more money than you want to spend on it.  When I bought it, the price was way lower.  If you want, I might cut you a deal on my own copy, and I’d send it to you for much less than that current high price (and still make a handsome profit).  Then again, even the first few paragraphs of his article on Christianity Today will give you enough information to back up my point about the quotation.  The title alone will help.  It is “Speak the Gospel: Use Deeds When Necessary.”  

For the next few months at our church we will be going through Mark’s Gospel and reading every word, chapter by chapter and verse by verse.  Every week we will look at one more portion of Christ’s life and ministry.  We just finished Matthew and the plan is to go through Luke and John after we finish Mark.  This will be lots of gospel, lots of words and lots of Jesus.  It will also give us lots of good news.

The Foolishness of Preaching

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 (NKJV)

“In some ways, the entire process seems ridiculous.  Common sense rebels against claims that eternal destinies will change simply because we voice thoughts from an ancient text.  When Paul commends the foolishness of preaching – not foolish preaching – he acknowledges the apparent senselessness of trying to transform attitudes, lifestyles, philosophical perspectives and faith commitments with mere words about a once crucified rabbi (see 1 Cor. 1:21). Yet preaching endures and the gospel spreads because the Holy Spirit uses puny human efforts as the conduit for the force of his own Word.  By the blessing of God’s Spirit, the Word yet transforms (i.e., causes our hearts to love God and our wills to seek his will).”  

– Bryan Chapell, in Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, pp. 28-29