Question: “Why do the four Gospels seem to present a different message of salvation than the rest of the New Testament?


Question: “Why do the four Gospels seem to present a different message
of salvation than the rest of the New Testament?”

Answer: We
must keep in mind that the Bible is intended to be taken as a whole. The books
preceding the Four Gospels are anticipatory, and the books which follow are
explanatory. Throughout the whole Bible, what God requires is faith—Genesis 15:6; Psalm 2:12; Habakkuk 2:4; Matthew 9:28; John
20:27
; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 10:39. Salvation comes not by our own works but

by trusting what God does on our behalf.

Each of the Gospels has its own
emphasis on the ministry of Christ. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience,
emphasizes Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, proving that He is the
long-awaited Messiah. Mark writes a fast-paced, condensed account, recording
Jesus’ miraculous deeds and not recording His long discourses. Luke portrays
Jesus as the remedy of the world’s ills, emphasizing His perfect humanity and
humane concern for the weak, the suffering, and the outcast. John emphasizes
Jesus’ deity by selecting many conversations and sayings of Jesus on the subject
and also including “signs” that prove He is the Son of God.

The Four
Gospels work together to provide a complete testimony of Jesus, a beautiful
portrait of the God-Man. Although the Gospels differ slightly in theme, the
central Subject is the same. All present Jesus as the One who died to save
sinners. All record His resurrection. Whether the writers presented Jesus as the
King, the Servant, the Son of Man, or the Son of God, they had the common
goal—that people believe in Him.

We’ll delve into the theology of the
Gospels now. John includes many statements of faith and commands to believe.
These inclusions fit his stated purpose, “that you might believe that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His
name” (20:31). The other Gospels (the Synoptics) are no less concerned that we
trust in Christ. Their appeals to faith are less overt but are just as
genuine.

Jesus proclaims the need for righteousness, and He warns of the
penalty of sin, which is hell. However, Jesus always presents God as the
standard of righteousness and Himself as the means of righteousness—without
Christ, righteousness is unattainable and hell is inevitable. The Sermon on the
Mount (Matthew 5-7) is a case in point:

– Jesus begins the Sermon on the
Mount with a description of the blessed life (5:1-12). The Beatitudes are not
telling us “how to” be righteous, but are simply describing
righteousness.

– He presents Himself as the fulfillment of the Old
Testament law (5:17-18). This is a key verse because, to earn our own
righteousness, we must fulfill the law; here, Jesus says that He will do it for
us.

– He says that no amount of our own good works will gain us entrance
to heaven (5:20). This is another important statement in the sermon. The
Pharisees were the most religious people of the day, but Jesus says even they
are not good enough to enter heaven. Jesus will go on to say that it’s not a
religious system that saves, but He Himself.

– He “raises the bar” for
righteousness according to God’s standard, instead of man’s interpretation of
the law (5:21-48). He explains God’s intent behind seven Old Testament laws. The
bar is raised so high as to make everyone, even the most dedicated religious
practitioner, guilty before God.

– He describes three popular religious
activities—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting—as hypocritical when practiced by the
outwardly religious (6:1-18). Jesus’ focus, as with the seven laws He just
mentioned, is the heart condition of man, not the works we can see.

– He
warns that there will be “many” in the day of judgment who will have performed
great works for God yet will be turned away from heaven (7:21-23). The reason
given is that Jesus never “knew” them. There was no familial relationship, only
“good” works, which is not enough.

– Jesus concludes the Sermon on the
Mount with the audacious statement that He alone is the foundation for building
one’s religious life (7:24-27). It is an appeal to trust “these sayings of Mine”
enough to abandon all other foundations.

To summarize, in the Sermon on
the Mount Jesus meticulously deconstructs the pharisaical religion of good
works, points to a holiness greater than our own, and offers Himself as the sole
basis of religion. Accepting what Jesus says in this sermon requires faith in
His Person.

Matthew’s Gospel goes on to emphasize faith in the following
verses: 8:10, 13, 26; 9:2, 22, 28-29; 12:21; 13:58; 14:31; 15:28; 16:8; 17:17;
and 18:6. Also, Matthew includes a very clear presentation of Jesus as the Son
of God in this exchange: “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon
Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus
answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood
has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” (Matthew
16:15-17
).

Mark’s Gospel contains the following references to faith
in Christ: 1:15; 2:5; 4:40; 5:34, 36; 6:6; 9:19, 23, 42; 10:52; 11:23; and
16:14. In Luke’s Gospel we see these verses promoting faith in Christ: 1:1;
5:20; 7:9, 50; 8:12, 25, 48, 50; 9:41; 12:28, 46; 17:19; 18:8, 42; and 24:25. As
we continue to see scripture as a unified whole, we will see that there is only
one message of salvation, and the Four Gospels provide the basis for that
message.

The Epistles which follow the Gospels elaborate upon the same
theme: salvation by faith in Christ. The overarching theme of Romans is the
righteousness that comes through God and the doctrine of justification by grace
through faith. The central theme of Galatians and Colossians is the same same.
The book of Hebrews stresses the pre-eminence and perfection of Christ, the
“author and perfecter of our faith.” First and Second Corinthians, Ephesians,
Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the pastoral epistles of Timothy and Titus,
Philemon, James, 1 and 2 Peter, all describe the holy living, both personally
and corporately within the church, and the hope for the future which should be
the natural result of life in Christ. The three epistles of John reiterate the
basics of the faith and warn against those who would call them into question,
also the main theme of Jude. Revelation, the final book of the New Testament,
presents the last act of God’s plan for mankind and the fate of those who hold
onto the same faith expounded in the entirety of the New Testament—faith in
Christ alone.

Recommended Resource: The Quest Study Bible.

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