What was the message of Jesus Christ while He was here on Earth? Were His message and the preaching of John the Baptist the same? In light of Jesus’ message how should we react? What should we do?
There is a form of Bible study called “the law of first mention.” Basically, what this means is that if you look at the first time a topic is discussed in the Scriptures you will have the general idea of the issue and can interpret other occurrences of the subject from the original light.
Few notice the similarities of the first mentions of the preaching of John the Baptist and the preaching of Jesus Christ.
Of John the Baptist: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2).
The first mention of Jesus’ preaching comes from Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
No one would argue that the two men had different styles but now we see they had the same message. We’ve now answered two of our original questions. The message of Christ was to repent and the message of Him and John are identical.
I’ve been in church for roughly 40 years and I’ve never heard anyone say the message of Christ was to repent. What I have heard most of all down through the years would be that His message is a message of love. But the first mention of His preaching is a topic of repentance.
If you are thinking Jesus’ first sermon may have been on the topic of repentance but His overall preaching was a message of love; don’t forget how Matthew 4:17 begins, “From that time Jesus began to preach…” The implication is not that this was just a one sermon topic; the implication is that repentance was the topic of His preaching career.
But what about “love your enemies” and stuff like that? He said that all the time; so wasn’t His message of love? How many people do you know that truly love their enemies? How many people do you know pray that God blesses those that have stabbed them in the back, or pray for them that are in competition with them for a promotion at work, or pray for the next door neighbor that took their dog to the humane society when he got through the fence last summer? I reckon if we know people like that at all we can count them on one hand. Is telling us to love our enemies and to pray for those that use us only a message of love or is the deeper message that we need to change on the inside; to repent?
Twice in three verses (Luke 13:3-5) Christ tells us “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Peter took this thought a step further and told us the will of God for everyone is for them to repent (2 Peter 3:9).
Repentance is more than doing the right thing; true repentance is a change of the heart. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount Christ is repeatedly reminding us God is looking at our heart as much, if not more, than our actions. He equates anger with murder (Matthew 5:21-22) and lust with adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). It is also in the Sermon of the Mount where Christ tells us of people, who on judgment day, will list all the accomplishments they did in His name, yet He tells them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23).
When a person truly puts their faith in Christ and by God’s grace is saved (Ephesians 2:8-9) the heart changes. True Christians do good things because God has changed the heart. Sins that were committed in the past are now repulsive; God has changed the heart (2 Corinthians 5:17).
If your neighbor took your dog to the humane society; would you pray for him or yell at him? How’s your heart? Have you truly repented?
Preacher Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind., and is considered by many as an expert on Biblical prophecy. He and his wife, Julie, have four grown children and 11 grandchildren. All scripture references are from the KJV. Blog: www.preacherjohnson.com or email: email@example.com.