The Provocative Gospel

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal (2 Tim 2:8-9)

Why is 2 Timothy 2:8-9 devastating and provocative enough to get Paul incarcerated and his life threatened regularly. It doesn't sound especially provocative. Similarly with Romans 1:1-3:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord

You might disagree or deny, but isn't the desire to destroy a disproportionate reaction?

Not if we read it carefully. Not if we read that Jesus is the Christ - the anointed, long anticipated ruler from God. Not if we rightly read that he is descended from David. He is the King of Israel from Heaven, the authoritative one. Not if we confront that fact that he has been raised from the dead and is thereby seen to be Lord over all powers. And not if we make the connection Paul then makes in Romans 1: that because of this Jesus he has to call people all over the world to obey Jesus in faith.

Put like that we see that this gospel absolutely cuts across our right of self-determination. It cuts across all worldly claims to ultimate authority or kingship, whether from dictator or democracy. It cuts across all ambition, all delight in sin and demands that people turn to him in faith.

Do we have any contemporary equivalent statements of the gospel that would be as offensive to society as Paul's message? Maybe we do. Say something like this and we are certainly getting some way towards it:

"Jesus is the anointed messiah, King over life and death. He rightly has authority over you, demanding and deserving your homage. He has the right of say over your life. He determines your death and eternal destiny. He defines rights and wrongs, even our very definitions of humanity and sexuality and virtue and ethics. And we are calling you to submit to him in faith."

If Paul was prepared to express it in these kinds of terms on many occasions then we should too. If we find ourselves reluctant (for more reasons than merely rhetorical sensitivity)to offend against societal norms the obvious question is are we submitting to Christ in faith ourselves? Or have we just been assimilated by the world?

We call to the world that we are daily becoming nothing, in order that Christ is all in all. If we aren't becoming nothing, if he isn't all in all, then we won't call.