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Introducing Jesus, the Son of God
By Herbert E. Douglass

A Commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson for March 26–April 1, 2005

Among Gospel writers, Mark is often the favorite. One cannot read Mark’s Gospel without sensing the flow of events, like whitewater—especially with his frequent use of "straightway" (often translated "immediately"). One can easily read the sixteen chapters in one sitting. The impact is always powerful as well as illuminating, no matter how many times it is read. One senses that Mark’s portrait is the Gospel in action with vivid pictures of Jesus in daily snapshots—primarily in the way he uses the Greek verb not often recognized in English translations.

It is commonly assumed that Mark wrote what Peter remembered, both being prompted by the Holy Spirit. Sort of a summation in later years, Peter saw the big picture wrapped up in the one word, gospel. Luke and John never used the word gospel, Matthew used it four times, and Mark fourteen times. Mark further clarifies the gospel as a message that involves repentance. This is a fundamental umbilical cord that has been unfortunately cut by many Christian theologians in the past two thousand years!

Perhaps Peter and Mark understood the gospel in a deeper way than others. We know Peter’s IMAX experience; the drama is unforgettable. We can role-play Mark’s youthful goofs when he complained about going to a tough place like Perga; Paul did not want wimps on his tours to hostile territory (Acts 13:13; 15:36–40). But tears and years later, Mark redeemed himself and Paul considered him a valuable co-laborer (2 Tim. 4:11).

The word gospel translates euaggelion, a common Greek word that means "a message of good news." That is, good news of any kind. But Mark quickly tells us what that good news is all about—"Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

In verses 14 and 15, he quotes Jesus, who told the world that his "good news" was about a "kingdom of God…[that] is at hand." How does one enter the kingdom? By "repent[ing] and believ[ing] the gospel."

Isn’t it a pity that these two words, repent and believe, have each contributed to the many divisions within the Christian church for more than two thousand years? Test it out: compare how the Roman Catholic Church understands these two words, or Presbyterians, or Methodists, or Unitarians, or Evangelicals, or Adventists.

It can be argued that almost all theological divisions within the Seventh-day Adventist Church today would vanish if we had a clear, biblical understanding of what is meant by repentance and the gospel. Misunderstanding repentance distorts the gospel. And vice versa. The answer will not be found in resorting to theologians, past or present, who work from their conflicting answers to key questions such as (1) why did Jesus come? and (2) why did he die?

Limited gospels grow out of limited understandings of the plan of salvation. Because of a limited understanding of the gospel, unfortunate definitions of the English words repentance and gospel have arisen and divided Christians, never more so than today.

When we understand the plan of salvation as God’s answer to a cosmic controversy, our minds go beyond how we are going to be "saved" to how we can be part of God’s answer to Satan’s charges that God has been unfair and untrustworthy (Rev. 15:3; 19:2).

Jesus came with "good news." In fact, one could say that Jesus was the gospel. He came to tell us God’s side of the controversy and how we could be part of the solution and be part of "the kingdom of God."

Almost like code words, he said, "repent and believe." What does he mean?

Repent is more than feeling sorry. Another Greek word, metameleomai, describes being sorry for one’s sins as used by Judas (Matt. 27:3). Repentance (metanoia) is a combination of two Greek words—change and mind. The Greek understood what Jesus was saying: "If you want to belong to the Kingdom of God, a fundamental change of thinking and acting must happen wherein you recognize that you have been at cross purposes with God leading to sad consequences."

Clearly, repentance is more than confession, a short-cut that many find satisfying.

To put it another way, "Entrance to the Kingdom of God is through a door called ’repentance’—a door that opens to loyal followers of Christ, not merely to forgiven criminals, because only people who can be trusted with eternal life will be saved." For the sake of justice and security of the universe, rebels are not safe to save.

All this leads to what Mark and Jesus meant by the word believe. If there is only one word that has divided all churches past and present, believe takes the prize. Almost all English translations of the Greek word pistis miss the point. The correct translation is "faith" as the noun, and if our English grammar were more accurate, the verb rendering would be "faithing." We do it in so many other noun-verb renditions such as the swimmer, swims; the runner, runs; the singer, sings, and so forth.

To have faith in someone or in some idea means far more than merely believing that something happened. One can believe that the moon is round, but one does not need faith in that fact. One can believe that Jesus died on the Cross, but that does not mean that the "believer" has New Testament faith in that event. The words of Jesus are not merely to be "believed"; they are meant to lead to repentance, to change lives and to develop an abiding companionship that erases all conflicts with the will of God.

New Testament faith (pistis) is a word that embraces knowledge, appreciation, trust, and commitment of obedience. Our Lord’s good news is that the time has come for the clearest understanding of how God intends to save men and women from dire consequences. The only response God requests will not be found in rigorous journeys to special holy places, or in withdrawals from worldly responsibilities, or in manufactured legalisms. The door is open to those who truly recognize their sinfulness and genuinely make a U-turn in their lives.

And how is that done? By having faith in the gospel. What does that mean? By accepting the pardon and power that comes from the God of grace, the Jesus who hung on the Cross. We call this offer of pardon and power—the gift of grace.

Only people who grasp his pardon and his power to live the life that repentance has opened will enjoy the assurance of salvation now. Only people who have such faith will be entrusted with eternal life.


  1. Is there any other place in the four Gospels where Christ’s mission and message is so clearly recorded?

  2. What was there about this cameo message that seemed so compelling to rugged fishermen?

  3. Does it seem that compelling to us today? If not, why?


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