One problem the disciples *didn’t* have.

Some people say law can’t be good news. Someone better tell all those freed slaves. Or one day in the future when abortion is abolished someone better tell all the babies who were saved from death because they weren’t allowed to be murdered.

Now let’s get it clear right from the beginning. Paul is very clear in Romans when speaking about the law in terms of the law being like a prosecuting attorney. Those who are enslaved in a futile cycle of attempting to keep God’s perfect moral law for salvation have a relationship with the law that is entirely antagonistic. The law is ONLY bad news to such a person.

That said, the Bible talks about the law in many different ways. Check out Psalm 119 and look at David’s relationship with the law. He is literally obsessed with it and it isn’t enslaving him one bit. Why is that? He is trusting in a substitute for his righteousness and enjoying the law as a gift to be thankful for. A law that provides him with freedom.

If you lived under a King who enforced evil laws which oppressed you at every turn, would you be relieved to hear the announcement of a righteous and good king who would judge wisely and establish justice and righteousness? Would it be good news to you? A good King, with good laws?

Read Jeremiah chapter 22 and 23. What was being promised about the Messiah? He was definitely someone who was going to bring about some law and order, and it was defiantly good news.
 
That said it should be no wonder why Jesus spent so much time with the disciples explaining about the slow and progressive growth of the kingdom (mustard seed). They weren’t wrong to believe that the Messiah’s arrival meant that tyrant kings and rulers would be overthrown and oppressive decrees would be overturned. They weren’t dichtomizing law and gospel. From the prophets, they knew that the propagation of the Messiah’s good law was part of the gospel.

Whatever the disciples problems were in understanding what was going on in their day prior to Pentecost, it wasn’t their belief that the Messiah’s kingdom would bring about righteous law upon the earth. They were not wrong about that.

Their problems arose because they thought when the Messiah first appeared, there would be an overnight change to fix their little situation in Palestine (Acts 1:7) when it really was about a massive inter-generational project to disciple all nations and bring the law and reign of Christ to the coast-lands.

The mystery of the Gospel was that this kingdom would be brought about through the revelation of Christ to all nations. Not by the sword, but by the redemption of all nations by the regeneration of the Spirit. From the inside, out. Hearts changed. Mass repentance.
 
The disciples knew that Christ was the Messiah, but prior to Pentecost, their problem was that their timeline was too expedited, their scope of the mission was too small and their methods were unspiritual.
 
Part of the reason for their mistake was because it was a a mystery yet to be revealed in Christ. Part of it was that they didn’t know their scriptures well enough and needed to be reminded, and part of it was that the Holy Spirit had not yet been outpoured.
 
The issue for Christians isn’t that we are making Christ’s kingdom too much about what happens on the earth in history.

It’s that we need to be on God’s timeline, not ours.
It’s that we need to be evangelistic, not revolutionary.
We need to rely on the Holy Spirit, not our own strength.

We need not look at the pre-Pentecost example of the disciples and conclude we should be “this world is not my home” pietists.

We should seek to be humble, patient and outward focusing.

The gospel is good news to captives of sin because of the atoning work of Christ and it’s good news to the oppressed because of the promise of the manifestation of the kingdom of Christ on the earth with laws so right and just.

The Coast-lands are waiting.

For more, John Frame has some great thoughts here.

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