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What Are The Gospels?

This is a question I keep coming back to, what exactly are the four gospels?

Why were they written? Or said another way: how were they meant to be utilized? And, how were they actually employed by the church when the ink first dried?

Are they simply the "memoirs of the apostles" as Justin Martyr once referred to them? Are they biographies of Jesus? Or a larger story / account /report of God's salvation in Christ? They are certainly all of those things. But are they without context or purpose?

One example is Mark 10:13-16 the gospel in our baptismal liturgy. Why was that included in Mark's gospel? Why did the Holy Spirit inspire St. Mark to write that? Was it just to show the Lord's warmth and love for children in a general kind of way? Or is it a baptismal text, in the same way that the feeding miracles are Eucharistic texts?

I think we should learn to read Scripture through a doxological, sacramental and liturgical lens, rather than the almost exclusively dogmatic lens that Lutherans read it with now.

I suggest that this text is not just another "text," but a liturgical element that is given to the church to be used exactly as we use it, as our warrant for baptizing little children. As instruction and encouragement for our timid, rationalistic minds that don't believe in sacramental acts. But only in rational decisions. Hearts that don't naturally believe God and need to be given courage to believe him. Minds that think that there is no necessary correspondence between the sacramental action, and the miraculous transformation that occurs in the child who in baptism is "delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son." (Colossians 1:13)

If we read Scripture through such a lens we come to realize that this account of Jesus receiving the little children isn't just a random episode of his life, but a liturgical text, given to the church, to be read in the administration of holy baptism.

That's all for now, your comments are welcome.


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