Why Are There Four Gospels?

by on December 19th, 2010
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One of the great joys of my life is to study the Bible because it reveals my Creator, Redeemer, Savior, Healer, Provider, Lord, and Lover of my soul. Just as necessarily, but not nearly as pleasant, is the fact that the Bible also reveals me. I cannot truly see my Lord’s glory until I see the contrast between Him and me. What a great gulf that is! In my opening sentence, I listed just a few of the descriptive names for my God and King. The list goes on and on and on. In order to see such a great and many faceted Supreme Being, I will have to look often and long. I will have to look from all sides and from many different angles. This is what makes the Bible so special. It describes an indescribable God.

This great God came in the flesh to dwell among His creatures. Surely the task of describing an infinite God to a finite man is a difficult task indeed. I speak as a fool, but my soul cries out, “Why so few gospels?” We do not have one photograph of each of our family members and friends; we have many photographs of each in all kinds of settings, engaging in all sorts of activities. One portrait, one picture, cannot do justice to the richness of our relationships with them. One picture of Christ cannot do justice to the richness of our relationship to Him either. Christ is too altogether lovely to be seen in only one picture.

Surely each gospel has a unique contribution to make, a special theme aimed at a specific group. Surely a person can come to saving faith in Christ through any of the gospels, but the unique teaching in each gospel enriches us, leading us to the abundant life which Christ came to give. Many have given various reasons for the Holy Spirit settling on four as the number of gospels. Some have said it is because there are four points to the compass. Others have said it is because there are four seasons in a year. Still others have said that it is because there were four soils in the parable of the sower. Some others have said it is because the river of Genesis 2:10 divided into four branches.

There has been general agreement among Christians of all eras that Matthew presents Jesus as King; Mark presents Jesus as Servant; Luke presents Jesus as Son of Man; and John presents Jesus as God the Son. Interestingly, through the ages, some have pointed out the four creatures around the throne of God in Revelation 4:7. The first was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third was like a man; the fourth was like an eagle. It only requires a little imagination to see an interesting if not significant connection between the four creatures (and the order in which they are described) and the four Gospels.

Regardless of these speculations, we see Christ in Matthew as the Amazing Rejected Savior King. If Christ was rejected, surely we can expect to be rejected. We see Christ in Mark as the Amazing Servant. If Christ served, surely we are expected to serve. We see Christ in Luke as the Friend of All Mankind, especially sinners. If Christ is the friend of sinners, surely we are expected to be the friend of sinners also. In John we see Christ as the pre-existent, eternal second person of the Godhead. If Christ is God, surely we ought to worship Him. Praise God for giving us a fourfold presentation of the glory of Christ. Praise God for the painful fourfold contrast it sets up between Him and me.


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