King Jesus Gospel: Conclusion

In hearing Scot McKnight’s retelling of the gospel we have been encouraged to think of what the term itself signifies in the New Testament. To that end he draws a sharp distinction between a (false) gospel in which personal salvation becomes the content and the of Jesus the means, and the true gospel, which is nothing other than the story of Jesus as the completion of the story of Israel. To put it more simply, he fears that we have moved the center of the gospel from what God does to save the world to our decision. The concluding chapters of The King Jesus Gospel offer a summary of the differences between the soterian and the biblical gospel (Ch. 9) and a sketch of what a gospel culture church looks like (Ch. 10).

In “Gospeling Today” (9), McKnight begins his list of six comparisons with what would at first appear as a subtle distinction if one had not read to this point. The “gospeling” in Acts declares the significance of Jesus who is the Messiah, thereby summoning listeners to repnt and confess Him; the soterian gospel seeks to persuade sinners to admit their sin and find Jesus as the Savior. Personal saving cannot be embraced without reference to Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel. Second, following from the first, is that the gospel of the apostles is framed and driven by that story of Israel; the soterian gospel is framed and driven by an atonement story. Here he notes that neither Paul not Peter sought to explain the workings of atonement in Jesus but both declared it as fact. But the most significant of the six, at least in my reading, is the comparison drawn between descriptions of the problem the gospel resolves. This section (fourth in McKnight’s listing) lays out the goal of God’s creating of humanity, which he takes to be serving in the temple of God’s earth as His eikon (following Walton and others); this is the “fundamental human assignment.” This leads to a presentation of the story of Israel and how it is completed in Jesus. It is, indeed, a “grand story” showing the rightful position of Jesus as Lord–all of which is set in contrast to a badly impoverished gospel of personal salvation for which the Bible is hardly even needed. It is out of this story that McKnight’s other comparisons grow; this one is central.

“Creating a Gospel Culture” (Ch.10) concludes the book. Here McKnight addresses on of my earlier concerns, namely the work of the Holy Spirit in the announcing of the gospel. Just as He guided the preaching and adapting of the apostles, He does so with today’s faithful church, moving in unanticipated ways to prepare both speaker and hearer, and therefore prayer becomes one of the keys to creating a gospel culture. Others include the necessity of knowing our story–both in terms of a church knowing the fully why the gospel is good news and in terms of interpreting our personal stories in its light. We become people of the story. We do this through a renewed attention to the church’s calendar (my students have heard that one before) and to its sacraments. It is only through being fully immersed in this story that we will be able to recognize, expose, and deconstruct the alternative stories of the world around us.

Most of what McKnight offers in the book resonates in me; I have had many thoughts, some of which have been expressed in classes over the years, which are given some useful handles in this book. I could quibble with some points here and there (for instance, I found the last chapter somewhat short on new suugestions; but this is not his primary field). But instead my closing observations are given for generating some discussion, especially among those who have read the book with me. Those thoughts center on what we are offering to the world under the title of “gospel.” It occurs to me that it is the one thing we have not looked into. Churches have tried for more than a generation to “be relevant” in their real enough concern for “lost” individuals and even entire cultures. The problem is not lack of concern, nor is it an unwillingness to change certain things. Over my lifetime we have changed the style of the building, the order of worship, the kinds of music we will and will not use, the social and cultural activities we will and will not engage in as Christians, the way we dress when we attend church functions, the expectations of members, and a host of other peripheral matters.

But do any of these matter if we are unwilling to look at what we offer? At the end of the day, we must tell the truth. And to tell it we must know it in all its fullness. The story of Jesus as Messiah and Lord is the gospel. Nothing short of that will confront people with a reason to bow down and then rise up in His power. Maybe there are other things taht need to change; but I have this great suspicion that none of it will matter if we do not truly have good news.

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11 thoughts on “King Jesus Gospel: Conclusion

  1. I think one of the more challenging implications of all this is how we ‘do evangelism.’

    McKnight has been building these ideas for a long time. Several years ago I attended a lecture in which he told about some students being converted in his Gospels class. He didn’t set out to do that necessarily, but he said that several became captivated by the story of Jesus as they studied the Gospels.

    If we embrace this major shift (I believe we should) I can’t help but think that it will mean the end of tracts, napkin illustrations, brief salvation invitations etc. All the stuff that’s been the norm for decades now.

    If you follow the Jesus Creed blog, he has been doing some followup posts to issues brought up in the book.

    Some of the reviewers, while agreeing with much of the book, have seemed to think that Scot creates too much of a dichotomy and feel that there is room to look at the gospel as BOTH story and proposition (i.e. God- People- Christ- Response).

    What do you think about that? Can we continue preaching a ‘plan of salvation’ even while acknowledging it’s part in a larger gospel?

  2. “God Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life”. This is the way the Gospel is preached in our purpose driven church age. The problem is, that its a departure from the apostolic preaching that shook the world in Acts and throughout other times in history. If we study the messages preached in Acts, we will find topics having to do with wrath, judgment, sin, righteousness, death, eternal life, and resurrection.

    The Gospel isn’t a life enrichment message or even an eternal life message its a message of life or death!

    If there is no repentance of sin, then a false conversion will take place. And although they may call Jesus “LORD” because they’ve mouthed a prayer, they will continue to practice lawlessness (Matt. 7:23). This leads to a host of problems for them, both now & in the future, as well as eternity. As well as for the church….

    • Gee, Chris! We’re actually on the same page on this extension of the thoughts to “purpose” emphases. The gospel implies a purpose all right, but it’s not self-conceived or oriented.

      • Do you say this out of amazement or refreshing? :) More often than not, I would tend to think we are on the same page, but perhaps reading different paragraphs….

        One of the things I teach in my Bible classes is that there is only one interpretation of Scripture. There may be many many applications – but only one interpretation…some have trouble taking that, but once we get into study, it becomes clear…

        I’m not so interested in the more recent posts in regard to whatever is happening at PenState – I frankly don’t really know what’s going on…But, I wanted to come back to this last post with another thought that I had…because I felt this topic resonate greatly in my spirit.

        Today many believers talk like going to heaven is the ultimate hope for the believer. But this is not what the Bible teaches. We learn from much of Scripture that the ultimate hope is found in ruling, reigning and living upon the earth as God always intended for man, from the beginning. The Meek shall inherit the earth. Matt. 5:5. Man never “fell” from heaven, but from his relationship with God & from his place of ruling upon the earth. Through Redemption in Christ & the work of the Holy Spirit, man is being restored according to God’s original intent. We can’t let tradition blind us from truly seeing the glorious vision & plan that God has for the earth….

      • Chris, I think you are profoundly wrong in your insistence on a singular interpretation. Observation alone tells us otherwise; many interpretations are made and proliferated. If what you really want to argue is a single meaning, that’s different–though perhaps still open to significant debate. In another forum.

  3. I’ll disagree with you Chris, the ultimate hope is being in the presence of Jesus Christ. “Ruling, reigning, living as God intended” are more like the benifits, (or, our new careers). Seeing those thing as our hope makes it all about “me”, which isn’t all that different than seeing heaven as our goal hope.

    • Thom. Yes….in the presence of Jesus. That is where we will live, rule, & reign. To say ‘as God intended’ is in the presence of Jesus. We will do so with Him…and even so, do now, since we are co-heirs with Him seated with Him now at the right hand of the Father.

      (Romans 8:17, Ephesians 2:6)….this is for now, and for all eternity….

      although, our perspective of eternity has an effect on how we understand this.

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