Thursday, 28 June 2012

The King Jesus Gospel

I have now come to the end of my books on the Gospel. I saved this one for last as I have never read anything by Scot McKnight, and he seemed to push against the people I normally read. Although I came into this book with that attitude, by the time I got to the end of the first or second chapter he had pretty much convinced me of his position.

Scot did something interesting in my mind. He didn't so much reject what the other books said about the Gospel, instead he moved categories around in a way that I was not prepared for. He argues that Evangelicals today actually do not preach the evangel (good news), instead they preach justification which is the Plan of Salvation. Evangelicals should really be called soterians (saved ones) as they are all about how to be saved and getting people to "make a decision for Christ", rather than to make life long disciples. Scott in particular pushes against Greg Gilbert's What is the Gospel, but not disagreeing with what Greg says about justification and the (personal) Plan of Salvation, but just in the categories that Greg called the Gospel.

McKnight asks two important questions in regards to testing if the Gospel is actually been said. Is the Old Testament and the Story of Israel needed for the Gospel message? and did Jesus preach the Gospel?. McKnight points out that Piper gave a talk at a big conference asking if Jesus preach Paul's Gospel (which already that order is wrong) and in that McKnight says Piper is looking for Jesus talking about justification and so reducing the Gospel to soteriology.

So what is the Gospel? McKnight repeats over and over again that the Gospel is the completion of the Story of Israel in the Story of Jesus. The Gospel should be put through the lens of scripture, not through the lens of justification. McKnight argues this point from the old school creeds and then points out that the reformers confessions such as the Augsburg Confession and the Geneva Confession shifted and were constructed around justification rather than the Gospel. It wasn't the intention of the reformers to do that, they were just dealing with the issues of their day. Back then they still agreed with the Gospel being about Jesus' life, death, resurrection, appearance etc.. being tied up with the story of Israel in the Old Testament.

McKnight sees 1 Cor 15:1-5 & 20-28 as the basic (and oldest) description of the Gospel. This message is not just an Easter story about the cross but includes Jesus' life, death, resurrection and appearance in accordance with the scriptures. We see in the four Gospels (note that name... the story in the four Gospels is the Gospel!) that Jesus saw himself in light of scripture, and in Acts we see about seven talks that Paul and Peter gave showing us their Gospel and in their gospel presentation (evangelistic talk) their Method of Persuaion to their audience.

What really convinced me on these categorical shifts is that page after page McKnight is using the Bible to back up his case. He doesn't move very much away from a text before he then is quoting another part of the Bible. He also is very clear in what he says, and I thought this book would have created more waves. I am glad the see that the Gospel Coalition had picked up on this book and Trevin Wax points our four good things and four bad things in this book, which are both worth a read.

So what does it matter if the Plan of Salvation is preached and not the Gospel? The Plan of Salvation isn't far from the message of the Gospel and it a subset of it anyway... The issue is that if we just preach for people to accept Jesus as their personal savior, and reduce Jesus as some sort of mechanism for our sin management, then we are not really encouraging disciples of Jesus, just (selfish) people who want their sin dealt with after they die. Instead the Gospel should impact people's lives. People should see how Jesus' life completes the Story of Israel and in turn, Jesus' Story should impact our own story. Jesus is the messiah (Jewish term) and King (Gentile term) of the world. He is not your personal sin broker, He is much much bigger. I am sure people who preach the Plan of Salvation as the Gospel would want the same thing, but McKnight would say they are going about it in the wrong way.

Anyway there is much more in this book. It is worth a read.

Related links:
Gospel by Greear - A good book on what life looks like in light of the Gospel
What is the Gospel? - McKnight directly addresses this book and argues that it about the Plan of Salvation and not the Gospel as the Old Testament and Jesus is used for sin management (that is a little unfair as the last chapter of this short book talks about life in light of the Gospel).


  1. Great post. I've been thinking about what to read next, maybe I'll try this.

    I've been struggling a lot lately with what I hear preached and what the gospels teach. It's not that what I hear preached is ever wrong, but it often seems incomplete. This gives a good summary as to a possible reason why.