Every now and then, someone comes into our lives and makes us think afresh about something important. They connect the dots in such a way that displays a masterpiece that is full of beauty, consistency, and power. Here’s a question for us to ponder: what if the gospel is better and bigger than we have believed?
After reading The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight, my awe and wonder at the marvelous gospel of Christ have been expanded and enhanced. And while I won’t do the book the justice it deserves, I’d like to offer you my review of it. But to be clear, I believe every follower of Jesus should read this. Now let me attempt to show you why.
What if the Gospel is Better and Bigger Than We Have Believed?
A Gospel Culture or Salvation Culture?
I believe the word gospel has been hijacked by what we believe about “personal salvation,” and the gospel itself has been reshaped to facilitate making “decisions.” The result of this hijacking is that the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to either Jesus or the apostles. – Scot McKnight
But wait. Aren’t those two the same? Gospel and salvation?
McKnight wants us to pause before we answer that question and consider what gospel meant to Jesus and the apostles. Because if their understanding of the gospel is different than ours, we have made a serious mistake.
So what is the difference?
A gospel culture is a culture that is saturated with the message of Jesus. A salvation culture is a culture that is saturated by calls, appeals, and persuasion to get people to make a decision for Jesus.
A salvation culture speaks much about a “personal relationship with Jesus” while ignoring the fact that this is found nowhere in Scripture. A gospel culture sees the gospel as “the resolution and fulfillment of Israel’s Story and promises.”
In other words, the gospel is about the story of Jesus and how His story is the climax of the story of Israel. The gospel is rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures. It is a constant, cohesive, beautiful story that was told by Jesus and the apostles.
But in our western culture, we have individualized it and zeroed in on a piece of the gospel – the salvation of the individual. And by doing so, we have a separated salvation from the story of God that began at Creation and is still going on today.
And what has resulted is countless numbers of “believers” who have “gotten saved” but are not at all becoming disciples.
Churches in America have a discipleship problem. It could be that this discipleship problem has been caused by our obsession with the decision (salvation culture) and our ignorance of “the gospel Story of Jesus Christ [that] is a story about Jesus as Messiah, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as Son.”
When we separate the Plan of Salvation from the story, we cut ourselves off the story that identifies us and tells our past and tells our future. We separate ourselves from Jesus and turn the Christian faith into a System of Salvation. – Scot McKnight
The gospel was first and foremost for the apostles the Story of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Story of Israel. This Jesus is Messiah/King, he is Lord, and he saves as the one who is the perfect image of God, the true and faithful Israelite. In Jesus, God has taken up rule of creation, and those who enter into Jesus’ death and resurrection by repentance, faith, and baptism join him in that rule. – Scot McKnight
The gospel is not about transaction, it is about transformation. In it, we see Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We see that Jesus had something bigger in mind than simply our own salvation. We see that He not only desires to save us from our sins and from the power of death but that He wants us to be transformed into His image and be joined into the family of God to be the new Israel.
Jesus is not simply Savior, He is Lord and Messiah. He is King over all and coming to Him looks FAR different than accepting Him. Coming to King Jesus looks like radical surrender.
A Reality That Summons a Response to All
The messianic, lordly, and kingly confession of Jesus is not incidental to the Bible. It is the point of th eBible, and the gospel is the good news that Jesus is that Messiah, that Lord, and that King. We are his subjects.
Yes, the problem is our sin; yes, we need to be forgiven of sinfulness and our sins. But that sin and that forgiveness are connected to our lordly assignments and to our priestly responsibilities and to our flailing and failing attempts to usurp God’s tasks to make them ours. The only one worthy to sit on that throne is King Jesus.
If I told you a story of a world that was ruled by a single, righteous king but didn’t know it, I would be telling you a story of a world that is full of chaos and despair. Why? Because that world needs that king to be their ruler. That world is lost without that king. That world is running in circles trying to make due with their own abilities to rule because they have nothing sufficient to offer. That world is falling apart and falling over at the same time.
But if I told you that story and included a turn in it that included that righteous king coming down from his palace and spending time with the peasants, who ended up sacrificing himself in battle for all of his people by defeating their biggest enemy, and then he sent out his messengers to tell his people about his victory, his kingdom, and his hope, I’d be telling you the story of Jesus.
That world would be summoned to respond and become the subjects of the King of kings. And by becoming His subjects, that world would become a new world. By becoming His subjects, that new world would be saved from its enemy. That new world would be a new people living and ruling with their King.
And in Jesus, this is what has happened. Jesus has fulfilled the covenant God made with Abraham and has become the source of blessing for all nations.
So Much More to Be Said
But I’ll let Scot do the talking. If you want to discover the good news that Jesus preached, that Peter preached, that Paul preached, that the early church preached, that the reformers preached, then get The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight, put your seat belt on, and dive in.
Engage Culture With the Gospel
I’d love to go on this journey of following Jesus with you and help you engage culture with the gospel. So let’s be email friends. I’d love to send you a copy of my two free eBooks: Bible Hacks: Understanding the New Testament and Do Something: Cultural Crises and the Gospel. And I’d love to give you my free daily devotional: Journey to Knowing God. You’ll get all this (and updates with new content) when you subscribe to the blog.