The King Jesus Gospel

As I recently made known, we started up a series on the kingdom of God at Cornerstone this past Sunday (the audio and notes can be found at this link). And, though I had originally planned to purchase and read Scot McKnight’s newest release, The King Jesus Gospel, I had thought I would do it at some point down the road. Yet I decided to go ahead and get the book this week, believing it would be able to give some more insight into the gospel of the kingdom as I prepared my messages.

Hence, this week I purchased the book and have read about a third of it so far. The reason I held back at first is that, from what I can tell by reading other’s blogs about some of the book’s central points, I believe I was already on a similar page to McKnight. And I reckoned a lot of what he says has already been addressed by such New Testament studies pillars as N.T. Wright and George Ladd.

But, again, noting my recent preaching series that has begun, and also knowing I really like McKnight’s approaches to biblical studies and theology, I decided to purchase the book sooner rather than later. It has proved a good and stirring read thus far.

One thing that constantly came out in the early chapters of the book is how, even though we identify ourselves by the term evangelicals, we have actually been more soterians (salvationists) rather than evangelicals (proclaimers of the evangel-good news). Of course, McKnight does not and will not back away from the reality that people must be personally born again to see the kingdom of God. But he questions whether our focus on the plan of salvation and personal salvation has actually eclipsed a faithful understanding and proclaiming of the gospel as found upon the lips of Jesus and the first apostles.

McKnight challenges:

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 the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to either Jesus or the apostles. (p26)

And later on he states:

I am convinced that because we think the gospel is the Plan of Salvation, and because we preach the Plan of Salvation, as the gospel, we are not actually preaching the gospel. To make this more serious, what we are in most need of today, especially with a generation for whom the Plan of Salvation doesn’t make instinctive sense, is more gospel preaching that sets the context for the Plan of Salvation (p40)

Though many associate the gospel, the good news, with personal salvation or justification, these are not actually the gospel. Of course, they are the fruit of faithful proclamation and response to the evangel. But they are not inherently the gospel.

And McKnight reiterates what Tom Wright had already said in his book, What Saint Paul Really Said (which I was, oddly enough, already reading):

I am perfectly comfortable with what people normally mean when they say “the gospel.” I just don’t think it is what Paul means. In other words, I am not denying that the usual meanings are things that people ought to say, to preach about, to believe. I simply wouldn’t use the word “gospel” to denote these things.

And so McKnight begins to lay out what he sees the gospel as – the fulfilment of the story of Israel in the Messiah-Jesus. But I will share more later on in a more complete follow-up review of the book.

Having said all this, so far, this book has proven to be a good read. And I think it is time that evangelicals start to rethink just what the evangel truly is all about.


7 thoughts on “The King Jesus Gospel

  1. You’re a little ahead of me Scott. I was reading one of McKnight’s recent blog posts and it prompted me to hit the ‘buy now’ button for the Kindle edition of this book. I have read a couple of previous books of his with great interest. I have sympathy for where he is coming from, but there was a degree of “yes, that’s what I already think,” so I’m looking forward to this one pushing a bit further.
    I read Wright’s Surprised by Hope a few years back and it indeed gave me hope in my jaundiced and disillusioned view of what I consistently heard from the pulpit of my home church. Its increasingly hard-line conservative-evangelical stance was not sitting well with me and certainly clashed strongly with my theology studies. Wright’s perspective gave me a new direction which enabled me to re-establish a solidly Biblical theology with a greater integrity of life and faith.
    McKnight’s work is now enabling me to reclaim the ‘tainted’ evangelical label with which I didn’t sit comfortably previously. I heartily concur, based on my own experience, that some, though not all, evangelical preaching is far too ‘me’-focused. Personal salvation becomes the be-all and end-all of what the Gospel is about. A true Kingdom-focus, to my mind, hold the scriptures together with far greater integrity.
    I’m looking forward to getting started on this latest book.

  2. Praise the Lord. In the end, Kingdom means that God is all in all. And presumably Jesus was telling the world that this moment is at hand. In a certain sense, it starts now, as each person acknowledges God as their all in all. And then it happens on an ongoing basis as each person does whatever needs to be done in every situation to be sure that they are truly having only one God in their life – worshiping God and only God.

    And I definitely view the ‘salvationism’ as something that smacks of idolatry, because people are worshiping what God can do for them, they are worshiping their own desires instead of God Himself. The church is rife with it, and it makes it very uncomfortable for me to go to church anywhere. It is very hard to be a Christian without falling into this trap, but it can be done. It will be a very lonely road, probably traveled only by solitary individuals, but it can be done…

  3. Ahhhhh Scott, you will never know how ‘gutted’ I was to see this book in print. The reason being I am already writing a book called ‘Tell it like it is’ subtitled ‘How Evangelicals get the gospel wrong’. It covers much the same ground as Mcknights book so I am seriously deflated. If only I had finished it last year!!! I have been teaching, preaching and speaking on this theme since my teens when I started a study of the Apostolic preaching in Acts, it frankly changed my life. I have revisited the study on 3 or 4 occasions and each time I come away with more. I did a six part series on Revelation Tv in 2010 on the subject of ‘the Gospel’ covering much of the same material (now on youtube). Sigh, I will carry on with the book but I’ve just ordered Mckinights with a heavy heart. Another book which took a chunk out of project was ‘Salvation is more complicated than you think’ a book which had a small circulation but deserves far far more!

  4. JT –

    The thing is that NT Wright and George Ladd have already addressed our understanding of the gospel in their writings. But McKnight brings in a bit of a different perspective, more connected to Wright’s thoughts, but still different. It’s been a good read thus far. I only wished McKnight have focused more on the proclamation of the kingdom as central to the gospel. He touches on it, but not near enough for me.

    • I do agree Scott, but I don’t think Ladd went far enough and NTW leaves gaps as well ( and here is me having all the answers …lol). ‘Kingdom’ is a conceptual way of expressing an understanding surely….Lordship? The use of the word ‘kingdom’ is patchy in the Nt (not used in Acts 17 and n ot much in Johanine writings for example). I am reserving fuller comment till I read his book but the whole 10 yards is for the explaining, here are my brief phrases
      Kingdom not just personal forgiveness
      Lord not just Saviour
      Resurrection not just death
      Repentance not just faith
      Baptism not just believing
      recieve the Holy Spirit not just believe in him
      discipleship not just decision
      with Jesus not just heaven
      earth not just heaven
      body (resurrection) not just spirit
      see Restoration Gods Big idea and our gospel is too small entries in my blog .

  5. JT –

    I do also agree that Ladd didn’t go as far, at least as far as some of the writers are today.

    On kingdom = lordship. I think a lot of these newer writers (Wright, McKnight, Perriman) would argue that is too abstract and that people end up thinking ‘is Jesus my personal Lord and do I live a good moral life to prove he is my personal Lord’. That is probably not the biblical foundation, though I don’t disagree with the kingdom being about personal submission to the King. But we have to ask what kingdom meant in a Hebrew-Jewish, first century context.

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