The Bigger Gospel Story

imagesWhen we think about the gospel, many people equate it with things like salvation or justification. It’s in line with typical evangelical thought.

But in his book, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, Scot McKnight says that evangelicals (named after the evangel, or gospel) have become much too soterian, or simply stated, too focused on the plan of salvation. This has made us miss what is central to the gospel, the evangel.

Of course, McKnight has no problem with the plan of salvation. He simply challenges us with the reality that the gospel and the plan of salvation are not the same thing. The evangel is proclaimed and, subsequently, people believe that message of good news and are saved (or they can also reject this good news).

So you’ll find McKnight stating things like this:

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 original meant to either Jesus or the apostles. (p26)

I tend to agree with what McKnight has to offer in his book: a) that gospel and salvation are distinct from one another and b) we have become too soterian, or salvation-focused, without grasping what the bigger picture of the gospel really is. If you’d like, you can read a bit more about McKnight’s book in my review.

And McKnight is not too different from someone like Tom Wright (and, of course, there are others trying to help refocus us). In many of his works, Wright offers what I believe is the bigger picture of the gospel, this evangel from which we get the name evangelical. In his book, What Saint Paul Really Said, he exclaims:

God’s gospel concerning his Son. A message about God – the one true God, the God who inspired the prophets – consisting in a message about Jesus. A story – a true story – about a human life, death and resurrection through which the living God becomes king of the world. A message which had grasped Paul and, through his work, would mushroom out to all the nations. That is Paul’s shorthand summary of what ‘the gospel’ actually is.

It is not, then a system of how people get saved. The announcement of the gospel results in people being saved – Paul says as much a few verses later [in Rom 1:16]. But ‘the gospel’ itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus. (p45, my review of the book is here)

In short summary (although the biblical Gospels remind us that the story is not really a summarised 4-point plan), the evangel, as given in Scripture, is the announcement that God has become king through his kingly Messiah-Son, Jesus. And in God’s rule becoming a reality in Jesus, the Israel-story has been fulfilled and completed, because they could never fully satisfy the call in the first place.

And now the call is for the the community of Christ to believe in the faithful life, death and resurrection of the Messiah. And we are to continue to live out this Jesus story. Not you or I, as in individuals. Of course, we respond as individuals. But it is the community of Christ that is called to live this out in whatever age, culture and framework we find ourselves.

This, my friends, is truly good news, truly gospel, truly evangel. It is what will make us true evangelicals!

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2 thoughts on “The Bigger Gospel Story

  1. Seems to me:
    The proper response to “Scot McKnight says…” Is “So what?”

    I’m with (“soterian”? apostle) Paul, who said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

    • I don’t think anyone is in favour of abandoning salvation. We just need to see it in it’s proper context. A wise man once said: The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!

      Repent and believe the good news —- that the rule of God has come near in Jesus. And it is believing this good news that powerfully saves, delivers the people of God.

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