Our family spent the past week with family in Kansas City and some downtime. 2011 was a long, hard season for us for a number of reasons. But while I had 2 weeks off from preaching, I spent a lot of time reading. So, this week I’ll be sharing some book reviews from the road.
The second book I read was The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scot McKnight. I had heard a lot about this book, so I was glad to read it. I loved the vision that Scot puts forth in this book of the gospel.
His point is that too much of Christianity focuses the gospel simply on the death of Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins and how one can avoid hell and go to heaven. While that is part of the gospel, that is only a part of it.
One statement he made that stopped me in my tracks was, “Do you need the Old Testament for your gospel to be true? If not, you do not have the gospel.” Many times, the gospel that is preached in churches in America, the gospel that is shared with friends and family does not need the Old Testament.
One of the other things he pushed on was the question that people ask, “Did Jesus preach Paul’s gospel?” He even tells a story of a pastor saying, “Jesus couldn’t preach the gospel because he hadn’t died on the cross yet.” Scot’s wit comes through in his response, “Poor Jesus, he was born on the wrong side of the cross.” This statement shows how shallow our gospel is.
Which has led to what Scot calls a “salvation culture” in our churches instead of a “gospel culture.” A salvation culture is concerned only with salvation and getting to heaven, which is not the whole point of the gospel. While a gospel culture focuses on transformation, not only of individual lives, but also of the entire earth, which is the point of the Bible.
One of the things McKnight continually pushes on is that in our salvation culture, we simply share the plan of salvation, which is not the gospel. It boils Jesus down to only our Savior, which he is. But Scripture teaches that “The gospel story of Jesus Christ is a story about Jesus as Messiah, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as Son.” If the gospel we share does not point to Jesus as all those things, we have not shared the gospel. In our world today, we focus on Jesus as the Savior from my sins, but avoid the idea of Jesus as Lord and King of my life (which explains the lack of maturity in many people who attend church, they “are going to heaven” but still running their lives). This might bristle you, but think about the 4 first books in the New Testament, they are called “The Gospel according to Matthew…” What are they about? They tell the story of Jesus, his birth, life, miracles, teachings, death, resurrection and ascension. Gospels is not a genre of writing, they are the gospel.
Here are a few other things that jumped out:
- The gospel is the story of Jesus of Nazareth told as the climax of the long story of Israel, which in turn is the story of how the one true God is rescuing the world.
- Most evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles however, were obsessed with making disciples. Those two words – decision and disciples – are behind this entire book. Evangelism that focuses on decisions short circuits and – yes, the word is appropriate – aborts the design of the gospel, while evangelism that aims at disciples slows down to offer the full gospel of Jesus and the apostles.
- The gospel doesn’t work for spectators; you have to participate for it work its powers.
- One reason why so many Christians today don’t know the Old Testament is because their gospel doesn’t even need it.
- The gospel is to announce good news about key events in the life of Jesus Christ. To gospel for the apostle Paul was to tell, announce, declare, and shout aloud the story of Jesus Christ as the saving news of God.
- Because the gospel is the story of Jesus that fulfills, completes, and resolves Israel’s story, we dare not permit the gospel to collapse into the abstract, de-storified points in the plan of salvation.
- Jesus died with us, instead of us, and for us.
- There is not such thing as gospeling that does not include the summons to respond in faith, repentance, and baptism.
All in all, I was really challenged by the larger vision of the gospel this book puts forth. I loved his emphasis that Jesus is the gospel and that we need the whole Bible for a full gospel. I love the Old Testament and have always been fascinated by the imagery in the Old Testament and have often been saddened by how few other Christians have the same love, but without the Old Testament, Jesus and the New Testament do not make any sense.