Contemporary evangelicals have built a 'salvation culture' but not a 'gospel culture.' Evangelicals have reduced the gospel to the message of personal salvation. This book makes a plea for us to recover the old gospel as that which is still new and still fresh. The book stands on four arguments: that the gospel is defined by the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15 as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus; that the gospel is found in the Four Gospels; that the gospel was preached by Jesus; and that the sermons in the Book of Acts are the best example of gospeling in the New Testament. The King Jesus Gospel ends with practical suggestions about evangelism and about building a gospel culture.
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About the Author
Scot Mc Knight (Ph D, Nottingham) is the Karl A. Olsson professor in religious studies at North Park University, Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of several books, including One.Life, The Blue Parakeet, Galatians and 1 Peter in the NIV Application Commentary series, and the award-winning The Jesus Creed.
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THE KING JESUS GOSPELRevisiting the original good news
By Scot McKnight
ZondervanCopyright © 2011 Scot McKnight
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Big Question
This book is asking the most important—or at least one of the most important—questions we can ask today. In this book I will contend we all need to ask this question because we've wandered from the pages of the Bible into an answer that isn't biblical enough. In fact, there is both a widespread dissatisfaction with where we are and a widespread yearning for a more biblical approach to the question, and the dis-ease and yearning show up in a vigorous and invigorating discussion of this question today. One of my friends says the church is "in a fog" about this question, and another writer says there's a "fog of confusion" about it.
The question is this:
What is the gospel?
You may be surprised. You may think the word gospel, a word used in the ancient world for declaring good news about something (like a wedding) but used today for our Christian message, is the one thing we do understand. You may think that's the one thing around which there is no fog at all. You may think the gospel is the simple thing, whereas everything else—like politics and eschatology and atonement theory and poverty—cries out for debate. Those issues need to be debated, but we really cannot debate them in a Christian manner until we get the gospel question resolved. I think we've got the gospel wrong, or at least our current understanding is only a pale reflection of the gospel of Jesus and the apostles. We need to go back to the Bible to find the original gospel.
By the time we get through digging into what the New Testament actually says, I think you will agree with me that the question noted above is the most important question we need to ask today, and I hope you will agree with me that our current answer isn't biblical enough. I'm also hopeful you will see some biblical wisdom in my proposal. I encourage you to pull out a piece of paper or open up the flyleaf of the back of this book and scribble down your answer to this most important question before you read one more word: What is the gospel?
The following three exhibits illustrate why I think we've wandered and why we are in need of going back to the Bible to ask this question all over again—as if for the first time, as if we were in Galilee listening to Jesus ourselves, or as if we were the first listeners to the apostles' gospel in some small house church in the bustling and boisterous Roman empire. In going back, I believe we will be shocked by what we find, and these three exhibits show why we will be shocked.
I received an email from a reader with this question: "I know you're probably really busy. If you have time, I have a question about the gospel. I notice that the gospel writers often include in their gospel the announcement that Jesus is the Messiah. My question is, 'What is good news about the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the descendant of David?' ... Thanks for your time!" I read that letter three times and shook my head in disbelief each time, and I did so because I wonder how we have gotten ourselves to a point where we can wonder what Jesus' being Messiah has to do with the gospel. But that emailer is not alone.
Answer A: For this emailer, the word gospel was almost entirely about personal salvation. That means the gospel no longer includes the promise to Israel that Jesus was the Messiah. But let's not be hard on this emailer. Perhaps most Christians today wonder what the gospel has to do with Jesus being "Messiah."
John Piper, one of America's most influential pastors and authors—and deservedly so—at a big conference in April of 2010 asked this question: "Did Jesus preach Paul's gospel?" To answer it, he examined the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, where we find one of the few uses of the word justified in the Gospels. Then John Piper concluded that, yes, Jesus did preach Paul's gospel of justification by faith. I would defend the legitimacy of Piper's question, and I would also agree that the makings of justification by faith are indeed found in that parable of Jesus. So, it is entirely fair to ask if Jesus preached a gospel like Paul's.
But ... to begin with, there's the problem of order and even of precedence: Isn't the more important question about whether Paul preached Jesus' gospel? Moreover, there's another problem: Piper's assumption is that justification is the gospel. The Calvinist crowd in the USA—and Piper is the leading influencer in the resurgence of Calvinist thinking among evangelicals—has defined the gospel in the short formula "justification by faith." But we have to ask whether the apostles defined the gospel this way. Or, better yet, when they preached the gospel, what did they say? We will answer these questions in the pages that follow.
Answer B: When we can find hardly any instances of our favorite theological category in the whole of the four Gospels, we need to be wary of how important our own interpretations and theological favorites are.
At an airport, I bumped into a pastor I recognized, and he offered a more extreme version of what we saw in Exhibit B. He asked me what I was writing, and I replied, "A book about the meaning of gospel."
"That's easy," he said, "justification by faith." After hearing that quick-and-easy answer, I decided to push further, so I asked him Piper's question: "Did Jesus preach the gospel?"
His answer made me gulp. "Nope," he said, "Jesus couldn't have. No one understood the gospel until Paul. No one could understand the gospel until after the cross and resurrection and Pentecost."
"Not even Jesus?" I asked.
"Nope. Not possible," he affirmed. I wanted to add an old cheeky line I've often used: "Poor Jesus, born on the wrong side of the cross, didn't get to preach the gospel." My satire, if not sarcasm, would not have helped, so I held back. But I've heard others make similar claims about Jesus, Paul, and the gospel, and this book will offer a thorough rebuttal of this conviction.
Answer C: For this pastor, the word gospel means "justification by faith," and since Jesus really didn't talk in those terms, he flat out didn't preach the gospel. Few will admit this as bluntly as that preacher did, but I'm glad some do. This view is wrong and wrongheaded.
Harsh words, I admit.
Each of these three instances—the emailer who can't figure out how in the world "Messiah" and "gospel" are connected, and the two pastors who believe "justification by faith" and "gospel" are one and the same (one thinking Jesus preached it and the other thinking Jesus didn't and couldn't have)—illustrate my deep concern. 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.
I know this is an unusual claim, and I know some will think my claim is outlandish, so I'm going to ask you to be patient enough to hear me out. I believe we are mistaken, and that mistake is creating problems we are trying to solve. But as long as we remain mistaken, we will never solve the problems. Our system is broken and our so-called gospel broke it. We can't keep trying to improve the mechanics of the system because they're not the problem. The problem is that the system is doing what it should do because it is energized by a badly shaped gospel.
Over lunch not long ago I mentioned to a well-known American pastor what this book was about. Here is what he said to me: "Scot, we need that book. The reason we need the book is because people are confused. Not only are they confused, they don't even know they are confused."
I asked for more because he, too, seemed to observe the "fog" that others are seeing. Here's the gist of what he said: "For most American Chris tians, the gospel is about getting my sins forgiven so I can go to heaven when I die." Then he rolled onward: "I will never forget encountering what Dallas Willard called 'the gospel of sin management.' When I read Dallas, I knew he was right. If the gospel isn't about transformation, it isn't the gospel of the Bible. We need a book that tells us in clear terms what the gospel of the New Testament really is." That pastor is right. I hope this book helps him and others like him.
Our biggest problem is that we have an entire culture shaped by a misunderstanding of the gospel. That so-called gospel is deconstructing the church.
Excerpted from THE KING JESUS GOSPEL by Scot McKnight Copyright © 2011 by Scot McKnight. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by N.T. Wright....................11
Foreword by Dallas Willard....................15
1. The Big Question....................23
2. Gospel Culture or Salvation Culture?....................28
3. From Story to Salvation....................34
4. The Apostolic Gospel of Paul....................45
5. How Did Salvation Take Over the Gospel?....................63
6. The Gospel in the Gospels?....................78
7. Jesus and the Gospel....................92
8. The Gospel of Peter....................113
9. Gospeling Today....................132
10. Creating a Gospel Culture....................146
Appendix 1: Summary Statements in the New Testament....................161
Appendix 2: Justin Martyr, First Apology 66–67....................164
Appendix 3: Sermons in Acts....................166
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sometime back I had this issue, the bible says that Jesus "preached the gospel" and that the disciples "preached the gospel," but it never spelled out exactly what they were saying. And for sometime the modern church in America has over laid that word "gospel" with soteriology. In other words, we say that the "gospel" is about the saving grace of the cross. But while the gospel (euangelion) contains the work of the cross, that is not all that it is. You can not define the gospel simply by explaining the cross. For the simple explanation that ... the cross had not happened when Jesus and his disciples were preaching. Jesus did not preach, "believe that I will die on the cross and resurrect for your sins." That could not have been the "gospel" that he preached. And yet, if you ask a Christian today what the gospel is, you will hear some rendition of the atonement of the cross. Now, I have no problem with saying that the cross is good news or that salvation is now apart of the modern telling of the gospel. But before we get to modernity, I think we should understand WHY the story of Jesus is good news. Today, people can explain salvation and the cross without ever once mentioning the Old Testament. We ask the new to the faith to "confess Christ as Lord," without ever telling them what that means or why it's important. Scot McKnight in his new book The King Jesus Gospel writes, "one reason why so many Christians today don't know the Old Testament is because their gospel doesn't even need it." but "the gospel of the New Testament cannot be reduced to the plan of salvation." Scot McKnight is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University. He is the author of The Jesus Creed which won the Christianity Today book award for 2004 in the area of Christian living. McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, has been a popular site for Evangelicals to discuss various theologies. His new book seeks to unlock the BIG QUESTION: what is the gospel? Scot believes that Christianity is stuck in a salvation culture, but that we need to transition and find our true home in a "gospel culture." McKnight is a smart writer who writes a great book. This book is for anyone seeking to re-learn the biblical concept of gospel and for anyone who wants to communicate a full gospel story to the world. Highly recommended. Thanks to Zondervan for sending me the above mentioned product for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.
Scot McKnight reminds us of the beauty of the entire story of the Gospel, and that includes the Old Testament. His goal is to move us away from propositional truths that you check off as a Christian to the place of serving the King in the Kingdom of God. It is a quick read and well worth your time.
Every time I read a new book by Scot McKnight, my wife tells me I say the same thing, "I think this is the most important book he's written." After finishing his newest book, "The King Jesus Gospel", I really believe that to be true for this book. His argument is essentially that we've replaced the Biblical Gospel with instead a Plan of Salvation, and while the Gospel will indeed lead to salvation, it is far bigger than just that. McKnight defines the Gospel this way, "It is the Story of Israel that comes to completion in the saving Story of Jesus, who is Messiah of Israel, Lord over all, and the Davidic Savior." For the past few years, I have tried to understand how the methodology of the church has created a culture of consumerism and shallowness. What Scot does with this book is develops theologically how we have gotten to that place - simply by replacing the Gospel with the Plan of Salvation. This is the first theological book in a long time that I've had a hard time putting down. I found myself reading passages out loud to Allison regularly, scribbling notes and at times just wanting to shout, "yes" as I was reading it. I'd be willing to say that anyone who teaches or preaches the Bible regularly needs to read it. It's that important. Here's a few of the quotes I underlined: "Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples" ".the gospel itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus" ".in those early apostolic sermons, we see the whole life of Jesus. In fact, if they gave an emphasis to one dimension of the life of Jesus, it was the resurrection. The apostolic gospel could not have been signified or sketched with a crucifix. That gospel wanted expression as an empty cross because of the empty tomb." "The gospeling of the apostles in the book of Acts is bold declaration that leads to a summons while much of evangelism today is crafty persuasion." "When we reduce the gospel to only personal salvation, as soterians are tempted to do, we tear the fabric out of the Story of the Bible and we cease even needing the Bible"
When I first heard about this book, I was excited. I liked the title: The King Jesus Gospel. I knew that he would talk about how the Gospel relates to the Kingdom of God. I wondered if he would mention Lordship salvation. I hoped that he would talk about the grand narrative of scripture. McKnight does this and more. This book is a reaction to the shallow evangelistic methods and anemic ¿gospeling¿ of the day.Scot McKnight writes this book as a corrective for much that has gone wrong in modern evangelism. ¿I believe we are focused on the wrong things¿,writes McKnight. Anyone who grew up in a church that used scripted evangelistic programs and/or programmed visitation can relate to the experiences and disappointments that McKnight recounts. As I read the introduction, I found myself transported back in time to my own experiences. Throughout the book I saw McKnight put into words the thoughts that have been in my mind for some time. So what is the problem and how do we fix it?McKnight suggests that we have a salvation culture not a gospel culture: ¿The evangelical culture focuses on the experience of personal salvation as the decisive factor for creating that culture.¿ We are concerned with people being saved from hell but we are not dedicated to them living in the light of the gospel for the rest of their lives. This is why true discipleship is lacking in the church. Our focus is on saving them from something but not necessarily to something. We fail to address the kingdom living issues. I found myself in complete agreement with the author on this assessment.After our attention has been brought to bear on this diminution , we are taken to the reality of the full gospel. The source is of course the scripture. We are given examples in the writings of Paul, the gospel according to the four evangelists and the teaching of Jesus Himself. I rejoice that the author goes to scripture for the answer to the question, ¿What is the Gospel?¿ McKnight then goes on to instruct us on how to usher in this gospel culture. I do not want to spoil your reading of the book so I hope this whets your appetite.I do not always agree with McKnight. Indeed, I did not always agree with what he said in this book. But I found McKnight to be correct in reacting against the current culture, compelling in his arguments, kind to those he disagrees with and passionate about proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope that this book gains a wide reading. I hope that this topic is much discussed. And I hope that his critics will exhibit the same gracious spirit that he does in his writing.This book was provided to me free of charge from Zondervan for the purpose of review.
I will be doing a sermon series soon titled "What Is the Gospel". I had assumed "The Gospel" for years, and have heard others whittle it down to one or three or four points. But some time back I began to re-think what the Scripture, and Jesus, mean by "The Gospel". So I was delighted to pick up Scot McKnight's 184 page hardback and dive into it. The strengths of the book are numerous. I think he builds a good case for what the Gospel actually is: the resolution of the story of Israel in Jesus, and thus the the story of God's world rescue operation - a world rescue operation that has Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and true Lord of the world, at its center. McKnight takes slow steps to carefully unfold each part, building brick-by-brick, until he comes to the end result. Whether the reader will be totally satisfied with his conclusion or not, he will have to appreciate what the author unfolds and puts on display. In my mind McKnight gets it right. The weakness of the book may well be the writing style. I have a suspicion that the redundancy - a redundancy that builds to a climax - reflects the author's teaching approach. Nevertheless, for me, it was a bit annoying and I found myself saying, "Okay. Now get to the point!" And in the final chapter McKnight gets to the point, a point he has been subtly persuading the reader to embrace all along. "The King Jesus Gospel" is a surprisingly easy read. This would be an ideal book for a church's small group to tackle, or an adult Sunday School. But I also think it is a book that needs to be in the hands of Evangelists, Pastors and leaders of every Bible-believing, God-fearing, Christ-loving congregation. To purchase this book would be worth your money, so rush out and snatch up a copy.
The following is a condensed version of the review that was posted on my Wordpress blog, "all loved": You'd think if there was any one thing that Christians of all theological stripes could agree upon, it would be the Gospel. The central message about Jesus that our spiritual ancestors believed was so powerful, they were willing to die to preach it to others. Surprisingly, we don't. Some people think it's about going to heaven after you die, while others have equated the Bible's chief message with being justified by God. Within this setting of doctrinal confusion, Scot McKnight has written The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, a popular-level work designed to look at both Scriptural evidence and instances from church history to argue that the Gospel is about Jesus as the saving Lord whose story completes the long-running narrative of Israel. So, what is the Gospel? According to McKnight, it is this: the Story of Jesus serving as the completion of the Story of Israel. This is the Gospel message itself. The salvation of people is the result of this message being preached to them. In the author's own words: ". the gospel for the apostle Paul is the salvation-unleashing Story of Jesus, Messiah-Lord-Son, that brings to completion the Story of Israel as found in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. To 'gospel' is to declare this story, and it is a story that saves people from their sins. That story is the only framing story if we want to be apostolic in how we present the gospel." (pg. 61) McKnight distinguishes between the Story of Jesus and the salvation that results from this story being told. He doesn't deemphasize salvation or people's need for it, but he does argue that the Gospel is about a lot more than how people can get right with God. As important as that is, McKnight believes that reconciliation between the mortal and Divine is the result of the Story of Jesus. McKnight draws on the sermons of Jesus, Peter, Paul, the writings of post-apostle Christian leaders, and the creeds to make his case that the early church had a "gospel" culture before the Reformation inadvertently produced a "salvation" one through its emphases on justification and original sin. The final chapters bring this material into more practical areas, such as how to evangelize with this understanding of the Gospel in mind. This is a fantastic book. For a more extensive review, check out my blog. I hope I've encouraged you to pick up a copy for yourself.