If someone asked you what the gospel was, how would you respond?
Take a minute to think about it. Then, continue reading.
Scot McKnight quotes N.T. Wright in the opening pages of his book The King Jesus Gospel as writing, “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 those things.”
Okay. Think about that gospel picture again.
Get ready to compare it to what McKnight describes.
Think about how His understanding might impact or enrich what you believe.
The early chapters of McKnight’s book are spent painting a picture between gospel culture and salvation culture. He argues that “evangelicals (mistakenly) equate the word gospel with the word salvation. […] When we evangelicals see the word gospel, our instinct is to think (personal) “salvation.” We are wired this way. But these two words don’t mean the same thing” (29).
McKnight describes how salvation culture surrounds a decision point that leads to someone being saved or not saved. It leads to someone thinking they are in or out. But it does not lead to discipleship. He, then, goes on to make the case that a gospel culture cannot be divorced from discipleship; and a belief in the gospel, leads to salvation too.
McKnight writes of the gospel:
““To gospel” is to herald, to proclaim, and to declare something about something. To put this together: the gospel is to announce good news about key events in the life of Jesus Christ. To gospel for Paul was to tell, announce, declare and shout aloud the Story of Jesus Christ as the saving news of God” (49-50).
The gospel, then, is the story of Jesus as the fulfillment to the story of Israel. It leads to the culminating point that Jesus is Messiah and Lord. When this is laid bare, it calls for a response.
McKnight writes of the gospel that is preached in Acts, “True gospeling that conforms to the apostolic gospel leads directly to who Jesus is, whatever the gospeler has to say to get folks to move in that direction. Once there, the apostolic gospleing in the book of Acts summons the audience to respond” (127).
So what does a response to the gospel look like?
McKnight describes belief, repentance and baptism as the ways in which people were invited to respond in Acts.
Belief has more to do with reliance and trust in God that is lived out by “a life of obedience, holiness, and love” than “mentally agreeing to some truth” (128). It is a life of discipleship.
McKnight spends chapters talking about the gospel the apostles understood; the gospel in Matthew, Mark Luke and John; whether Jesus preached the gospel; what gospel the disciples preached. He explores how we moved from a gospel culture to a salvation culture. He also discusses some ideas for how we can move toward a gospel culture today.
Key to an understanding of the gospel and to creating a gospel culture is the idea of story.
McKnight writes, “To grasp the gospel we have to grasp what God is doing in this world, and that means we have a story to tell” (148). He talks about how important it is to understand the story that is painted in the Bible. It is when we understand the Old Testament that we are able to see Jesus as the fulfillment of these promises. We see Jesus as Lord. We are drawn, once again, toward obedience and trust.
In light of this Story, all other stories begin to make sense.
In his book, Scot McKnight encourages me to live as a disciple trusting God, to invest my time reading Scripture—all of it—to know the Story. He challenges me to see the world in light of what God has done in the Story of Israel, has fulfilled in Christ and promises he will do in the future. He challenges me to share the gospel and create disciples.
Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we receive the gospel in a fresh way that challenges us to be changed and to surrender our lives. May we find that life has meaning that is rich. May we find that the things around us whether painful or beautiful begin to make more sense. May we find that we can’t help but share the gospel—the story of the one who was the fulfillment of promises by a good God—because we have been changed by it. May we lead others to a place where they must choose how they will respond.