The King Jesus Gospel
I just finished Scot McKnight’s book, The King Jesus Gospel, and really loved it. McKnight’s goal is to direct the energy of the church from merely convincing people to follow Jesus to proclaiming that Jesus is the King, Savior, and Lord of the universe.
In the book, McKnight argues that most of the church has been focused on mastering the art of persuasion (getting people to make decisions for Christ), and that the fully-orbed Gospel has been lost along the way. In other words, the biblical Gospel involves more than just “Jesus died for your sins.” It also involves the life of Jesus and how he fulfills Israel’s longing for the Messiah (and all the Messiah would accomplish).
The result of the church’s focus on persuasion is that people often make decisions for Christ (or “get saved”) without clarity about what that decision means for their lives. The larger issues of obedience and discipleship too often come as afterthoughts—as if discipleship is optional.
The work of the church is then made more difficult because we spend our time first convincing people they need to be saved and then convincing them to be disciples and become like Christ. We have not done an adequate job of explaining that discipleship—not just going to heaven when we die—is our central pursuit. I think that’s why so many people get stuck spiritually.
McKnight explains how we got here: We have started with a method of persuasion (e.g., the plan of salvation) and only later, hopefully, explained the story of Jesus and how he fulfills the story of Israel. We need to turn that around. Jesus is King, Savior, Messiah and Lord, or he is nothing at all. He came to fulfill God’s promises to Israel and then to extend those promises to the rest of the world. He came to redeem the world and make it right again, and he invites all people to follow him and join that mission through faith in him.
Proclaiming this Gospel is the church’s highest calling.
McKnight rightly points to 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 as the heart of the Gospel (notice the words I’ve made bold):
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.”
McKnight then points to the sermons recorded in the book of Acts as early attempts to express the totality of the Gospel by the apostles:
- Acts 2.14-39
- Acts 3.12-26
- Acts 4.8-12
- Acts 7.2-53
- Acts 10.34-43 with 11.4-18
- Acts 13.16-41
- Acts 14.15-17
- Acts 17.22-31
I challenge you to read these sermons and then take a shot at articulating your own mini version of the Gospel that expresses all Jesus came to do. Try it.
I grew up in a church that helped us all get saved but did not do a great job helping me understand the Gospel in this full sense. For example, I didn’t learn as clearly as I could have how Jesus is connected to the Old Testament experience as Messiah and Lord, how his mission is way bigger than “saving souls,” and how if his mission is bigger than that, mine is too.
I wonder how many others have experienced the same thing.
The King Jesus Gospel. Great book. Even greater mission.