The King Jesus Gospel (5)

In chapter 3 of The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight begins to make the case for his perspective on the original gospel (good news) message preached by Jesus and the disciples. The early posts in this series covered the argument that the gospel of salvation as it is often preached in evangelical circles is not consistent with the original gospel message, and that it is not useful for making committed followers of Jesus.

In this chapter, McKnight wants to create a definition for the gospel, and he does so by differentiating between four categories through which we can understand the gospel and evangelism.

  1. The Story of Israel/the Bible
  2. The Story of Jesus
  3. The Plan of Salvation
  4. The Method of Persuasion

For the author, these categories are connected to each other and ought to build upon each other for a proper understanding of the message and how we preach it. In making his case, McKnight first defines these four categories. In this post, we will focus on the Story of Israel.

The Story of Israel

This story of Israel is the big picture of what the Bible tells us about the world, and provides the foundation for how we view God’s activity in the world. McKnight begins in Genesis where he focuses on the theology of creation. That is, the world was created as God’s temple (a place where he would be worshipped). God placed Adam and Eve into the garden temple (Eden) as his image bearers “to represent God, to govern for God, and to relate to God, self, others, and the world in a redemptive way. The single task of representing God and governing God’s garden was radically distorted when Adam and Eve rebelled against the good command of God. God banished them from Eden.”[1]

The caution here is that we can not now skip to the New Testament and the story of Jesus and salvation, because we would miss the point of what God intended to accomplish through the Jewish people. God chose Abraham as the father of a nation, a kingdom of priests, to whom the responsibilities of Adam would now be given. Later, these responsibilities are given to the Church. They were to “govern this world redemptively on God’s behalf.”[2] When Israel failed, God sent his Son to do what they could not; to save all of us from our individual sins, and the sin of systemic evil that plagues this broken world. He is rescuing us from our true enemy, Satan. For McKnight, the coming of Jesus is connected directly to the events of Genesis 1-3, not only to save us from our sins, but also to establish the sort of kingship over this world that God had intended from the beginning.

Notice this: what God does in sending the Son is to establish Jesus as the Messiah, which means King, and God established in Jesus Christ the kingdom of God, which means the King is ruling in his kingdom. We need to restate this: the idea of King and a kingdom are connected to the original creation.[3]

In closing this section of the book, McKnight points out that the consummation of the kingdom promise is better than what we had in the beginning. What we gain in the Kingdom is better than what we lost in the Garden.

Finally, the Story has an aim: the consummation, when God will set it all straight as God establishes his kingdom on earth. That consummation comes with a clarification that leads us to read the whole Bible all over again: God originally placed Adam and Eve in a garden-temple, but when God gets things completely wrapped up, the garden disappears. Instead of a garden in Revelation 21 – 22 we find a city. The garden, in other words, is not the ideal condition. The ideal condition is a flourishing, vibrant, culture-creating, God-honoring, Jesus-centered city.[4]

This story of Israel is the foundation through which we understand gospel, but this story is not the gospel. The gospel fits in this story, and needs this story in order to make sense. Without this story of God establishing man to rule on his behalf as is image on earth, and the subsequent failure in this task, the full understanding of consequences of the fall of man are lost. Without understanding that God established the Israelites as a nation to rule on his behalf through the Davidic line, it is impossible to see why Jesus has to be a Son of David. The connection of Jesus to David is not just a way to validate him as Messiah; it is absolutely necessary to him being Messiah. If Jesus only came to die for our sins, he doesn’t need to be the Son of David, he only needs to be divine. However, for him to be the Messiah (God’s chosen king on earth), he must be the Son of David. This is the connection of Jesus to Creation through the story of Israel and why the story of Israel is foundational to understanding the gospel.

Here are my questions for you:

  1. Do you think McKnight is correct that Adam and Eve were created to serve God and rule on his behalf?
  2. Do you think it makes sense that the story of Israel is not just a continuation of the story of man’s sinfulness (thus demonstrating our need for salvation), but also the account of how God is working to establish Jesus as the proper ruler of this world?
  3. Can you see how, if we ignore the story of Israel, the gospel can get distorted into a message solely referring to our individual salvation?

[1] p. 35

[2] Ibid.

[3] p. 36

[4] Ibid.

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2 thoughts on “The King Jesus Gospel (5)

  1. last point first…YES! that is one of the biggest areas, in my opinion, that modern evangelicalism has dropped the ball. In our self centered society, it is a simple step to move the message of salvation to an individual message when I think it is clear that Christ came as a redeemer for the creation. The whole world fell when Adam sinned and the whole world must be redeemed through Christ. I am curious about the notion of the garden disappearing and a city taking its place. That is an issue I would want to discuss more. To me, the redemption of creation must mean the redemption of the natural world along with the people created by God. The city focus sounds more post-romantic (ie. rationalism or humanism) but that might just be my literary background and love of nature talking.

    • The city replacing the garden is a new thought for me as well. I mean, I’ve always known about the New Jerusalem that comes at the end, but I never quite put it together in those terms. It does require some more thought.

      I happen to agree with McKnight here. The pithy “gospel” presentations are easy to remember, but they don’t capture the whole picture.

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