The King Jesus Gospel (9)

In the last post in the King Jesus Gospel series, we discussed how our author interprets 1 Corinthians 15 to be the closest we come in scripture to an actual summary of the gospel message of the apostles. After giving us an explanation of the text, McKnight begins to examine the specific nature of Jesus as he is discussed in 1 Corinthians 15. See my summary here.

So you’re not lost in the discussion, read the passage first.

1 Corinthians 15:1–5; 20-28 (NIV84)

1 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. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.


The Jesus of the Gospel

According to McKnight, the gospel Story of Jesus Christ is a story about Jesus as Messiah, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as Son.  These elements are present We need to be reminded that the Greek word “Christ” (Christos) is the translation of the Hebrew “Messiah” (Meshuah). Messiah means “anointed King” and “Lord” and “Ruler.” Jesus is king as a result of battle. He conquers death, and all things are placed under his authority (vv. 24-28). Jesus is absolutely central to the gospel. The fact that he is Messiah/King is also central to the gospel. All things are fulfilled, or made “Yes” in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 1:18–22 (NIV84)

18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

I had to sum up the Jesus of the gospel, I would say “King Jesus.” Or I would say “Jesus is Lord” or “Jesus is Messiah and Lord.” As King, as Messiah, and as Lord, Jesus is the Savior, or Liberator, “from our sins.”

Do you see here that if the message of the gospel is the good news of Jesus becoming king, then the all the other pieces of our understanding of salvation fall under this larger theme of Jesus as king? Jesus is savior because Jesus is king. Theologically, McKnight is moving our understanding of the gospel from the being centered in Soteriology (our understanding of salvation) to being anchored in Christology (our theology of Jesus, who he is, and what is doing and has done). By doing this, McKnight is rightly making the good news message about Jesus himself, and not only what Jesus has done for us.

Looking again at 1 Cor. 15:28, it is noted that despite quite a lot of discussion about the proper interpretation of this verse, but that there is one thing that is very clear: “the story will end with God the Father being God for all and in all and through all, and his Son will be glorified as the One through whom God is glorified.” At this point of consummation, God completes the task he gave to humans on the sixth day of creation, that is, to rule his creation along side the Son of God.

A Look at N.T. Wright on the topic of Paul’s gospel…

Aside form the refocusing of our attention onto Jesus himself, this way of talking about the gospel had profound implications in the days of the early church. In this section, the author is summarizing the position of scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright. Instead of summarizing his summary, I’ll post it here.

To answer this question (what does the word “gospel” mean for Paul), Tom enters into descriptions of two backgrounds to Paul’s usage of the term gospel, including both that powerful set of images from Isaiah as well as the characteristic empire gospel of Rome. For Paul, the word gospel is connected to the Story of Israel/Bible in his Roman context. Most importantly, the word gospel in the first century context was an announcement: “to announce that YHWH was king was to announce that Caesar is not.”

But Tom goes farther and in so doing appears to be the foil of Pastor Eric, and he clearly states that “gospel” is not the Plan of Salvation: the gospel “is not, then, a system of how people get saved. The announcement of the gospel results in people getting saved…. But ‘the gospel’ itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus.” “Or, to put it yet more compactly: Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is
Lord. A few pages later Wright unpacks this meaning in a more general and universally applicable sense: “The ‘gospel’ is for Paul, at its very heart, an announcement about the true God as opposed to the false gods.”

So what do you think? Does it make sense that the good news message for Paul is something different than the plan of salvation?