For today’s post from The King Jesus Gospel (full series) we continue talking about Paul’s gospel. McKnight focuses in on other passages from Paul’s writing, specifically from the book of Romans.
According to the author, the fundamental issue for Paul in Romans is not simply the personal salvation, but the problem of how God joins together Jewish believers and Gentile believers into the one church of Jesus Christ. Beginning in Romans 1:1-5, he wants to demonstrate how Paul’s understanding of the gospel fits what is said in 1 Corinthians 15.
Romans 1:1–5 (ESV)
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,…
This is a declaration of the arrival of Jesus, the King/Christ, descended from King David, declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection. The theme of Jesus as Lord is present throughout Paul’s writings and his sermons in Acts. The emphasis at the beginning of Romans is the story of Israel as told through the prophets in the Old Testament, and how that story necessarily leads us to Jesus. Through Jesus all grace has been given and received by those who are disciples of Jesus, for the purpose of gaining obedience resulting from faith for the glory of Jesus among all nations (nations is the Jewish way of referring to Gentiles). What flows from this announcement of the Gospel of King Jesus in Romans is the explanation of the Plan of Salvation for all mankind and how God is using salvation is making one new people, the Church, out of Jews and Gentiles. But all Romans is built upon the gospel message that Jesus the King has come to establish his kingdom. In our hurry to get to the “meat” of the theology of Romans, we rush right past the introduction which gives us the contextual lens through which we must view everything that follows.
In summary of the chapter, McKnight’s point is that the Gospel is the Story of Jesus, and what we normally refer to as the Gospel (our sin, Jesus’ death and resurrection, our repentance, justification, and resurrection) is really the Plan of Salvation. McKnight affirms the Plan of Salvation, but argues that it flows out of the real gospel, which is the the Story of Jesus. When Paul “gospelized” his audience, what he told them was the Story of Jesus as we find it in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. What is doing in his letters is to help the churches understand what the Gospel accomplishes and how it works itself out in their lives. He is explaining, in part, the Plan of Salvation.
My own inclination is to explain it this way: When Paul is writing his letters to the various churches, he is writing to people who are already “gospelized.” He does not need to explain to them the message all over again. They know the Story of Jesus, and have acknowledged its truthfulness, and have in faith repented and chosen to follow the King. Now, they need further teaching and instruction as to what precisely is happening to them. So in his letters, Paul is giving them deeper theological insight, but that insight is not the Gospel itself. The good news is Jesus.
So what do you think? Does Romans 1:1-5 make sense to you as a parallel to 1 Corinthians 15? Does it seem true to you that the message Paul preached was the Story of Jesus, and his letters were meant as fuller explanations of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf?