A Gospel of Salvation
Interacting with The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
In The King Jesus Gospel (published by Zondervan, 2011), Dr. Scot McKnight argues that American evangelicals consistently miss the gospel: “For most American Christians, the gospel is about getting my sins forgiven so I can go to heaven when I die” (27). He insists that we must view the plan of salvation correctly within the larger Biblical narrative of gospel, i.e. Jesus as Israel’s fulfillment. The major upside of this discussion is that Dr. McKnight is drawing his readers away from gospel myopia and encouraging them to consider the entirety of Scripture when thinking about and presenting the gospel. His admonishment is worth taking to heart.
However, one area of concern must be raised at this point. Although McKnight is very clear that the gospel is a story that saves, he also makes this distinction: “the plan of salvation is not the gospel. The plan of salvation emerges from the story of Israel/Bible and from the story of Jesus, but the plan [of salvation] and the gospel are not the same big idea” (39). I don’t believe this distinction is entirely balanced.
For example, in Isaiah 53:5, we find a clear connection between the Messiah and salvation. The servant of YHWH will be “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”. Jesus identifies Himself as this servant in Luke 22:37 and we should therefore not be surprised that when Simeon held the Messiah in his arms, he recognized that he was looking upon God’s salvation (Luke 2:29-32), or that Paul’s gospel summary in 1 Corinthians 15 includes the death of Jesus for our sins “in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Paul saw the entire Old Testament as a unified proclamation of the coming Messiah who would save his people from their inherent depravity, which makes the gospel nothing less than “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
True, the New Testament does identify Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s story; however, a major component of that story revolves around promised salvation in the figure of Messiah. My contention is that the biblical gospel (Genesis to Revelation) is a saving story through and through and to separate Israel’s story from the salvation story seems to be thoroughly unnecessary because Israel’s story IS a salvation story. Jesus’ passion is the climax of that story; indeed, the climax of the entire gospel, which instigates personal redemption in the present (c.f. Hebrews 7:25) and cosmic redemption in the future (c.f. Revelation 21:5).
McKnight is correct that we should avoid truncated gospel presentations, but on the other hand, verbal excess is not required in order to successfully communicate the most tremendous news in the history of humanity: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
by Ben Childs, Missions Intern