Getting the Gospel Right
Interacting with Scot McKnight’s Post
So, today, I encourage you to go to Scot McKnight’s blog, find Matthew Bates’s post and read it carefully: “Good News? Are T4G/TGC Leaders Starting To Change Their Gospel?”. Then, let’s use this and my comments below as the basis of discussion today.
Here are a few of Bates’s points (these are direct quotes):
• What John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, and others associated with T4G (“Together for the Gospel”) and TGC (“The Gospel Coalition”) have been asserting to be the heart of the gospel is not even part of the gospel in Scripture.
• The true biblical gospel climaxes with the proclamation that Jesus has become the Christ, Lord of all, the king (Acts 2:36; 3:20-23; 10:36). On the path to kingship, the Son was sent by the Father in fulfillment of OT promises, took on human flesh in the line of David, died a substitutionary atoning death for our sins on the cross, was buried, raised, witnessed, enthroned at the right hand, and then the Spirit was sent (Rom 1:2-4; 1 Cor 15:3-5; 2 Tim 2:8). All of which is the good news that God’s kingdom, heralded by Jesus, has now arrived (Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43). Because the enthroned king now rules, the gospel can be summarized: Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:42; 8:5; 9:22; 17:3). Subsequently, the Spirit applies the benefits of the gospel to those who respond with pistis, that is, allegiance (bodily loyalty inclusive of trust). The gospel proper is what the king has done for us apart from whether you or I have responded—a point both Piper (The Future of Justification, p. 86-88) and Gilbert misunderstand. (See Bates, Gospel Allegiance, p. 104-7, for discussion).
• Scripture never says our justification by faith is part of the gospel. Righteousness is revealed to be among the gospel’s benefits (Rom 1:17). Meanwhile “faith” (pistis) is how we respond to the gospel of Jesus’s kingship, so its saving benefits are actualized. Getting this right has huge practical payoffs for disciple-making and ecumenism.
• T4G / TGC leaders have been misidentifying the true center and framework of the gospel for years. They have put something that the Bible does not even say is part of the gospel at its center instead. It remains to be seen whether MacArthur, Piper, Mohler, Gilbert, and others who have placed justification by faith at the center of the gospel, largely at the expense of Jesus’s kingship, will admit their mistakes. Regardless, if Gilbert’s sermon is an indicator, then a shift is already beginning. Thankfully the gospel of Jesus’s victorious kingship is being fronted by T4G in a way that it wasn’t in the past.
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Trying to understand the true nature of the good news Jesus brings has been a primary part of our effort here at Internet Monk from the beginning. Along the way, we have come to appreciate the “new perspective” of people like N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight, among others. For too long, in my view, western theology has focused on soteriology at the expense of christology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. The gospel as delineated by Bates here at McKnight’s blog is much more full-bodied, much less schismatic, and much less focused on the inner workings of doctrinal mechanics.
It is Jesus-centered and Jesus-shaped. Indeed, the gospel per se is all about Jesus — it is the announcement that he has taken his throne and inaugurated God’s rule. (christology)
It focuses on God’s ultimate end game — not merely personal salvation but the establishment of God’s rule and the apokatástasis, the restoration of all creation in Christ. (eschatology)
It links the creation of the new people of God with the original vocation of humankind given at creation — which I desribe as tikkun olam, “repair of the world,” in anticipation of the apokatástasis. (ecclesiology)
It puts the reconciliation of individuals into this context, not only offering forgiveness of sins, but also participation in the project of restoring shalom to all the world. Having peace with God, we become peacemakers. Faith works through love. Salvation that is a gift and not of ourselves leads to people made new, buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life and good works. (soteriology)