Don Carson summarizes an analysis by Greg Gilbert on the different ways the New Testament writers use the word gospel (Gk., εὐαγγέλιον, “good news”):

He argues that some passages where “gospel” is used focus on the message a person must believe to be saved, while others focus on the message that is “the whole good news of Christianity.” (I would prefer to say something like “the whole good news of what God has done in Christ Jesus and in consequence will do.”)

The first list includes, for example, texts like Acts 10:36-43; Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; 15:1-5—all passages having to do with the forgiveness of sins, how to be saved, how a person is justified, and so forth.

This corresponds to two types of believers who gravitate toward these different foci of the gospel:

In Gilbert’s analysis, one group of believers, whom he designates Group A, rightly argues that “the gospel is the good news that God is reconciling sinners to himself through the substitutionary death of Jesus.”

A second group of believers, whom Gilbert designates Group B, rightly argues that “the gospel is the good news that God is going to renew and remake the whole world through Christ.”

These two groups, he says, tend to talk past one another:

When a Group A believer asks the question What is the gospel? and hears the answer provided by a Group B person, inevitably he or she feels the cross has been lost; when a Group B believer asks the question What is the gospel? and hears the answer provided by a Group A person, inevitably he or she feels the response is too individualistic, too constrained, not driven by the sweep of eschatological expectation and ultimate hope.

Carson insists that these are not two gospels but one gospel in two perspectives:

Gilbert’s point is that although one can discern two foci in “gospel” texts—both having to do with the message of what God has done or is doing, but one more focused on Christ and his cross and how people are saved, the other taking in the broadest sweep of restoration in the new heaven and the new earth—these are not two separate and competing gospels, two distinguishable and complementary gospels. There is but one gospel of Jesus Christ.

The narrower focus draws you to Jesus—his incarnation, his death and resurrection, his session and reign—as that from which all the elements of what God is doing are drawn.

The broader focus sketches in the mighty dimensions of what Christ has secured.

Carson then makes some application:

But this means that if one preaches the gospel in the broader sense without also emphasizing the gospel in the more focused sense of what God has done to bring about such sweeping transformation, one actually sacrifices the gospel.

To preach the gospel as if this were equivalent to preaching, say, the demands of the kingdom or the characteristics and promises of the kingdom, both now in its inauguration and finally in its consummation, without making clear what secures the whole, is not to preach the gospel but only a tired and tiring moralism. Perhaps that is why Paul, talking of what the gospel is, feels free to identify the matters of first importance: Christ crucified and risen again.

This leads to a discussion of the heart of the gospel:

The heart of the gospel is what God has done in Jesus, supremely in his death and resurrection. Period. It is not personal testimony about our repentance; it is not a few words about our faith response; it is not obedience; it is not the cultural mandate or any other mandate. Repentance, faith, and obedience are of course essential, and must be rightly related in the light of Scripture, but they are not the good news.

The gospel is the good news about what God has done. Because of what God has done in Christ Jesus, the gospel necessarily includes the good that has been secured by Christ and his cross work. Thus it has a present and an eschatological dimension. We announce the gospel.

In their book What Is the Mission of the Church? Gilbert and DeYoung say that we could call the broad sense “the gospel of the kingdom”—that is, “the whole complex of promises that God makes to those who are redeemed through Christ. The more narrow sense could be called “the gospel of the cross”—that is, “the message that sinners can be forgiven through repentance and faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Gilbert and DeYoung summarize some applications and clarifications:

First, there is only one gospel, not two.

Second, the gospel of the kingdom necessarily includes the gospel of the cross.

Third, and more specifically, the gospel of the cross is the fountainhead of the gospel of the kingdom.

They also explain why the NT writers can call “the gospel of the cross” the gospel even while retaining the term for the whole complex of good news.

Because the broader blessings of the gospel are attained only by means of forgiveness through the cross, and because those broader blessings are attained infallibly by means of forgiveness through the cross, it’s entirely appropriate and makes perfect sense for the New Testament writers to call forgiveness through the cross—the fountainhead of and gateway to all the rest—“the gospel.”

That’s also why we never see the New Testament calling any other single promise of God to the redeemed “the gospel.” For example, we never see the promise of the new creation called “the gospel.” Nor do we see reconciliation between humans called “the gospel.” But we do see reconciliation between man and God called “the gospel” precisely because it is the one blessing that leads to all the rest.

When Gilbert and DeYoung state the implications of their analysis negatively, here are three of their summaries of what we should avoid:

  1. It is wrong to say that the gospel is the declaration that the kingdom of God has come. The gospel of the kingdom is the declaration of the kingdom of God together with the means of entering it.
  2. It is wrong to say that the declaration of all the blessings of the kingdom is a dilution of the true gospel.
  3. It is wrong to say that the message of forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus is a reduction of the true gospel.

I recommend Carson’s whole essay as well as the helpful chapter in the DeYoung/Gilbert book.

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39 thoughts on “The Relationship between “The Gospel of the Kingdom” and “The Gospel of the Cross””

  1. rc sproul jr says:

    Thank you. Well said. Consistent with a brief piece I wrote on piety and pietism.

  2. Luma says:

    Thank you, Justin. This is a needed and worthwhile discussion.

  3. Dan says:

    In his book The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler does a great job at noting the unity and diversity of the “gospel of the kingdom,” which he refers to as the “macro-gospel” and the “gospel of the cross,” which he refers to as the “micro-gospel.”

  4. Greg Gibson says:

    Vines said it well…Gospel: “The apostle uses it of two associated yet distinct things, (a) of the basic facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Chrst, e.g., 1 Cor. 15:1-3; (b) of the interpretation of the facts, as is sometimes indicated by the context.”

    IOW, the gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ coming to save sinners in His kingdom. The apostles often summarized the gospel as the historical facts about Christ, especially that He is the Son of God, the Messiah Who fulfills prophecy, the Savior, and the Lord. He came to earth, did many miracles, lived a sinless life, died, rose, ascended, reigns, and promised to return (Mk. 1:15; Acts 2:14 – 28:31; Rom. 1:2-4; 1 Cor. 15:1-7; 2 Tim. 2:8). Those historical facts interpreted and explained theologically also reveal the comprehensive gospel about Jesus (Mk. 1:1ff.; Rom. 1:17ff.; Gal. 1:6ff).

  5. Brian Considine says:

    Isn’t it simple enough to just accept that the “Whole Gospel” means that our life in Christ starts at the Cross but our life through and for Christ takes us into the Kingdom? Both are Good News. It should be noted that the phrase “The Gospel of the Cross” does not appear in Scripture, whereas the “Gospel of the Kingdom” Jesus tells us will be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14) for purposes of God to be completed. What Paul preached was Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) for entry into the Kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit(Romans 14:17).

  6. I’ve tried to show in my own quick writing that the gospel of the kingdom is the gospel of the cross. One without the other is useless. “Without the salvation, reconciliation, justification, and redemption of individual people (the lost and fallen images of God) there can be no cosmic redemption.”

    http://wp.me/p30a1-xJ

  7. Kent says:

    The distinction that is being made is, in my opinion, a false distinction. Acts provides various gospel presentations, all emphasizing different things, but having essentially the same content:

    God is sovereign over all things, being its creator. Jesus, the Son of God, did the works of God on the earth. He was put to death unjustly, yet his death was ordained by God as an offering for our sins. God raised him from the dead and exalted him to His right hand, from which he come again as Lord over all to judge the living and the dead. This Jesus God has appointed as Deliverer and Messiah, who will bring redemption and salvation to all those who believe on his name. All who do so will find forgiveness of sins, receiving from his hand the promised Holy Spirit, and a place among God’s sanctified people in the kingdom of God through the resurrection of the dead.

    Wordy, but it’s one gospel. Keep in mind that when Paul says what is of most importance, including the sacrificial death for our sins, he is doing so in movement toward the resurrection, the main topic of 1 Corinthians 15. And what this indicates is that the crucifixion is in service of the Resurrection of the dead, the necessary means to redemption from sin so that those who are redeemed may be sanctified and brought into the kingdom prepared for them. So the “gospel of the cross” is the gospel of the kingdom, inasmuch as it doesn’t stop at legal forgiveness but moves seamlessly toward its aim, the glorification of the people of God in the kingdom of God.

    So in a nutshell, the gospel of the cross should be at its basic that Christ died for our sins to redeem us to God and bring us into the kingdom of God, to the glory of Christ and the praise of God’s glorious name. If we stop at redemption, we actually do not preach the whole gospel, for it is the entry into the kingdom of God that makes redemption through the cross especially good. This is the whole gospel, which includes both the cross and the kingdom. To leave out one or the other is to fail to preach the “whole gospel”.

  8. Jason says:

    What if instead if saying the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus was an insufficient summary? Name one text that outlines the gospel succinctly like that. Even 1cor 15 goes on to state Jesus’exhaltation as Lord. Even Paul in Acts 17 omits it. He majority include it as one aspect of a larger picture and especially have Israel , David, Christ/Messiah, and Jesus’ Lordship included. These are some of the most basic expression of the gospel in the majority of gospel texts. Omitting Jesus’ work on the cross is wrong. Stating it as THE gospel is equally wrong or at minimum misleading. It is me-Centred not Jesus Centred (ironically).

  9. Kent says:

    well, in Acts 17, Paul has already spoken at length about Jesus to the Jews and Greeks when he’s brought before the Athenians. And in his succinct presentation, he refers to Jesus as the one who will judge the world in righteousness, a position made evident by his resurrection from the dead. So he does refer to Jesus as Lord. Not all the gospel speeches in Acts cover “God Man Christ Response” (in fact they’re all “God Christ Response”), but they all for the most part present Jesus as Messiah who died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and exalted as Lord, through whom is forgiveness and justification, and who will return again to bring salvation and to judge the world. And these are given with the backdrop of the kingdom and resurrection, and the sovereignty of God (in creating the world, orchestrating history, and holding men accountable).

  10. Nick Mitchell says:

    Justification is not a dominant theme in the Gospels (which are the gospel are they not?)or in the gospel sermons in Acts. Forgiveness of sins is a big theme on the other hand but the Gospels or the sermons in Acts can not be reduced to tracts on personal forgiveness. Read all of Acts 13 and you will see that Paul is preaching Jesus as the Messiah who brings all God’s saving plans for and through Israel to fulfillment including the promise of a King and forgiveness of sins. I have no idea how one can conclude from sermons such as this or gospel definitions such as 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 1:1-5 that forgiveness is the “more essential” aspect of the gospel. What response are we looking for? A personal assurance that sins are forgiven or a submission to Jesus who is Lord of the world? Again, forgiveness is an essential part of the gospel but one can actually preach a biblically faithful gospel without expounding on the mechanics of penal substitution.

  11. Jason says:

    Here’s another note for conversation:

    Isn’t the theme of this article THE ENTIRE POINT OF “HOW GOD BECAME KING” BY N.T. WRIGHT, which TGC ripped apart in it’s review? Kingdom and Cross belong together, but we have some re-framing to do in our thinking to make it biblical.

    1. pduggie says:

      Jason, its all about who is allowed to define the Type A people and the Type B people and be considered sound providers of the right ‘center’

      1. Jason says:

        I suppose that’s part of the big problem, isn’t it? TGC refusing to integrate major elements of the gospel according to Scripture? Read Carson’s essay surveying the use of the word in the New Testament and you’ll see they ignore central elements they know are there. I just can’t understand how Carson can do such a thorough study, write that essay, and then not integrate the whole message together.

        I’d say Trevin Wax is an exception. Out of all the books from TGC on the gospel his seems to try and engage other streams.

        Bird, Bock, McKnight, even the pope for crying out loud. Anyone other than ‘safe’ YRR theologians. Or how about using more texts or even the existing ‘favorites’ in context.

  12. J. Srnec says:

    I have no real disagreement with this, just some things I’d like to add. First, the there are more sense of “gospel” than just these two. As one commenter has already pointed out, there is the “narrative of Jesus’ life” sense, as in the gospel according to Saint Luke.

    Second, although they rightly say that “the gospel of the kingdom necessarily includes the gospel of the cross”, they should go further and say that “the gospel of the cross necessarily includes the gospel of the kingdom.” For without the kingdom, what is one saved for?

    Finally, do we need now to talk about “the heart of the gospel”? Haven’t we got enough “centres” going around in Reformed evangelicalism today: cross-centred, gospel-centred, Christ-centred?

  13. Ryan says:

    Forgive me Father, for I have skimmed, but Carson’s essay doesn’t seem terribly fulfilling. It didn’t really seem like Carson really offered a very convincing argument in favour of a dichotomized Gospel such as the one he is proposing. As far as I could tell, his legwork in the etymology of evangelion didn’t lead to any particularly salient points, and he didn’t really seem to answer the arguments that 1 Cor 15 speaks on a far greater level (some of which seem to have been briefly elucidated in this very comment section).

    As such, my initial reaction to Carson’s essay is that as a response to the unified Gospel camp (i.e. there is but one Gospel proclaims the Good News of both Kingdom and Cross, I’m thinking of guys like Wright, Scot McKnight, and Dallas Willard here), it is utterly impotent as it fails to adequately respond to their arguments. Indeed, Carson’s primary purpose seems to be to preach to the choir, as it were – that is to say, the essay seems intended to reaffirm those who already agree with him, rather than contribute anything particular salient as large.

    Then again, I suppose that for a project as – pardon my vulgarity – masturbatory as a series of essays to honour John Piper, that is perhaps not surprising.

    I’ll have time to give it a thorough reading later, and will hopefully be able to give a more intelligent and nuanced critique as a result.

  14. Jeffrey Gordon says:

    The unified message of the New Testament (not just “the gospels”, nor just isolated proof texts from Romans) is twofold (1) Jesus Christ is Lord, and (2) trusting and submitting to Him moves individuals from death (eternal condemnation) apart from Christ to life in Him (His cross, and entire life). To preach a gospel of “the kingdom of God” as if therein were promised vindication for the weak, poor, or disenfranchised over against their “oppressors” — apart from a given soul’s personal explicit faith and trust in Christ — finds no support in the New Testament. The kingdom does entail total transformation of the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and His Messiah. But those who have not personally and explicitly come to Christ through the cross (i.e., responded to what McKnight disparagingly calls the “soterian” gospel), have no expectation of vindication, only judgment. “Cosmic redemption” promises deliverance only to believers in Christ, not human beings in general.

    1. Jason says:

      Jeffrey.

      I don’t think anyone here is suggesting “kingdom without cross”. It sounds like you are pretty much restating the article other than tacking on a ‘personal response’ as a necessary part of the gospel. I heartily disagree. It is an implicit challenge; yes. It is the proper response; yes. Salvation is the effect through faith; yes.

      Am I misunderstanding you? Perhaps you could clarify for me if that’s the case.

      1. Jeffrey Gordon says:

        I think I react against the idea that the “kingdom” is “broader” than the Church, “bigger” than merely believing in Christ (biblically speaking, what makes one a member of the Church), in the sense that it applies to a larger number of persons beyond those who have explicitly trusted in Christ. Hence some have embraced different degrees of universalism (a la Rob Bell), or focused on “kingdom” as some sort of “social justice” (i.e., state socialistic) redress of some persons’ (more likely “classes” of persons) ill treatment or neglect at the hand of others (common in Wright). To this extent my reaction goes beyond the article under discussion, except to underscore that it is no gospel that forsakes the “soterian” (i.e., “how one must be saved, to move from death to life”) while embracing “social justice” or “right living” in its place.

        If what you disagree with is the personal response (vs., say, induction into the visible Church sacramentally, by widespread practice of infant baptism or the like) I would cite, for example:

        “For God did not send his Son into the world mto condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

        “…unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

        And countless other pretty much identical passages. I guess I would simply say, with respect to Gilbert’s “Group A” (the “soterians”, who see the gospel as the answer to the question “how must a person be saved”), and “Group B” (who see the gospel as “king Jesus will renew and remake the world under his Lordship”) — while both are true (and part of the one overall message), “Group A’s” understanding is properly basic with respect to any given human being (or group of persons for that matter), because only those who have severally (i.e., one at a time) related to Christ explicitly as the One Who died to pay for sins and rose to secure justification, have secured the basis thereby to look forward to the consummation (complete revelation) of the kingdom with joy and expectation. Others who have not explicitly trusted in Christ (whether or not they may be oppressed and disadvantaged) can only look forward to judgment for sin.

        1. Jason says:

          First off, thanks for taking the time to reply. I’ll try to tackle this in the order you wrote so it’s easy to follow:

          I do think “kingdom” is bigger than the church, but I don’t think it replaces it. However, I also think the church (the people of God) are the only ones who inherit it permanently. And yes, of course, it is only through faith in him that one enters into the people and that kingdom.

          While salvation, justification, the atonement, etc. and the necessary response to appropriate those things are important and biblical I still maintain that they are not the gospel itself. The gospel is the message about Jesus, which brings all those things. The texts you cite are not the gospel itself (although Jn 3 has part of it). The gospel is outlined in the Acts sermons, 1 Cor 15, and other passages as well as the Gospel(s) themselves.

          I would follow Scot McKnight’s “King Jesus Gospel” approach and define the gospel like this:
          The story of Jesus; Israel’s Messiah crucified and risen to become Lord of everything, according to the Scriptures, who saves and will judge.

          The gospel is about the “Christ Event”. It is about God sending Jesus by the Power of the Spirit as the fulfillment of Israel’s story and the Adam story. I have not found a passage that says the gospel is salvation. There are two that say it is ‘for’ or ‘of’ salvation, but this is states that it is a natural result for those who put their faith in it. The response and result of the message is not the message itself.

          “Soterian” or “Kingdom” misses the point and both are redirected away from Jesus who is the real content of the message. Both A and B are man-centered…actually McKnight made a great post the other day on this:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/09/04/mechanics-and-me/

          The other recent post in these comments “Even more on Gospel, Cross, Kingdom” to Michael F. Bird is also helpful in articulating what I’m getting at.

          There is definitely a require response and to remove the cross is wrong, but I’m not advocating ‘kingdom’ as an alternative. I’m saying the story of Jesus is the gospel.

          Hopefully this is more clear.

        2. Jeffrey Gordon says:

          Jason wrote:
          The gospel is about the “Christ Event”. It is about God sending Jesus by the Power of the Spirit as the fulfillment of Israel’s story and the Adam story. I have not found a passage that says the gospel is salvation. There are two that say it is ‘for’ or ‘of’ salvation, but this is states that it is a natural result for those who put their faith in it. The response and result of the message is not the message itself.

          Sure. The gospel is an announcement, not a commandment, nor even a quid-pro-quo conditional promise (like the law, cf. Exodus 19:5). I totally agree that “the gospel” in a technical sense is the announcement of Jesus, not just as Israel’s promised Messiah (as it were, the continuation or consummation of “Israel’s story”), but as in fact the Seed to Whom the promises made to Abraham primarily applied (i.e., Israel’s whole history is merely a chapter in “Christ’s story”, rather than vice versa).

          It’s just that the gospel is not properly preached if only the story is told apart from it’s implications. As Paul preached in Acts 13:

          For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

          The ESV uses “freed” to translate the Greek dikaioo, usually translated “justified”.

          In what specific way is “the kingdom” broader than the Church? If only the Church inherits the kingdom permanently, what significance can the kingdom have for anyone outside of the Church other than “the wrath to come”? Are we equivocating on the definition of ‘Church’ (as institutional or visible Church)? That’s why I considered the key of faith (itself a sovereign gracious gift of God), as sole criteria (not blood line, not lifestyle, certainly not mere human existence) for one’s membership in the Church, and thus (at least in the all-important long run) in any beneficent participation in the kingdom.

          Of course, “what we are saved for” is vitally important. Christ said He came to build His Church, not just save as many individuals as possible. But you can’t be saved for something unless you’re saved, that’s all I meant to say.

          Personally I believe that our proclamation of the gospel falls short not just in stopping with the cross rather than continuing to the resurrection, but in stopping short of the ascension, Christ’s present Lordship, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! While it’s appropriate to warn against over-realized eschatology that would expect health and wealth, or utopian social structures, in the here and now, our eschatology tends to be “under-realized” with respect to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in scripture tends to coincide with the reality of Christ’s Lordship (i.e., “kingdom”). (cf., e.g. Matt 12:28). Of course the Holy Spirit is only promised to the Church, not the world at large.

          1. Jason says:

            I’m now convinced we’re on the same page on nearly every point. You have a lot of great points in there, especially about the need for including an invitation when we preach the gospel. This is exactly what I was trying to make the distinction about, yet include everything that is important.

            What you said about ascension being important to emphasize Jesus’ Lordship is also huge. This is exactly what I mean when I say that the Kingdom has to be bigger than the church because Jesus’ rule, God’s ‘kingdom reign’ is over the whole cosmos and every enemy is being put under his feet. Texts like 1 Cor 15 get into this. Matthew 28 “all authority on heaven, AND ON EARTH has been given”. Others too.

            Am I being imprecise about that? Am a missing a distinction? Isn’t the kingdom of God/heaven God’s good rule? And our inheriting the kingdom will be ruling with him over the new heavens and new earth? (I’m not a universalist and am unsure what we’d be ‘ruling over’ other than in the same sense as Adam and Eve’s original commission). Basically the church is distinct from the kingdom because that’s what we inherit so it is necessarily ‘bigger’ or ‘other than’ the church. I very much welcome some help on refining or expanding this.

            Once again, really appreciate this conversation.

            1. Jeffrey Gordon says:

              OK, I agree that we pretty much agree.

              I guess I’d say, with respect to human beings in particular, for those in the Church the kingdom represents a blessed hope (already but also not yet), but for those not in the Church, a fearful rather than hopeful thing. The cross is the only thing that makes God’s rule life to me rather than death. cf. 2 Thess 1:6-10 The ultimate revelation of God’s rule represents at the same time refreshing and rest for believers and wrath and everlasting destruction for unbelievers. To the unbeliever, the declaration that “Jesus is Lord” is anything but good news. Through the cross, it becomes good news to and for everyone that believes. Only the cross makes the kingdom a good thing for sinful men.

    2. Ryan says:

      I’m not aware of McKnight at any point suggesting that soteriology is not an essential aspect of the Gospel. He condemns the “soterian Gospel” for failing to recognize the broader depth of the Kingdom – he does not deny its truthfulness, he simply criticizes it for beginning and ending at the cross, rather than offering a more comprehensive message, and is therefore portraying a Gospel that is utterly impotent beyond the individual’s personal salvation.

      Evangelicalism’s “Soterian Gospel” is flawed in that it doesn’t detail what we were saved FOR. It simply says “Jesus died for your sins! Hooray!” And yet we are surprised, then, when the people who hear and accept this Gospel go on living their lives the exact same way as they did before.

      Heck, a lot of proponents of this Soterian Gospel won’t even go as far as the Resurrection, arguably the most important part of soteriology. To them, the Gospel begins and ends with the cross – and any such Gospel is almost irreparably flawed.

      1. Jason says:

        I don’t claim to follow McKnight precisely, but I do think he says soteriology flows out of christology and that the gospel is basicly christological. The primary aspect not being discussed that both McKnight and I would say is the story of Israel finding its completion in Jesus. That is the primary message: Jesus Christ is Lord who saves and will judge. Look at TGC’s definition and you won’t find Israel or Jesus as Lord or explanation of his Messiahship Kingship being son of David etc.

        Soterians push our salvation instead of the means of our salvation. Salvation is made possible by Jesus in the gospel, then we believe it and are saved. Soteriology is post-gospel because it comes through faith in it.

        This is a big switch and I only made it this year. Read the texts like this and it makes way more sense. Case in point Romans 1:1-6 and 1:16-17. Jesus is the gospel. Faith in the gospel brings salvation. Gods righteousness is revealed through faith to faith. The righteous live by faith. All these results are through and to faith in the gospel but they are not the gospel.

  15. Brian Considine says:

    Hey guys, maybe if we spent less time blogging about the gospel and more time living it we might actually understand its not our ideas, definition, concepts, theological constructs,exegetical exercising about the Gospel that is important. The Gospel is Jesus and he gets to decide what it means as we live for the glory of God and for his purposes. But I’ve enjoyed reading the dialogue – iron sharpens iron and all that. :-) Shalom.

    1. Jason says:

      Both And. Which I think is what you’re trying to say. Precision is important or the message is wrong or incomplete, etc. Glad you enjoyed the dialogue so far.

    2. Ryan says:

      It’s a nice sentiment, but the problem is that you can’t really live the Gospel if you haven’t got some understanding of it. You can’t just wake up one morning and say “I’m going to live for… the Gospel! Whatever that might be!”

      And this is where the discussion becomes important. The criticism being levelled at evangelicals by Wright, McKnight, and others is that because the evangelical understanding of the Gospel has become so fixated upon soteriology, their idea of living out the Gospel means “Running about trying to cram the message that ‘Jesus died on the cross for your sins’ down as many throats as possible in order to save people from hell,” rather than living as a Kingdom citizen.

      1. Jason says:

        There should be a ‘like’ button. Well stated.
        BOTH, AND!

      2. Brian Considine says:

        Ryan, thanks for your post but it’s not about a nice sentiment.

        “the problem is that you can’t really live the Gospel if you haven’t got some understanding of it.”

        What understanding would that be exactly? Our Greek influenced, Western culturally oriented, four steps, walk the Roman Road, cross the bridge and ask Jesus into your heart to get “saved” Gospel? Do you mean that Gospel?

        “You can’t just wake up one morning and say “I’m going to live for… the Gospel! Whatever that might be!” First, notice I didn’t say that, you implied it, brother. Second, sure you can – “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20.

        But here’s the thing Ryan, I think the Biblical and actual real world happening now evidence would contradict your response. Let me give you a few examples:

        Did the woman at the well understand the Evangelical definition of the Gospel? Nope. What she understood was this guy named Jesus who told her all about herself. She went immediately and told others and let the record show: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:39).

        Did Cornelius understand the Evangelical definition of the Gospel before or even after his encounter with Peter? Nope. What he understood prior was that their was a living God who spoke to him (Acts 10:4 good buddy). What he understood after meeting with Peter was “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). Peter didn’t have Cornelius pray a little prayer, follow the Romans road, didn’t share the 4 spiritual laws. Nope, Peter simply revealed Jesus to him.

        Do the many Muslims globally who are having real life-changing encounters with the living Jesus and come to faith in Christ understand the Evangelical Gospel? How could they nor would they accept it to since the Evangelical Gospel is based on our Western cultural value of guilt and forgiveness and theirs is based on honor and shame. What they will accept is that Jesus is the way, the truth and life after having a real encounter with the living Christ.

        Did you know that the Gospel is exploding all over the world, millions are coming to faith globally, without your or my understanding of the Gospel. What they do know is that Jesus is alive! The Chinese house church movement is exploding not because of what they know but who they know. And they know this Jesus is still active doing miracles in their midst.

        The point simply as I stated is this: “its not our ideas, definition, concepts, theological constructs,exegetical exercising about the Gospel that is important. The Gospel is Jesus…” And the last time I checked he said that he was with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Unless of course you think he’s only an historical figure, that saved use 2000 years ago and ascended into heaven where he remains seated until our ideas save the elect?

        It’s not our ideas that our going to save anyone – it’s Jesus and only Jesus. And globally he still does! Can I get an Amen!

        Christ is All!

        1. Jason says:

          Brian, you are mistaken.
          ““its not our ideas, definition, concepts, theological constructs,exegetical exercising about the Gospel that is important. The Gospel is Jesus…”
          You just did all of these things you say are not important: ideas. Definition. Concept. Theological construct. Exegesis.
          Not only that, our basic premise has been that the gospel is about Jesus. The same as you.
          This article we are commenting on is what states the gospel can be reduced to our western guilt basses sin management system and that we can’t tell them not to do that.
          We are not completely ignorant of what is going on in the world even if you know more details.
          I has to be both and. You seem to be trying to do so, but don’t presume not to have a theology, etc. everyone does theology. It’s just good or bad. Yours seems to be ok.

          1. Brian Considine says:

            I’m sorry, Jason, but I’m not mistaken at all, at least I don’t think so, but you’re welcome to your opinion. But notice I was responding to Ryan’s statement: “the problem is that you can’t really live the Gospel if you haven’t got some understanding of it.” You are reading more into my response than is there. First, notice that I didn’t disagree with your “And/Both” statement. My challenge to Ryan and to you is what understanding of the Gospel are we talking about? You said, “Precision is important or the message is wrong or incomplete,” But on what basis do you make that claim about the Gospel? Certainly, it cannot be our cultural infused, Evangelically enligthened, understanding of the Gospel, which is pretty much what is being debated here. Do you posses some precise knowledge that is irrefutable and undebatable, other than the fact that Jesus is the Gospel? I would be careful in assuming precision, brother, for the pharisees (no, I’m not implying you are a pharisee just making a correlation) thought they were pretty precise in their understanding too.

            You said, “You just did all of these things you say are not important: ideas. Definition. Concept. Theological construct. Exegesis.” No, sorry, I didn’t. What I said was “its not our ideas, definition, concepts, theological constructs,exegetical exercising about the Gospel that is important. The Gospel is Jesus…” drawing a comparison between what we tend to think is important and what truly is. What is important is that we allow Jesus to define the Gospel and if you study the world Christian movement you will see that he is. But never would I say we shouldn’t have a theology, a christology, a missiology, an ecclesiology, an epistemology or a soteriology, although we might do well without too much of an emphasize on eschatology. We just need to have the appropriate focus when we do.

            The point I am making is just that – one of focus – anthropcentric (which is how we often look at the Gospel – what did Jesus do for me – and even without the “sin management” construct we tend in that direction) vs theocentric (which is actually how the Bible needs to be understood – what is God doing for Jesus – see Col 1:15-19). Additionally it is also one of cultural understanding. Do others coming to faith in Christ understand the Gospel differently than we do? And the answer to that is big glorious yes and halleluiah they do! As I said, millions are coming to faith because of their distinct understanding that Jesus is alive. Many of these people do not even have access to the Scripture so how could they possibly understand your precise definition of the Gospel or our exegetical exercising, theological constructs and all of the different “isms” and “ologies” we love to debate.

            So, lest we think we have the answers to what the Gospel is (not actually a what but a great and glorious Who), though we must wrestle with the question constantly (2 Corinthians 13:5), let’s be reminded of what Paul said: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12). Are we willing to accept that our understanding of the Gospel is incomplete? If so, then live as a learner and allow that the Lord alone define what the Gospel is. It is after all, his creation so he has a better idea than we do.

            Shalom.

            1. Jason says:

              I think perhaps you are simply ignorant of what those four things (theology exegesis etc) are since you continue to use them every post. If all you at trying to say is this: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2012/09/08/theology-can-be-overrated/ that’s great.

              I’m getting my definition from THE source: Scripture. I understand God works I. Mysterious ways and can reach people with part of the gospel or an emphasis on a particular aspect that reaches a particular person or culture of understanding/context without the full orbed multifaceted rich examples of Scripture. But EVERY TIME THE GODPEL IS SHARED PEOPLE DRAW FROM WHAT HE BIBLE SAYS.
              I am letting the Lord define it and the Spirit empowers people to proclaim the gospel the rich way in any situation. I really don’t see a major difference between our views besides your denials. From what you’ve written it sounds like your condoning a form of anti-ineillectualism. Heart soul mind strength. Or head heart hands (Driscoll).
              I never said my definition was undebatable. I welcomed correction.
              It’s amazing that you deny a need for an understanding of the gospel before sharing or living it. It is obvious you have some understanding.
              Where did you get your understanding of the gospel from if not from the methods you deny?

  16. Brian Considine says:

    Jason, God bless you, brother, calling me ignorant is cool, your free to believe what you want. But here’s the thing, you don’t grasp yet the distinction I am making and have repeated for you a couple of times, as your hung up in your dogma. Perhaps once you actually get some real world experience and understand what the Lord is doing globally you will better understand. These are amazing times for the Kingdom globally but like many Americans you are stuck on an old understanding. Shalom and goodbye.

  17. JOY GILL says:

    I like this part: “The gospel of the kingdom necessarily includes the gospel of the cross”, and that “The gospel of the cross is the fountainhead of the gospel of the kingdom.

    That means we should encompass both aspects in our preaching and practice, with preference and more weightage to the Cross (Group A), followed by the broader good news part (Group B). What we need is a mix of A and B,with an agreement that A is both important and urgent, while B is important but not urgent. The urgency is not to create a just society but to save the lost from going to hell because they can die any moment, as many in fact even are.

    The danger is that B can be very satisfying and visible on the outside, having more followers, but the power of A can be understood only by those who have fully understood and experienced it. If B misses the Cross, they have missed the whole point!

    A should be accompanied by B and vice versa.

    I, I think, would follow B with keeping A as my priority, and B as my duty. God also made clothes for the sinful naked – Adam and Eve. He expressed his A Love and B Love in action. His A love for the souls = Cross. His B love for the body = Kingdom values; e.g.: clothes for our first parents, Manna for Israelites, inspiring Paul to make collections for his bit in his mercy ministry, God’s love of Ishamel and his mother, his rules for treating slaves well, Jesus’ teaching on “whatever you do to them you do unto me.” See his brother’s teaching on what is “True Religion” and note his emphasis on “Doing (B) along with Believing (A).” There may be many more, these are the ones I can think of as of now.

    This is my stand on the issue.

    I would not like to clearly belong to either of the Groups since A is incomplete (in a sense, because they choose to remain numb to people’s needs), and B is incorrect, bit wayward (because of their lack of clarity / negligence of the A in their version). What I dislike is that Group A thinks they are right, and B thinks they are right because their (B) version seems socially more acceptable and logical.

    God’s foolishness is better than man’s wisdom – and being into too much of either one Group maybe human wisdom (which is actually foolishness). The whole time God maybe really expecting us to do to both. Wonder if we can safely say that in contrast with B, A is first among equals. Why can’t we? Are the words of Jesus in Mt 25:40 so secondary for us? If we choose A over B, that is what we are doing.

    Unless we change our mindsets, we will automatically and unknowingly live for A and B will automatically be left out by As.

    I know I am sounding more like B, but I’d rather be in the “corrected version of B – where Cross is fountain head of the Kingdom.” and hence the Kingdom is more completely and comprehensively presented. Certainly A is half Kingdom and corrected B is Full Kingdom. So why settle for either, although if that’s all the choice I have, I would choose A.

    I think B, with A as its priority, is like the actual fulfilment / application of Eph 2:10. We love to stop at Eph 2:9, and that has perhaps lead to the creation of Faction A.

    Btw, I am talking as if I have a full road map and blue print ready to launch Group C! :) But my life would be lived like that only.

    1. Jason says:

      Lots of great thoughts in there, Joy.

      I think I hear you wrestling with this either-or choice as though you actually reject it and want both. You do sound like a ‘C’ and I there are far more ‘C’ people than ‘B’ people or perhaps ‘B’ people have nearly always been wrestling with how to bring ‘B’ values into ‘A’ and the ‘A’ people assume they all reject ‘A’ (which, to be fair, some ‘B’ people do).

      I was an ‘A’ who is now desperately seeking to be a ‘C’. I am often misunderstood to be condoning ‘B’ and therefore rejecting ‘A’ when I attempt to re-frame the message to include both A, B, and more. I think there are a variety of problems with focusing on A. I think there is an equal problem of saying group A is ‘numb to people’s needs’ (which, to be fair, some are) because the majority do care.

      The problem is that it isn’t in the basic ‘A’ message. That’s the real crux of this discussion itself. Everyone would check off the boxes for these beliefs. The disagreement is when constitutes the core message of our faith; the gospel. I commend the fact that so many at TGC are wrestling through how to bring A and B values together.

      I also don’t think I have ‘a full road map’ but there are some very promising early drafts being ignored (Bird, Bock, McKnight, etc.). I recently wrote an email trying to clarify a gospel sermon I preached this weekend on Rom 1:1-17, which didn’t have much cross or sin in it BECAUSE PAUL DOESN’T MENTION EITHER OF THEM IN THE TEXT. To be faithful to the text, I let it define my points yet I brought in 1 Cor 15 for some balance. The reaction was mixed (I was ready for this).

      The email I sent outlined 5 things that are often missed in how we define and share the gospel:
      1. The gospel is a story (rather than a PowerPoint of universalized systematic theology)
      2. The Story of Israel needs to help frame how we tell the gospel story (Jesus only makes biblical sense in that story as its climax)
      3. Jesus as Messiah (Israel’s King/Christ)
      4. Jesus as Lord (His present rule over everything)
      5. The gospel is about Jesus (What he did for salvation – Christology- which leads to salvation itself – soteriology)

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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