Day: December 20, 2010

how to share the gospel (in a gospel-shaped way)

Caravaggio's depiction of the famous encounter between Jesus and Paul

Scott McKnight recently published an article in Christianity Today . It’s called ‘Jesus vs. Paul’. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

McKnight highlights two equal and opposite mistakes that frequently get made:

  1. Reducing the gospel to Paul’s message of ‘justification’, or
  2. Reducing it to Jesus’ ‘kingdom’ proclamation.

But, McKnight argues, we need to make a distinction between what the gospel is and its implications (the importance of which I first learned from Graeme Goldsworthy).

The gospel is the momentous news about how Jesus fulfils the story of Israel. Personal justification and world-transforming kingdom living are both implications of this news.

This distinction safeguards the glorious objectivity to the gospel, which we’re in danger of obscuring when we identify the gospel either with its personal saving implications — justification, sanctification, etc — or its world-upending kingdom impact.

You can watch McKnight talk about this here. But it’s all there in his conclusion:

If we begin with kingdom, we have to twist Paul into shape to fit a kingdom vision. If we begin with justification, we have to twist Jesus into shape to fit justification. But if we begin with gospel, and if we understand gospel as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, then we will find what unifies Jesus and Paul — that both witness to Jesus as the center of God’s story. The gospel is the core of the Bible, and the gospel is the story of Jesus … Every time we talk about Jesus, we are gospeling. Telling others about Jesus leads to both the kingdom and justification — but only if we begin with Jesus.

That is how to share the gospel — in a gospel-shaped way!