Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gospel and Kingdom Part 1

No, not a guest post by Graeme, just some reflections on the topic. As I began to put together the strands for this post, I was amazed by how far back they go. The gist of the question I wish to raise can be phrased a number of ways: What is the Gospel (sure, that one's novel)? What is the message and mission of Jesus? What is the theme of the scriptures? etc, etc. Much has been written and discussed within contemporary evangelicalism (particularly the strands touched most deeply by postmodernity) regarding the corporate dimension of the Gospel/redemption. While I'm not advancing precisely that sort of an agenda, I have often noted that the four books of the NT commonly referred to as Gospels bear little in common with what we call the Gospel nowadays. To be sure they incorporate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (a la 1 Cor 15:1ff), however, that only comes up at the end. Much of the material, particularly the proclamations of Jesus seem more kingdom oriented than "evangelistic" as we often think of it. And don't misunderstand me, I'm not bashing EE here (though I've done that elsewhere); I have yet to see any evangelistic program/presentation/literature, etc. that sounds anything similar to the message proclaimed by Jesus in orientation. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

It probably started when I first noticed that in Romans 10:15 when Paul is talking about the beautiful feet of the ones who preach the Gospel, he's referencing Isaiah 52:7. Now the interesting thing about Isaiah is that the Gospel there, isn't "Jesus died for you" but rather "Your God Reigns." I remember thinking, could this be a summation of the Gospel? My first thought was of 1 Cor 12:3 - No man can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Spirit. Even more obvious, back in Romans 10:9 - If you confess, Jesus is Lord....Now, to take the phrase Jesus is Lord and the phrase Your God reigns....particularly in view of the fact that both phrases occur in "Gospel" context...well, now that's what I call continuity. At the time I brushed it off as being in danger of too much reductionism.

Then, over the course of the last several months, our ss class at BBC was going through the life of Jesus. Again, I became convinced (in large part from what I had gained in reading Wright's JVG, reading the Gospels for the first time in a LONG time and dialoging with my brothers and sisters, especially James Lane) that Jesus was going around spending a ton of time talking about the Kingdom and not so much time about why we should pray for him to come into our hearts. You just don't see that too much in the Gospels.

So all of this has been percolating in my head for a while now. Just a week or two back I was reading in the opening chapters of Acts and I was hit with it again. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 is filled with Kingdom ideology. In fact, repentance doesn't even come up until the very end when the hearers say, "what should we do?" Obviously the message itself didn't answer the question. Typically our "evangelistic" presentations spend virtually ALL of their time explaining what Jesus did and what we should do.

Okay, by now some of you are probably thinking I've gone from fundy, to evangelical right off the cliff to pagan. No, I am NOT denying the individual, redemptive implications of the death of Jesus. What I am saying, is perhaps we've emphasized that dimension of the atonement so much so that it has become the sine qua non of the Gospel, when perhaps that's not exactly what was at the core of the Gospel as it appears in the scriptures. However, this has already turned into much more than I anticipated; thus, I'll put off the defense of my orthodoxy and (more importantly) just what it is I'm trying to say for Part 2.

8 comments:

G said...

I think I heard it put something like this - The gospel is not just a message about how you personally can get right with God and have eternal life. It is most certainly not less than that, but it is significantly more than that.

Nate Mihelis said...

That's excellent; sounds like Tim Keller.

Luther's Stein said...

I am completely with you Mihelis. Most significant to my study of the Scriptures in the past year has been connecting the Resurrection (the other half of the gospel) to the ethical claims of Christianity on the basis of Christ's lordship.

G said...

Now that you mention it, that's exactly where I heard it. I just couldn't remember off the top of my head. Just started listening to his "Gospel Ministry" talk from the Gospel Coalition meeting at TEDS.

Bob said...

Baylor,
Don't forget the ascension...I've always ignored the ascension. Will was taking a correspondence class from RTS this past spring and the professor spent a lot of time on the ascension. Then it hit me that I have probably never spent time contemplating the ascention...and certainly not connecting it to the Gospel. Looking forward to part 2!

smlogan said...

enjoyed the thoughts...
but for old time's sake:
"what about the sin of qua non"?

here's to d.b. and senior seminar.

Nate Mihelis said...

Logan, you are SOOOOOO predictible. I put that in there just to see if you'd take a swing :-)

smlogan said...

we aim to please...
wouldn't want to disappoint.
glad to see you had me in mind.