This post is in response to a twitter conversation regarding the essence of the gospel. It is brief and not fleshed out fully:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…follow me,” Jesus says, as He begins His earthly ministry. (Mk.1:15,17)
I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God… (Lk.4:43)
Justification is not distinct from the gospel story, nor is it a complete proclamation of all that Jesus has done. The gospel is the story of Jesus ushering in the Kingdom of God, in which justification/salvation plan lies; we are justified in response to the whole gospel story. “When the plan gets separated from the story, the plan almost always becomes abstract, propositional, logical, rational, and philosophical and, most importantly, de-storified and unbiblical.” (KJG, McKnight, 62). They (gospel and salvation) are related in a cause and effect way, though the gospel story should not be reduced solely to a salvation plan.
The concern is that the gospel is greatly reduced when it is expressed as a salvation plan or justification story. Yes, the gospel does save, but it is much more than that; it is the life story of Jesus, the one who has come to fulfill the story of Israel’s long-awaited King. It is not “all about me” and my need to be saved, but about Jesus and what He has done and will do for all of creation. While Jesus did come to save sinners it is unfair to minimize the gospel story to just that.
It becomes problematic when we stare at the cross and avoid the crown. When we focus only on the cross of Christ and not His reign as King it does not allow us to truly know Jesus in His totality; or participate and join-in God’s great redemptive plan. Jesus didn’t just come to “save” people He came to change people, make disciples. Jesus began His earthly ministry saying, “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men [disciple]” (Mat. 4:19), and ended His ministry commanding His disciples to disciple (Mat. 28:18-20); His ministry was bookended in disciple-making. A salvation (justification) culture is completed with a decision, while a gospel culture brings it to another level of fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission. (KJG, McKnight, 30)
When we take the multi-dimensional story of Jesus and flatten it out into a salvation plan or justification story we end up turning the boldest, richest, most engaging and robust story in all of history into an egocentric “me” story, and we miss the opportunity to engage with all that the living God accomplished in and through His son, who is the rightful King of the cosmos. Christianity is not only a system of salvation or justification story, it is God’s purpose and will (Eph. 1:9-10) coming into completion, “according to the scriptures.” To explain the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and subsequent return to rule and reign over a new heaven and new earth, to the glory of God—as anything less debases God’s story of life.
And the utter beauty of it all is: this King Jesus calls on misfit-rebels like you and I to join in “being” the gospel to the world around us, by showing radical love and announcing the Kingdom of God is breaking into the world.
This is not exhaustive, I could continue about Kingdom, Jesus and story of Israel, participation, response, missio Dei, etc.
Did I forget something? Do you have anything to add or argue?