What Is The Gospel?

Millions of people watched this commercial this weekend during a nationally televised NFL playoff game. It’s endearing, quality, and true. What an opportunity to share the gospel, and they did it well.

But what if it’s not the gospel?

That’s the premise of Scot McKnight’s latest book, The King Jesus Gospel. He is arguing that what we call the gospel is actually the Plan of Salvation, which “flows out of (and is founded upon) the Story of Israel and the Story of Jesus” (p.39). It is in the gospel, but it is not the gospel.

The gospel is larger than Jesus dying on the cross to save me from my sins. Resurrection, new creation, discipling, the kingdom of God, and Jesus being King of all are also central components in the gospel, but largely ignored when we evangelize. We have reduced the gospel to an individual’s forgiveness of sin and called it good.

Essentially what we’ve done is taken a verse like John 3:16 out of its context within the Story of God, a.k.a the Bible, and said here’s the truth, the whole truth, and we really don’t need any more truth. We have reduced the gospel to a bite-sized, Americanized, consumer-focused infomercial.

Which is great when you want to sell something quickly and to large masses of people. But it becomes dangerous when what you’re selling is an idea.

Communication is a tricky thing. Misunderstanding abounds in the minds of the hearers. I say ‘potatoe,’ and you say ‘McDonald’s french fries.’ I proclaim the unconditional grace of God and the free gift of salvation available to all in and through Jesus Christ, and someone hears, “I can go to heaven, and I don’t need to do anything!” And according to John 3:16, that’s true.

But is it true? Is it the gospel?

When we divorce discipleship from evangelism, is the gospel still the gospel? When we remove any idea of the people of God carrying on the mission of God in our salvation message, is the gospel still the gospel?

If the extent of a person’s relationship with God is that they once prayed ‘the prayer,’ will Jesus one day say to them, “Depart from me. I never knew you”?

To me, this is by far the scariest implication of the salvation culture we live in. The possibility that there may be millions of people in our churches (or loosely connected to them) with a false sense of security in their salvation.

To answer this question, we need to dive deeper into McKnight’s book and take a close look at the gospel Jesus preached, as well as the apostles.

What do you think? Have we strayed from Jesus’ gospel? Have we neglected some essential components of the original good news?