Scot McKnight‘s latest article in Christianity Today enters the age old question of “which gospel” do we preach. He sets up the debate as between those who preach Jesus (the kingdom) and those who preach Paul (justification). I learned as gospel Christians vs. epistles Christians, but it comes to the same set of issues.
Rather than try to settle the debate, McKnight suggests the debate itself needs new framing. He says that the conversation should not be about justification vs. kingdom, but about the gospel itself, which he identifies as coming from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
McKnight’s point in pointing to this text is that we should not preach either “kingdom” or “justification,” but we should preach Jesus. Here’s how he says it:
My contention, then, is simple: If we begin with kingdom, we have to twist Paul into shape to fit a kingdom vision. If we being 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 [word missing here, I assume it is justification]—but only if we begin with Jesus.