When is the Gospel at Stake?

I’m bouncing off a post that claims too many Christians are Chicken Littles because they run around claiming and worrying and showing their faithfulness by saying the sky is falling down all the time. That is, they think the gospel is at stake in every conversation.

Deny inerrancy? The gospel is at stake. Deny the KJV/ESV, accept the TNIV/NIV? The gospel is at stake. Deny penal substitution? The gospel is at stake. Deny the real presence? The gospel is at stake. Deny the centrality of justification by faith? The gospel is at stake. Deny Athanasius or Augustine or Luther or Calvin or Edwards or Wesley? The gospel is at stake. Enough already.

The gospel is at stake when central themes of the gospel — as defined by the New Testament, that is by Jesus and the apostles — are denied. At the core of the gospel is Jesus as Messiah/King and Lord. The central question of the gospel is Who is Jesus? not What is my theory of salvation?

As I have sketched in The King Jesus Gospel, here are the central themes of the gospel and I will connect this to 1 Corinthians 15:1-28:

1. That Israel’s scriptural Story comes to completion in Jesus. Anyone who tells a story of Jesus or of redemption or the Christian life that does not need the OT story denies the gospel. (There’s lots of this in evangelism today.)

2. That Jesus lived, died, was buried and raised — and exalted, and coming again, and will hand over the kingdom to the Father. Anyone who thinks Jesus didn’t live, denies the gospel; anyone who doesn’t think he really was buried (as a dead man), denies the gospel; anyone who thinks Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead (and this means came back to life in a body), denies the gospel; anyone who thinks Jesus wasn’t exalted before the Father, or that he won’t come again, or that he won’t hand the kingdom over — denies the gospel.

3. That he died “for our sins.” Anyone who thinks the death of Jesus doesn’t atone for our sins denies the gospel. How this happens isn’t part of the gospel. (Though denial of some kinds of this “how” are actually denials of an atoning death.)

4. That Jesus is Messiah, King, Lord, Son of God, and Savior. Anyone who thinks Jesus was not the Messiah of Israel’s Story, the King over the kingdom (kingdom theology implied), the Lord over Jew and Gentile — that is that he is Lord for all — and everyone, the Son of God or the Savior of mankind denies the gospel.

If these themes are what the apostolic gospel is — it’s right there in 1 Cor 15 and the sermons in Acts and the Gospels as the gospel — then denial of these themes denies the gospel.

Let us not be Chicken Littles. Let us affirm the gospel, and that means not confusing secondary matters with what really matters: Who is Jesus? is the central question of the gospel.

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