For many the gospel has been reduced to Me. The operative question is “What’s in it for me?” Or, more intelligently, “What are the personal implications/benefits of the gospel for me?” When this is the operative question the gospel gets reshaped into therapeutics: how it can help, how it can save, how it can rescue, how it can restore — me — to God, to self, to others and to the world. It becomes an exercise in making people happier and better. But know this: When the gospel is reduced to this question, to Me, it distorts what the gospel is.
For others the gospel is about Mechanics. The operative question is “How does the gospel accomplish what it accomplishes?” Quickly this becomes an atonement theory gospel. For the penal substitution theorists, the gospel is about how God absorbs the wrath of God and resolves the sin-wrath problem. For the ransom theorists, the gospel is about liberation and how God rescues us from captivity and slavery and liberates us. For the satisfaction theorists, the gospel is about God’s honor and God’s justice, and how God’s honor has been besmirched and how Christ steps in to resolve God’s honor. Or, in a slightly different form, it is about how we have become guilty and how the gospel reveals a way of resolving our guilt and God’s utter righteousness. But know this: When the gospel is reduced to this question, to Mechanics, it distorts what the gospel is.
The only way for the gospel to be expressed today in a fully faithful way is to let the gospel be today what it was then, and this is the argument of The King Jesus Gospel. The gospel of Jesus and the apostles was a gospel that in the first instance was neither about Me nor about Mechanics. It was about the Master. The gospel of 1 Cor 15 is the Story about Jesus; the gospel of the gospeling sermons in Acts was about Jesus; and the Gospels are called the gospel because they tell us about Jesus — from incarnation to exaltation — and are therefore the gospel.The gospel about the Master will do things for me and it happens through a variety of mechanics, but when Me and Mechanics become the show, when Me and Mechanics run the show, the Master steps aside. Any gospel in which Jesus is not the show distorts the gospel.
Incidentally, this is not an either-or or a false dichotomy. Except in this: I believe many soterian gospels have forced a false dichotomy by saying it is either about justification/salvation or about Jesus/kingdom. Not at all. The gospel is about Jesus, and if it is told right we get justification and kingdom and much else beside. But many soterian gospels use Jesus as a means, and when this happens, the gospel is distorted. The apostolic gospel is a full- Jesus-Story-shaped gospel that brings salvation. Nothing is left out.