Good News: King Jesus is in the House

Recently, David Williams posted his next piece in his series “What is the Gospel?” My comments and links to William’s previous posts on this topic are here and here.

I sense that some readers still feel that Williams is asking a dumb question. “What is the gospel? It’s about how you get saved, silly.” What Williams is saying, in a nutshell, is that “getting saved” (typically understood by many in a personal sense of going to heaven after you die) is not what the Gospels mean by “gospel” (though it is a result of the gospel).

Williams is right, and the point needs to be hammered home.

Here is a summary of his argument:

1. “good news” (Greek euangelion) in the Gospels is not a word picked at random, but already loaded with meaning at the time: it signals “the royal announcement of a new regime or ruler.” For example, the famous Priene Calendar Inscription speaks of Caesar Augustus in a way that should ring a bell or two for Christians familiar with the Gospels:

It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [euangelion] for the world that came by reason of him which Asia resolved in Smyrna.

Augustus’s birth is praised, for he is the one who will give hope and peace, both now and into the ages, to benefit all humankind. He is savior. His birth signals the beginning of euangelion.

What the Gospel writers are saying is, “Yeah….about that savior and good news business. Caesar can’t deliver. Jesus does. Let us explain what we mean by that, because it’s not what you might expect. Let us unpack what ‘savior’ and ‘good news’ are all about. Let us tell you about his reign, his kingdom–and what it means for you to be a part of it.”

2. This is reinforced by Jesus’ title, Christos, messiah, which in Judaism (as in the Old Testament) referred to God’s appointed king of Israel. Messiah, in other words, is a royal title–Jesus is King (which is pretty much the point of Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited).

3. Mark’s Gospel begins in 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus the Christ.” The story that Mark tells of Jesus is the gospel.

4. Mark 1 uses some telling Old Testament quotations that refer to God’s coming and final rule over Israel as  “good news,” which, again, aligns “gospel” with “kingdom of God.”

5. The exorcisms and healings that follow in Mark are the demonstration of Jesus’ royal authority, the concrete demonstration that King Jesus is here.

6. Jesus’ death and resurrection are non-negotiable features of the Son of Man’s royal mission and, therefore, “part of His own divinely appointed Messianic task.” (And take the time to read how Williams unpacks Mark 14:9 here.)

Williams ends this way:

Long story made short, if the gospel is the story of Jesus that Mark is telling, then the gospel is the good news that the God of Israel has deigned to effect His gracious rule over the world in and through Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and risen King.  All of the Gospels–not just the Gospel According to Mark–more or less narrate this story in longhand.  But, short or long, it is at once the story both of the dawning of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus Christ, the crucified, who is autobasileia, the Kingdom Himself, and who demands of us far more than mere cognitive assent.  He demands we take up our crosses and follow Him so that in losing our lives, we paradoxically might just save them.

More posts will follow. Williams is doing a great job distilling an important scholarly discussion at the moment–with immense practical implications.

  • Greg D

    According to Scot McKnight in his wonderful work, “King Jesus Gospel” he spells out the Gospel as this: “Jesus of Nazareth, the one who lived and died and who was raised and ascended and enthroned, is both Messiah of Israel and Lord of the whole world”. This is how the Jesus himself taught the Gospel, the apostles including Paul and Peter, along with the early church for the first few centuries. It was primarily during the Reformation when soteriology was introduced as gospel and has stuck ever since.

    • peteenns

      Yup.

  • Jeff

    Good stuff. Having read McKnight and Wright (books of the past and of late) – these thoughts ring quite true. When I read Gorman’s work on cruciformity – in conjunction with these insights – I find that the radical call of the gospel (that the King reigns so we should be free to sacrifice all – crucify ourselves, walking in his steps – for the downtrodden; and the lost) has been lost on me in spite of a long held faith & reading of Scripture. And lost, as well, on much of American Christianity with its tribalism and materialism. I say that without harshness or strong criticism – for I too have been swept up in these things. But they are idolatries that the cross of the King will not allow to live, should we implement it.

  • Don Johnson

    The idea that “being saved” means one has a “ticket to heaven” is an impoverishment of what is taught in Scripture.

  • http://mmckinniss.wordpress.com Mike

    This is good stuff. Thanks for tipping us towards David Williams, too.

    Your citation of the Priene Calendar Inscription is so helpful, and it got me thinking. Is there anything out there for the NT like John Walton’s ANE Thought and the OT or Arnold & Beyer’s Readings from the ANE?

    • http://resurrectingraleigh.com David

      Yes, Mike, there is: C.K. Barrett’s “New Testament Background: Selected Documents.” If you buy it through my Amazon store, the proceeds go to supporting my ministry with InterVarsity at NC State: http://astore.amazon.com/bribybri-20/detail/0060608811
      Shameless, I know.
      Thanks for reading the blog!

  • Mark Chenoweth

    Pete, in what respect do you consider yourself still reformed? I’m at a bit of a loss. I guess in the same way N.T. Wright considers himself reformed? But then again, I don’t really understand that either. haha. Are both of you still Calvinists in some idiosyncratic way? I mean, you seemed to heartily endorse BW3′s blog about the death of his daughter some time ago, and that blog post which was drenched in Wesleyanism/arminianism…

    Reformed in method rather than soteriology?

    • peteenns

      I consider myself a beneficiary of many good things in Calvinism, but I do not consider myself defined by that tradition.

  • Jon hughes

    Exciting post, Pete. This is a great subject to study!

  • http://www.trinityharborchurch.com Bill Burns

    Hi Pete. Good stuff. I find myself in close agreement with this take as reflecting the theology and message of the Gospels. Could you briefly comment on the euaggelion in Isaiah 61 as giving additional background to its usage in the Gospels, as indicated by Luke 4? Just wondering about the OT background as well as the term’s polemical use against Roman imperial claims.


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