Matthew Bates, in his new book Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ, takes on some heavies — Piper, MacArthur, Sproul. Over and over he interacts with those evangelicals who will have problems with this book or who are shaping the gospel in the evangelical world today. It is irresponsible for them not to interact with the solid exegesis of a book like this.
Bates is young but he’s an accomplished exegete of Scripture and his contentions score big points. What are they?
First, what the gospel is and, second, what faith means — allegiance.
This is a must-read book for all pastors and students in seminaries. One can lay some of the problems in the church today at the doorstep of cheap evangelism concerned with quick responses assured into security. Jesus called people to follow him and any meaning of faith that misses discipleship is not what the Bible means by faith.
How one defines the gospel shapes what “faith” means in the evangelistic plan, and to this “gospel” one must add “Christology” so that we can say this: Who Jesus is and what the gospel is determine what the proper response is. Which is to say “faith” is a correlate of Christology and gospel. If Jesus is the Savior, faith means trust; if Jesus is king, Lord (something MacArthur believes), then the response is a trust that emerges into allegiance.
He contends further that “justification by faith,” no matter how vital to Christian theology (and no one can discount Bates here one bit), is not the gospel and the reason why is that the NT does not connect “gospel” to “justification.”
The gospel is not Christian activities, the Romans Road, justification by faith, the Bridge, the 4SL, etc.
Where to go? 2 Tim 2:8 is the shortest expression: who Jesus is, what Jesus fulfills in the story.
Bates is a specialist on Romans 1:1-4 and he knows many ignore it, but it’s the gospel of Paul and this is what Paul says:
1. Humble flesh, rules with power.
2. Promised in advance
3. Taking on human flesh
4. Coming into being bodily
5. Appointed heavenly king
Or, as he outlines:
Jesus is the king who:
1. Preexisted as God the Son
2. Sent by the Father
3. Took on human flesh in fulfillment of Davidic promise
4. Died for our sins according to Scripture
5. Was buried
6. Was raised on the 3d day according to Scripture
7. Appeared to many witnesses
8. Is enthroned at the right hand of the Father as the ruling Christ.
9. Has sent the Holy Spirit
10. Will come again to judge.
The gospel is the full story of Jesus who saves.
Now what about Faith? This is Bates’ most significant contribution and he’s been gently beating this drum to the beat of the NT language in its context for some time. Those who preach a thin gospel with a thin response, one measured especially in numbers in a church growth mentality, are the ones who need to read this carefully.
In the world of Paul “faith” often meant allegiance to the emperor or to the ruler.
In the NT, notice these texts: Titus 2:10; 2 Thess 1:4; 2:5; Col 2:6-7.
Read Romans 16:25-26 and notice that last line, which Bates sees along the line of loyal obedience:
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—
The term pistis thus can mean trust, allegiance, trustworthiness, faithfulness, the faith. We have to determine from context.