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The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by [McKnight, Scot]
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The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited Kindle Edition

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Contemporary evangelicals have built a "salvation culture" but not a "gospel culture." Evangelicals have reduced the gospel to the message of personal salvation. This book makes a plea for us to recover the old gospel as that which is still new and still fresh. The book stands on four arguments: that the gospel is defined by the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15 as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus; that the gospel is found in the Four Gospels; that the gospel was preached by Jesus; and that the sermons in the Book of Acts are the best example of gospeling in the New Testament. The King Jesus Gospel ends with practical suggestions about evangelism and about building a gospel culture.

About the Author

Scot McKnight (PhD, Nottingham) is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the award-winning The Jesus Creed as well as The King Jesus GospelA Fellowship of Differents, One.Life, The Blue Parakeet, and Kingdom Conspiracy.


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  • Publisher: Zondervan (Sept. 20 2011)
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  • Language: English
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Format: Hardcover

The King Jesus Gospel is Scot McKnight's latest contribution to the field of New Testament studies, and seeks to answer the question:

What is the Gospel?

His basic thesis is clear: Evangelicalism in particular is guilty of an extreme over-emphasis on getting people to make a decision about Christ, while the apostles were far more concerned with making disciples. In fact, McKnight asserts that "evangelism that focuses on decisions short circuits and aborts the design of the gospel, while evangelism that aims at disciples slows down to offer the full gospel of Jesus and the apostles" (18).

However, our obsession with getting others to make a decision for Christ quickly loses steam. In fact, studies show that "the correlation between making a decision and becoming a mature follower of Jesus is not high" (19). These disturbing trends has led McKnight on a journey to better understand what the gospel is and what evangelism is, while at the same time embrace a style of evangelism that leads beyond decision to discipleship.

Salvation-culture or Gospel-culture:

The primary issue underlying this dilemma is ultimately a hermeneutical (interpretive) one relating specifically to our understanding of gospel. McKnight's contention is that the word gospel has been hijacked by what we believe about 'personal salvation,' and the gospel itself has been reshaped to facilitate making decisions. This hijacking means that the word gospel no longer means what it originally meant to both Jesus and the apostles. By equating the word salvation with gospel, we have essentially diluted the meaning of gospel and have created a salvation culture more than a gospel culture.
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If you want a laymen friendly book that nonetheless has a SOLID biblical scholarship work on it,
that teaches the Gospel of Jesus clearly...

Buy this book.

It leaves a clear notion of what Gospel truly is in your mind by the time you are done.
Now the challenge for me is implementing the gospel culture as Scot challenges his readers.
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This was a fantastic book. McKnight brings to the table a well thought, Biblical answer to the question: what is the gospel? He does this in a way that is revolutionary but simple. I especially liked how he continually claimed that the gospel is not a plan of salvation, though, because of the gospel salvation is made available. Great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa83e9a2c) out of 5 stars 157 reviews
83 of 92 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa84075c4) out of 5 stars The gospel is about Christ not just personal salvation Sept. 11 2011
By Adam Shields - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Some books just give words to those ideas that have been floating around in your brain and suddenly you have a way to express what you were not previously able to express. The King Jesus Gospel is one of those books.

Over the past months, I have been struggling through understanding scripture and the church and the gospel and how it all relates. Of course, not all of my questions are answered and of course, I am not sure about all of McKnight's answers, but his basic thesis, that we need to re-orient the way we talk about the gospel I am convinced is one of the most important messages I have heard.

Early in the book McKnight summarized his thesis (which he does a number of times throughout the book).

"Perhaps the most important thing I can say about what this book will argue boils down to these points:

A salvation culture and a gospel culture are not the same.
In thinking our salvation culture is identical to a gospel culture, we betray a profound lack of awareness of what gospel means and what a gospel culture might mean for our world today.
We are in need of going back to the Bible to discover the gospel culture all over again and making that gospel culture the center of the church."

McKnight is quite provocative in this book. He clearly knows what he is trying to say, but he also knows that he will likely be misunderstood, and bends over backward to try and clarify to minimize any confusion. Frankly, my main complaint is probably that he spends too much time refocusing, repeating his point and clarifying that he is in complete support of personal salvation. The repetition is probably important to maintain the antagonistic reader, but for friendly reader it can be a bit draining. As draining as the repetition can be, the fact that he is trying to keep the reader on board is very important. So I want to give McKnight a pass on the repetition.

I am not going to draw out McKnight's argument. He makes it carefully and over 176 pages, but I will quote one of his definitions of the gospel (he defines it several times in several different ways, but this seems to be the most complete to me.)

"...the gospel is, first of all, framed by Israel's Story: the narration of the saving Story of Jesus -- his life, his death, his resurrection, his exaltation, and his coming again -- as the completion of the Story of Israel. Second, the gospel centers on the lordship of Jesus. In ways that anticipate the Nicene Creed, the gospel of Peter and Paul is anchored in an exalted view of Jesus. Jesus is seen as suffering, saving, ruling, and judging because he is the Messiah and the Lord and the Davidic Savior. He is now exalted at the right hand of God. Third, gospeling involves summoning people to respond. Apostolic gospeling is incomplete until it lovingly but firmly summons those who hear the gospel to repentance, to faith in Jesus Christ, and to baptism. Fourth, the gospel saves and redeems. The apostolic gospel promises forgiveness, the gift of God's Holy Spirit, and justification."

McKnight in no ways is minimizing the need for salvation as an individual. Christ came so that we could be saved, personally, from our sin. McKnight's point is that the gospel message is not about personal salvation (although salvation is important), the gospel message is about the Lordship of Christ and Christ's fulfillment of the story of Israel.

Personally, the implications of this book are important. One, focusing on the Lordship of Christ clarifies the evangelism/social gospel problem that has been around for the last 150 years. Two, it completely redefines Baptism and Eucharist for me. I have strongly felt that we Evangelicals are not giving adequate due to the power of the sacraments. McKnight spends some time talking about Baptism as submission to Christ as Lord (joining into Christ kingdom and the body-the church). Even more important for me is that the Eucharist is even more emphasized because regardless of what you think theologically about the eucharist, all views can see that it is about participating in the body of Christ (universal) and that it is a physical ways of seeing that we are empowered to live out the kingdom. Third, McKnight's approach gives meaning to focusing more on discipleship as a process than on evangelism as an event. I have focused on this for a while, but this really inspires me to continue. Fourth, and maybe most importantly, this again gives even more amunition to the idea that we as Evangelicals need to be spending more time reading scripture, reading it completely, reading it as a complete story, and absorbing it in a way that the Holy Spirit can really use it to change us.

I have to admit I was primed to read this book. I have been talking about some of the themes for months now. So you might not be as enthused about it as I am. But I do think that the central message, that the church should be about the gospel, that the gospel is primarily about the Lordship of Christ and Christ's completion of the story of Israel and that as important as personal salvation is, it should never be placed before the central place of Christ.


An ebook was provided by the publisher through Netgalley for purposes of review. This review was written for my blog
93 of 105 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa840763c) out of 5 stars An Important Issue, But There are Better Studies Sept. 20 2011
By Jacob Sweeney - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Scot McKnight likes to stir the pot. I appreciate his willingness to say hard things with good reasons for saying those hard things. He has recently published The King Jesus Gospel in order to address a central issue for Evangelicals: the gospel. He wants to contend that "we evangelicals (as a whole) are not really "evangelical' in the sense of the apostolic gospel, but instead we are soterians...we evangelicals (mistakenly) equate the word gospel with the word salvation" (29). He wants to argue that the gospel is more than a plan of salvation.

The problem with a myopic, soterian church culture is that it creates "The Decided" (McKnight's term) rather than "The Discipled". This is not a problem of church programs or structures, it's an inherent problem with a soterian culture (30-31).

After laying the groundwork McKnight moves on to consider how the gospel moved from the message of God's meta-narrative (story of all stories) to a plea for a decision. He contends that evangelical soterians have proclaim the plan of salvation divorced from the story of God. This results in an immature and declining church. He then focuses on the gospel message as contained in the gospels and in Peter's epistles. Finally, he considers how his emphasis on the narrative of the gospel affects evangelism and ways to return to a gospel culture from our soterian culture.

There are many parts of McKnight's book with which I wholeheartedly agree. Yet, there were as many others with which I disagreed or had concerns.

Areas of Disagreement

First, much of McKnight's argument felt like boxing a ghost.. Having been raised an evangelical, attended an evangelical Bible college and now attending an evangelical seminary, I am well acquainted with our strengths and weaknesses. I understood many of the concerns he expressed. But, I still felt his argument was weak because he didn't (couldn't?) engage contemporary evangelicals embodying this soterian gospel. His soterians are ambiguous. It's easier to argue against someone who doesn't exist.

Second, it seemed obvious to me that McKnight was attempting to expose the remnants of Evangelicals' Fundamentalist-Revivalist heritage. Like it or not, Evangelicalism emerged in the 1940's-50's out of disagreement and discontent with the focus and emphasis of previous generations of fundamentalism. It is from the Charles Finney's and D.L. Moody's that we have a decision-based Christianity. Focusing on this heritage would have provided clarity and identity to his argument.

Third, in his chapter titled "Gospeling Today" McKnight attempts to demonstrate "King Jesus Gospel" evangelism. His focus is on the book of Acts and the preaching of the Apostles. McKnight is correct in identifying the emphasis upon the story of Israel and its consummation in Christ. But, that preaching occurs in the context of Jews. If he could demonstrate that apostolic preaching to gentiles was consistently and prominently Israel-focused his argument would carry weight. But, he can't. The classic example of "Gospeling" to a gentile audience is in Acts 17. Paul does not emphasize the story of Israel. He begins with their own metanarrative and brings the story of Yahweh into it. It is not in Zeus that we live, move and have our being, but Yahweh.

The previous three points are points of contention. They are areas of his argument which I found weak. If they were addressed, his thesis would be much more compelling. My above critiques should not be taken as a dismissal of his entire book. I believe that there is much McKnight gets right. But, I think there's just as much he gets wrong.

Areas of Agreement

First, I think the heart of McKnight's book is correct. Evangelicals have overemphasized the decision and failed in the discipling. It is a good and noble desire to see people repent of sin and confess faith in Christ. But, that's not the end it's just the beginning. Contrary to McKnight, I don't believe that we've gotten the gospel wrong. I just believe that we have failed to emphasize the call to discipleship that Jesus gives to any and all who would follow him.

Second, The story of Israel is absolutely essential to understanding the person and work of Jesus. However, in a biblically illiterate, post-Christian world, how many people will even know (let alone understand) a reference to Abraham, Moses or Elijah? Once again, the problem is not in the gospel Evangelicals have preached but in their failure to promote, push and provide discipleship for the people in their church.


We have a discipleship crisis in the church today. I disagree with Scot McKnight's proposal in it's specifics. But, generally I agree with the idea promoted in The King Jesus Gospel. We need to move away from the revivalist remnant of our fundamentalist heritage and actually disciple our people. This is a top-down requirement. It's not the work of pastors alone. It's the work of all people. He is right to call this book the King Jesus Gospel. Christians need to remember that Jesus was not merely a means to a decision. He is the true King. Declaring Jesus to be Lord was an act of treason and sedition in the apostles' day. Let's not forget that when Jesus calls us "he bids us come and die".
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8407ae0) out of 5 stars Really Important to Read if You Preach or Teach the Bible Sept. 13 2011
By Mike G - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Every time I read a new book by Scot McKnight, my wife tells me I say the same thing, "I think this is the most important book he's written." After finishing his newest book, "The King Jesus Gospel", I really believe that to be true for this book.

His argument is essentially that we've replaced the Biblical Gospel with instead a Plan of Salvation, and while the Gospel will indeed lead to salvation, it is far bigger than just that. McKnight defines the Gospel this way, "It is the Story of Israel that comes to completion in the saving Story of Jesus, who is Messiah of Israel, Lord over all, and the Davidic Savior."

For the past few years, I have tried to understand how the methodology of the church has created a culture of consumerism and shallowness. What Scot does with this book is develops theologically how we have gotten to that place - simply by replacing the Gospel with the Plan of Salvation.

This is the first theological book in a long time that I've had a hard time putting down. I found myself reading passages out loud to Allison regularly, scribbling notes and at times just wanting to shout, "yes" as I was reading it. I'd be willing to say that anyone who teaches or preaches the Bible regularly needs to read it. It's that important.

Here's a few of the quotes I underlined:

"Most of evangelism today is obsessed with getting someone to make a decision; the apostles, however, were obsessed with making disciples"

"...the gospel itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus"

" those early apostolic sermons, we see the whole life of Jesus. In fact, if they gave an emphasis to one dimension of the life of Jesus, it was the resurrection. The apostolic gospel could not have been signified or sketched with a crucifix. That gospel wanted expression as an empty cross because of the empty tomb."

"The gospeling of the apostles in the book of Acts is bold declaration that leads to a summons while much of evangelism today is crafty persuasion."

"When we reduce the gospel to only personal salvation, as soterians are tempted to do, we tear the fabric out of the Story of the Bible and we cease even needing the Bible"
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa84079e4) out of 5 stars A Thought-Provoking, Challenging, But Sadly Disjointed Critique Sept. 25 2011
By Aaron Armstrong - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"What is the gospel?"

There is no question more important for us to be asking. It's one that we can't afford to get wrong, because if we do, we'll get everything else wrong, too. Scot McKnight is concerned that we may have done exactly that--we've become confused on the exact nature and content of the gospel, and it shows up notably in how we pursue evangelism. That concern led him to write The King Jesus Gospel where he seeks to reexamine our understanding of the gospel in light of Scripture.

*Decisions, Discipleship and Points of Agreement*

The short version is that McKnight has a strong distaste for "easy believe-ism"--any sort of notion that all you need is to make a decision and then you're all set. He's summed this up in what he describes as a "soterian" culture, rather than a "gospel" culture--one that is more concerned with making decisions than making disciples. In fact, he believes the word "gospel" has been hijacked to mean little more than "personal salvation," something that falls far short of the biblical meaning (cf. p. 26). To this, I give a hearty "amen". Too many times we settle for "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," instead of the truth of Scripture. Ultimately, this kind of easy believe-ism is founded on nothing more than feelings, rather than truth. But it's not the gospel.

So what is the gospel, in McKnight's view? In a sentence, McKnight considers the gospel, fundamentally, to be the completion of the story of Israel in the story of Jesus. In this, McKnight rightly emphasizes the truth that we cannot separate the Old and New Testaments. The gospel cannot be separated from the events that led up to it. To do so leads us to completely miss the point of everything that's going on in the gospel accounts! A greater appreciation of the Old Testament encourages a more robust understanding of the gospel. These are but a couple of the instances where I found myself largely agreeing with the content of the book.

*Overstatements and Points of Concern*

Unfortunately, my reading of The King Jesus Gospel was something of a disjointed experience. There were a number of times as I read the book that I found myself in hearty agreement with McKnight and there were others where I was left scratching my head as to how he came to some of his conclusions.

For example, he considers pastors such as John Piper and Greg Gilbert as "salvationists," suggesting they've confused the plan of salvation with the gospel itself (pp. 25, 60). Perhaps it's because I'm part of the "Calvinist crowd" that McKnight refers to, but this boggled my mind. Do both emphasize justification? Yep. Do both suggest that the gospel is about justification only? Nope. Their gospel begin in the same place as the Scripture's: with God. Because McKnight's take on the gospel focuses so intently on completing Israel's story, it minimizes that it's really God's story of bringing glory to Himself through the redemption of His entire creation, not Israel alone.

Additionally, McKnight draws a hard line separating the plan of salvation from the gospel (though he does not deny that the plan flows from the gospel). Over and over again he makes this point. And while it definitely has merit--there is a difference between the gospel and the plan of salvation, this overemphasis (arguably) causes him to overlook the reality that the gospel accounts demonstrate the plan of salvation. We need the both/and in this instance, not the either/or.

Finally, because of McKnight's repeated insistence that you cannot distill the gospel down to a few points, I wonder if he's not robbing himself of some of the beautiful simplicity of the gospel itself. What I love about the gospel is that it is indeed awe-inspiringly complex, yet breathtakingly simple. The beauty of Jesus--God--taking human form, humbling Himself to be come a servant, to live a life of perfect obedience, to die a death of perfect submission, to rise again in victory over death, is overwhelming. Perhaps I'm being overly subjective, but McKnight's gospel sketch in the final chapter of this book (pp. 148-152) didn't leave me with the same sense of wonder as does Col. 1:15-23:

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."


In The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight offers a thought-provoking, challenging but sadly disjointed critique of a very real problem. Christians must regain a firm grasp of the meaning of the gospel, on this point, he and I certainly agree. While I'm not sure that his critique helps get us closer to the solution the issue, it does provide opportunities to begin reexamining our understanding of the gospel in light of Scripture.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8407c00) out of 5 stars target at the wrong enemy Oct. 29 2012
By Xie Fang - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, the author Dr. McKnight started with criticizing that American Evangelicals replaced the definition of "Gospel" with "Soterian" and are actively preaching the message of making a converting decision. This criticism is absolutely true. Dr. McKnight is definitely true. Evangelicalism emerged in the middle of last century from the previous generations of fundamentalism. It is said that the decision-based Christianity started from Charles Finney and D.L. Moody and later used by many evangelists and missionaries around the nation and later around the world. Majority of members in my home church back in Shanghai came to faith through this decision-based evangelism.
In this small book, Dr. McKnight suggested that the Gospel that Jesus preached does not include the salvation only. Instead, he suggests that the gospel is primarily framed by Israel's Story and the saving story of Jesus as the completion of the Story of Israel. And secondly the gospel centers on the lordship of Jesus, not just the Jesus as the savior and many evangelical claimed. Third, Evangelism should involve summoning people to respond, to repentance, to faith in Jesus Christ, and to baptism. And finally, the gospel saves and redeems. The apostolic gospel promises forgiveness, the gift of God's Holy Spirit, and justification. In order to validate the four points clear, he started with the historical creeds, then back in the Bible to find the Gospel preached by Paul, the Gospel described in the four Gospel books, the Gospel preached by Jesus, and the Gospel preached by Apostle Peter. Finally he revisits the problem of evangelism today and suggested to create and form the Gospel culture, instead of preaching a decision-based Christianity.
I appreciate Dr. McKnight's faithfulness to the work being entrusted to him. His criticism on "Decision-Based Christianity" is valid and solid. We have seen how this kind of "evangelism" has made the Christianity and the Church to be more and shallower. It's also very helpful to revisit the meaning of Gospel and Evangelism from a Biblical and historical argument. The meaning and substance of Gospel ought to be revisited and rethink again and again based on the Bible to ensure we are honest to the work entrusted by Lord.
However, I am also concerned that it's unfair for Dr. McKnight to make "Decision-Based Christianity" with the "Soterians". The Gospel is about the lordship and history of Israel, but it's also about salvation. John Piper and Greg Gilbert do emphasize the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the cost of discipleship. I don't see their message differ than the message suggested by Dr. McKnight. They do have a common enemy of shallow conversion and the "pray to receive Christ" myth. It seems that Dr. McKnight over emphasizes difference between salvation and gospel thus make the reader to assume that personal salvation is NOT part of the Gospel.
Another point I want to make about this book is that there's few practical suggestions being made. In the last chapter, he is supposed to recommend a framework of "gospel culture" that should be formed in the church, but I failed to find such practical recommendations. He does raise some suggestions, but from my point of view these suggestions are too theoretical.