The Kingdom, Gospel Faithfulness, and Evangelism

It’s good for my worldly soul to wait for books. And wait is what I did for 6 weeks as my latest read was rowed here in a pirogue from England. But it was worth the wait. The new book is God’s Power to Save: One Gospel for a Complex World? (Apollos/IVP; Leicester, England; 2006) edited by Chris Green. Today I provide you with one morsel from the book. It’s on the topic of the gospel, the kingdom, and evangelism—

…We have seen that in the Synoptics and Acts, ‘the gospel’ and ‘the kingdom’ are fundamentally related. They are not different messages, as some old-school liberals might once have tried to have us believe. But nor is it adequate to see them as two different ways of describing the same reality but with different vocabularies, which different people might find easier or harder to accept. That thought might seem on the surface to be evangelistically useful, because we could talk using different kinds of language to different groups of people, according to their needs and pastoral appropriateness, but it is actually flawed. If I could explain the gospel to people, fully and without distortion, and do so without leading them to expect forgiveness for sin on the basis of the cross (for instance), then what I have produced is not alternative language but an alternative gospel, because the substance has changed.

Put simply, the gospel of the kingdom as we find it in Acts is the announcement of forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit that flow necessarily from the throne of the crucified and risen Saviour-King. We saw above that the appropriate response to hearing the gospel is repentance and faith. To ask people to repent and believe when they have heard a message that does not focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus actually asks for a different reason for repentance and a different message to believe. Do they, then, receive forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit? Since we have seen that talking about the kingdom requires us to talk about the cross, any such detachment must be theologically, and spiritually, disastrous.

There are many audiences, but only one gospel. To present that one gospel under the language of the kingdom is not necessarily to alter it. But if we use it because we think someone is more likely to respond to the language of the kingdom than that of, say, justification or forgiveness, and that is precisely because we wrongly think the kingdom does not operate in that theological field, then we have altered it by distorting the cross-work of the king.

—Chris Green, God’s Power to Save: One Gospel for a Complex World? (Apollos/IVP; Leicester, England; 2006), pp. 136–137. To date, the book has not been published in the U.S. and is a bit tough to find—hence the wait and the pirogue.