Derek Webb and the Gospel of the Kingdom
The podcast that Tony Kummer and I did with Derek Webb over at SaidatSouthern is making some waves in the blogosphere. Shortly after it was released, several people took issue with Derek’s off-the-cuff definition of “the gospel.”
“What a great question. I guess I’d probably…my instinct is to say that it’s Jesus coming, living, dying, and being resurrected and his inaugurating the already and the not yet of all things being restored to himself…and that happening by way of himself…the being made right of all things…that process both beginning and being a reality in the lives and hearts of believers and yet a day coming when it will be more fully realized. But the good news, the gospel, the speaking of the good news, I would say is the news of his kingdom coming the inaugurating of his kingdom coming…that’s my instinct.”
Granted, I would define the “gospel” somewhat differently than Derek. Sitting next to him in the interview room, I knew immediately that some people were not going to find his answer satisfactory. Not enough “penal substitution.” Not enough “wrath of God.” Not enough “grace versus good works.” In short, not Reformed enough.
After reading some of the comments on blogs about Derek’s definition, I am now concerned that Peter, Paul, and even Jesus himself might not answer the question well enough for some of these guys.
Mark tells us very clearly that the “gospel of God” that Jesus proclaimed was, in summary: “The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in this good news!”
Of course, some could rightly say that Jesus’ message was and should be different, now that we are living post-resurrection. And I would agree with that assessment, except that the apostles’ gospel proclamation still remains kingdom-focused and resurrection-centered.
Let’s leave aside our own gospel formulations and go back to the text.
Peter, at Pentecost, preaches a gospel that tells of Jesus’ life, spends one verse on Jesus’ crucifixion and then takes 13 verses expounding Christ’s resurrection and subsequent exaltation as Lord of the world. Three chapters later, in Acts 5, Peter again centers on the resurrection.
“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things…”
Again in Acts 10, Peter centers on the resurrection and on Christ’s lordship. Of course, the cross is present and crucial, but the resurrection is at the forefront.
It’s not just Peter. The “gospel” that Paul is not ashamed of in Romans 1:16 is the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection in verses 1-6. The gospel that he passes on to others in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is a sermon/creed about Christ’s resurrection. The gospel in Ephesians 1 is about the uniting of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth. This is accentuated in Ephesians 3, as Paul seems to equate the “gospel” with the uniting of Gentiles and Jews under one Lord of all. (Not to be neglected, of course, are the implications of the gospel found in Ephesians 2 for individual sinners.)
Derek Webb may not have defined the gospel in the most theologically precise or satisfying way. Yes, there are important aspects that he did not touch on in his brief summary statement. But if you’re going to criticize Derek for his presentation, you might as well level your charges against Paul as well, who in one gospel presentation skips the cross completely and heads right to the resurrection (Acts 17).
Now, I’m not recommending we skip the cross in our gospel presentation. Christ’s substituitionary death is what purchases our salvation. But, surely we evangelicals emphasize the cross as our “gospel,” while treating the resurrection as something closer to a footnote. How many gospel presentations fail to mention the resurrection at all?
Instead of challenging other gospel presentations, let’s spend more time in the Word with Peter, Paul, and Jesus. Maybe… just maybe, we’ll find our own gospel presentations challenged.
written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog