I started reading Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited the other day and I’m in agreement that what we’ve come to call “the gospel” is really something else altogether. He’s quite right to point out that the gospel is about much more than personal salvation. On page 24 McKnight says, “I encourage you to pull out a piece of paper or open up the flyleaf of the back of this book and scribble down your answer to t his most important question before you read one more word: What is the gospel?” So scribble I did. Here’s a photo of what I wrote in the back of the book (because I’m too lazy to type it all out):
So my working definition (and this is just a summary) includes Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, the message he preached about the kingdom, our victory over sin and a life enabled for good works in obedience to God. I’m sure McKnight’s definition will be slightly different and perhaps he’ll highlight things I’ve neglected and neglect things I’ve highlighted, but I think my working definition is a decent summary of the gospel as we see it in the Bible.
But that brings me to the point of this post. As I began chapter 4 of the book McKnight says that we should turn to 1 Corinthians 15 and begin there because that is the closest we come to a definition of the gospel in the New Testament. That got me thinking about how I’ve always viewed this chapter, especially the early parts of it. I’ve always described this as Paul’s summary of the Gospel. In other words, if Paul were to sum the gospel up in a pithy statement it would be the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that leaves so much out, so I started to wonder if this is best described as a summary.
Perhaps we can view 1 Corinthians 15 as the pinnacle of the gospel. The focal point perhaps. Jesus’ sinless life, Spirit-empowered ministry, preaching of God’s rule and Israel’s restoration, etc. all led up to his death and subsequent resurrection. These events were the culmination of his ministry and the vindication of his message. Paul doesn’t have much to say about Jesus’ ministry at all but it makes sense that he wouldn’t. He gets right to the high point because without the death/resurrection Jesus would have been another failed messianic claimant.
I will note that this pinnacle is also the basis for Paul’s telling believers that they can live a Spirit-filled life in Christ. And that without this focal point our lives mean nothing. So he spends plenty of time talking about the latter part of my working definition but that’s all predicated upon our resurrected Lord.
I’ve typed plenty on the debate over eternal functional subordination over the years. Much of what I’ve said can be found in book reviews. Some can be found in dedicated posts to one point of the discussion or another. I’ll leave it to interested readers to search my blog and find all that I’ve said. But I want to repeat something since I keep reading the word “Arian” being used with reference to those who affirm some kind of eternal functional subordination, or eternal authority-submission structure, or eternal asymmetrical order of relation, etc.
If it’s “eternal” then it ain’t “Arian.” It’s really that simple. Arians believed the Son to be a created being. Plain and simple. Yes, he was created “before” time (wrap your head around that one) but the Father existed “before” that. No one who believes that the Son has from all eternity been obedient or submitted to the Father is an Arian because they all believe that for as long as their has been a Father to obey/submit to, there has been a Son who obeys/submits.
That’s my spiel. And a huge thanks to Seumas Macdonald for his roundup of posts on the recent discussion. It saved me a lot of time and energy!
My pastor called me up last night and asked me to remind him why I had a problem with the sentiment that we are spirits who have souls and live in bodies. I answered that it’s gnostic at its core and it’s just not what we see in Scripture.
If we go back to the beginning it says that God formed man from the dust of the earth. Notice how it leads with that. Body first. Then he breathed the breath of life into this being and he became a living soul. He didn’t create a disembodied spirit and then make a body for it.
The whole man is body, soul, and spirit (I’m tripartite kind of a dude). Man is not fully man devoid of any one of these elements. Having a body is part of being human. Think about it like this: Could God have saved us apart from the Incarnation? Sure. He’s God, he can do whatever he wants. And yet the eternal Son took humanity upon himself in order to live righteously, suffer for our sins, die as an atoning sacrifice, and rise bodily in order to defeat death. Jesus’ body was essential to his mission.
My pastor emailed me this morning and offered a pushback of his own concerning my assertion that Christians and all Jews don’t necessarily worship the same God. His basic premise was that Jews who deny that Jesus is the Son of God and do not believe that God is Trinity know in part and thus do worship the true God, just not in fullness (my paraphrase). He and asked how I’d respond to that line of reasoning. Here’s the gist of what I said:
At the foot of Sinai the Israelites gave their gold to Aaron and had him fashion them a statue of a calf. They called that calf YHWH. They said that the calf led them out of Egypt. They proceeded to worship the calf whom they called YHWH. Were they worshipping YHWH? Maybe in part because they got the name right? Or maybe not at all because YHWH has to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
Did they get a pass for being confused? Or did YHWH want to kill them for their idolatry. The nature of idolatry is worshipping something *other than* the true God. The Jews who have denied Jesus have denied the Father. No different than Muslims who claim to worship the one God of Abraham. So I don’t see a way of saying that they do worship the same God. I see them as worshipping a golden calf that they appended God’s name to. They worship something *other than* the God we worship.
At about 6:20 in the above video Brant Pitre says that the feeding of the multitude account in the Gospels would remind first century Jewish readers of Moses. I’m not denying that but he said, “If you’re a first century Jew and you have a prophet who takes out a great crowd into the wilderness and feeds them with bread, who’s that gonna make you think of?”
I can see why Moses might be the connection that someone makes, but why not think of God instead? It was “the LORD, the God of Israel [who said]: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness'” (Exod 5:1 cf. 7:16). It was the LORD who parted the Red Sea so that Israel could pass through on dry land (Exod 14:21) into the desert. It was the LORD who rained down bread from heaven (Exod 16:4).
So yes, Moses was a type of Christ, I agree. And it is easy to make the association with Moses. But I think it’s just as easy to make the association with the LORD, and perhaps even more appropriate. As Sigurd Grindheim pointed out in a couple of books (reviewed here & here) a few years back, Jews certainly had messianic expectations, but they were primarily waiting for God to come into his kingdom.
Earlier today on Twitter Mike Aubrey offered a friendly pushback to my post about Christians and Muslims worshipping the same God. I’ve just learned that a gentleman named Gavin on a blog called Otagosh has offered the same pushback. Basically, they’ve both responded that if Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God then neither do Christians and Jews.
My response is to ask, which Jews? I have zero qualms about saying that Jews who have rejected Jesus as Messiah and deny the Trinity don’t worship the same God as Christians. But not all Jews fall into this group. Christianity was originally a Jewish movement. It’s founder is a Jew. It’s earliest adherents were Jews. It’s Scriptures were written by Jews.
But the early Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah and wrote about the unique relationship shared between Father, Son, and Spirit were opposed by other Jews. An anti-Jesus Jewish movement grew in the same soil as this pro-Jesus Jewish movement. Both movements grew alongside one another and one became Christianity while the other retained the moniker of Judaism.
My point is, there are Messianic Jews, Jews for Jesus, Jewish Christians, and a host of other Jews who do indeed worship the same God that the Gentiles who have been grafted into Israel’s covenant worship. The Church is the “one new man” composed of Jew and Gentile alike, united in its worship of the one true God. But then there are plenty of Jews who don’t worship this God and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so.
On the flip side, I’m not familiar with any Muslims for Jesus or Muslim Christians. A denial of basic Christian tenets is foundational to their belief and worship of Allah. Their Scriptures say quite plainly that they don’t worship the Son or even believe him to be Son. Ours says that a denial of Jesus as Son is a denial of his Father as well, hence, I stand by my original answer to the question and add a qualified answer when switching the terms.
I’ve seen this question popping up recently. It’s easy to answer:
Do Muslims worship the Trinity?
Do Muslims acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God?
Doesn’t that entail a denial of the Father?
So I repeat, Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.
It’s really not a difficult question to answer.
I said more on this way back in 2008. Check it out if you want.