Bird’s Eye View of Paul (13): ‘I invited Jesus into my heart’ ain’t the gospel

We’re in chapter 5 of A Bird’s Eye View of Paul: the man, his mission and his message and talking about the gospel.

Some evangelical versions of the gospel tend to reduce it down – both in terms of its biblical scope (detached from a Jesus centered biblical narrative) and in terms of its application (a narrow individualism)

What then is the bigger story of the gospel?

Bird goes to 3 texts as examples – Romans 1:1-4,  2 Timothy 2:8, 1 Cor 15:1-5. I’ll  look at just the last one since they reinforce one another:

‘Christ died and was raised’:- the primary content of the gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus and its saving significance

‘for our sins’:- strong implication of substitutionary death that removes / atones for sin and brings forgiveness. The background likely being Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant.

‘according to the Scriptures’:- likely Scripture as a unified whole understood in light of Christ. The gospel is a continuation and climax of God’s dealings with Israel.

This gospel is what saves:-  the gospel has objective content to be believed. ‘Salvation comes through believing that Jesus died and was raised according to the Scriptures.’

This gospel is not a Pauline innovation:- as he received it, he passed it on. The gospel belongs to the story of the Jewish Scriptures.

Each text has its own twist, but together they proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as a narrative fulfilment of the biblical story.

Some quotes on this theme:

“The gospel is the royal announcement that God has become king in Jesus Christ and has expressed his saving sovereignty through the death and resurrection of his son, which atones, justifies and reconciles. There is no gospel without the heralding of the king, there is no gospel without atonement and resurrection.” Bird, 85

“God promised in the Scriptures that he would renew creation and restore Israel. The gospel is the good news that God has made these promises good in Jesus, the Messiah and Lord.  Jesus died and rose for the purpose of atoning for sins and through faith in him and his work believers are reconciled to God. The new age has been launched and God has revealed his saving righteousness in the gospel so that he justifies and delivers from the penalty and power of sin and death.” Bird, 85

“His announcement was that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead; that he was thereby proved to be Israel’s Messiah; that he was thereby installed as Lord of the world; or to put it more compactly: Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is Lord.” [Tom Wright]

And this gospel has immediate radical implications: it’s the ‘explosive announcement’ that Jesus the rejected one is reigning Lord of all. He has demonstrated his kingly power by giving up his life for our sins and being raised for our acquittal.

The salvation brought by the gospel is explicated by justification, reconciliation, forgiveness, but these are not the same as the gospel.

This gospel is far removed from a lot of popular evangelical in-house jargon that reduces the gospel to a narrow individualism such as ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life’ or ‘I invited Jesus into my heart’. As Bird says, we need ‘a Saviour not a therapist.’


5 thoughts on “Bird’s Eye View of Paul (13): ‘I invited Jesus into my heart’ ain’t the gospel

  1. Dear Patrick,

    When discussing Apologetics with non-Catholics, you must do it right from Holy Scripture. When Protestantism was first formed in the 16th century, the reformers lost all Authority which they enjoyed in the Catholic Church.

    They therefore turned to the Bible as their ‘sole rule of authority’. This is called ‘Sola Scriptura’, or ‘Bible Alone’.

    They also could not claim Apostolic Tradition anymore since they could not show Apostolic Succession.

    They put Apostolic Tradition in the same category as man made tradition and in so doing condemned all tradition.

    Holy Scripture specifically says to keep the traditions with which you have been taught, which are the Apostolic traditions, and to reject man made traditions. Interestingly, the false doctrine of ‘Sola Scriptura’, is a man made tradition with its origin at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Using the reformers very own rules, ‘Sola Scriptura’ should then be condemned by themselves.

    Read “For Whom the Bell Tolls“, and “The Origin of Sola Scriptura.

  2. Thanks Michael for your comment and welcome to the blog. I’m not sure if you are responding to something I said in the post or are making a general criticism of Protestantism and evangelicals in general. You might not be surprised that I disagree with your analysis.

    Let me bring it back to the post on Michael Bird’s chapter. What is going here is an example ‘semper reformanda’ – the church is always to be in a process of continual reformation. So Bird is essentially going back to Scripture and seeking to see healthly biblical reform in our understanding of the gospel and how it works out in lives of discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    This is also a good example of what is meant by sola Scriptura. As Christians we are called continually go to back to the inspired and authoritative and true Word of God and reform our lives and beliefs under its probing searchlight, guided by the Spirit.

    For while Scripture is God’s Word, our interpretations and traditions that arise from those interpretations are not infallible – we need constantly to be seeking reform and renewal. The Protestant Reformation sought to bring reform to the church in light of Scripture where it had lost sight of crucial biblical truths. And that process continues today. I for sure do not claim that the Protestant Reformers had it ‘all right’ – just as I do not believe that any church has it ‘all right’ today.

    My major problem with the Catholic position here is the elevation of tradition alongside that of Scripture to a point where that tradition no longer can be critiqued, changed and renewed by Scripture. This vests far too much authority in the church and its leadership, can restrict the renewing work of the Spirit and locks in traditions that find little support from God’s Word.

  3. Not sure where you are going there Paul. I think Transfarmer is pointing out in a very succinct way that the gospel is not so much ‘all about me’ inviting Jesus in to my life – but that it calls us to give our lives wholly to him at Lord and join in his kingdom work.

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