This is as good a spot as any to say something about Tom Wright’s view of the gospel, and I’ll take this from his fine small book, What Saint Paul Really Said.
First, Tom trots out how “gospel” is understood in modern contexts. “… a description of how people get saved; of the theological mechanism whereby, in some people’s language, Christ takes our sin and we his righteousness; in other people’s language, Jesus becomes my personal saviour; in other languages again, I admit my sin, believe that he died for me, and commit my life to him” (41).
Second, Tom goes to Isaiah 40:9 and 52:7 to see what “gospel” means in the OT: and there it denotes “Here is your God!” and “Your God reigns.” And this all refers to Israel’s return from Exile (which, if you have read Wright, is big time language for him). And he then looks at the pagan notion that “gospel” means the declaration of “good news.”
Third, this leads Tom to a conclusion: “The more Jewish we make Paul’s ‘gospel’, the more it confronts directly the pretensions of the imperial cult, and indeed all other paganisms whether ‘religious’ or ‘secular'” (44).
Fourth, this means that the gospel is not a system of how people get saved. Thus, “the gospel itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus” and this “is an authoritative summons to obedience” (45).
So here it is — the gospel according to Tom Wright: Paul’s “announcement was that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead; that he was thereby proved to be Israel’s Messiah; that he was thereby installed as the Lord of the world. Or, to put it yet more compactly: Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is Lord” (46). It is another way of saying this: “an announcement about the true God as opposed to the false gods” (59).
So, what to say in response:
First, I don’t disagree with much about Tom’s presentation here.
Second, I agree that the gospel is the proclamation of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ who is enthroned as Lord. So, I like very much this emphasis on Christ’s enthronement as inherent to the gospel — it Cross and Resurrection and Glory.
Third, I have these disagreements but they are points that I think fill out Tom’s theory of “gospel”:
1. There needs to be more Spirit in the work of God — Jesus not only died and was raised and was enthroned, but sends the Spirit as the Paraclete.
2. There needs to be more “for us” in this “Jesus is Lord.” Jesus isn’t declared Lord just so he can be declared Lord — but so that Jesus can be Lord “over” the world and “for our redemption.” I see gospel as something “for us” all the time. His Lordship is as much as Lordship “for” as “over.” (If you haven’t read Hugh Williamson’s nice little book on this, try to: The Lord is King. Hard to find.)
3. Other passages to consider.
I think Isa 61:1’s use of “basar” needs to be included: he spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
Rom 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Eph 1:13: In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.
Col. 1:21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before himâ€” 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
2Tim. 1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
4. Most importantly, we can’t truncate “gospel” to what Paul means. It is used by Jesus and there it means “kingdom.” I refer to my other posts on Kingdom, but I remind us once again of the Lukan thread: Benedictus, Magnificat, Inaugural sermon in Luke 4, Beatitudes in Luke 6, response to John in Luke 7.
5. Matthew says Jesus preached the “gospel of the kingdom” in Matt 4:23, and then virtually outlines that in Matthew 5-9 before he says it again in 9:35. The gospel involves the summons to enter into the society Jesus is creating at his table.
Let me add once again that I do not see these points as contrary to Tom’s theory but as filling out the picture. The gospel is, in my judgment, more than the declaration of the enthronement of Jesus but both his enthronement and the power it unleashes for God’s people.