Salvation by Allegiance Alone – Chapter 2

This is the third in a series of posts engaging with Matthew Bates’s Salvation by Allegiance Alone.  The earlier posts can be read here and here.

The second chapter of Salvation by Allegiance Alone is entitled, “Loyalty and the Full Gospel.”  It could have just as easily been titled, “Your Gospel Is Too Small!” or perhaps even, “Your Gospel Is Too Small and Its Skewed in the Wrong Direction!”  These would be appropriate titles because Bates is convinced that the predominant contemporary North American understandings of the Christian faith have both truncated the scope and lost sight of the focal point of the Gospel.  Rather than seeing the Gospel as the good news of Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and (most importantly for Bates’s purposes, because it has been most neglected) enthronement, which stands as the climatic and crowning moment of a cosmic drama encompassing creation, new creation, the election of Israel and the human vocation to image God upon the face of the earth, for many today the Gospel is reduced to an anthropologically-driven attempt to address the individual’s anxiety concerning their eternal destiny.

In order to recover the truly glorious breadth and depth of the Gospel, Bates turns to a close reading of several texts in the writings of the apostle Paul which offer “the most straightforward explanations of what the word “gospel” meant for the earliest Christians.”1  These texts include:  Romans 1:1-5, 1:16-17, 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 and also, even though it does not include the word euangelion (gospel), Philippians 2:6-11.  His conclusion, which I think is relatively uncontroversial in the fields of contemporary biblical studies and theology, is that “the gospel is the power–releasing story of Jesus’s life, death for sins, resurrection, and installation as king, but that story only makes sense in the wider framework of the stories of Israel and creation.  The gospel is not in the first instance a story about heaven, hell, making a decision, raising your hand after praying a certain prayer, justification by faith alone, trusting that Jesus’s righteousness is sufficient, or in any putative human tendencies toward self-salvation through good works.  It is, in the final analysis, most succinctly good news about the enthronement of Jesus the atoning king as he brings these wider stories to a climax.”2

Perhaps the earliest and most succinct summation of the Christian faith was the terse confession, “Jesus is Lord!”  Bates’s exposition in this chapter serves as a salutary warning that whenever the people of God find themselves having to scramble to reconcile what is being proclaimed as the Gospel with this fundamental confession of the faith, they can be sure that something is misfiring in the life and proclamation of the church.

  1. Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of King Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 30.
  2. Bates, 30.

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