18 May 2023

Why the Gospel? Living the Good News of King Jesus with Purpose (A Review)

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Books, Christian hope, Church, Discipleship, Jesus, Preaching, Salvation

Why the Gospel? Living the Good News of King Jesus with Purpose
By Matthew W. Bates (Eerdmans, 2023) 186 pp.

(Amazon link in title) Matthew Bates has blessed us with two previous outstanding books Salvation by Allegiance Alone and Gospel Allegiance.  His newest book joins them as being well written and well-conceived to help disciples not only understand the Gospel we confess but to provide motivation for living for King Jesus and for sharing the reign with the world.  I received my copy of Why the Gospel? few days ago and read about half the book in one sitting. I could not put it down. My copy is heavily annotated.

Description of Book

Why the Gospel? Is divided up into seven chapters that briefly remind us of the content of the Gospel of God (Jesus is the Christ). Then briefly survey some popular formulations of the gospel that are not so much wrong as not quite the full story. In chapters 4-5, the core of the argument, Matthew shows how the Messiah is God’s way of rescuing, redeeming, restoring and glorifying humanity and creation itself. These chapters bear reading and rereading.  They are not only exciting but encouraging and enriching.  The Gospel of the Messiah Jesus really is “Good News.” In Chapters 6 and 7, Bates articulates how this full orbed Gospel of King Jesus actually enables disciples to offer a hopeful word to our increasingly non-religious (of any sort) world. And chapter seven is aimed squarely at us disciples, how can we cultivate a lifestyle to live (practice discipleship) this profoundly revolutionary Good News of God’s Son Incarnate as the King of Israel. Finally, there is a short list of helpful and recommended sources for further study. For myself, I would have added Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God’s People to the list of good reading (this volume rather than Mission of God since Bates audience is the pew).


Bates wrestles with the question of WHY? Why did/do we need the Gospel? We do not wrestle with this question enough and failure to do so may cause us to miss the radicalness of the Gospel of God in Christ Jesus.

The answer is: We need a King! The true biblical Gospel is directly connected to God’s purpose in creation, particularly for human beings. In the Stone-Campbell tradition we have called this gospel of the king, The Golden Oracle. A phrase coined by Walter Scott. Jesus IS the Christ.

Bates shows the Gospel both restores God’s creational purposes but also glorifies them through the King. King/Messiah is a TITLE not a name. Jesus IS the King/Messiah. Bates beautifully shows that the Incarnation is essential to Gospel as the Cross. This is a desperately needed correction in American Evangelical (and even Restorationist) Christianity. The meaning of cross and resurrection is tied to Incarnation (and it flows the other way too). But when the Incarnation of the Christ is sidelined, even unintentionally, we can have a skewed understanding of not only what the Gospel is but what the Gospel is doing to us (and all creation).

Bates shows how the the Gospel and the WHY of the Gospel can and does address the “Nones” (those affiliated with no religious affiliation).

Chapters 4 and 5 are the heart of Why the Gospel? They should be read and reread. They are a clear and thrilling articulation of what the Gospel of King Jesus does.

Small Nuance I Would Add

There are places I would go further than Bates. I agree Incarnation is 100% essential to the Gospel. I think Bates is fundamentally right in how Jesus, as King, restores and brings “glory.” I believe it is 100% essential for Jesus to be King. But in the biblical Gospel, King is not some generic idea. It is precisely as ISRAEL’S King that Jesus is King and Lord of the Nations. Just as the word “Christ” is often muted by turning it into a “name” rather than title, the muting of the category of Messiahship of Israel has led (and does lead) to massive theological distortions through Christian history not to mention centuries of pogroms culminating in the Aryan Jesus of the Nazis (see Susannah Heschel’s epic, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany). It matters theologically (and ethically) that Jesus is (not was) a Jew. The particularity of the Jewish King honors the particularity of the nations and the goodness of creation itself. The Jewishness of Jesus, even as the “second Adam,” (the King of Israel is like a “second Adam”) matters if the Incarnation is in fact reality. Jesus will forever be the Son of David, the Son of Mary, the Son of Abraham. I am not criticizing Bates here, for he almost certainly concurs on this but it is not as explicit as I would make it. It is way to easy for Evangelical disciples to disconnect the gospel from the Story of Israel, and it cannot be done biblically. (Jennifer Rosner’s recent Finding Messiah: A Journey into the Jewishness of the Gospel is worth reading along these lines).

There of course a place here, or there, I might put a footnote and other places, I had to sit back and say “that was rich.” Material worthy of just meditation for hours on end. 

Buy It

I am personally encouraged by this book. I can and do recommend Why the Gospel? without reservation. Read it. Do more than that, share it. It is a message desperately needed in American Christianity. The Golden Oracle is Jesus is the Christ, that is Jesus is the King (of Israel) and as such inherits the nations and all creation that is glorified because God’s purpose in creation has reached its goal in Jesus the King.

The book is a breeze to read. There are questions at the end of each chapter facilitating discussion and reflection. And while there are occasional footnotes this book is aimed at all God’s People. If you can read the NIV with ease then this book will be readily accessible to you. I am grateful for it. Walter Scott would almost certainly say, “Amen!”

[Statement: I do not receive any compensation for this review or any other. I receive nothing from Amazon or anyone else if you buy a work I recommend. I recommend them because they are good.]

Related Links

The Gospel According to Paul: God Has Kept His Promises in the Messiah

Jesus of Nazareth: Does it Matter that the Messiah is a Jew?

The Aryan Jesus: Reflections Part 2, Give Me Jesus the Jew

The Gospel is about the STUFF of the World

One Response to “Why the Gospel? Living the Good News of King Jesus with Purpose (A Review)”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I love Bates, and this book is in the queue. Currently reading Carmen Joy Imes’ Bearing God’s Name (and then Bearing God’s Image.

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