Scot McKnight on Sacraments as Counter-Stories

kingjesusThe text below is from Scot McKnight’s book, King Jesus Gospel.1 The section presented here is part four of a list of things churches can do to create a “Gospel Culture,” a culture built around the story of Jesus as the resolution of Israel’s story. McKnight will discuss the need to have a decisive story, list the stories that the gospel is competing against, and then explain how the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist (Communion) are acts that proclaim the gospel story today. McKnight is an author and Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We need to counter the stories that bracket our story and that reframe our story. Our culture offers us a myriad of false stories rooted in superficial worldviews. These stories, more often than not, refuse entrance to the gospel story or reshape that gospel story or seek overtly to destroy that story. But a gospel culture can resist those stories by announcing the gospel story as the true story. Or, in the words of the apostle Paul:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish argument and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

What are those stories?

  • Individualism – the story that “I” am the center of the universe
  • Consumerism – the story that I am what I own
  • Nationalism – the story that my nation is God’s nation
  • Moral relativism – the story that we can’t know what is universally good
  • Scientific naturalism – the story that all that matters is matter
  • New Age – the story that we are gods
  • Postmodern tribalism – the story that all that matters is what my small group thinks
  • Salvation by therapy – the story that I can come to my full human potential through inner exploration

I have taken these “hidden worldviews” from Steve Wilkens’ and Mark Sanford’s book, Hidden Worldviews. But I’m less concerned with getting them all on paper that I am with recognizing that these worldviews need to be countered with the gospel story. How can we do this? …

The first thing is to emphasize baptism. What I mean here is Romans 6 as the articulation of Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus told his disciples to baptize disciples, but it was Paul who explained how baptism was a gospeling act. How so? Paul saw baptism as being baptized into the death of Jesus and emerging from the waters as being coraised with Jesus Christ. This act of baptism isn’t just about personal confession and personal faith. The public act of baptism is in and of itself a public declaration of the saving Story of Jesus. If done right, baptism gospels the gospel in a public manner.

Alongside baptism, I would emphasize the Eucharist. To be sure, there’s even more debate about Eucharist than baptism, but let’s get to the bottom of Eucharist for one moment. Jeus tells us that Eucharist, his Last Supper, was about ingesting his blood and his body, and in doing so it was participation in the saving and liberating significance of his story as completing Israel’s (Passover) Story. Then the apostle Paul tells us something we perhaps ignore at our own peril: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

Amazingly, Paul tells the COrinthians, the same ones who were about to hear about the gospel a few chapters later, that ingesting the bread and wine was itself gospeling. Whenever we partake in the Eucharist, we are gospeling the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can build a gospel culture if we emphasize baptism and Eucharist as the counter stories to the cultural stories that flood the Internet and media every day. In those acts we embody the Story of Israel coming to completion in the saving Story of Jesus.

  1. Scott McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel The Original Good News Revisited (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 157-158. 

Follow Benjamin Williams:

Pulpit Minister for Glenpool Church of Christ (Glenpool, OK); BS in Astrophysics from University of Oklahoma; MDiv in Ministry from Oklahoma Christian Graduate School of Theology

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