Matthew W. Bates. Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2019. 272 pp. $17.99.
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If one wonders what Hiroo Onoda of World War II has to do with the gospel-allegiance should pick up Matthew W. Bates’ newest book Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ. Already his former book Saved by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic 2017) has stirred the evangelical soul. Gospel Allegiance brings the conversation forward, and a third book on the topic is in prospect. Definitions of pistis, charis, and other key terms in their first century context are dealt with throughout the book. A key passage for the overall study is Ephesians 2:8-10 (which in my formal studies was usually reduced to Eph 2:8-9).
The author does not shy away from critiquing “popular” evangelical pastor-theologians like John MacArthur, John Piper, Matt Chandler, or R.C. Sproul. He also is not afraid of critiquing the Catholic Church for introducing concepts foreign to the biblical gospel. Further, Bates is in good company with people like Joshua W. Jipp (e.g. Christ Is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology), Scot McKnight (e.g. The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited), and John M.G. Barclay (Paul and the Gift).
In his introduction Bates states that by having finished the book one should be able to understand more precisely “the gospel and its relationship to faith, grace, and works” (119). I say: promise given, promise kept. A must read for anyone passionate about truth, the church, the gospel and (should I dare say it?) – the Christ.
Being a Chirstian, a student of the New Testament, and a cross-cultural worker I find it strange that such a “basic concept” like the gospel is still misunderstood (even by myself!). Bates’ study truly brings us to terms with the biblical account.
Some claim that “justification by faith” is the heart of the gospel. Bates admonishes us to think hard and search the Scriptures. Some would say that the cross is the climax of the gospel. Bates argues that the climax is “the enthronement of Jesus” (182). Some distinguish even separate salvation and disciple ship. Bates holds them together by allegiance to king Jesus (334).
One of the features which I like most throughout the book is the Christo-centric view presented. The gospel is what God has done in Jesus. Once we make our faith part of the gospel it “becomes about personal trust rather than the Christ’s action” (455). For this we need to pay closer attention to the apostolic witness: Mk 1:14-15; Lk 4:18-19; Rom 1:3-4; 1 Cor 15:3-5 (one could even go a lot further here; see McKnight); 2 Tim 2:8 (as well as the speeches in Acts and Phil 2:6-11). “Jesus is both the primary herald of the gospel and its principal subject” (519).
But not to spoil everything, I suggest you follow the once heard voice by Augustine: “Pick up and read!”
Table of Contents
Part 1: Discovering Gospel Allegiance
1. Getting the Gospel Right
2. Not Faith but Allegiance
3. The Full Gospel of the King
Bridge: Gospel Clarified–Gospel Mobilized
Part 2: Advancing Gospel Allegiance
4. Grace in Six Dimensions
5. Faith Is Body Out
6. How Works Are Saving
7. Taking the Allegiance Challenge
Appendix 1: Gospel-Allegiance Summary Chart
Appendix 2: Guide for Further Conversation