In this two-part post, I’m going to review the excellent book “What Is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert.
Though we are submerged in a culture that is hesitant to communicate convictions with clarity, we as the church are commissioned to call people to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, how many of us Christians are able to clearly articulate what this gospel is?
I had the great privilege of recently reading Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel? (2010 Crossway). If you’ve ever struggled with what the connection is between the gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus himself (Matthew 4:23) and the gospel of Jesus that is typically explained by his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (1 Corinthians 15:3-5), this book wonderfully articulates the links between the two and gives the reader a deeper understanding and appreciation of what the gospel is all about.
Here, I have provided a chapter by chapter summary of Gilbert’s book, but might I recommend that you buy a copy, and then when you’re finished buy more to give to believer and unbeliever alike. We’ll go over the first five chapters today and the last three later this week.
“My sense is that far too many Christians would answer with something far short of what the Bible hold out as ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ.’” p.15
Simply put, Gilbert wonders aloud what contemporary evangelicalism’s grasp on the gospel actually is. He argues (successfully) that the ability to understand and articulate the gospel have severely diminished even within the evangelicalism.
Chapter One: Finding the Gospel in the Bible
“God. Man. Christ. Response.” p.32
Authority for defining what the gospel is can only be found in God’s word, though we can’t just rely on a simple word study of “gospel” to find a thorough explanation of it. New Testament writers may not even mention the word “gospel” in their articulation of it, but it is a prominent thread woven into thoughts and arguments of nearly all of the New Testament’s writings.
Chapter Two: God the Righteous Creator
“No, the Bible tells us that God is good. He knew what was best for his people, and he gave them laws that would preserve and increase their happiness and well-being.” p.42
“A common view of God is that he’s much like an unscrupulous janitor. Instead of really dealing with the world’s dirt—its sin, evil, and wickedness—he simply sweeps it under the rug, ignores it, and hopes no one will notice. In fact, many people cannot conceive of a God who would do anything else. ‘God judge sin?’ they say. ‘Punish me for wickedness? Of course he wouldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be loving.’” p.43
There are many modern day misconceptions about who God is. He is a Creator, but more importantly, He is our Creator. He made humanity and, therefore, has the authority to dictate how our existence ought to be. Since He is good, He does not just give us arbitrary rules. Regardless, we rebel. God has revealed himself as one who forgives, but He will deal with evil.
Chapter Three: Man the Sinner
“Most people have no problem at all admitting that they’ve committed sins (plural), at least so long as they can think about those sins as isolated little mistakes in an otherwise pretty good life—a parking ticket here or there on an otherwise clean record.” p.54
Sin is the rejection of God’s rightful rule over humanity. It is something we are guilty of corporately, but also individually, and we will be held accountable. This is scary, because the end result of this is eternal separation from God in a place of conscious torment called Hell. We not only have a tendency to diminish this reality, but also sin itself. The examples of how we mischaracterize sin in this chapter are very helpful.
Chapter Four: Jesus Christ the Savior
Left to ourselves, we would all be a bunch of hell-bound sinners on account of our rejection of God’s rule, BUT God did not leave us there. Instead he sent his Son, Jesus Christ the righteous Davidic King to roll back the effects of the Fall (think miracles) in the inauguration of his Kingdom. However, this alone does not deal with the problem of sin, therefore, on top of being a righteous King, Jesus was also the suffering servant who was slain for our sin (shadowed by the Passover lamb). Because he suffered in the body as a man, we now have access to God because we have a perfect representative. Not only that, but we have the hope of eternal life because of his vindicating resurrection.
Chapter Five: Response—Faith and Repentance
“Faith is not believing in something you can’t prove, as so many people define it. It is, biblically speaking, reliance. A rock-solid, truth-grounded, promise-founded trust in the risen Jesus to save you from sin.” p.74
“But because we will continue to struggle with sin until we are glorified, we have to remember that genuine repentance is more fundamentally a matter of the heart’s attitude toward sin than it is mere change in behavior. Do we hate sin and war against it, or do we cherish it and defend it?” p.81
Rather than a belief in something totally devoid of any reality, faith is the ability to trust in the resurrected Jesus to save you from your sin. This is why one is “justified” by faith. In that exchange, belief in the complete work of Jesus and his perfect righteousness is attributed to you if you believe in him. It is righteousness that we couldn’t earn, so it had to be given to us. The other side of the coin is repentance. Repentance involves turning away from sin and turning to God, but in no way means that someone is now without sin. Rather, it is a reassignment of masters. So though we still struggle with sin, there is now a hatred of it and a fight against it. This will result in a life that bears fruit. True salvation cannot be devoid of either of these two things.
Be sure to check back later this week, when we’ll review the chapters that tie it all together. We’ll be looking at the Kingdom, the centrality of the cross, and the gospel’s power.