Book Review: What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel? is a phenomenal book. Phenomenal because it is strikingly biblical, crystal clear, and simple. It’s also short (121 pages) and easy to read. A great book for Christians and non-Christians because it so clearly and simply explains the basic, core truths of the Christian faith.

To summarize the four truths that are always mentioned (or implied) when the gospel is presented, are: God, man, Christ, response.

Chapter 1: Finding the Gospel in the Bible

4 Critical Truths:

1)We are accountable to the God who created us

2)We have sinned against that God and will be judged

3)But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us through His sacrificial life, death, and resurrection

4)We take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.

“Obviously this God-man-Christ-response structure is not a slavish formula. The apostles don’t necessarily tick the points off like a checklist when they proclaim the gospel. Depending on the context, how long they have to preach, and who is included in their audience, they explain those four points at various lengths. Sometimes one or more of them are even left implicit rather than explicit-especially the fact that it is God to whom we are accountable and from whom we need the gift of forgiveness. But then again, that’s a fact that would already have been deep in the minds of the Jews to whom the apostles most often preached. On the other hand, when Paul speaks to a group of pagan philosophers at the Areopagus, he starts right at the beginning, with God himself.” (p. 35)

So we see that there are core truths, but they were presented in a variety of ways.

Chapter 2: God the Righteous Creator

God is the Creator and He is holy and righteous. The beginning of the Christian message is that God created the Heavens and Earth, and because God created us, it means we have purpose. One needs some understanding of God having the right to tell us what to do, and knowing what is best for us. God created us, and therefore God owns us.

Chapter 3: Man the Sinner

In this chapter Gilbert discusses sin, and that it is about missing the mark, but also much deeper. It is the disobedience of God’s commands-whether in word, thought, or deed. He discusses how Christians often confuse sin with sin’s effects, confuse sin with negative thinking, and confuse sin with sins. Sin is in us and of us, not just on us.

Chapter 4: Jesus Christ the Savior

This chapter covers some of the core truths about Jesus and that penal substitution is at the heart of the gospel. The Curse was righteously executed, and we were mercifully saved. This is true and good news because King Jesus the crucified is no longer dead, and His resurrection vindicates everything Jesus claimed.

Chapter 5: Response – Faith & Repentance

A Christian is one who turns away from his sin and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ-and nothing else-to save him from sin and coming judgment. Faith and repentance mark out a Christian. The greatest human need is to be found righteous in God’s sight. Faith is reliance in Christ, a rock-solid, truth grounded, promise-founded trust in the risen Jesus to save you from sin. Repentance is turning away from sin, hating it, and resolving by God’s strength to forsake it, even as we turn to Him in faith. Repentance is more fundamentally a matter of the heart’s attitude toward sin than it is a mere change of behavior. Our life changes and we begin to bear fruit, even if the change is not immediate, quick, or even necessarily steadily. We must always be on guard against any thought that those fruits are the cause of our salvation.

Chapter 6: The Kingdom

The Christian life is about having a right relationship with God, and enjoying Him forever. Gilbert does briefly discuss what is meant by “the kingdom of God”, and what should not be meant by that phrase. He suggests at five things about the kingdom of God:

1)Kingdom of God is God’s redemptive rule over His people. It is more a kingship than kingdom as we usually use that word. It’s God’s rule, reign, and authority.

2)The Kingdom of God is here.

3)The Kingdom of God is not yet completed, and it will not be completed until King Jesus returns.

4)Inclusion in the Kingdom of God depends entirely on one’s response to the King.

5)To be a citizen of the Kingdom is to be called to live the life of the Kingdom.

Chapter 7: Keeping the Cross at the Center

In this chapter, Gilbert discusses a few thoughts that seem to be good, but miss the core of the gospel even just a little bit, and thus can lead people astray. Just saying, “Jesus is Lord”, is not the gospel. One must explain also what that means, and that He is Savior and we need forgiven.

“Creation-fall-redemption-consummation” is not the gospel. It’s a good way to summarize the Bible’s storyline and is a good framework to present biblical gospel, but has sometimes been wrongly used by some to place the emphasis of the gospel on God’s promise to renew the world, rather than on the cross. The fact that God is remaking the world is not good news unless you can be included in that. It’s fine to use “creation-fall-redemption-consummation” to explain the gospel, as long as in redemption one clearly explains Christ’s death and resurrection and the need for repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. He also adds that cultural transformation, though a good thing, is not the gospel.

Chapter 8: The Power of the Gospel

Gilbert concludes the book with points on what to do in response to the gospel. These include: repent and believe, rest and rejoice, love Christ’s people-none of us have earned grace, speak the gospel to the world, and long for Christ.

I thought this was a powerful statement: “God has determined that the gospel will advance through the spoken words of His people. As a Christian, you hold the only true message of salvation the world will ever hear” (p. 120).

I intend to reference and review this book regularly. It has gotten great endorsements and reviews from some of western Christianity’s top leaders, and I believe so for good reason. It’s a book I believe will help Christians more clearly communicate the gospel and sharpen their understanding of the good news. Also a great book for non-Christians who want to know exactly what the gospel is.

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About Aaron Golby

Christian. Husband to Katherine.
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