What Is the Gospel?
I recently read a great little book titled What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert and published by Crossway. In the same way he introduced his book, I introduce this book review with stating the obvious: You would think that answering the question, what is the gospel?, would be easy for those professing to be Christians. Gilbert noted, “It’s like asking carpenters to sit around and ponder the question, What is a hammer?” (p.15).
Therefore, Gilbert’s book addresses a serious question for Christians to ponder, indeed the most serious of all questions. If we get this one wrong, then it is a matter of eternal life or death.
In eight short chapters, Gilbert addresses the question, what is the gospel. Chapter 1 begins by pointing inquirers to the Bible as our only sure hope of truth and authority. The remaining chapters highlight what we find in the Bible that are inseparable pieces to the gospel puzzle.
Chapter 2 affirms God as the righteous Creator of man. As such, God has Creator-rights over man and demands holiness from those who have been created in His image.
Chapter 3 affirms man’s sinfulness by both nature and choice. As such, man is completely unable to initiate any step toward God. Rather, God must take the first step of spiritual birth referred to as regeneration in the Bible. Gilbert noted, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is full of stumbling stones, and this is one of the largest. To human hearts that stubbornly think of themselves as basically good and self-sufficient, this idea that human beings are fundamentally sinful and rebellious is not merely scandalous. It is revolting.” (p.51).
Chapter 4 affirms that Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior of mankind. He is the long-awaited Messiah, fully God and fully man. He lived the righteous life that man should have lived. He died the horrendous death, enduring the wrath of God, that sinful man deserved. He was raised from the dead victoriously as the first-fruit of resurrection. He nows sits at the right hand of God the Father making intercession on behalf of His people.
Chapter 5 affirms the only appropriate response to the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection: faith and repentance. Faith is relying on the truth of the gospel and the promise of eternal life to all who believe this truth. Faith is relying on Jesus to secure a righteous verdict from God on our behalf. Faith alone in Christ alone without any insulting human effort added is the simple message of the gospel. Repentance is the flip-side of faith. To believe in Christ is to turn from sin, and to turn from sin is to believe in Christ. Repentance is not a life of sinless perfection, but it is characterized by a life of warring against sin, no longer living at peace with it. As Gilbert stated, “We declare mortal war against it and dedicate ourselves to resisting it by God’s power on every front in our lives.”
Chapter 6 affirms that the gospel is really a command for all people to repent of sin and believe in the King who is building His kingdom. The gospel is a call to live for the King now and to live with the King one day in His consummated heavenly Kingdom.
Chapter 7 affirms that the gospel must be cross-centered or it is no longer good news for anyone. While the cross is offensive to many and a stumbling-block to others, it remains the only hope for those who are being saved. By the foolishness of the cross, Christ put to death sin for all who believe on Him alone for eternal salvation.
Chapter 8 affirms the utter power of the gospel to save sinners to the uttermost. From repentance and faith, to resting and rejoicing in Jesus, to loving fellow Christians, to loving lost sinners enough to call them to Christ, to longing to be with Jesus in heaven, the gospel has the power over us for God’s glory.
And so I end with this plea to my fellow Christ-lovers: proclaim the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God’s glory alone. And to any unbeliever that may be reading this I plead with you: turn from your sin that is leading you to eternal destruction and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for your deliverance.
For His Glory,