A Review of What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

Within the church today there are many different ideas of what the Gospel is, while you can find Christians in every church that can magnificently articulate the five points of the Tulip or the Remonstrance and people who can point to every verse in Scripture referring to the baptism in the Spirit and speaking in tongues, how many can articulate the heart of Scripture? How many can answer the question “What is the Gospel?” biblically? Some may answer;

The good news is, God wants to show you his incredible favor. He wants to fill your life with “new wine,” but are you willing to get rid of your old wineskins? Will you start thinking bigger? Will you enlarge your vision and get rid of those old negative mind-sets that hold you back?

The message of Jesus may well be called the most revolutionary of all time: “The radical revolutionary empire of God is here, advancing by reconciliation and peace, expanding by faith, hope, and love—beginning with the poorest, the weakest, the meekest, and the least. It’s time to change your thinking. Everything is about to change. It’s time for a new way of life. Believe me. Follow me. Believe this good news so you can learn to live by it and be part of the revolution.”

The gospel itself refers to the proclamation that Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is the one, and the only Lord of the world. (These are taken from pgs. 18 and 19)

These are just a few of the answer that have been given, but which, if any, is correct? What is the Gospel, if it is so important for Christians, why don’t we have an answer? This question, the question of what exactly is the Gospel, is what Greg Gilbert attempts to answer in his book What is the Gospel? In his short book Gilbert attempts to gather what Scripture has to say about the Gospel and give a Biblical answer to this vital question. He does this over the 8 chapters of his book, starting with finding the Gospel in Scripture, then breaking down and looking at the features of the biblical Gospel (ch. 2-4) and our response to it (ch. 5), finally he concludes with 3 chapters treating corollaries to the Gospel and its relation to our lives. In ch. 6 Gilbert attempts to detail what the kingdom of God is in Scripture, in chapter 7 he addresses false gospels put in the place of the true gospel and calls for us to keep the Cross the center, finally in chapter 8 Gilbert concludes with the power of the Gospel.

 

If Gilbert is answering the question “What is the Gospel?,” what is his answer? Looking at the way the writers of the New Testament spoke of the Gospel and how Paul and Peter preached it in Acts, Gilbert concludes that the Gospel in Scripture is always accompanied first by the bad news; “God is your Judge, and you have sinned against him” (36), and then the good news itself “but Jesus has died so that sinners may be forgiven of their sins if they will repent and believe in him” (36). He highlights the heart of the Gospel as Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf, if we toss Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice aside we “cut out the heart of the gospel” (68). At the heart of the various images Scripture gives of the atonement is the reality to which they all point penal substitution (69).  It answers the unanswered question of Scripture as to how a righteous God can forgive disgusting sinners;

The answer to all these questions is found at the cross of Calvary, in Jesus’ substitutionary death for his people. A righteous and holy God can justify the ungodly because in Jesus’ death, mercy and justice were perfectly reconciled. The curse was righteously executed, and we were mercifully saved. (69)

Gilbert expounds the truths of Scripture clearly and concisely, providing an easily accessible and well-grounded discussion of this vital topic.

 

In reading this book I found myself profoundly challenged on how easily I lose sight of what is most important in Scripture; for the sake of the peripheral issues around the Gospel I often let the Gospel and the cross of Christ fall to the side. Gilbert’s exposition of the Gospel in this book has helped me take a step back and try to re-focus on what is most important in Scripture. If find myself most comfortable in stance of defense or attack, I find myself most exhilarated when I am critiquing a view that I disagree with or am defending one of my pet issues; writing from a neutral perspective and propounding truth is something I find quite difficult, probably why my book reviews of books I agree with tend to be very short. I was challenged by Gilbert’s book to take a third stance, writing of Biblical truth for the sake of informing and teaching and not correcting what I perceive to be faults.

 

Overall I found Gilbert’s book to be an outstanding short read and highly recommend it to anybody who desires a biblically centered perspective on what exactly the Gospel of Jesus Christ is.

This book gets a rating of 5/5

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