“What is the gospel?” The 9Marks blog asked the question and found that Christians who took the time to leave a response had very different answers. A quick survey of a dozen “What We Believe” pages on church websites will yield a dozen different explanations of the gospel. According to Greg Gilbert, an associate pastor for Capitol Hill Baptist Church, many of those explanations are not biblical. In his book, What Is the Gospel?, Gilbert turns to the Bible, specifically the sermons and writings of the apostles, as the ultimate authority for understanding the gospel. He writes, “We approach the task of defining the main contours of the Christian gospel by looking at what the earliest Christians said about Jesus and the significance of his life, death, and resurrection.” Many in this generation are confused about the Gospel, for our traditions, reasoning abilities, and personal experiences have lead us astray. Gilbert encourages us to do our duty to preserve the gospel in our generation.
He first visits Romans 1-4. In Romans, Gilbert explains the purpose of Paul’s writing and the main points he makes regarding the gospel in those opening chapters. Gilbert found that Paul asks and answers four key questions:
1)Who made us, and to whom are we accountable?
2) What is our problem? In other words, are we in trouble and why?
3) What is God’s solution to that problem? How has he acted to save us from it?
4) How do I – myself, right here, right now – how do I come to be included in that salvation? What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else?
These four questions provide the frame for the rest of this book. Gilbert devotes one chapter to answering each question. In doing so, he explains the natures of God, man, and Jesus; he provides a detailed account of all that Christ accomplished for us on the cross; he explains why Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient and satisfactory to a holy God; he teaches what saving faith is and is not; and, finally, he discusses why Christianity stands alone among the world’s religions.
After answering the four questions, Gilbert continues by addressing what it means to be a part of God’s kingdom. He answers the questions, What does Scripture teach about the kingdom of God? He offers a brief explanation of what the Bible teaches regarding the kingdom of God, living in the now and not-yet, and how Christians are to love one another and long for the return of our King.
In What Is the Gospel?, Gilbert hopes for four things: that, as Christians read, they will swell with praise and joy when they consider all that Christ has accomplished for them; that they will become more confident to share the gospel with lost people; that they will serve their churches by making certain the full gospel is preached, sung, prayed, taught, proclaimed, and heard in every aspect of their church’s life; that the sharp contours of the gospel will be preserved, rather than sacrificed on the alter of making the gospel more palatable; and that unbelievers may read this book and be challenged to seriously consider the good news of Jesus Christ. Gilbert accomplishes all.
Each generation is faced with the task of preserving the Gospel, and, right now, too much of our generation is confused. This book will assist church leaders and laypeople in evaluating, on a corporate level and an individual level, their faithfulness to the Gospel. I can’t improve upon C.J. Mahaney’s blurb: “How I wish I could place this book in the hands of every pastor and church member.”