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What is the gospel? It seems like a simple question, yet it has been known to incite some heated responses, even in the church. How are we to formulate a clear, biblical understanding of the gospel? Tradition, reason, and experience all leave us ultimately disappointed. If we want answers, we must turn to the Word of God.
Greg Gilbert does so in What Is the Gospel? Beginning with Paul's systematic presentation of the gospel in Romans and moving through the sermons in Acts, Gilbert argues that the central structure of the gospel consists of four main subjects: God, man, Christ, and a response. The book carefully examines each and then explores the effects the gospel can have in individuals, churches, and the world. Both Christian and non-Christian readers will gain a clearer understanding of the gospel in this valuable resource.
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Publication Date: 2010
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In the opening chapter the author goes straight to the heart of the matter by presenting the New Testaments teaching on the good news. As Gilbert sees it, the gospel can be wrapped around four words: God, man, Christ, and response. That is, man is accountable to God; his real problem is his rejection and rebellion against God; Gods solution is found in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; our responsibility is to respond to this message in repentance and faith (pp. 28-31). Said another way, Gilbert believes the gospel answers four crucial questions: Who made us, what is our problem, what is Gods solution, and what makes all of this good news for me (p. 31)?
Each of the next four chapters develops one of the above points. In Chapter Two, Gilbert affirms that if we miss the answer to the first question everything else that follows will be wrong as well. Chapter Three not only discusses our fundamental problem with sin, it also points to four misunderstandings: confusing sin with its effects, reducing sin to a broken relationship, confusing sin with negative thinking, and confusing sin with sins. Chapter four maintains the importance of the substitutionary death of Christ. In Chapter Five Gilbert sees our response to the gospel message as the act of faith alone as understood through the inseparable acts of repentance and belief. He writes, A Christian is one who turns away from sin and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christand nothing elseto save him from sin and the coming judgment (p. 73). He defines repentance as turning away from sin, hating it, and resolving by Gods grace to forsake it, even as we turn to Him in faith (p. 74). And if we understand repentance rightly, well see that the idea that you can accept Jesus as Savior but not Lord is nonsense (p. 80). This real change, produced by salvation, will by necessity bear real fruit (p. 82).
Gilbert rejects any idea that the gospel, as he has outlined it, needs supplementation, or even substitution. For example, the popular teaching today that the full gospel includes cultural transformation is not Christianity, but moralism (pp. 103-109). The book concludes with a nice chapter on the power of the gospel and our need and privilege to proclaim it.
Despite all the excellent qualities of What is the Gospel? I found his teaching on the kingdom problematic. For example, using Matthew 3:2 he claimed that Jesus said His kingdom had come. First, it was John, not Jesus, who uttered these words and John said that the kingdom was near, not had come (p. 88). Gilbert assures us that come near could be translated had come but he is incorrect. Based on this faulty translation we are told that this means many of the blessings of the kingdom had come (p. 89) and that the church is where Gods kingdom is made visible in this age (p. 97). Gilbert does not believe the church is equivalent to the kingdom (p. 95), and that a future completed kingdom awaits the return of Christ (pp. 90-92). But Jesus has inaugurated the rule of God on earth and has begun rolling back the curse of sin (pp. 62-64). The author clearly takes an already, not yet approach to the kingdom, but I would have to question his exegesis in this regard, and especially his use of Romans 6 as proof that Christians are in the kingdom (p. 96).
One other matter of concern is his use of J. R. R. Tolkien as one who had professed faith in Christ. As a devout Catholic, Tolkiens understanding of the gospel would be works-plus-faith as found in the sacramental system. Faith alone in Christ alone has been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. To use a Catholic as an example of a Christian in a book on the gospel is quite confusing at best.
These final two issues aside, I found What is the Gospel? to be a solid and most helpful entry in a debate that is very much alive in the church today. But its greatest benefit will be in the clear presentation of the gospel to those who need better understanding minus the complications that engulf the larger theological discussion. Gary Gilley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Dr AmyPAAge: 45-54Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5Good tract to give the seekerMarch 17, 2015Dr AmyPAAge: 45-54Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5This is a good tract to hand out when working with someone who is open to the gospel and wants to know more. That is what I was looking for so I am pleased. Using with teen girls.
C. Kevin Farr5 Stars Out Of 5A must-read and a must-shareFebruary 3, 2015C. Kevin FarrQuality: 5Value: 4Meets Expectations: 5What is the Gospel? by Dr. Gilbert is a clear, concise, and compelling explanation and defense of the biblical and saving Gospel. Every follower of Jesus needs to understand and share the whole Gospel. This book will help.
Farmer5 Stars Out Of 5What is the Gospel - hand out tractsJanuary 12, 2015FarmerExcellent handout - I give these to groups of people whom I have never spoken to before - giving them something to take with them. Many people don't want others to know they are reading anything about Jesus in front of other friends. This gives them the opportunity to take something home and read it in the privacy of their own home. Great witnessing tool.
Farmer5 Stars Out Of 5What is the Gospel?August 22, 2014FarmerThis book is one of the best there is at explaining the Gospel....I have a campground ministry and have given many of these books away to adult campers. Great book and even better story! If you know someone who is not "born again" they need to read this book!
David GoughAlexandria, VAAge: 55-65Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5The Gospel clearly explained!July 24, 2012David GoughAlexandria, VAAge: 55-65Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Nothing...I repeat nothing is more important than a clear understanding of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many well-intentioned writers have set out to offer a concise explanation of God's sovereign grace to sinners, but have ended up only muddying the biblical waters. Greg Gilbert's small book (127 pages) has accomplished what others have not. Writing in a clear, sometimes humorous and easily readable style, Gilbert cuts through theological jargon that often sidetracks the layman and gets to the core of the Gospel without robbing it of its essential character. The chapters are brief and easily digestible. The author starts with the the holy and righteous character of God, a critical place to begin and one that is at times watered down in some presentations. From there he moves to the sinful nature of man, thus establishing the "bad news" that makes the "good news" necessary. At this point the saving work of Jesus Christ--His death and resurrection, and purpose for both--is introduced. At this point, man's response--both faith and repentance--is discussed. In my opinion, this is the most valuable chapter in the book. Gilbert does a credible job of distinguishing faith and repentance (showing both to be gifts of God) and explaining why both are required for biblical salvation. He could have stopped there, but adds three additional chapters explaining the benefits of salvation. These provide an edifying conclusion to a well-written and much needed book. I am not overstating the case when I say that this is perhaps the best book I have ever read that attempts to explain the Gospel in terms that can be easily comprehended. My intention is to purchase a supply of these to distribute as gifts to my unsaved family and friends, as well as to believers who struggle to share the Gospel because they have difficulty finding the words in which to frame it. As a pastor, I try to read three or four books each month. This one, along with John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Life" and David Platt's "Radical" are those that I most recommend to others.
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