What Is the Gospel?

"Today the question most likely to light a fuse is -- as the author of this volume points out -- What is the gospel? This book does not so much claim to break new ground as survey afresh some old ground that should never have been ignored, much less abandoned. The clarity of Greg's thought and articulation is wholly admirable. This book will sharpen the thinking of not a few mature Christians."

-- from the Forward by D.A. Carson

The above description by Carson is very true.

-- from the Forward by D.A. Carson

This book by Greg Gilbert does not necessarily introduce any brand new or ground-breaking concepts in regard to the essence of the Christian gospel, but it is a re-centering reminder that Christianity is not ultimately about philanthropy, social revolution, or even heaven -- the gospel is about Jesus Christ and his substitutionary work on the cross.

As Gilbert helpfully describes, the proclamation of the gospel we might say involves the answers to four crucial 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?
  4. What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else?

And the answers Gilbert summarizes in four words: God. Man. Christ. Response. In other words, God has made us, we humans have fallen into sin and out of fellowship with God, Christ died on the cross to save sinners from their sin, and when we by grace respond in repentance and faith we are assured of our inclusion in this "good news" message.

But why do we so easily tend to drift away from this gospel that is centered in the cross of Christ? Gilbert writes:

"At the end of the day, I wonder if the impulse to shove the cross out of the center of the gospel comes from the bare fact that the world just doesn't like the cross. At best they think it is a ridiculous fairy tale, and at worst, a monstrous lie. Really, that shouldn't surprise us. Paul told us it would be the case. The message of the cross, he said, will be a stumbling block to some and foolishness to the rest!"

The question, then, that each reader is forced to has him or her self is this: first, what does the cross mean to me? Is it foolishness or is it good news? And, second, if it is good news to me shouldn't I share the gospel with others in a way that keeps Christ's cross at the center of it -- for others and for myself -- rather than yielding to the temptation to "soften" it in a way that makes good works, personal freedom, or social redemption become the center and essence of the message?

As Gilbert concludes:

"There are many good things that we can do as Christians, but the fact is that most of those good things will happily be done also by people who are not Christians. But if we Christians fail to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, who else is going to do that? No one."