Book Review: What is the Gospel?

{By Taylor Turner}


Suppose somebody hastily approached you, pausing for a moment to catch their breath and to wipe away beads of sweat on their forehead. After gasping for air, one simple question is asked of you:

“What is the gospel?”

what is the gospel

The question may seem like a very simple question and it is. It may seem like a common question and it is. It may seem like a question that doesn’t need clarification and it is . . . not. We talk about the gospel, strive to have our churches built on the gospel, preach the gospel to the lost, mentor believers in the gospel, and delve into the grace and glory of the gospel of Jesus.

But what is it?

Every week, pastors across the world stand behind pulpits claiming to preach the gospel. Some give us a 3-point sermon for how to have your best life now but ultimately provide answers that fall short. Is the whole gospel proclaimed from the pulpit every Sunday? Have we really thought through this question?

Enter Greg Gilbert. In his book “What is the Gospel?” Gilbert constructs the four uniting pillars of the gospel and clears the confusion surrounding their meanings. The pillars are summarized in three persons and one action: God, Man, Jesus, and Response. Most Christians agree on these four points; however, when we ask what these practically mean, we may be surprised. I encourage you to order the book to understand all four points.

Of the many verses and topics that I read, two of Gilbert’s points made a lasting impression. When Gilbert elaborated on the second pillar of the gospel – man – he writes a couple paragraphs that are particularly insightful. Sin definitely is not popular, nor is it considered to be “positive” or “motivational.” However, our sin must be correctly and biblically understood. Gilbert keenly warns us not to confuse sin with sins. Sins are those “little” things we do every now and then that “don’t shock us much.” Jerry Bridges stamped them as those “respectable sins.”

Heard this before? “Yeah, I’ve done some bad things in my life, but I think when I get to heaven my good will outweigh my bad and He will let me in.”

Gilbert’s point is that we don’t simply struggle with “isolated little mistakes in an otherwise pretty good life.” I heard it said by a friend, “If living a Christ-centered life were so easy, we wouldn’t need Christ.”

Our problem is much deeper.

In fact, it “runs to the very depths of our hearts, the deep-running deposits of filth and corruption that we never knew existed in us and that we ourselves could never expunge.” Yes, this is the good news of the gospel! How can such talk be good news? Jesus is evermore glorious and merciful in light of our utter depravity and helplessness. Gilbert says. “It’s only when we realize that our very nature is sinful – that we are indeed ‘dead in our trespass and sins,’” that we realize just how glorious the gospel news is.

Gilbert also gives a glorious reminder of the resurrection of Christ – the linchpin of the entire gospel. Because “If Christ remained dead like any other ‘savior’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘prophets,’ his death would have meant nothing more than yours or mine.” Gilbert urges us to meditate on this: “When breath entered his resurrected lungs again, when resurrection life electrified his glorified body, everything Jesus claimed was fully, finally, unquestionably, and irrevocable vindicated.” Oh, what marvelous news this is!  These are two simple points that Gilbert pressed on my mind as I read “What is the Gospel?”

I highly recommend this book. It is a must read for Christians in our time of gospel uncertainty. Simply and clearly, Gilbert paints a vividly biblical picture of the gospel, ultimately motivating us to persevere in the Gospel, be a presence of the Gospel in relationship with others, and tell people about the power of the Gospel – Jesus.

 Bonus quote that is a favorite of mine:  

“The gospel of Jesus and his many precious blessings are not ultimately what makes the good news good, but means of seeing and savoring the Savior himself. Forgiveness is good because it opens the way to enjoying God himself. Justification is good because it wins access to the presence and pleasure of God himself. Eternal life is good because it becomes the everlasting enjoyment of Jesus.

All God’s good gifts are loving to the degree that they lead us to God himself. This is the love of God: doing everything necessary, most painfully in the death of his Son, to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying—namely, himself.”              – John Piper


What are your thoughts on the gospel? Comment below, we love hearing from you!