The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important truth. If we get this wrong, we get everything wrong.

What is the Gospel? is a book written by Greg Gilbert. In 120 pages, he summarizes the essential truths of the gospel. I recommend this book for Christians and non-Christians, and I summarize the key points of the book below.

Chapter 1: Finding the Gospel in the Bible

  • We should not look to church tradition, our own reasoning or our experiences to understand the truths of the gospel. Instead, we read the Bible to learn what is the gospel.
  • Doing a word study on gospel is not sufficient since many parts of the Bible explain the gospel without using the word gospel.
  • We should start by looking at the New Testament apostle’s teachings. One great passage is Romans 1-4 written by the apostle Paul. Other relevant passages relevant Acts 3:18-19, 10:39-43, 13:38-39; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.
  • The Gospel addresses four crucial questions.
    • Who made us, and to whom are we accountable?
    • What is our problem?
    • What is God’s solution to that problem?
    • What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else?
  • The gospel can be summarized in 4 words: God, Man, Christ, Response.
  • Paul in Acts 17 preached the bad news without including the full gospel. You need to understand the bad news before you can hear the good news.

Chapter 2: God the Righteous Creator

  • You cannot make assumptions about what people know about God. Two main points must be clear: God is creator, and he is holy and righteous.
  • Because he created us, God has the right to tell us how to live. Sin is a person’s rejection of God’s Creator-rights over him.
  • God is loving and compassionate. God is also holy and righteous, and he is determined never to overlook, ignore or tolerate sin. He will not leave the guilty unpunished. (Exodus 34:6-7)

Chapter 3: Man the Sinner

  • Sin is more than violation of an impersonal arbitrary regulation. It is the rebellion of the creature against his Creator.
  • Adam and Eve traded their favor with God for the pursuit of their own pleasure and glory. Their spiritual life ended immediately, and their fellowship with God was broken. Like Adam, we are all guilty of sin.
  • We can confuse sin with (1) sin’s effects, (2) a broken relationship with God, or (3) negative thinking.
  • We are not just guilty of committing sins. Every part of our human existence is corrupted by sin. Our understanding, personality, feelings and emotions are under sin’s power.
  • The final destiny for unrepentant, unbelieving sinners is eternal torment called “hell.”

Chapter 4: Jesus Christ the Savior

  • Jesus is both completely human and completely God.
  • Jesus’s mission was to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for his people. As he hung on the cross, Jesus bore all the weight of the sin of God’s people.
  • Jesus rose from the grave three days later; He is no longer dead. His resurrection assures us that everything Jesus claimed is true, and his mission was accomplished.

Chapter 5: Response – Faith and Repentance

  • A Christian is one who turns away from his sin and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ and nothing else to save him from sin and the coming judgment.
  • Faith is reliance and trust in the risen Jesus to secure us a righteous verdict from God, rather than a guilty one.
  • All our sin, rebellion and wickedness is imputed (or credited) to Jesus, and he dies because of it. The perfect life Jesus lived is imputed to us, and we are declared righteous. God looks at us, and instead of seeing our sin, he sees Jesus’ righteousness.
  • Every other religion rejects the idea that we are justified by faith alone. Instead, salvation is won through moral effort, good deeds and balancing one’s account by accruing enough merit to outweigh one’s evil. Faith is renouncing your hope in your own good works and trusting Christ alone.
  • Repentance is turning away from sin, hating it and resolving by God’s strength to forsake it. Repentance is absolutely crucial to the Christian life. To accept Jesus as Savior and not Lord is nonsense.
  • Repentance does not mean an immediate end to our sinning, but it does mean we will no longer live at peace with our sin. We will declare mortal war against it, dedicating ourselves to resist it by God’s power on every front in our lives.
  • Christians are to be marked by the same kind of love, compassion and goodness that characterized Jesus. This fruit is evidence of our salvation, not the cause of our salvation.

A sinner’s prayer: “O God, do not look for any righteousness in my own life. Look at your Son. Count me righteous not because of anything I’ve done or anything I am, but because of him. He lived the life I should have lived. He died the death that I deserve. I have renounced all other trusts, and my plea is him alone. Justify me, O God, because of Jesus.”

Chapter Six: The Kingdom

  • The kingdom of God is God’s redemptive rule, reign and authority over those redeemed by Jesus.
  • Many of the blessings of the kingdom are already ours, but the kingdom of God will not be completed until Jesus’ second coming.
  • Inclusion in the kingdom of God depends entirely on one’s response to the King. You cannot just hail him as a good example who shows us a better way to live. You need to trust him as the crucified and risen Lord who alone can release you from the sentence of death.
  • Citizens of the kingdom of God are called to live in the life of the kingdom. In this age, the life of the kingdom is worked out primarily in the church.
  • The life of the kingdom is not easy. Jesus promised that his followers would face persecution. But our present sufferings are small and passing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us when Jesus returns.

Chapter 7: Keeping the Cross at the Center

  • There is a temptation to change the gospel and makes its center something other than the death of Jesus on the cross in place of sinners.
  • It is not correct to say that the declaration “Jesus is Lord” is the whole sum and substance of the gospel. We need to proclaim that Jesus has been crucified so that sinners may be forgiven and brought into the joy of his coming kingdom.
  • Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation can wrongly place emphasis of the gospel on God’s promise to renew the world rather than on the cross. If we say God is redeeming a people but neglect to say how He is doing so and how a person can be included in that redemption, we have not proclaimed the good news.
  • Cultural transformation is not the gospel.
  • We are to resist any pressure to let the cross drift out of the center of the gospel.

Chapter 8: The Power of the Gospel

  • If you are not a Christian there is one thing you ought to do: repent of your sins and believe in Jesus.
  • If you are a Christian, you are encouraged to do the following.
    • Rest in Jesus Christ and rejoice in the unassailable salvation he has won for you.
    • Grow in love for God’s people.
    • Speak the gospel to the world. There will never be another gospel, and there is no other way for people to be saved from their sins.
    • Long for the day when Jesus will return to establish his kingdom fully.

Final Thoughts

What is the Gospel? is now my preferred book to give to any person who desires to understand what is the gospel of Jesus Christ. For non-Christians, it contains the essential truths for them to respond. For Christians, it is a joyful reminder of the true gospel and the helpful warning against adding or taking away from the gospel.

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