Greg Gilbert's new book, "What is the Gospel?" is a must have. Gilbert outlines the good news in a Biblically based systematic way. He first starts with the bad news: the loving Creator and Ruler has been rejected by us. Like Adam and Eve, we ignore Him and His loving will for our life.
He goes on to explain the tension some have between a loving merciful God and a just holy God who is required to not let injustices/sins go. This leads to the good news: God sent Jesus to wipe away our sin and restore us to a living relationship with Himself. Jesus is God's rescue plan to save His people from their sins. Again Gilbert works through the tension of Jesus being fully God and man: something essential for Jesus to take away sin and also restore us to God.
One area I particularly loved was Gilbert's explanation of how Jesus' gospel brings in the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom has arrived but has not yet been completed.
That is why Jesus promised to come again to rule forever. He has won victory over sin and death, yet we wait to see this fully inaugurated. That is why we still see sin at work in our lives and in our world despite the certain promises of God. I know this is an area many struggle with within the church today and is evident in those who push a "hyper-grace" and prosperity view of the gospel. Gilbert explains it clearly in context of the good news of Jesus' first and second comings.
The other interesting area Gilbert explores is what the gospel is not. He briefly covers some distortions that over-emphasize an aspect while ignoring another. Many of these, he argues, ignore the serious problem of sin and the substitutionary work of Jesus.
For example, some say sin is only done by really bad people. Or sin is not that serious: a bit like a quick naughty look at your Christmas gifts before Christmas day.
This view ignores the act of rebellion against God that shuns His rule and causes Him pain. Many of these distortions come from the idea that we have to contribute to our salvation in some way. This view is that Jesus' atoning death is OK but NOT enough without our own efforts. Gilbert clearly explains the gospel of grace and the way believers should do good works to honour their King.
The big difference between this book, compared to others like it, is the challenges the author makes. Jesus said the gospel requires us to repent and believe. Do we? He explains, "I wonder if your understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christâ€" the good news that Jesus saved you even though you didn't deserve itâ€" is deep enough to swallow up the little criticisms you have of your brothers and sisters." The gospel lived out transforms lives and churches, he argues.
He also explains that the gospel also means that as we understand it more we share it with others.
"If you are a Christian, realize that you hold in your hands the only true message of salvation the world will ever hear. There will never be another gospel, and there is no other way for people to be saved from their sins. If your friends, family, and coworkers are ever to be saved from their sins, it will be because someone speaks the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. That's why Jesus commissions us to go into all the world, preaching and teaching this good news to the nations."
Gilbert's "What is the gospel?" is a readable concise summary of the faith that Christians profess. If you want to explore what Jesus did for you or sharpen your skills on how to explain it, then read this book.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html