The answer is that through the years the gospel of salvation by grace alone, from Christ alone, through faith alone had become obscured. Men and women were participating in religious activity but they did not understand the core of Christianity – the true gospel. The gospel had become obscured.
A Problem In Our Families?
I wonder if this lack of gospel clarity is also a problem in our homes as we raise our children. In The Disciple-Making Parent I say this:
Surprisingly, for something so important, the gospel can be easily blurred, assumed, or forgotten. As believing parents we often assume our children understand and are being taught the gospel. And so, we wrongly think we can concentrate on other things in their development. In fact, though, the gospel is being assumed. When this happens we are on dangerous ground. Mack Stiles has observed, “Losing the gospel doesn’t happen all at once.” How is it lost? Stiles tells us, “The gospel is accepted. The gospel is assumed. The gospel is confused. The gospel is lost.” And D.A. Carson adds, “When we assume the gospel, we are one generation from denying it.” (p. 76 The Disciple-Making Parent)
What is the Gospel?
Enter the little book What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. This small book (121 pages) seeks to lay out the gospel clearly and succinctly with no frills.
His chapters are:
Introduction – “What is the gospel?” Today’s authors give a surprisingly wide range of answers to that question.
1. Finding the Gospel in the Bible – Gilbert’s main point is that it is not just a matter of doing a word search on gospel in the New Testament. He is going to take us through Romans 1-4 because Paul was laying the gospel out systematically to a church he had not met.
2. God the Righteous Creator – The Gospel starts with understanding God is our creator and has the right to ask us anything. Additionally, he is righteous and holy. We are accountable to him.
3. Man the Sinner – Though made in the image of God, men and women are sinners. We choose to rebel against God. Don’t confuse being guilty of sin with our individual sins or the effect of sins. We are guilty of all.
4. Jesus Christ the Savior – But God sent Jesus, the God-man, as the suffering King to die in our place on the cross.
5. Response:Faith and Repentance – We must respond in faith to Christ. This faith is that the righteous requirements have been met in Christ on the cross. Our response is faith alone. If faith is turning to Jesus and relying on him for salvation, repentance is the flip side of that coin. Repentance is not perfection but it is taking sides.
6. The Kingdom – Conversion brings us into a kingdom. It is a kingdom that has started but that is not complete.
7. Keeping the Cross at the Center – In this chapter Gilbert takes us through three ways the gospel has been proclaimed that are either wrong or move the cross off center stage.
8. The Power of the Gospel – In the final chapter Gilbert invites us to follow Christ.
What is the Gospel is helpful for its clarity and minimalism. There are few stories or writer’s flourishes. Instead, Gilbert wants to make sure the clarity of the gospel is bold and bright. For that I am truly grateful. It is a helpful tool so that we will not assume the Gospel. To paraphrase Tim Keller, The gospel is not the ABCs of Christianity but the A to Z. We never outgrow our need for the Gospel.
My only, tiny, quibble has to do with wishing the Resurrection was included more (see 1 Corinthians 15:1ff).
For parents who read this blog, I could see this tool being used to make sure the gospel is clear in our heads. And that is always important. For a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pews. Lack of clarity for the teacher means fogginess for the students.
Remember “When we assume the gospel, we are one generation from losing it.”
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? You’d think that would be an easy question to answer, especially for Christians. p. 15
When you come right down to it, Christians just don’t agree on what the gospel is—even Christians who call themselves evangelical. P. 17.
First, if you are a Christian, I pray this little book and the glorious truths it attempts to articulate will cause your heart to swell with joy and praise toward Jesus Christ for what he has accomplished for you. An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship. Second, I hope that reading this book will give you a deeper confidence as you talk to others. Third, I pray that you will see the importance of this gospel for the life of the church, as a result you will work to see that this gospel is preached, sung, prayed, taught, proclaimed, and heard in every aspect of your church’s life. Fourth I hope this little book will help to shore up the edges of the gospel in your mind and heart. Finally, if you are not a Christian, then I pray that by reading this book you will be provoked to think hard about the good news of Jesus Christ. P. 20-22.
1. Finding the Gospel in the Bible
Let me suggest that for now, we approach the task of defining the main contours of the Christian gospel not by doing a word study but by looking at what the earliest Christians said about Jesus and significance of his life, death, and resurrection. P .27
One of the best places to start looking for a basic explanation of the gospel is Paul’s letter to the Romans…First, Paul tessl his readers that it is God to whom they are accountable….Second Paul tells his readers that their problems is that they rebelled against God….Third, Paul says that God’s salvation to humanities sin is the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…Finally, Paul tells his readers how they themselves can be included in that salvation. P. 29-31.
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 the problem? How has he acted to save us from it? 4. How do I –myself right here right now—how do I come to be included in that salvation. What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else? P. 31
2. God the Righteous Creator
For the most part,