What Is The Gospel?
I recently finished a little book called What is the Gospel? With all of the convoluted ideas and definitions of what the gospel really is, this little book by Greg Gilbert does an excellent job of helping to remove the ambiguity. Greg is one of the pastors at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and serves on staff with Mark Dever and the 9 Marks crew.
In the introduction Gilbert says, “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). He follows that up with the statement, “An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship. It lowers our eyes from God to self and cheapens what God accomplished for us.” (p. 20) So, obviously, from the outset, Gilbert wants to clear it up—clear it up from a biblical perspective.
Beginning with Romans 1-4, he explains that at the heart of the proclamation of the gospel are 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? 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)
Gilbert summarizes these four questions in four words: God, man, Christ, and response. He develops each of these points throughout the subsequent chapters, but I won’t ruin it for you. I will, however, list a few great quotables that really stuck with me.
“Nobody wants a God who declines to deal with evil. They just want a God who declines to deal with their evil.” (p. 44)
“To talk about salvation being from meaninglessness or purposelessness without tracing those things down to their root in sin may make the medicine go down easier, but it is the wrong medicine. It allows a person to continue thinking of himself as a victim and never really deal with the fact that he himself is the criminal, unrighteous and deserving of judgment.” (p. 52)
“Genuine repentance is more fundamentally a matter of the heart’s attitude toward sin than it is a mere change of behavior.” (p. 81)
“Christians can always get the world to think they are cool—right up to the moment they start talking about being saved by a crucified man. And that’s where coolness evaporates, no matter how carefully you’ve cultivated it.” (p. 110)
This is a great little read. For me, I think one of the big takeaways was seeing the gospel laid out clearly in these four words God, man, Christ, and response as a lens for writing and choosing worship songs. I often try, when I’m planning a worship set, to begin with the greatness of God and then move to the cross. I’ve always felt that whenever I can cover as many bases as possible concerning the essence of the gospel, the better. Now, with this clear lens from Romans 1-4, I’ve been challenged to work harder at that. And not only with song selection in a worship set, but also in the songs I’m writing. I’m asking myself, “Is this song gospel-centered? Does it do a good job depicting the greatness, glory, holiness, and majesty of God? Am I honest about the sinfulness of man? Does it clearly communicate the cross, the blood, and the resurrection? Am I truthful with the response? Does it speak of repentance?”