A Summary of “What is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert in 22 Quotes

Greg Gilbert does a fantastic job of addressing this question (What is the Gospel?), and the book is not lengthy at all. It is my hope that this brief summary will serve as an encouragement to buy and read this book in total. Here is an overview of Gilbert’s book in the form of 22 direct quotes.

You can see and purchase this great book on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.

  1. “It is to God’s Word that we look in order to find what he has said to us about his Son Jesus and about the good news of the gospel” (26).
  2. “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 the significance of his life, death, and resurrection” (27).
  3. GOD: “First, Paul tells his readers that it is God to whom they are accountable” (28).
  4. MAN: “Second, Paul tells his readers that their problem is that they rebelled against God” (29).
  5. CHRIST: “Third, Paul says that God’s solution to humanity’s sin is the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (30).
  6. RESPONSE: “Finally, Paul tells his readers how they themselves can be included in this salvation” (31).
  7. “We can see that at the heart of his 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?” (31).
  8. “Whatever else you think about the story of creation, the implications of this claim – that God created the world, and especially that God created you – are enormous” (41).
  9. “Scripture proclaims over and over that our God is a God of perfect justice and unassailable righteousness” (44).
  10. “When Adam and Eve bit into the fruit, therefore, they weren’t just violating some arbitrary command, ‘Don’t eat the fruit.’ They were doing something much sadder and much more serious. They were rejecting God’s authority over them and declaring their independence from him” (49).
  11. “Put simply, the Bible tells us that Jesus is both completely human and completely God. This is a crucial point to understand about him, for it is only the fully human, fully divine Son of God who can save us” (61).
  12. “Faith and repentance. This is what marks out those who are Christ’s people, or ‘Christians.’ In other words, 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” (73).
  13. “Putting your faith in Christ means that you utterly renounce any other hope of being counted righteous before God” (79).
  14. “To have faith in Jesus is, at its core, to believe that he really is who he says he is – the crucified and risen King who has conquered death and sin, and who has the power to save. Now how could a person believe all that, trust in it, and rely on it, and yet at the same time say, ‘But I don’t acknowledge that you [Jesus] are King over me’?” (80).
  15. “The kingdom of God, then, simply defined, is God’s redemptive rule, reign, and authority over those redeemed by Jesus” (88).
  16. “He [Jesus] was claiming that the kingdom of God had been inaugurated in him!” (88).
  17. “What this means is that many of the blessings of the kingdom are already ours” (89).
  18. “The kingdom of God is not net completed, and it will not be completed until King Jesus returns” (90).
  19. “The great hope for Christians, the thing for which we long and to which we look for strength and encouragement, is the day when our King will part the skies and return to establish his glorious kingdom, finally and forever” (91).
  20. “The way to be included in Christ’s kingdom is to come to the King, not just hailing him as a great example who shows us a better way to live, but humbly trusting him as the crucified and risen Lord who alone can release you from the sentence of death” (96).
  21. “The church is the arena in which God has chosen, above all, to showcase his wisdom and the glory of the gospel” (98).
  22. “I believe one of the greatest dangers the body of Christ faces today is the temptation to rethink and rearticulate the gospel in a way that makes its center something other than the death of Jesus on the cross in the place of sinners” (102).

May God help us all to know the Christ-centered and cross-centered gospel better, believe it truly, turn from sin adamantly, and share the gospel promiscuously.

Dying to Live: The Gospel Paradox

Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” (Jn. 12:25-27).

There are glorious promises in the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The King of glory offers eternal life, present companionship with Himself, and honor from God the Father. What joy must fill the heart of anyone who contemplates such rewards as these! Only consider what you (and every sinner) deserve from God, and these promised blessings will become ever so sweet.

And yet, the astute reader will notice a disturbing paradox among these pleasant words. When was it that Christ earned these blessings for His followers? It was at the troubling hour of His crucifixion! Where does Christ beckon His disciples to follow Him? It is to suffering He calls! How is it that Christ’s servants become partakers of everlasting life? It is by hating and losing life in this world!

May God grant to us all the fullness of His blessed promises in the Gospel of Christ, and may He empower us to follow the Savior with selfless abandon.

Declaring War on the Messiah

[Caiaphas] did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the [Jewish] nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn. 11:51-52).

The religious leaders in Jerusalem were not happy with the effect Jesus was having on the status quo. Jesus was really becoming a nuisance, and their patience with Him was running out. Not able or willing to deny His miracles, the religious leaders simply decided that Jesus had to be stopped… no matter who He claims to be.

Their opposition was violent and resolute, but these events were the climax of a much bigger and older story. God had been at work since before the foundations of the world, and God intended that Jesus would bear the full weight of His wrath against sinners. Like the Assyrian king who marveled at his own power (Is. 10:5-11), God used the religious leaders of Jerusalem to bring about His purposes of judgment the world.

Only this time, God’s judgment fell upon His own Son. What a profound display we see in the Gospel of Christ! In and through Jesus’ suffering, God exhausted His own wrath against sinners and gathered into one the Children of God from all peoples.

The Gospel in the Local Church

I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…” (1 Corinthians 15:1).

“Gospel” is a word frequently used in our day. Someone might speak of “gospel truth” or sing “gospel music,” and many Evangelical churches are placing a heavy emphasis on “gospel-centered” or “gospel-focused” ministries. However, it is clear that all of this talk about the “gospel” has not done much to proclaim or illuminate the actual content or implications of the Gospel.

Furthermore, even in local churches where the Gospel is still the genuine focus, there is often a misunderstanding about the application of this message. Christians are aware that Christ’s person and work has saved them from God’s ultimate judgment, but they are regularly unaware of the implications this reality has for their homes and families, their church memberships, and their engagement with the world around them.

Healthy churches are marked by Gospel clarity. This means the Christians who comprise a healthy church have heard and received the Gospel; they are turning from disbelief and disobedience toward a Christ-exalting trust and practice. And it also means that these Christians are continually standing in this Gospel of grace and being conformed to righteousness, after the example and by the power of Christ Himself.

Simply put, healthy churches are chock-full of healthy Christians who are thoroughly learning and thoughtfully embracing the Gospel.

 

If you would like to read more about the Gospel, I wrote a short and basic description of the Gospel in a previous post “Do you know the Gospel?

Dawn of Hope

God said to the serpent of old, “I will put enmity between you and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

It is overwhelming to measure what was lost when sin entered creation through Adam and Eve. The bleakness of death, the brokenness of relationships, and the barrenness of creation itself are all results or effects of this horrific fall. In God’s poetic response to humanity’s first sin, we hear terrifying truths.

And yet… there is also a beam of hope-filled light amid that darkness! God’s first words about the future of mankind were not condemning but restorative. Before God declared the disastrous curse, He shouted the hope-giving promise of blessing!

In this ancient account of the first sin, we find the first gracious proclamation of the good news from God. He is merciful, and He promised a rescuer, a savior, a restorer. All that was lost in the fall is gained through Jesus Christ.

Jesus restores life to the dead, He restores the joy of living to the glory of God, He restores harmony in broken relationships, and He restores the heritage of an everlasting family.

In short, Jesus is Himself the dawn of hope for all who love and trust Him.

The Christ from the Father

Jesus said, “I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true… I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me” (John 7:28-29).

The grand narrative (or big story) of the Bible is bigger than most people realize. Additionally, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamentally a Trinitarian Gospel. That is, God the Father sent God the Son to be the one through whom the work of redemption is accomplished, and God the Holy Spirit applies this work to the hearts and lives of those who enjoy the benefits of spiritual life in the triune God.

All of this was and is played out in real time and over the course of human history, but this story began even before time itself. While the Gospel (and the triune God from whom this good news comes) is timeless, we are not. We live only a short while, and then we enter an endless existence – where we will finally see with eyes wide open what we only see now through dim light in this upside-down world.

The Christ from the Father makes His appeal to all who will hear and obey it: “Come to me, for I am life and truth.” Without delay, repentance and faith (turning from sin and trusting in Christ) are the right response, because one day the offer will no longer be available to sinful rebels like us.

May God grant us faith and repentance this very moment, and may we give proper attention to the gracious gift God offers us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Commemorating the Lord’s Death

“…proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes(1 Corinthians 11:26).

While we would likely prefer to avoid hard and uncomfortable topics, God addresses them head on. Our loving heavenly Father graciously gives us truth and wisely meets us where we are. God doesn’t pretend bad things are not really bad, and He doesn’t merely give us empty one-liners in a superficial attempt to make us feel better.

Instead, God gives us a suffering Savior who triumphs through defeat. While the whole world clamors for power, God the Son voluntarily gives Himself over to humiliation. While humanity seeks to be free from woe and grief, the God-man presents Himself as the willing sufferer. What is this?! What kind of King… what kind of Messiah… what kind of God?!

God gives us real hope for all time and a promise of victory forevermore, not by forcibly and immediately removing all suffering, but by entering the suffering Himself. One day we shall finally be free from suffering and death, but until then we commemorate the death of death in the death of Christ, our Lord.

The Gospel in a Muslim Culture

Contextualization has become a buzzword in Christian mission discussions for some time now.  There are proponents who extol the value of building bridges for people groups unfamiliar with biblical concepts and terminology, and there are others who accuse ‘contextualizers’ of syncretism[1].

Referring to terms like contextualization and syncretism, one author commented,

“As commonly used, [these terms] function on the boundary line between heresy and orthodoxy, with a strong suspicion that syncretists have crossed the line into heresy while contextualists have enabled people to experience new creativity and depth in their faith” (emphasis added).[2]

Many have understood this as a reality and have thus attempted to distinguish where the “boundary line” should be drawn.  Drawing this line has proven a difficult task indeed.

Defining our primary term of interest, one author wrote,

Contextualization is ‘taking the unchanging truth of the gospel and making it understandable in a given context.’”[3]

This essay has adopted this definition for its usefulness and clarity.  If one understands contextualization in these terms, then one can hardly accuse such of syncretism.  After all, making the Gospel understandable is the goal of any person engaged in evangelism.

The muddying of today’s contextualization water seems to have come from a particular interest in applying this principle to Muslim or Islamic people groups.  In such a context, one may rightly understand that the “goal is not to make Scripture as Islamic as possible; rather, it is to communicate the unchanging truth in a particular Islamic context so it makes sense.”[4]  Again, this seems fairly straight forward thinking for the purpose of evangelism.

In addition to the social and religious context that is the makeup of the Islamic or Muslim worldview, one question that arises is the use of non-Christian sacred texts in evangelism.  Miles explains the use of these texts in relationship with the Bible or Scripture in the following terms.

“The search for truth must begin with Scripture, must be submitted to scripture, and must honor the one to whom Scripture points.  Where non-Christian sacred texts corroborate the truth of Scripture they may be used apologetically or evangelistically.”[5]

From this view, any perceived sacred text may be used (to one degree or another) as it aligns with the biblical truth, but only as a secondary and complimentary source at best.  Representing a different view, Dutch says, “The gospel is… initially perceived as harmonious with – and to some extent supported by – Islamic scripture.”[6]  In this view, the Islamic sacred text is in some way ‘harmonious’ with the Gospel itself.

Miles, however, goes on to say, “Any non-biblical sacred text that is quoted should be ‘lifted out of its original setting and clearly reoriented within a new Christocentric setting.’”[7]  Non-biblical texts do not present themselves as “disoriented truths about the Almighty,” but they intentionally claim an entire worldview.  Therefore, contrary to the claims of Dutch, the Gospel may not be perceived as harmonious with the Islamic text; rather, the Gospel would stand in stark contrast to the whole of the Islamic text.

Another concern for those engaging Muslims for the sake of the Gospel is that of cultural and religious identification.  Some Christians have gone as far as calling themselves Muslims in order to gain acceptance by the Muslim community, but Leffel points out,

“identifying one’s self as a Muslim in only the cultural sense or in a radically reinterpreted religious sense is grossly misleading.”

He also reminds us, “Evangelicals have long deplored the semantic mysticism of liberal theologians as they import deceptive meanings to biblical terms that are utterly foreign to their context.”[8]  It does not seem honest or beneficial for Christians to attempt such a covert operation in the name of evangelism.

However, labeling Christians who evangelize Muslims does not seem to be nearly as difficult as categorizing Muslims who have converted to faith in Christ.  Dutch rightly notes,

“We should remember that the term ‘Christian’ does not come as a God-ordained label for followers of Jesus.  The name arose as a local – and probably derisive – name for Jesus disciples in Antioch (Acts 11:26).”[9]

In addition, the term “Christian” has been perceived through faulty lenses in the Muslim culture for a very long time.  It simply does not carry an accurate meaning in the mind of a Muslim.

However, it is not only the label “Christian” that seems to bother some of those attempting to evangelize Muslims.  There is also an allergy for many of the biblical distinctives and an aversion to separating from many or all Islamic religious routines and structures.  Just how much does a Muslim have to look like a Christian in order to be considered a follower of Christ?

In order to measure the progression from the look and feel of Western Christianity to what has been called Muslim-background believers, a spectrum or scale was devised known as the “C-scale.”

The C-scale begins with C1, described as “a church foreign to the community in both culture and language,” and ends with C6, described as “secret believers, may or may not be active members in the religious life of the Muslim community.”[10]

This scale is helpful in organizing the categories of Muslims who have been evangelized based on their various responses to the Gospel.  Of particular interest is the significance of a Muslim’s new identification with Jesus or Isa (the Arabic name for ‘Jesus’), and the significance of his remaining identification with Islam.

In an attempt to extract the C-scale from its primary focus (namely ‘how Muslim can a former-Muslim remain while he professes to have a new identity in Isa or Jesus Christ’), Mark Williams provides a loose analogy in the form of “Christian Music.”  Measuring his selections and placing them along the C-scale, he names hymns as C1 level “Christian Music” and changes only the instrumentality for the C2 category (still singing hymns, but using a wider variety of instruments).

For the C3 level he names “Maranatha Music” (a very eclectic and modern style of music with much less content) and for C4 he lists a wide-ranging musical style that fits under the heading of “Contemporary Christian Music.”  This style is even less substantial in content than the aforementioned hymns.  Lastly, Williams recognizes that the “music [listed under the headings of C5 and C6] might not even be considered Christian by any of the [other] four ‘C’ types;” then he proceeds to list the band “Evanescence” as an analogous the C5 level of “Christian Music” and the singer “Lenny Kravitz” as an example of C6.[11]

Unless one is personally involved with either Lenny Kravitz or any of those associated with the band Evanescence, one cannot know their personal worldview or theological positions, but I think it safe to say that none of the music put out by Evanescence or Lenny Kravitz has any distinctly Christian themes whatever.  In fact, it seems hard to imagine someone referring to either of these as “Christian” music or “Christian” artists with any real sincerity.

If Williams’ analogy is accurate, then there is no reason whatever to consider C5 and C6 as remaining under the umbrella of Christianity at all, and there should be serious reservations about what is included as such under the C4 heading.

Much of the debate over contextualization seems to stem from some disagreement about identity and obstacles that may hinder a person or group from finding their identity in Christ. 

While there is certainly value in removing obstacles, and such a goal is worthy of further conversation, it should not be overlooked or quickly dismissed that the Gospel message itself is an obstacle.  The Apostle Paul says that the Gospel of Christ is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23).  In other words, it is a barrier to the Jews and foolishness (another kind of obstruction) to everyone else.

While evangelism demands that we present the Gospel in understandable terms, the Gospel itself – when contextually understood – will still remain intolerable to some.

It seems that the chief goal of evangelism should not be to make the Gospel more palatable but to make it understandable

If one understands the Gospel, then he may find it wonderful or offensive, but we may not adjust the call to abandon all else for the sake of Christ simply because it is an offensive call.

 

Reference List

Dutch, Bernard. “Should Muslims Become “Christians”?” International Journal of Frontier Missions 17, no. 1 (Spring 2000).

Heideman, E. S. “Syncretism, Contextualization, Orthodoxy, and Heresy.” Missiology: An International Review Missiology: An International Review 25, no. 1 (1997): 37-49. WorldCat.

Leffel, Jim. “Contextualization: Building Bridges to the Muslim Community.” Xenos Online Journal. Accessed June 20, 2014. http://www.xenos.org/ministries/crossroads/OnlineJournal/issue1/contextu.htm.

Miles, Todd L. A God of Many Understandings? : The Gospel and a Theology of Religions. Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Academic, 2010. WorldCat.

Oksnevad, Roy. “Contextualization in the Islamic Context.” Lausanne World Pulse, April 2007, 16-19.

Williams, M. S. “Revisiting the C1-C6 Spectrum in Muslim Contextualization.” Missiology: An International Review Missiology: An International Review 39, no. 3 (2011): 335-51. Accessed June 20, 2014. WorldCat.

 

 

[1] Syncretism carries the idea of mixing Christianity with non-Christian ideas without regard for the purity of the Christian Faith.

[2] Heideman

[3] Oksnevad

[4] Oksnevad

[5] Miles

[6] Dutch

[7] Miles

[8] Leffel

[9] Dutch

[10] Williams

[11] Williams

The Wonderful Cross

Have you ever stopped to consider the meaning of the words Christians say and sing?

Oh, the Wonderful Cross” is the title and chorus of a popular church song, written by Chris Tomlin in 2001. This modern song is really an updated version of a much older song (1707) by Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Both songs highlight a profound Christian paradox. This paradox is, in fact, the essence of the Gospel.

At the cross of Jesus Christ, we see the apex of God’s plan to redeem, to save, to rescue sinful people. Here we encounter the God of righteousness and mercy, justice and grace, holiness and love. While Jesus Christ was a perfectly obedient man, fulfilling every requirement of God’s law, Jesus was counted as sinfully wretched and utterly shameful.

It was my shame and sin which Christ bore on the cross, and this is why I sing.

When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain, I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

But why!? Why would the Prince of Glory put Himself under the wrath of God in my place? Ah, this is the matchless love of God on marvelous display… Not that I am so loveable, but that His love is so profound.

The Bible teaches us that God has loved with an unfathomable love. We read of God’s loving self-disclosure when we come across phrases like, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses…” (Ephesians 2:4–5). Or consider the amazing love of God here: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Since God has loved me so, and since He has demonstrated His love in such a meaningful way, I sing again.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

When I survey the wondrous cross, I do indeed marvel. Such a wonderful cross it is, this monument of suffering and glory, of sorrow and love.

May God graciously grant that my soul, my life, and my all would be an acceptable offering of gratitude.

Cursed Jesus

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13; cf. Deuteronomy 21:23).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ sets Christianity apart from everything else in the world, including all other religious systems. The good news according to Scripture is simultaneously ugly and beautiful, appalling and glorious. This is true on multiple levels, but the paradox is especially vivid at the cross of Christ.

Jesus is the perfect man, He is the obedient servant and the selfless king. There is none like Him. At the cross, however, Jesus becomes the most heinous sinner of all time. He is utterly righteous and morally pure, but something happens that we are not able to see with our eyes.

God the Father took all of the sin, rebellion, malice, hate, enmity, perversion, arrogance, indifference, greed, and lust from all those who would trust/believe in Jesus and put it on the Son. The perfectly pure One – Jesus Christ – was made to be shamefully guilty.

What unthinkable impropriety we see at the cross of Christ!

Ah, but this is the wondrous and mysterious beauty! That pure One was cursed in order that the cursed ones may be pure. The sinner is exceedingly guilty and, therefore, cursed by God. The sinner deserves God’s wrath, and God is perfectly justified in His vengeance. BUT, God redirects His intense fury! Instead of delivering it on the head of the sinner, God counts Christ as exceedingly guilty and, therefore, curses Him in the sinner’s place! Christ, then, received the justified vengeance of God’s wrath, and the trusting sinner is set free.

This exchange, the sinner’s guilt and Christ’s righteousness, is the very heart of the Gospel. This is the reason the Gospel is most precious to some and most ridiculous to others. To those who are being saved by it, it is most assuredly the power and wisdom of God.

Behold the wondrous mystery, and look to Christ – the hideous and glorious Savior!