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What Is the Gospel?

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The Greatest Book On Explaining The Gospel!!
Pastor and author Greg Gilbert asks a pertinent question in his newly titled book "What Is The Gospel?". This book is part of the 9marks series which is a series of books go in depth on what the ministries proclaimed 9marks of a healthy church are. One would think that would be the simplest question to answer for the evangelical church but many times we hear wrong answer or non biblical partial truths. Gilbert begins the book by presenting multiple false positions of what the Gospel is from liberal theologians and health & wealth preachers.

To answer the question of the gospel and what is so good about this news he starts with what is going to be our authority, for the Christian it is the Bible. The author then proceeds to give four questions through which he demonstrates his outline to demonstrate the gospel. (1) Who made me, and to whom are we accountable? (God) (2) What is our problem? (man) (3) What is God's solution to that problem? (Christ) (4) How do I come to be included in that salvation? (response).

These four questions provide the frame for the rest of this book in which Gilbert devotes one chapter to answering in more detail. Within the chapters he explains the holy righteous nature of God and Jesus and man’s depravity. He also gives a thorough account of the redemptive work accomplished on the cross for Christ followers. Shows how Christ’s penal Substitutionary atonement is the only thing sufficient to satisfy a holy God. Then in concluding the chapters on answering the four questions he demonstrates what is saving faith and also what is not saving faith.

Gilbert then continues the book by writing what it exactly means now to be a part of God’s kingdom. Once again he reverts back to the text of scripture and what does it say about the kingdom of God. His brief explanation of the kingdom revolves around the idea of the kingdom now and the kingdom which is not yet. He finishes how the kingdom citizen’s should live cross-centered lives by loving one another and longing for the return of their King.

The audio book by Christianaudio was splendidly narrated by Lloyd James whose was a superb addition to the book. What is the Gospel? is a enjoyably clear, concise, well-articulated and engaging little book which I highly recommend. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ChristianAudio as part of their book review program.
Review by / (Posted on 4/5/2011)
Good primer on the subject
There is a lot of confusion today over the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you were to ask somebody, "what is the gospel?", you would get a dozen different answers. Some say it's prosperity, others say a happy life, or maybe inner peace. Still others would be unable to articulate it. Frequently, the answer you get would not include Jesus' death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection, and you certainly wouldn't learn why He died on the cross and rose from the dead.

What Is the Gospel?, by Greg Gilbert, part of the IXMarks series of books, seeks to answer the titular question by going to the Bible and seeing what it has to say on the subject. Each chapter goes over a certain topic- God, sin, Jesus, etc.- and lays out what the Bible says on these topics, how they relate to each other, and what our response should be.

The book is simple to understand, and is a good primer on the topic. Gilbert goes through each topic carefully, and is very clear in the message. Those who already know the biblical gospel may find this book to be a nice refresher; however, they may not find much new to learn. My only real complaint is that Gilbert tries to find a formula in all of the gospel presentations found in the New Testament, and, while I don't recall him advocating a one-two-three approach to personal evangelism, the book's presentation makes it easy to do so. I personally don't believe evangelism should be formulaic- I don't believe it's necessary to pound somebody down with what a sinner they are before you can present Jesus Christ. God gave us a conscience for a reason.

I was amused by the choice of Lloyd James for reading this book, because he sounds a lot like Mark Dever, who is the president of IXMarks Ministries. This makes James' reading of the book seem rather appropriate. He reads softly and yet clearly, and his voice is easy to listen to. However, I must admit he is rather easy to ignore, and I found my mind wandering from time to time while listening to the book.

The simplicity and clarity of the book makes What Is The Gospel? a good book to read if you have questions about the gospel of Jesus Christ, or to give to someone else who has questions. It is definitely a great primer on the subject.

This audiobook review was made possible by the christianaudio Reviewers Program, and can also be read at
Review by / (Posted on 1/21/2011)
Excellent addition to the IX Marks Series
This is an excellent little book that adequately deals with the question in the title... Which, I might add, is a question that needs to be asked. The book begins by showing the various responses that the author has encountered when asking the same question. To have clarity on this subject is essential.

After enlightening us to our need to ask the question, Greg Gilbert does a great job of laying out the basic elements of the gospel message, while helping his readers do the same thing. He answers the question by looking to the scriptures and then shows the various examples of that same gospel message. Without sounding too deeply theological, he then goes through each element of the Gospel message and brings additional clarity to the subject.

Although I had already read through this book, the audio version of this book was excellently performed bringing an even better understanding of the book and highlighting aspects that had gone unnoticed the first time.

As a Pastor I saw this book as an essential for each of the members of my church because we are to be about the Gospel! I highly recommend this book.
Review by / (Posted on 11/10/2010)
The Selfish Gospel
This review first appeared on my blog, Jacob's Café.

The latest book I got to review for christianaudio's reviewer program (meaning I received a complimentary copy) was Greg Gilbert's What is the Gospel? This book is actually part of a series from 9marks, going in-depth about what that organization considers to be the nine marks of a healthy church, as argued by Mark Dever.

I actually finished this audiobook over a week ago, but I didn't feel any urge to get a review out quickly because I really didn't care for the book. I was also trying to figure out good ways to positively engage with it.

The purpose of this tome is to answer the question of the title: What is the Gospel? Gilbert makes the excellent point that Christians are fragmented in our definitions of what the Gospel is. While I see that (generally) more as an element of different people emphasizing different aspects of the Gospel, Gilbert seems to almost take offense that there is not a simple, unified definition. His writing seems to question the salvation of people who do not understand the Gospel in the same way he does of Penal Substitutionary Atonement as paramount.

He begins the book by arguing that the Gospel is larger than most people make it to be, a statement with which I agree. However, he quickly simplifies it to issues of salvation. I find it somewhat interesting that his book was offered to review at the same time as The Next Christians, which I loved. The latter does a much better job at explaining how the Gospel is much more than simply salvation from Hell.

In any case, I think I found some of the reasons I had problems with Gilbert's text. First of all, he states that as Christians, we value the Bible as infallible and inerrant, thus taking a literal view. This is a big theological assertion, as the majority of Christendom does not view Scripture as both infallible and inerrant. This is an example of how Gilbert implies that if one does not interpret Scripture the same way he does, that individual is not actually a Christian. There are people who take this view. I am not one of them and feel very strongly about this.

This approach to Scripture shapes all of his interpretations, which is where my problems begin. With a literal view, people often approach the Bible from a "plain meaning" perspective, assuming they understand it from a simple reading. Therefore, explanation is not often needed. Gilbert exemplifies this approach by providing evidence for his statements by simply stating, "see Revelation," without additional explanation.

While he makes some good points about the Gospel, this approach of simply citing Scripture without providing his interpretation of it makes his arguments unsupported, in my view. Further, I simply disagree with his reading of many elements of Scripture because I do not approach the Bible as inerrant.

I believe many other things should be considered to help us understand the Bible, including tradition, intuition, science, etc. These things should not supersede the Bible, but they are relevant, as the Bible is not always clear. Gilbert, however, argues that relying on tradition, intuition, etc. for truths, leads to unanswered questions. And he indicates that unanswered questions are unacceptable. This is an area with which I strongly disagree. I think God gives us many unanswered questions, and that is not a problem. In fact, it creates a rich space for growth. And ironically, Gilbert uses the Bible the same way the people he criticizes use tradition and intuition--just accepting what they have been told and not critically engaging it to find Truth.

One of the things Gilbert frequently says is that the Good News of the Bible is that we can be rescued (I agree). However, he says, that unless we know we need to be rescued, it's not good news. So we need to emphasize the sinful, wicked nature of people to point out how depraved they are. I disagree with this. Most people I know actually know very well how much they need help. They don't need others reminding them. That just makes things worse. And sometimes the way we find out we need help is by getting the help and getting out of the situation.

In any case, Gilbert seems to emphasize how we need to know how the Gospel is Good News for me. Not for other people. For me. There's a selfish feel to it, in my opinion. In many ways, he presents what Gabe Lyons describes in The Next Christians as a view of doing good for the most people rather than for all people. Jesus and the Gospel definitely focus on emphasizing good for all people, not just a few. While only a few may take advantage of it, they do not only offer it to those few.

So therefore, cultural change is a powerful thing that is very holy and central to the Gospel. Gilbert argues that cultural transformation is not part of the Gospel. However, the way he describes it seems to be more related to Lyons' description of cultural Christians, those who take Christ in-name-only and look like the culture. In contrast, the restorers are people who are deeply connected to Christ and want to restore the world and the culture to God's hope and dream for the world in a way that will benefit all people. That's a powerful and True Gospel.
Review by / (Posted on 10/24/2010)
What is the gospel? Ask any...
What is the gospel? Ask any hundred self-professed evangelical Christians what the good news of Jesus is, and you’re likely to get about sixty different answers. That’s what’s eating Greg Gilbert. I had the privilege of hearing his inaugural sermon at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was down attending an accelerated summer course at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The book is composed of eight short chapters dealing on the essential aspects of the gospel drawn from the text of Scripture. Gilbert doesn’t waste time arguing the positions of liberal theologians or “health and wealth” preachers. His focus is on proclaiming what the Bible says about the “good news of Jesus Christ” (cf. Mark 1:1).

Superbly narrated by Lloyd James, the narrator of Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, the audio sounds pastoral, like you’re sitting with a teacher who is working with you one-on-one.

I highly recommend the book for people who don’t know how or who don’t feel confident sharing the gospel. If you know someone who is interested in Christian faith, this would be a helpful and clear introduction to the substance of our message. I anticipate churches purchasing cases of this book to give away in outreach events and as a gift to visitors coming through their doors. If you’re a pastor, I suggest doing as D.A. Carson suggests in the foreword: “Read it, then buy a box of them for generous distribution.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ChristianAudio as part of their book review program.
Review by / (Posted on 10/18/2010)
Every Christian needs to have a...
Every Christian needs to have a firm grasp on the essentials of the gospel. Sadly not all do. In What is the Gospel, Greg Gilbert does an admirable job of helping Christians to grasp the essentials of the good news without over-simplifying things to a few booklet points.


This book is simply fun to read. Gilbert illustrates well, but not too much. He takes us on a simple tour of the atonement, pointing out the complexities without hurting our brains in the process. The author neither hides from difficult issues nor bogs down in minutia.

While I could write much that I affirm about each of Gilbert’s points, the thing that I will highlight here is different. This book was simply good for my soul. As I read through the essentials of the gospel, I was again reminded of God’s greatness, my sinfulness, Christ’s perfect work, and my need to trust in Jesus. I truly did praise God as I walked through this wonderfully familiar story.


In the small details, one might find a point or two to pick at. I have a post-millennial friend (not my view) who would not like Gilbert’s handling of the kingdom of God or the believer’s role in bringing it about. I felt like Gilbert made a mistake when he identified the Passover as an example of “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” as the Passover lamb was not a sin offering but rather a picture of substitution. Yet, these points would not in any way keep me from using this book in multiple settings.

Honestly, the greatest single weakness of this book is its brevity. This was intentional, obviously. Yet, it also is true that we are bound to miss points or gloss over points too quickly when we make a work as accessible as this one. I certainly could not have done it better, but we need to be honest about the limitations of a work of this size on a topic of this depth.


I highly enjoyed this work and strongly recommend it to others. This book would be perfect for a church’s new members class in order to see to it that those who join the church agree on the essentials of what it means to be saved. It would make a fine evangelistic tool for a person to work through with a lost friend, coworker, or family member. The chapters would make excellent background for a pastor’s teaching through the gospel. The book is readable enough for student ministers to make use of. Yes, it may be brief, but the book is power-packed, joy-filled, and God-glorifying.


For this review, I listened to the excellent recording from Christian Audio which I received as a part of their reviewers program. This work was well-read, short, and very useful.
Review by / (Posted on 10/18/2010)
The opportunity for this review was...
The opportunity for this review was graciously provided through the reviewer program at

Try this as an experiment a church or in your small group. Ask the question, “What is the gospel?” A very good question for a moral relativistic and post modernity era the church finds itself in. I thoroughly agree with the author (introduction) that what they saw in posts on their website is the same answer your probably going to get from your church family and in your small group. This was very disheartening to me years ago, and a book like this is a very needed and welcome edition to the 9Marks series of releases and to the body of Christ. From the audio,

The response to that series of posts was incredible. For literally months, we received dozens of messages about it. Some who wrote to us appreciated the questions we raised; others wondered what was wrong with articulating the gospel like that since Jesus preached about the arrival of the kingdom. Others were just refreshed to hear Christians thinking hard about how to articulate the gospel in the first place.

Thinking Christians… and the best place to send them is to Romans 1-4. The author states,

One of the best places to start looking for a basic explanation of the gospel is Paul’s letter to the Romans. Perhaps more clearly than any other book of the Bible, Romans contains a deliberate, step-by-step expression of what Paul understood to be the good news.

The author challenges us that 4 questions can be answered in the book of Romans;

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 solutions to that problem? How has He acted to save us from it?

4. How do I – myself, right here, right now – how I do come to be included in that salvation? What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else?

Chapter 1 of “Finding the Gospel in the Bible” along with chapter 2 of "God the Righteous Creator” lead up to sobering comment in chapter 3, that I think is the key in why we do not know what the gospel is, how to present it, or why it does not make in impact in our daily lives. In chapter 3, the author stuns us with our depravity with this quote,

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that most people tend to think of sin, especially their own, as not much more than a parking infraction.

I think the author nails it on the head when he draws attention to the haze that is contained in our confusing sin with sin’s effects. With the gospel, our response is faith and repentance which produces real change and real fruit. The cautions of the three substitute gospels were also very sobering and reminders that their influence and how they affect the current movements of Christendom.

This was a fantastic audio book and I am thankful for the opportunity from to review this excellent work. I highly recommend it to churches, to small groups, and to disciples, who need to remember the main thing is the main thing. The reality is, that many of us need the reminder of God’s holiness in light of our sinfulness and see the Cross for the size it really should be in our lives. What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert and 9Marks will do that for you. I agree with Joshua Harris, “This book will help you better understand, treasure, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if you think you know enough about the gospel already, you might need it more than you think.”
Review by / (Posted on 10/16/2010)
I've read many a book that...
I've read many a book that deal with a variety of gospel issues or points of debate on a certain aspect of the gospel, but I love this book because it simply sets out to make sure we got our basis covered and (as the title says) simple ask, “What is the Gospel?”

In the introduction it gives a handful of different gospel presentations that one may hear from a variety of Christians, but cuts to the chase and makes a quick case that the Bible is our authority so we need to go to it for our definition of the gospel.

After looking at different examples of when the gospel is either explained or preached in the Bible, the author shows that in each instance the following four points are always explained (sometimes a point or two may be assumed based on audience, however): God. Man. Christ. Response.

He spends the rest of the time in this book explaining each one of those points:

- God (how He is our Righteous Creator)
- Man (how we are sinners)
- Jesus (how He is the Savior)
- Response (Faith and Repentance)

He then spends a little time talking about clarifying some terms used a lot when talking about the gospel. Terms like “Kingdom”, “Repentance”, “Faith”, etc... this is a very helpful portion of the book. He also spends time debunking false gospel and modern day errors that propose themselves as the gospel.

It is definitely a book I would recommend for an unbeliever, new Christian, and seasoned Christian, as all of us need the gospel, and this book will remind you of it and explain it in such a way that it will leave you praising God for the glory of His grace in Christ Jesus.
Review by / (Posted on 10/16/2010)
First off, 9Marks is a great...
First off, 9Marks is a great organization that I actually follow for blog RSS, reading on my Evo 4G. I'm not familiar with Gilbert at all, but I do appreciate the works by 9Marks. They value the local church, as well as focusing on G-d's word in the church, listening and following. They believe that if the Church follows His word, then they will look like Him. Perhaps this is why many churches seem so far off today. The narrator for this audio book is Lloyd James.

Read the rest at
Review by / (Posted on 10/14/2010)
What is the Gospel? What is the...
What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel? This is a sentence that is so simple, yet so complex. Christian's say it a lot. "Believe in the gospel and you will be saved" Believe in what? Be saved from what? Outside of our comfy pews and air conditioned buildings, people are dying and going to hell apart from God.

What is the Gospel is by Greg Gilbert. I was giving this book by as apart of their reviewers program. I had been recommended this book by the youth pastor at the church I work at. He is going to begin using it after reviewing a survey of what his students thought the gospel was. Needless to say, he didn't like their answers.

What does it mean to be saved? What is the Gospel that Christian's often talk about? Why do we need a gospel? Why does God have to punish sin? Why can't he just forgive everyone?

If you want to nail those questions down, then you need to buy this book. If you already know the biblical based answers to those questions, then you need to buy the book for someone else.
Review by / (Posted on 10/5/2010)

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