What is the Gospel? That’s a tough question especially for someone to attempt to answer in their first attempt at a book. Greg Gilbert has had some training for sure, however, in his work with Mark Dever, so I was pretty confident that he could do it.

Actually, this is not my first experience with Gilbert answering this question. I have recently read his addendum to Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Gospel where he takes this question on and I’ve had the privilege to hear Gilbert speak recently on this very topic. In his addendum to the written version of the T4G2006 conference, he addressed the debate as to whether the Gospel was the announcement of the Kingdom or the message of how to enter the Kingdom. In a nutshell, he answered that it is both and that either side by itself is tragically in error. When I heard Gilbert speak, he used to book of Romans to outlines his “four crucial questions.”

The questions are brought out early in this book:

1) Who made us and to whom are we accountable
2) What is our problem?
3) What is God’s solution to that problem?
4) How do I come to be included in that salvation?

In this book, he does a good job showing how many passages throughout Scripture outline the gospel in the form of answering those questions. He devotes a chapter to each. First he discusses God as the Righteous Creator. With some clever satire, he shows how many Christians have reduced God to a “kind, affable, slightly dazed and needy but very loving grandfather who has wishes but no demands.” Gilbert argues that in order to understand salvation, we must understand “that this loving and compassionate God is also holy and righteous, and that his is determined never to overlook, ignore, or tolerate sin.”

Next, the book moves to sin. Gilbert explains the severity of sin, far beyond even the consequences of various sins one might commit. Sin is a condition; a rotting of creation, and a righteous God must judge sin.

Having covered the “bad news” Gilbert moves on to the good news: Jesus Christ the Savior. He explains the person and nature of Jesus and the significance of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.

Next is the response of faith and repentance. Gilbert does a very good job explaining these concepts as two sides of the same coin; that to have faith is to repent. He carefully explains that true salvation will result in fruit, but that the fruit is never the cause of salvation.

Having presented the Gospel, Gilbert then goes on to discuss the Kingdom of God. He explains it in three ways: “that it is the redemptive rule of God over his people,” that it has come, and that it will not be complete until Jesus returns. Ultimately he points to the church as the intended display of life of the Kingdom.

This book also contains a plea to keep the cross at the center of the message of the church. He discusses three “substitute” gospels. This is the one area of weakness that I found in this book. Its not really weak, but I would have preferred more concrete examples of where Christians have been tempted to substitute the Gospel.

Finally, Gilbert includes a challenge for his readers. First, to the non-Christian, he asks to repent and believe. To the Christian, he asks to rest and rejoice, fully believing in what Christ has done. Finally, to the church, he exhorts to speak the Gospel to the world.

As a pastor, I wish everyone in my church would read this book. It is a wonderfully simple book and pretty quick to read. However, it very precisely explains the very core of the Christian faith: the Gospel.