Wednesday, 4 April 2012

What is the Gospel?

Ages ago this book was free on Kindle. I didn't have a kindle but it was possible to sign up for a kindle account and access the book from your PC. Because the book wasn't that long, it didn't make reading it off a screen a pain.

The word "Gospel" gets tossed around in Christian speak all the time, sometimes implying lots of different things. This book sets out to explain simply and easily what the Gospel is and tries to sum its meaning up in one or two sentences. If you think that is a futile task, then don't read this short book, if you think it is a good idea to cut back everything to the essential, then this book could be for you.

Gilbert starts out quoting a series of definitions he has heard around the place, making no judgement on them. Perhaps I am not as sharp as I used to be, but most of them, if thinking the best of the person saying it, were pretty good definitions.

He then goes on to explain that the basic message, from what the Apostles say the Gospel can be put into the framework of: God. Man. Christ. Response God is holy and creator. Man is a sinner. Christ saves mankind. We have to respond in faith to this message. It is true that different angles or emphasis are played out in different messages in the New Testament, but they generally follow this framework.One interesting point was in Acts 17 when Paul is speaking to the Greeks he doesn't give them any good news (Gospel) just bad news. After that the text says some people wanted to know more and then believed. That was a bit of a rub against the idea that in Paul's Areopagus speech he was contextualising the Gospel to pagans...

After expanding on each of the four points in his framework Gilbert focused his attention on three other explanations of the Gospel, two of which I have heard of before and he points out their shortcomings. Gilbert said that the simple proclamation that "Jesus is Lord" is not the Gospel. I have heard it said that the gospel means just a proclamation of good news. The issue Gilbert has with this simple proclamation is that it doesn't explain why that is good news. If God is holy and we are not and He is King over all, that could in fact be bad news. The other explanation of the Gospel that I have heard is in the summary of: Creation. Fall. Redemption. Consummation. He says this is a good overview of the story of the Bible, but it is not explicit enough in the Redemption category to explain Jesus' death and resurrection and to encourage a response from the hears.

What Gilbert would like is not an implicit assumption about Jesus' death and resurrection, but an explicit statement on how people can be saved and an opportunity for people to respond to the message, and I don't have a problem with that. I think it is important to be exact in what we mean when we say "Gospel" and to explain how and why it is in fact good news.

The book is short and simple, and I can see how others will have issue with the fact that Gilbert didn't say enough. Scot McKnight has written a new book called The King Jesus Gospel, where he sees the view of the Gospel that Gilbert as a soterian approaches to the gospel - the message is just about how to get saved which could be seen as a little selfish. McKnight would like the message to be bigger, and he puts forward a story gospel to contrast the soterian gospel (a nice table on his blog), which he says isn't the Gospel. The goal is to move away from this individualistic approach and to see your life a part of a bigger story. I haven't read this book (I would like to) but it does sound interesting. All I would want to add is that in order to be part of God's story, you, as an individual have to make a response in faith to the message of Jesus, of which you then are saved.

All in all, I thought this book was short and clear and I would be willing to give it to anyone who is confused by the Christian jargon of what the Gospel means.

Related Links
What is a healthy Church member? - This is another short book written by another guy from 9marks


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