Reviewed by Fred Zaspel
The adult Sunday School class at our church is currently making its way through this book in a series of studies. The elders have read the book and have asked all the deacons, Sunday School teachers, and youth workers to read it also. And we have provided copies for the entire congregation with encouragement to read along with the Sunday School lesson series. It’s a perfectly wonderful and absolutely vital topic, and Gilbert does a great job of presenting it simply and concisely. If there is any topic we want the church to understand well, this is it!
This brief book review originally appeared in 2011 on Credo Magazine, and we post it here again in hopes to encourage many others to read and put to good use also.
Our friends at Nine Marks do a great job of reminding the church of things that are important, and this book illustrates that point well. I selected Gilbert’s book for our church Readers’ Group recently, and it proved very profitable. I would gladly recommend this book for use in church reading groups, for one-on-one discipleship, for group studies (say, one chapter per week), for general Christian reading, and for distribution to the unchurched.
I’ll just list some of its advantages.
First, you can scarcely imagine a better or more important topic. And part of Gilbert’s goal is to ground Christians more firmly in this message that is central and basic to all Christian profession.
Second, the book is entry level. Gilbert does not assume a “churched” background on the part of his reader. This is essential, of course, for use with the unchurched. But you’d probably be surprised how important this is for your fellow-church members also.
Third, it is clear. Gilbert explains the essence of the gospel simply and plainly, and there is nothing here that any average reader cannot handle. You do not need a college degree to understand this book.
Fourth, it is brief. People today are intimidated by books. Few read more than a couple paragraphs at a sitting, and the thought of reading a full-length book is overwhelming. But this tiny book reduces that fear factor considerably. It looks accessible, and it is.
Fifth, it is on target. Gilbert aims at the essence of the gospel and hits his mark. He includes virtually nothing that is extraneous but stays focused on the issues of sin and grace — the twin issues on which the gospel turns — utilizing the popular (and very useful) four headings of God, Man, Christ, Response.
Sixth, it is thorough. Well, of course it doesn’t exhaust the subject, and there are endless implications that Gilbert doesn’t even touch. But he covers all the necessary bases to provide the reader with a clear and accurate grasp of the gospel message.
The gospel is always of central importance, and Christians today desperately need a re-acquaintance with it. There is too little of it preached, and much of what is preached is fuzzy. And I suspect many pastors who themselves understand the gospel rightly would be horrified at the responses from their congregations if they asked for specific feedback on the question, “What is the gospel?” This is a very important and very useful kind of tool to remedy the situation in our churches. I would urge everyone to buy a bundle and use them at your church. Use them yourself, use them one-on-one, use them corporately, and use them evangelistically.
This review originally appeared on Credo Magazine.
Buy the books
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?, by Greg Gilbert