With the publication of Greg Gilbert’s What Is The Gospel?, IX Marks further solidifies its reputation as a provider of consistently accessible, helpful, and important works for the church. I think “the little IX Marks books” (for lack of a better term – referring, of course, to the series of short books that IX Marks has put out through Crossway) never seem to fail in bringing stimulating, though provoking, and clear teaching on subjects of great importance. Of course, no subject is as important is the gospel, and Greg Gilbert’s handling of that subject in these 121 pages of text is admirable and worthy of consideration.
Anybody with even a cursory knowledge of current-day Evangelicalism will know that “the gospel” is the great conversation piece of the day. Of course, it ought always to be the center of our affections and attentions and the core of our efforts in the world, but the prevelance of these conversations, and perhaps even the appearance of a book by this title, reveals a fundamental problem in Evangelical Christendom today: namely, confusion on the definition of “the gospel.”
How widespread this confusion is, it’s hard to say. I note that R.C. Sproul mentioned at this year’s Founders breakfast in Orlando that “the vast majority” of Evangelicals do not know what the gospel is. Truth be told, I’m as pessimistic as the next guy on the state of the church today, but that’s a very alarming thing to say and I do rather hope that Sproul is wrong. Regardless, it’s a huge dilemma, and a life-threatening one for the church today. The gospel, after all, is the sine qua non of the church, and we must forever re-articulate its meaning.
To this end, Gilbert’s book is very helpful. It would be ideal for Sunday School classes and small group studies, I should think, but also as a helpful devotional exercise for any believer. In truth, what we have here is a compact but clear theology of the gospel. Gilbert argues for penal substitutionary atonement. I agree, though others who call themselves Evangelicals may not. But I do increasingly feel that whatever the merits of other atonement approaches are (and many indeed do have merit!), substitution is at the very heart of the gospel and has the strongest explanatory power for understanding the cross, the gospel, and the New Testament.
Gilbert gives a very convincing argument for original sin and helpfully pinpoints some of the weaknesses of our modern approaches to harmartology (we seem to believe in “sins” but not “sin”). Furthermore, I appreciated his chapter on the Kingdom and thought that was a welcome inclusion in a book about the gospel.
In all, this is a well-done primer on the gospel. Check it out.