What is the Gospel?

Written by Greg Gilbert

Published by Crossway, © 2010 121 pages

Part of 9Marks series

9Marks is an organization that exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources.  This book by Greg Gilbert is one of those practical resources.

Greg Gilbert has been teaching theology to students for thirty years.  He has witnessed many controversial questions – questions that spark heated debates, but lately, the most controversial question that he has come across lately is, “What is the gospel?”  In his introduction, he asked this question of some Christians, ten to be exact, (not sure why he didn’t stop at nine) and listed their responses.  I was surprised that many of the answers were drastically different from one another and two were polar opposite.

Gilbert starts with this premise: the gospel is found in the Bible.  On page 31, he narrows the gospel down into four crucial questions:

(1) Who made use, and to whom are we accountable?

(2) What is our problem?  Are we in trouble and why?

(3) What is God’s solution to that problem?  How has he acted to save us from it?

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

Gilbert believes that these four questions are essential to the gospel, and if one is missing in our presentation, then we will present an incomplete picture of good news of Jesus Christ.

Theses questions may be difficult to remember, so there are four key words we can remember when we are presenting the gospel to others: GOD, MAN, CHRIST AND RESPONSE.  If we could remember that God is holy and man is sinful, then we only have to remember that God’s only solution to bridge the gap between God and man is Jesus Christ.  After this has been presented, then the only thing that is left is to command hearers, like the apostle Peter did, to repent and be baptized.  If you are reading this and the Holy Spirit is convicting your heart, contact us so we introduce you to the Savior.

Brian L. Spivey

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Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

Published by IVP Academic, © 1992.

Many Christians claim to love Jesus, but our love for Him can only grow in direct proportion to what we know about Jesus.  Is this a call to spend more time reading and studying the four gospels?  Actually, this is call to do the opposite

Wright opens his book with this statement, “In the midst of the many intrinsically fascinating reasons why Old Testament study is so rewarding, the most exciting to me is the way it never fails to add new depths to my understanding of Jesus.”

For the next 252 pages, Wright explores the salvation story from Genesis to the reign of David and explains how different aspects of God’s story point forward to Jesus.

There were several eye-opening themes that help me appreciate my Savior a little more than I did before I read this book, but the concept that I most appreciated was Wright’s explanation of the difference between promise and prediction.  He used the illustration of a marriage to shine light on one of the differences.  He states, “That it is one thing to predict a marriage between two people, but quite another thing to promise to marry a particular person – a promise is made to someone, where as a prediction is made about someone.”  Because it is a promise that God gave to his people, “it is the relationship behind it that really matters, the material form in which it is fulfilled may be quite different from the literal form in which it was originally made, and yet it is no less a valid fulfillment of the promise.”

Just this small section of the book helped me answer some of the questions that I once had about the dispensational view that God has two salvation plans – one for the Gentile, and a separate one for the Jew.  This book was full of those kinds of nuggets of truth.  If you can make it through the first fifty pages, which is slow and dry, you will benefit greatly from reading this book.  More importantly, your love for Jesus will reach depths you never thought imaginable.

 

Brian L. Spivey D.O.C.

Important Information for Infants in the Faith

I did not study Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians for the first fifteen years of my Christian life.   Of course I used some of the classic proof text passages like 4:17, to prove the rapture of the church; 5:23, to prove that man is made of three parts; and the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians to try and figure out the identity of the Man of lawlessness.  Oh, if I knew then what I know now, I would have devoured the contents of this book and spent the rest of my years marveling at how the Holy Spirit used the contents to establish my faith upon the Rock of Christ!

The apostle Paul came to the city of Thessalonica after he was beaten at Philippi.  He taught for three Sabbaths and then started preaching to the Gentiles.  It was recorded that he was there for at least three weeks and then the leaders of that city ran him out of town.  Paul left some brand new believers in Thessalonica.  These believers were newly born – infants in the faith.  So what did Paul teach them?  Did he expound on man being a tri-part being?  Did he spend a huge amount of text on the man of lawlessness?  No.  Paul began his letter with the doctrine of election (v. 4).  These new believers were suffering persecution, and Paul wanted to reassure them that suffering was an essential part of the Christian life. He informed them that though they were still infants in the faith, God had used their suffering as an example of true faith.  They had received the Holy Spirit and proof of that gift was perseverance in the midst of suffering.  He referred to the theme of comfort at least twelve times in these two short letters.  He wanted those infants to know that God called them for salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14) and they could find comfort in the hope of Christ’s return.

Though they were doing well, these infants could have gotten discouraged by all that suffering, so Paul admonishes them not to grow weary of doing good (2 T 3:14).

If I would have focused the first fifteen years of my Christian walk on understanding these truths, instead of trying to avoid negative confessions, claiming God’s promises so that I could get rich and healthy, and attempting to convince everyone that the Bible teaches divine health, my faith would have been firmly planted on the solid rock of Christ.  Now I spend my time meditating on the truth that God called me for salvation and the sufferings of this present age cannot be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.  I was under-nourished, now I am getting the spiritual vitamins and essential nutrients from the milk of the Word so that I may grow up into full maturity.  Come join me.  Taste and see that the Lord is good!

 

Brian L. Spivey

50 years after Vatican II began

Fifty years ago this week, Roman Catholicism convened its most recent (still) ecumenical council, now known as the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II. Beginning in October 1962 it would conclude at the end of 1965. Fifty years later, Vatican II remains the official position of the Roman Catholic Church.

Over at the Desiring God blog, David Mathis writes a helpful article on this 50th anniversary. One of the things he does is to quote Dr Lorraine Boettner, a conservative Protestant theologian who would later write his own book, Roman Catholicism. He said Vatican II

repeated the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church, although it did recognize that other churches contain some elements of truth. . . . Pope John XXIII, who called the first session, and Pope Paul VI, who presided over the later sessions (as well as several prominent cardinals and theologians), took care to emphasize that no changes would be made in the doctrinal structure of the Church. However, Pope Paul did promulgate one new doctrine, which asserts that “Mary is the Mother of the Church.” The primary purpose of the Council was to update the liturgy and administrative practices and so to make the Church more efficient and more acceptable to the 20th century world.

Note the added italics: “no changes . . . in the doctrinal structure of the Church.” Boettner continues,

On previous occasions, Rome has changed her tactics when old methods became ineffective, but she has never changed her nature. In any religious organization, doctrine is the most basic and important part of its structure, since what people believe determines what they do. An official document, “The Constitution on the Church” prepared by the Council and approved by the Pope, reaffirms basic Catholic doctrine precisely as it stood before the Council met. . . . .

[I]f the Roman Catholic Church were reformed according to scripture, it would have to be abandoned. But the gross errors concerning salvation still remain. Moreover, the Council did nothing toward removing the more than 100 anathemas or curses pronounced by the Council of Trent on the Protestant churches and belief.

Boettner concluded that Vatican II

makes it abundantly clear that Rome has no intention of revising any of her basic doctrine, but only of updating her methods and techniques for more efficient administration and to present a more attractive appearance. This is designed to make it easier for the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant churches to return to her fold. There is no indication that she has any intentions of entering into genuine give-and-take church unity negotiations. Her purpose is not union, but absorption. Church union with Rome is strictly a one-way street. The age-old danger that Protestantism has faced from the Roman Church has not diminished; in fact, it may well have increased. For through this less offensive posture and this superficial ecumenicism, Rome is much better situated to carry out her program of eliminating opposition and moving into a position of world dominance. An infallible church simply cannot repent.

Mathias summarizes these qutes: Strong words, but a helpful perspective from a thoughtful evangelical contemporary of the council. Whether you consider Boettner’s concerns to be warranted or overstated, they should give today’s evangelicals some pause about being too optimistic about what happened in the reforms of Vatican II.

I encourage you to look at the whole article, in which Mathis adds a few of the positive results of the event, and has some suggestions on how we might pray over all these things.

 

Pastor David Bissett

The Swinging of the Pendulum

The swinging pendulum reminds me of the Christian life.

For a book I avoided for so long, I am sure getting a lot out of it.  The study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians has been great for my spiritual development.  I know I am in great company because many of things that Paul admonished the Thessalonians about, are some of the same things with which I struggle.

He had to correct them about the “Day of the Lord.”  He gave them some truth in 1 Thessalonians, and then they swung the pendulum too far over to the left and he had to come back and correct their thinking again.   This is what has recently happened to me.  In the last four or five years, I began to explore and embrace Reformed Theology, and because of my personality type, and my prior church experience, I swung the pendulum too far to the right – no pun intended.

The wrath of God is upon sinners, yet God loves the world.  How do we reconcile those two truths?

I discovered through the Scriptures and other reformed authors that God has used the foolishness of preaching to bring sinners to a saving knowledge of Himself.  We presume on the grace of God when we exclude the bad news of our fallen state from our gospel presentations.  The Wrath of God is upon mankind must be proclaimed if we are going to encourage the unconverted to flee to Christ for safety.  But will I ever be able to say again, “God loves you,” to the unconverted sinner?

Yes.

With the help of John Frame I was reminded that God sends rain and sunshine; He gives food for all living things; and He calls people to faith and repentance.  The gospel has brought about improvements in society, in the condition of the poor, in marriage and families, in political and economic freedom, in justice, in education, in work ethic and many more (Doctrine of God, p. 433).

“The wrath of God is upon unrepentant sinners,” AND “God loves you!”

There, I said it.  Now my pendulum is headed toward the middle.

 

Brian L. Spivey