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A nice new video from Southern Seminary:


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43 thoughts on “What Is the Gospel?”

  1. John Luce says:

    Hmm…no mention of the Kingdom of God, completely individualistic (no mention of the Church?!), no mention of the cosmos being renewed, no mention of authorities, powers, or other defeated foes, nothing about follow up (what do we do with this Gospel?!)…at least it is creative.

    The Gospel is more than individualistic sin cleanup. Is it really that hard to mention that, and include the individualistic part at the same time?

    Reminds me of the Four Spiritual Laws. Which isn’t a good thing.

    1. In the spirit of being constructive, John could you (or anyone) link to any other videos or websites which do a more holistic job? I’m looking for a gospel summary which balances the “what happened” with “what it means” and “why it means what it does”. It’s no simple thing to do, and when it’s done creatively like this, it’s easy to distract from its seriousness (with the tootle tootle jazz music, for example!)

      Sometimes, presenting the gospel in this format can dangerously underemphasize the profoundly moving nature of the gospel. Other methods can dial in too much emotion and seem incongruous…Like when you cut to a kiss scene at the end of a romantic movie without seeing the movie up until that point…it just seems silly.

      Good communication requires us to think carefully about how our words come across. We need to be invested in what we are saying, not simply coldly presenting information which appears to mean little to us. But it’s not easy, and the gospel is no small message.

  2. Dan DeWitt says:

    JT,

    Thanks for sharing this. This was created for those who actively share their faith with others as a resource to supplement their “coffee house” conversations. As you know, in 4 minutes time it is impossible to cover the full range of theological nuances. It was not created to be a stand alone piece, but instead a starting point.

    I greatly appreciate your blog, your leadership and your ministry.

  3. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Thanks for sharing this video, JT!

  4. Chris says:

    the iphone is NOT the gospel

  5. B.C. McWhite says:

    I agree with John. It surpasses understanding how little the Kingdom of God is mentioned when the gospel is defined by Reformed folks (among whom I otherwise count myself) – particularly when this was the central way that Jesus talked about the “gospel.” He began with the Kingdom, and explained how individual salvation fit into the gospel about the Kingdom.

  6. Ron says:

    Oh come on people… it’s a nice simple presentation of the gospel… lighten up.

  7. B.C. McWhite says:

    Ron: Should we really lighten up if it’s not the gospel? I think it’s worth getting the gospel right. I’m not easily bothered (I hope), but it really bothers me when the thing Jesus puts at the forefront of the gospel is constantly cut out of the “gospel” by people who have become known for their passion for the “gospel”!

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Bryan,

      It seems, brother, that a lot of the biblical presentations of the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-3, Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26, etc) would also fall under your critique.

      JT

  8. Graham Buck says:

    Not a bad video, kinda catchy.

    Definitely Reformed Baptist hipster though… Moleskin journal and iPhone and John Bunyan…

  9. Ron says:

    JT,

    Speaking of 1 Cor 15, the video actually goes past verse 3. I also like the C.S. Lewis/Shakespeare part as well, something for the “intellectual” to noodle on. Of course the car keys are very offensive ;-). Thanks for the post.

  10. Mike says:

    Liked the message, found the music distracting — the most glorious message needs mucic more fitting than this. Still a useful resource…

  11. Christopher says:

    “All of the sin of all of mankind”? Hmmm. So all mankind is saved?

    This is Arminian (or at the very best Amyraldian), not Reformed. So, for all those complaining about “how little the Kingdom of God is mentioned when the gospel is defined by Reformed folks” first figure out what is and what is not Reformed (ie Biblical).

  12. B.C. McWhite says:

    JT,

    Thanks for the push-back, brother. Obviously, though, I do not deny that the things taught in Rom. 1:16-17 and 3:21-26 are part of the gospel. I do, of course, think that these things should be included when we explain the gospel. In fact, I think that the way Paul words Rom. 1:17 is very helpful: “For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed…” To say something is revealed “in” the gospel is not to say that that thing is to be equated with the gospel, as I know you know.

    1 Cor. 15:1-3 is a tougher case, but I don’t think Paul’s line of thinking works how you seem to be suggesting it does. Paul needs to address this issue of the denial of the resurrection in Corinth, and to do that he needs to “remind” them of the the “good news” he preached to them – a central element of which is that Christ was raised from the dead. This element of the gospel provides the lever that gives force to his instruction and destroys the Corinthian denial of the resurrection (cf. 15:13).

    So, even in 1 Cor. 15:1-3, I doubt Paul is implying the gospel can be equated with Christ dying for our sins and rising. Rather, he is drawing out the element of the gospel message that is most necessary for confronting their error.

    Comments like the one Luke makes in Acts 28:23 make it clear that when Paul was talking about the gospel, he was talking about the Kingdom – AND, I’m sure, how Christ’s atonement and imputation of righteousness fits into God’s arrived and coming Kingdom.

  13. Christopher says:

    “God writing Himself into human history”? There is such a thing as some kind of history that is ever distinct from God? Is there ever an event that is not God’s?

    God didn’t write himself in, He is it, always. This guys god is too small.

    1. Ethan says:

      Christopher,

      I think the key word is human. God wrote himself (Jesus) into human history.

      I don’t think any of the guys who created this video would deny that God was in history, and I doubt any seekers would be focusing on that point. But if they do, at least you know what to tell them!

      1. Christopher says:

        Seekers eh? I haven’t met one yet.

        And, yes, thankfully, I would know what to tell them. You think you do to, right? So we are both mistaken in our little arrogant certainty, eh? If not, maybe you should study some more. But, the CS Lewis’ illustration, albeit clever, is not accurate and probably not helpful really, because most folks don’t read Shakespeare these days. Although they should, so maybe we should first get the seekers to read Shakespeare so we can drop the clever CS Lewis illustration on them, and then they will get it?

        Or maybe, we should actually meet people where they are and talk with them. The Gospels are written down in the way the apostles wanted us to use them. So maybe we should just talk about the fact that God tabernacled here in the flesh, and get to the reality that is better than an illustration.

      2. Ethan says:

        You know perfectly well what I mean by “seekers”. While I think the term is cliché and pretty much inaccurate to Scripture, it is the best way of describing those who are asking questions about the faith.

    2. Justin Taylor says:

      Christopher: do you really think such a statement implies that God is not the author of said history?

  14. B.C. McWhite says:

    JT,

    P.S. I love you and your blog, brother. Because I’m a big jerk (= sinner), I don’t comment enough on all the posts I think are so helpful and edifying.

    Warmly,
    B

  15. Nick says:

    JT,

    Don’t forget Rom. 1.1-3. There the emphasis is on Jesus as the promised Messiah who is now Lord over the world. I wonder why most people skip that and go straight for Rom 1.16-17.

  16. Nick says:

    Actually it’s Rom 1.1-4

  17. EBG says:

    Dear Beat Attitude,
    The most helpful book that I have read, in recent years, is ‘God is the Gospel’ by John Piper. It taught me to recognize the difference between the benefits of the Gospel i.e justification,forgiveness,etc, versus the ultimate good news of the Gospel: that utterly sinful man can have an utterly satisfying relationship with a Holy God. I found that I had spent most of my Christian walk focusing on the ‘me-centered’ benefits of the Gospel rather than allowing the good news of the Gospel to lead me to ‘God-centered’ relationship with God. Does that make sense?

    1. EBG thanks for the reply. I have that book and am half-way through it (like many books I own!) It certainly has transformed my understanding of the gospel…I guess I’m looking for a short presentation similar in style to the one above which seems to communicate Piper’s own balance of emphases. Something that taps into, or resonates with, a person’s own desire for God, and channels that longing in His direction. I’ve seen John Piper give a short talk on “what is the gospel” but I don’t remember it being accessible to someone who is completely new to the idea.

      The reason I’m really asking is because I’ve got a friend who is seriously ill in hospital, and I’ve mentioned to her that “the gospel is what everything is about”. But I’ve not been given permission to explain to her in person what it is. Linking to a good video on my facebook profile would be a way to get it to her in a non-confrontational way.

      I really like the C.S. Lewis “God writing himself into history” picture used in this video. I also think that the picture-book illustration is an excellent idea applied well in this context. I think @Christopher’s criticism there is unfairly obtuse. Regarding the Arminianism suggestion, or the problem with Christ taking all of the sin of all mankind…seriously…which people are going to take issue with that who are not already well aware of the gospel message?

      I don’t want to seem nitpicky here either. Reformed Christianity is full of people (like me) who will complain about any statement because of what is omitted, what is implied, what is emphasized at the expense of what isn’t. This can be healthy up to a point, but it gets ungracious awfully quickly. And when we end up doing that, we can idolise “being right”. It gets to the point where you can’t say “love your neighbour” without someone saying “Ah yes, but you know you’re supposed to love God first, and to omit that part of the scripture is to present an unbalanced…” (meanwhile, your neighbour has wandered off to the pub)

      I’m sure many will disagree with me on that :)

      So I will reassert, I think that this video is good, and the person who took the time to put it together deserves to be applauded for their hard work. It’s not perfect, but I notice that they didn’t title it “a perfect summary of the gospel”, so I’ll try not to judge it on those terms.

      Phew, just in case you thought others had talked this one to death, eh?

      1. christopher says:

        Beat,
        “And when we end up doing that, we can idolise “being right”.” So, any time someone suggests that a doctrinal point is off, we can assume that the person is wrong in the heart? That will make for one ugly church, where no one can say anything about anything, because guys like you are on the look out —with x-ray machine in hand — to spot the “idolizers” of truth.

        About the whole “what is the gospel?” thing: there are four of them, and they take time and effort to read.

        As an aside: I just got off a bus ride where I met a lady in her sixties, who is a professor of American History and Literature. She is a gnostic, and has read most of the Gnostic gospels as well as commentators. She believes that Scripture is full of absolute dialectics and disharmony between authors, etc. Her solution, having been raised Catholic, is to assent to a hyper-mystical Christ who transcends the body. In other words, she knows the terminology, knows the basic outline, but has entirely redefined it according to an early heresy.

        With her, I am going to stick to very precise, very particular doctrine (as I would with anyone), because, if I say “Jesus died for her”, she already assumes that, but not in the way you would. But, you see, I don’t assume Jesus died for her, I assume He died for sinners (for a kind of person) — because this is what the Bible teaches. This little “Gospel” thing is not going to do it. A conversation with her requires that I know things from all sides. By the way, she grabbed my hand and thanked me for the talk. She is sending me some book by Elaine Pagels (the gnostic) to read.

        If you give up solid, real Reformed theology, you abandon the teeth of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He hauls people in with those teeth. Without it, your evangelism will be as effective as a nerf® sword against a shark. Don’t degrade what is good.

        1. Ron says:

          “But, you see, I don’t assume Jesus died for her, I assume He died for sinners (for a kind of person)”

          I’m one of those who believes that Jesus didn’t die for everyone but only for the elect. That said, how does the distinction, that you have gone out of your way to make in the quote above, affect (in anyway, shape or form) your approach to this woman? I mean, seriously, are you telling me that if you believed Jesus died for “her” (not knowing if he did or not… but may have) you would have done something different? IOW, if you believed Jesus only died for the elect you would have looked at her and thought, “hum… she doesn’t look like one of the elect to me… so I won’t waste my time with her”? And therefore we should all be thankful that you walk around with this distinction so clear in your mind because without clear thinking people such as yourself this woman would be doomed?!? Is that the point your making?

          Oh, and out of curiosity, what book are you sending her? Of course I’m taking it for granted that if you agreed to read Pagel (yuk) at her suggestion, she agreed to read something at your suggestion… if not… it’s pretty obvious why she shook your hand.

      2. EBG says:

        Beat,
        I like to use ‘Two Ways to Live’ by Matthias Media http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/ as a tool for presenting the Gospel.
        Praying for your friend.

        1. Thanks for that EBG, that’s a nice simple summary. I wonder if anyone has any others that they like to recommend?

          1. Christopher says:

            Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are pretty good.

            1. Justin Taylor says:

              Don Carson has written:

              “One small matter should be raised if only to set it aside. Today one common use of “gospel” is to refer to the ostensible literary genre of the first four books of the New Testament: we speak of the four canonical Gospels.

              It is now widely recognized that there is no evidence that anyone in the first century used the word “gospel” that way. Each of what we call the four Gospels was called “The Gospel according to Matthew,” “The Gospel according to Mark,” and so on: there was one gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is little harm in preserving usage that sprang up in the second century and continues to this day, but we should not succumb to the anachronism that thinks such usage has any bearing whatsoever on how the word was understood in the first century.

  18. taco says:

    What does SBTS mean by “…God placed all of the sin of all of mankind on Jesus.” Can someone have them explain that?

  19. Evan May says:

    Reader’s would be well served to check this out:

    http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2008/09/24/what-is-gospel/

    Helpful distinctions for issues that can become cloudy in the “What is the Gospel?” debate.

    1. Thanks Evan. That was helpful.

  20. James says:

    what is the gospel = newest played-out, asininely argued about, question in the quasi reformed circles….

    NEXT!

  21. I would have to say that this is a useful resource for evangelistic efforts with non-Christians that presuppose certain Truths (i.e. Monotheism, absolutes, etc…). Obviously something like this wouldn’t work in a more relational process, but would be good for a quick and dirty presentation.

    Cheers, Jesse

  22. garrett says:

    Whats up guys! When you get a chance, check out Mark Merrill’s new blog. It has great advice on leadership, relationships, etc. Definitely something worth while. Heres the link! http://bit.ly/MarkMerrill

  23. Jared Moore says:

    BC McWhite,

    I’d like to hear more about your understanding of the “arrived” kingdom of God being part of the gospel. I noticed how you emphasized the coming kingdom as well. I don’t emphasize the kingdom whenever I share the gospel (at least by name). Does leaving this emphasis out mean that I’m not sharing the gospel?

  24. Jay says:

    It’s a good thing unbelievers don’t read these comments (or at least I hope they don’t cause there is nothing here that would make them want Christ.

    1. @ Jay: You’re spot on, because there is nothing that would do that (Rom. 3.11)

  25. Thanks JT for sharing this. I think it will be useful for me as a tool to help my youth group – understand and share the Gospel. I would probably tweak it a bit for my situation and my group.
    It is a tool that might not be useful in every situation [which is why it is nice to have a well-equipped toolbox] – but it could be helpful if pressed for time – and you wanted to at least get some info into the listener’s head. I probably wouldn’t hand them my phone and say “Here, watch this.” I would more than likely try to draw the presentation – and tweak it if I wanted.
    Maybe the creator’s of this video will hear some good suggestions from those who have responded kindly – and come out with a version 1.1 or something. I appreciate their efforts to help – and willingness to share publicly – and hope they will present some other creative capsules to help us share the good news.

  26. Brent Hobbs says:

    Very good production quality and, more importantly, very good content.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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