Books about the gospel are nothing new, even among those who do not accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God. For example, the older Tubingen school argued that there was no central gospel message in the New Testament. In the 20th century, British scholar, C. H. Dodd, argued the exact opposite—namely, that there was one central gospel message in the Bible. He was challenged by James Dunn in his classic, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (1977), who argued that there are many different gospels in the New Testament. This same line of argumentation has been picked up by the current mega-best-selling author and New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman.

I’ve read almost a dozen of these types of arguments over the past several years. Among evangelical authors, I find books falling into three basic camps:

1) Authors who emphasize the BIG picture of the gospel: namely, that the gospel is the entire message of redemption from Genesis to Revelation. They remind us of the grand story of the Bible: creation, fall, flood, redemption, Messiah, death, resurrection, second coming, and new earth. And such folks are correct. Books by authors emphasizing this aspect of the gospel include N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and Simply Good News, John Dickson’s The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, and Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel. The great benefit of these books is that they remind us of the great sweeping story of the Bible and keep us focused on the big picture of redemption. The danger of these books is that they can overlook the simple question, “What must I do to be saved?”

2) Authors who emphasize the NARROW picture of the gospel: namely, the cross of Christ and the summons to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Such folks are also correct. Books in this camp include Charles Ryrie’s So Great Salvation and John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus (1988) and The Gospel According to the Apostles (1989). (Admittedly, I find MacArthur’s emphasis on “Lordship salvation” to be far more accurate than Ryrie’s “non-Lordship” view.) MacArthur’s new book, The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings, is also along this line.

3) Authors who attempt to strike a middle ground: among these I would include Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gibbert’s What is the Mission of the Church?, Michael Horton’s The Gospel Driven Life and Christless Christianity, Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel?, Matt Chandler’s Explicit Gospel, Darryl Bock’s Recovering the Real Lost Gospel, and John Piper’s God is the Gospel. I would also add David Martyn Lloyd Jones’ classic, Spiritual Depression. Jones’ book is an older work but still covers the topic of the gospel well.

by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor