When I began teaching New Testament Survey at Liberty University in the Fall of 2006, I quickly discovered that many of my students did not have a firm grasp ... or at times ... any grasp on what the gospel was. So I began looking for a short book on the gospel to supplement a New Testament Survey book. The only two book that came close to what I was looking for were: 1) God is the Gospel (2005) by John Piper; and 2) Saved From What? (2002) by R. C. Sproul. There were problems with both, however.
With Piper's book, I didn't feel comfortable using any book by him with the heated dialogue that was taking place about Calvinism at Liberty University during this time period (aka, the almost debate between Ergun Caner and James White). The same problem crossed my mind when Mark Dever's published his helpful work The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (2007).
Sproul's book brought similar baggage, but I was able to use it for a year. It did a fine job in what he was trying to do and it ministered to many students in a powerful way. But it still wasn't exactly what I was looking for. And I was still uncomfortable using a book by someone so Reformed at Liberty University at that time. Also, the resurrection of Christ was heavily minimized, about 2-3 references in the entire book.
And then an explosion occurred:
- Greg Gilbert's excellent book: What is the Gospel? (2010)
- Trevin Wax's wonderful book: Counterfeit Gospels (2011)
- Matt Chandler's The Explicit Gospel (2012)
- Paul Washer's first two installments of his (soon to be) trilogy: The Gospel's Power & Message (2012) and The Gospel Call and True Conversion (2013).
I'm sure more could be added to this list! Regardless, D. A. Carson has repeatedly stated that when the gospel is assumed by one generation, it can easily be denied by the following generation (Basics for Believers, 27). These are not identical presentations of the gospel, but they are all very helpful. Reading through these works (and listening to this sermon by Paris Reidhead) has helped me to see two specific problems with gospel presentations in many sermons today that I want to focus on (not that their aren't others):
1) Carrot Stick Evangelism
2) Just Explaining the Response