Defining the Gospel

There has been a lot of talk on what constitutes the Gospel since Mark Dever gave his sermon entitled “Improving the Gospel: Exercises in Unbiblical Theology ” at the Together for the Gospel conference this year. Questions have arose such as: How do you distinguish the Gospel from its implications? Are implications part of the Gospel?

The 9Marks blog has been posting some interesting discussion lately on this issue. Check out the comments sections as well. Below are links to some of the posts in chronological order.

The Gospel? – Mark Dever

Improving the Gospel (1-5): CRY #1 – “MAKE THE GOSPEL PUBLIC” – Mark Dever

Re. Dever’s Cry #1 – Jonathan Leeman

On the meaning of “gospel” (RE: Cry 1) – Greg Gilbert

Cry #2 – “Make the Gospel Larger!” – Mark Dever

“What is the Gospel?” he asked. – Greg Gilbert

Below is a quote from Greg Gilbert’s latest post:

3. What’s an example of a non-essential implication of the Gospel?

If by “essential” you mean “of the essence of the Gospel itself,” then I’d say: Defining things as I have above, no implication of the Gospel is of the Gospel’s essence. In other words, if it’s an implication of the Gospel, it’s not part of the Gospel, however immediately it may flow from it.

But if by “essential”—or “non-essential,” as it is—you mean “things we can take or leave, do or not do,” then I’d say this: There are many things which are held out by the inspired New Testament itself as necessary implications of the Gospel, things like love, purity, holiness, etc. Those we have to do. If we believe the Gospel, we will do them. And because they are demanded of us by Scripture, we are under obligation to them. They are essential, meaning necessary, for us as Christians.

But there are other things that are often held out by people as unquestionable implications of the Gospel that really are not. Forgiving third-world debt comes to mind. And you could list more. These are the kinds of things where Christians can have some good conversations: Do you think forgiving third-world debt is something we ought to do in light of the Gospel? What about cleaning up parks? What about adopting schools? Have those arguments. But don’t make the mistake of saying that forgiving debt or cleaning up parks is the Gospel. It’s not; it’s not even an implication of the Gospel explicitly commanded in Scripture; it’s just a thing about which we can argue and discuss whether or not it might be an implication of the Gospel.


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