All of John Piper’s numerous books are thought-provoking, Scripture-saturated, and God-centered. If you have read any of them, you know that Piper has been greatly influenced by the theology, as well as the style, of the great eighteenth-century American preacher, theologian, and philosopher, Jonathan Edwards. In fact, I would be so bold as to call him “the modern day Jonathan Edwards.”
A theme from Edwards (no, really from the Bible!) that crops up in almost all of Piper’s writings is that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. God’s glory and our delight in Him go hand-in-hand.
God Is the Gospel
In God Is the Gospel, Piper expounds his theme, using verse upon verse to prove that GOD IS THE GOSPEL. In a day when the gospel is often explained in simplistic and human-centered ways, it is edifying to reflect on the broader biblical meaning of the gospel:
“(The gospel) includes the existence of the living God and his coming into history with imperial authority over all things as the long-awaited King of Israel and Lord of the universe. This King was Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior. He fulfilled the Old Testament expectations of the Son of David, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again triumphant over Satan, death, and hell. He promised his own Spirit to be with us and help us. On the basis of his death and resurrection, the gospel promises a great salvation – eventual healing from disease and liberation from oppression, peace with God and others who believe, justification by faith apart from works of the law, forgiveness of sins, transformation into the image of Christ, eternal life, and the global inclusion of all people from all nations in this salvation.
“But … the final and greatest good of the gospel is not included in this array of gospel gifts. My burden in this book is to make as clear as I can that preachers can preach on these aspects of the gospel and yet never take people to the goal of the gospel. Preachers can say dozens of true and wonderful things about the gospel and not lead people to where the gospel is leading. People can hear the gospel preached, or read in their Bibles, and not see the final aim of the gospel that makes the good news good.
“What makes all the events of Good Friday and Easter and all the promises they secure good news is that they lead us to God. ‘Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). And when we get there, it is God himself who will satisfy our souls forever. Everything else in the gospel is meant to display God’s glory and remove every obstacle in him (such as wrath) and in us (such as our rebellion) so that we can enjoy Him forever. God is the gospel. That is, he is what makes the gospel good news. God is the final and highest gift that makes the good news good. Until people use the gospel to get to God, they use it wrongly.”
God Is the Gospel has made me think deeply about the application of the gospel in my own life and ministry.
- It’s caused me to ask myself why I delight so much in the benefits of the gospel, for example, being forgiven of my sins, having eternal life, and being adopted as a child of God, yet so little in God Himself, who is the greatest gift of the gospel. Why am I not enthralled with our great God as revealed in Jesus Christ, the One whom I will spend eternity worshiping in heaven?
- Do I get more of a thrill contemplating “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so,” that is, that God loves me and makes much of me, or that I can make much of Him for all eternity because of what He did for me at the cost of His Son Jesus Christ?
- Am I becoming like Christ whom I admire? 2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks of “beholding the glory of the Lord,” thus “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” In life, we become like those we look up to. Or as Piper declares, “We absorb what we admire.”
- Do I preach the gospel appealing primarily to lesser benefits, or do I preach it showing the glory of Christ?
- When I sacrifice my time and energy to minister and to bring the gospel to others, do I do it in a way that points people to me in any way, or to God alone? Piper writes, “Christ loves by suffering to give us God. We love by suffering to give God to others. Giving ourselves without giving God looks loving to the world. But it is not. We are poor substitutes for God.”
- When I praise God, do I praise Him for who He is, or merely for what He has done for me? Am I truly captivated by Him and Him alone? (Let me make it crystal clear – Piper is NOT saying the other blessings of the gospel aren’t wonderful and that we shouldn’t praise God for them, just that these are not the greatest blessing we received when we became Christians.)
- When I think of heaven, do I think of it simply in terms of the joy of being delivered from this broken and sinful world – no more pain, no more tears, no more death? Or, do I think of it as the moment I will see my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face-to-face in all His beauty?
Piper draws from hundreds of biblical passages in this book, but perhaps the key Scripture is 2 Corinthians 4:4-6:
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The last chapter of God Is the Gospel ends with praise. Piper uses hymn upon hymn, from ancient ones to modern ones, to point us to the glory of God in Christ. It is an awe-inspiring ending.
P.S. I recommend you read this 179-page book in small bits and pieces. Read it slowly, savoring every paragraph. In fact, try reading it aloud. You’ll likely get more out of it if you do.