Wilson, Jared C. Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012. 207 pp. $15.99
Rather than treating the gospel as a required add-on to the typical sermon or worship service, Jared Wilson is convinced that its dimensions – its heights, lengths, and depths – should be searched and studied. Believers should marvel at the “deep and rich. And beautiful. Multifaceted. Expansive. Powerful. Overwhelming. Mysterious. But vivid, too, and clear. Illuminating. Transforming. And did I mention big?” gospel (17). A lifetime of study could never uncover all of that it contains.
Yet many churches in evangelicalism are completely missing the multifaceted beauty of the gospel because they have diminished it to a transaction. They’ve turned the gospel into the thing one hears just before they become a Christian. “The central problem with the evangelical church’s mostly truncated gospel (or its simply transactional gospel formula) is that it misses out on these depths” (19).
In response to his growing concern of this lack, and out of his own experience as he “awoke” to the gospel (see Gospel Wakefulness), the author attempts to lift high this wondrous gospel and examine its wonders, examining it one piece at a time, each facet in light of the whole, until the reader experiences the same sense of elation and amazement that prompted the book in the first place.
And he succeeds in this endeavor.
Wilson’s admiration of the splendor of Christ is contagious. Each chapter traces an aspect of the glories of the gospel of Christ through the pages of Scripture and draws the reader to worship. Soon, the reader discovers, the gospel is something much bigger than an eternal transaction. The gospel is the air we breathe. The gospel is the love that with which God loves us. The gospel is the promise of the restoration of the cosmos. The gospel is the atoning, sacrificial work of the eternal second-person of the Triune God who, by his death, burial, and resurrection, who propitiates God’s wrath, expiates sin, sanctifies the believer, and promises to bring that sanctification to completion in the last days.
One concern, however, that began to develop as I read this book was the semantic width of the term, “gospel.” How do we define the gospel? And if, in defining the term, one includes the demonstration of man’s need for the “gospel,” and utilizes the entirety of the Biblical witness to reveal and explore this need, where do we draw the line of distinction between “gospel” and “Scripture”? Should such a line exist in the first place?
I fear that lost in the gospel-centered movement (which I’m for, by the way) is any sense of distinguishing the gospel from the Biblical witness as a whole. Where does the gospel end? Does it?
My fear is that by losing such a distinction, the term gospel could actually become useless. If it can mean everything and refer to every text, then why use it at all. That would be akin to referring to the texts in Scripture that are written with words. In order to make the gospel explicit, in order to experience its depths and place it at the center, this task will need to be taken up.
With that concern raised, Gospel Deeps is a brilliant endeavor to explore and marvel at what God has done, and to encourage the reader to experience anew the wonder of their salvation and their great big God.
Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps
I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.