John MacArthur has a unique way of taking a truth or passage of Scripture that I have heard time and time again and putting it in such a way that I am reignited by that truth and stirred to worship Jesus through it. As one of the most powerful and biblically faithful models of expositional preaching and teaching today, MacArthur’s sermons and books have done this for me more times that I can count.
Unfortunately for many Christians, the Gospel can be one such well-worn truth of Scripture, even to the degree that we almost become immune to the gravity os how serious and how wonderful this news really is. If that is you — If you find yourself tuning out during the “evangelistic” portion of the sermon where the preacher talks to non-Christians because you “already know the Gospel,” or if you find yourself bored by the Gospel and only want to study the “deep” doctrines of Scripture — I want to commend a new book by John Macarthur to you.
The book is called The Gospel According To Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching. Unlike his other two books with similar titles — The Gospel According to Jesus and The Gospel According to the Apostles — this book’s main purpose is not polemical. Unlike those other two books, which were directed at a specific false-teaching or false trend with Evangelicalism, this book’s aim “is simply to examine some vital biblical texts as straightforwardly as possible, taking a careful, thorough, honest look at the gospel as Paul proclaimed it — not in a dry or merely academic analysis, but in a way that will ignite our hearts with the truth of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, risen, and ascended” (xxvii).
In this book, MacArthur looks at 7 key passages from Paul’s epistles, each dealing with a different aspect of the Gospel. The 7 passages that he deals with, followed by the chapter title in the book, are as follows:
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 — “Things of First Importance”
- Romans 3:9-18 — “First, the Bad News”
- Romans 3:21-22 — “How Can a Person Be Right with God?”
- Romans 3:21-26 — “Sola Fide“
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 — “The Great Exchange”
- Ephesians 2:1-10 — “Alive Together with Christ”
- Titus 2:11-14 — “The Lessons of Grace”
In each of these chapters, MacArthur not only walks the reader through the basics of the Gospel, but also introduces him to some of the more fine-tuned and “deep-end-of-the-pool” outworkings of the Gospel and the atoning work of Christ. In these pages, you will see MacArthur unfold his simple definition of the Gospel. He says: “The gospel is good news for fallen humanity regarding how sins are atoned for, how sinners are forgiven, and how believers are made right with God” (78). In just 130 pages, he deals with doctrines like original sin, total depravity, propitiation, justification, penal substitution, the believer’s resurrection, legalism, antinomianism, grace, works, glorification, the sovereignty of God, and a whole host of other issues. But do not let that scare you. As always with MacArthur, he covers these issues in a very readable, understandable way in order to allow you to better understand the multi-faceted truths of the Gospel given in Scripture.
MacArthur demonstrates in this book that the Gospel was at the very heart and center of everything that Paul said or did in his ministry. In the book’s conclusion, he says:
“The gospel was no sideline for the apostle Paul. As we have seen from the beginning, ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ was the principal theme of everything the apostle taught or preached (1 Cor. 2:2). If he spent a great deal of time on any other doctrine, such as that long discourse on sin in Romans 1-3, it was only to lay the necessary groundwork for what he really wanted his readers to get; namely, the good news. If he waded chin-deep into a doctrinal controversy — as he does in Galatians, for example, and 1 Corinthians 15 — it was because the gospel was under attack. Whenever he wrote anything that sounded like self-defense, what he was really concerned about was guarding the clarity and authority of ‘my gospel.’ In the end, he literally gave his life ‘for [Christ’s] sake and the gospel’s’ (Mark 8:35). He always came back to the gospel, like a theological homing pigeon” (133).
MacArthur’s new book was a refreshing, devotional, instructive, and profitable book for me. There was nothing in its pages that I had never heard before, yet I walked away from each chapter reminded of key truths, my heart lifted to worship, convicted over sin, and amazed by the grace of God. You will find, after reading this book, that the Gospel is simple enough for every human being to understand and come to grips with its truths, yet complex enough that no man will ever mine the depths of all that the Gospel declares to us. You will not be disappointed with this book. Buy a copy for yourself and feast on the riches of the Gospel of God. Better yet — Buy a couple of copies and work through it with someone else. You will both be enriched beyond measure.
“I love what the crucifixion of Christ accomplished for sinners. But it is even more profound and thrilling to consider all that that cross accomplished from God’s perspective — in its expression of His love, the demonstration of His righteousness, the magnification of His grace, the vindication of His justice, and the upholding of His law. This is the gospel according to Paul” (75).
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Nelson Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.