No doubt, the gospel message is a hard message. The truth contained within it makes it confrontational with a propensity to disrupt the lives of the comfortable. Some will refuse to listen; others will reject it as too hard; many will find it offensive and intolerant. Those responses though, do not dictate the message, the messenger, or the method. In reality, the fact that so many will dismiss the gospel message outright is indicative of the need for it to be proclaimed. However, the necessity of its proclamation indicates an essential aspect: if we are to proclaim the gospel, we must understand the gospel.
Completing a trilogy of books on the subject, John MacArthur draws attention to that very topic in The Gospel According to Paul. While his first book, The Gospel According to Jesus, brought about the unexpected controversy and it’s follow-up, The Gospel According to the Apostles, was a response to that controversy, this final installment is meant to be anything but polemical. Instead, MacArthur’s intention in this latest installment is “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.”
What is the gospel? The varying answers, and often times lack of answers, indicates that there is a great need for a book like this. Examining the teachings of Paul, the book acts as a summary of Paul’s collective writings emphasizing the essential elements of the gospel. Through seven chapters readers will be guided through God’s message by way of his work through Paul. The path of teaching is quite simplistic. After setting up some foundational aspects, readers will be confronted by their own depravity and need for a savior, thus leaving them with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Yet this despair makes chapters four through six worth rejoicing over because they exalt the saving grace of the gospel by highlighting God’s profound provision that fulfills that great need for a savior.
The Gospel According to Paul is a book that contains many characterizations that readers should be appreciative of, but especially noteworthy are three aspects:
- It is a book of tenderness: The writing magnifies God’s grace and his work in the lives of people through salvation.
- It is a book of theology: Any person acquainted with John MacArthur would expect nothing less. Throughout the book, he spends much time discussing profound theological subjects such as justification, atonement, propitiation, and so much more.
- It is a book of transformation: The author’s theological teachings are made more powerful by his ability to connect each of these concepts both to the gospel message and to the application of a believer’s life. Therefore, because the book is teaching Scripture, the expectation is that it will ignite transformation in the lives of readers.
These three qualities are typical of a Dr. John MacArthur teaching and together generate a book of extensive value.
The author closes the book with a chapter that confronts two extremes when it comes to the gospel: legalism and antinomianism. Through this chapter, he is quick to emphasize God’s grace in light of the God’s law. As a result, readers will see a connection between who they once were, who they now are, and who they will be.
Many solid Christians find themselves disagreeing with certain aspects of Dr. John MacArthur’s theology. Most notably, many will disagree with his emphasis upon the doctrines of grace. These pieces of doctrine do come out in his writing and he defends his positions quite well. However, I suspect that in light of the past books in the trilogy, many will be surprised that this particular book is non-confrontational when it comes to those aspects.
Because the book is written not to generate controversy, but clarity it is a book worth reading. The Gospel According to Paul reveals just how complex the gospel message really is. However, Dr. MacArthur’s gift for writing and communicating demonstrates that complex does not necessarily mean difficult. A reading of this book will increase the priority of knowing the gospel and living it. He does this by examining the deep profundity of the gospel with great clarity.
To purchase a copy of this book or the previous two books, click the following:
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, at no cost to me, for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the publisher, the author, or any other outside source, but is instead a response to my own reading of the book.