The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? (Revised and Expanded Anniversary Edition) by John MacArthur. Zondervan. 385 pages. 2009
At the beginning of 1978, John MacArthur began preaching through the Gospel of Matthew, verse by verse, a series which eventually lasted seven and a half years, comprising 226 sermons. After completing that series, MacArthur wrote this now modern-day classic to distill his observations about how Jesus proclaimed His own gospel, and to take a hard look at the truths He included in the gospel message. His chief goal was to take an honest and in-depth look at Jesus’ gospel and His evangelistic methods. He knew that the book would be controversial, as he wrote it in part as a response to an already-existing controversy.
He writes that there is no more important issue than the question of what gospel we ought to believe and proclaim. He tells us that he is convinced that our lack of clarity on the most basic matter of all — the gospel — is the greatest detriment to the work of the church in our day, and nothing matters more than what Scripture says about the good news of salvation. He writes that the theme of the gospel according to Jesus is that He came to call sinners to repentance.
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And yet, as he immersed himself in the gospel Jesus taught, MacArthur became acutely aware that most of modern evangelism — both witnessing and preaching — falls far short of what Jesus taught. MacArthur writes that the more he examined Jesus’ public ministry and His dealings with inquirers, the more apprehensive he became about the methods and content of contemporary evangelism, indicating that on a disturbing number of fronts, the message being proclaimed today is not the gospel according to Jesus. He writes that the gospel in vogue today holds forth a false hope to sinners. It promises them that they can have eternal life yet continue to live in rebellion against God. It encourages people to claim Jesus as Savior, and defer until later the commitment to obey Him as Lord. He tells us that the “no-lordship message” is that you can have Jesus as Savior and Friend here and now and decide later whether you really want to submit to His authority or not, adding that it is hard to imagine a more disastrous twisting of what it means to be a Christian.
He tells us that what is needed is a complete reexamination of the gospel, indicating that we must go back to the basis for all New Testament teaching about salvation — the gospel proclaimed by Jesus. In this book, he looks at the biblical accounts of Jesus’ major evangelistic encounters and His teaching on the way of salvation.
This outstanding book has stood the test of time and is continuing to be widely read today. It concludes with three appendices (The Gospel According to the Apostles, The Gospel According to Historic Christianity and Answers to Common Questions).
Below are 20 of my favorite quotes from the book:
- Salvation is by God’s sovereign grace and grace alone. Nothing a lost, degenerate, spiritually dead sinner can do will in any way contribute to salvation.
- True salvation produces a heart that voluntarily responds to the ever-awakening reality of Christ’s lordship.
- The belief that someone could be a true Christian while that person’s whole lifestyle, value system, speech, and attitude are marked by a stubborn refusal to surrender to Christ as Lord is a notion that shouldn’t even need to be refuted.
- You cannot remove the lordship of Christ from the gospel message without undermining faith at its core.
- The gospel according to Jesus calls sinners to give up their independence, deny themselves, submit to an alien will, and abandon all rights in order to be owned and controlled by the Lord.
- The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer.
- Genuine assurance comes from seeing the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in one’s life, not from clinging to the memory of some experience.
- The test of true faith is this: Does it produce obedience? If not, it is not saving faith. Disobedience is unbelief. Real faith obeys.
- One of the most malignant by-products of the debacle in contemporary evangelism is a gospel that fails to confront individuals with the reality of their sin.
- The truth of the gospel according to Jesus is that the only ones who are eligible for salvation are those who realize they are sinners and are willing to repent.
- Salvation always results because God first pursues sinners, not because sinners first seek God.
- Salvation is only for those who are willing to give Christ first place in their lives.
- You cannot preach a gospel of grace to someone who has not heard that God requires obedience and punishes disobedience.
- Humble repentance is the only acceptable response to the gospel according to Jesus.
- Genuine saving faith changes behavior, transforms thinking, and puts within a person a new heart. Contemporary Christianity often accepts a shallow repentance that bears no fruit.
- True believers will persevere. Professing Christians who turn against the Lord only prove that they were never truly saved.
- The mark of a true disciple is not that he never sins, but rather that when he does sin, he inevitably returns to the Lord to receive cleansing and forgiveness.
- The gospel invitation is not an entreaty for sinners to allow the Savior into their lives. It is both an appeal and a command for them to repent and follow Him.
- The great miracle of redemption is not that we accept Christ, but that He accepts us.
- Conversion is not simply a sinner’s decision for Christ; it is first the sovereign work of God in transforming the individual.
- The Pilgrim’s Progress. The free audiobook download of the month for April from Christianaudio is the classic The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.
- Protected from False Teaching. John Piper’s new book Providence, is about the precious doctrine of God’s providence. On the Ask Pastor John podcast he is looking at a few of the ten implications. On this episode he looks at implication number seven.
- My 5 Favorite Puritan Authors. Keith Mathison shares this list of the five Puritan authors he has most enjoyed reading.
- Bringing Good Things Together: Work and Worship. Justin Lonas reviews the new book Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson. He writes “If churches take their recommendations to heart, perhaps members and leaders would know one another better and work together for the good of the community in coordinated ways.”
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 4: The Act of Creation. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- Providence presumes creation.
- God created the world for God.
- God created the world with the goal that it would display his glory and find an echo in the praises of his people.
- In creation God is aiming at a display of his glory far greater than the wonders of nature—amazing as they are. He is aiming at a world filled with worshiping human beings.
- For all eternity, the calling of the redeemed will be to live as images of Christ Jesus—not just to image God in general, as at the first, but to image Christ.
- The aim of creation, and the aim of the salvation accomplished in the theater of creation, is the glorification of Jesus Christ.
- The glory of God and the glory of the Son of God in creation are one glory, just as the goal of the first creation through Christ and the goal of the new creation in Christ are one glory.
- Man was put on the earth to make a name for God, not for himself.