The deep riches of the “simple” Gospel

The Gospel According to Paul
By John MacArthur
Nelson Books, 2017, 219 pages

Most everyone in America has heard of the “Gospel” (Greek, εὐαγγέλιον, euangélion, “good news”) but the word means different things to different people. The Mormons have their gospel, which is different from the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ gospel, which is different from the Catholics’ gospel, which is different from Biblical Christianity’s Gospel.

In this short book, pastor John MacArthur takes an in-depth look at Biblical Christianity’s Gospel of Jesus Christ using the apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament.

The bad news is we are all sinners and deserve eternal punishment. But God’s Word declares that Jesus Christ, God the Son, came down to Earth and lived a perfectly sinless life as only He could. He willingly went to the cross on Calvary and died as a sacrifice for our sins. But He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death and offers the gift of eternal life to all those who trust in Him as Savior.

That’s very Good News! No one can possibly merit their salvation but Jesus will save everyone who repents of their sins and accepts Him as Savior by faith alone.

MacArthur does a good job of breaking down the seminary terminology for all of us Theology 101-types but the Gospel in its bare essence is so simple a child could understand it.

Here’s a few of my takeaways and observations from this book:

#1 MacArthur describes Christ’s death on the cross as a part of “The Great Exchange.” The sins of men were imputed (ascribed to a person’s account) to Jesus as He hung on the cross. When we accepted Christ as Savior, His perfect righteousness was imputed to us. I know full well that Jesus “died for my sins,” but the concept that all of my unrighteousness, past, present, and future was imputed to Him just as His perfect righteousness was imputed to me at the moment I trusted in Him, well, that gives me a more clearly defined understanding of what transpired on the cross.

#2 MacArthur quotes Catholic novelist and apologist, G.K. Chesterton, regarding original sin:

“G.K. Chesteron referred to original sin as ‘the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.’ He decried the extreme illogic of liberals in the church who gave lip service to truths ‘which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.'”  – p. 101

Why would MacArthur favorably quote a Roman Catholic apologist who was certainly no friend of evangelical Protestantism? Chesterton, a promoter of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, was as lost as the liberal churchmen he criticized. Weren’t there any evangelical sources MacArthur could have referenced regarding man’s sin nature? I jest of course. MacArthur certainly knows better so how to explain this ecumenical “stumble”? I would have guessed MacArthur to be the last person in the world to succumb to Chesterton mania but it just goes to show we all have our spiritual blind spots.

#3 In this book about the Gospel there’s no invitation to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Why would that be? I know “decisionism,” leading people to trust in Christ via an invitation to pray a salvation prayer, is looked down upon by some Christian groups and I have some empathy for that viewpoint. I believe untold millions of people have come forward at Christian youth events, evangelistic crusades, and at church “altar calls” and made disingenuous professions in Christ out of pressure and in ignorance. However, I also believe untold millions genuinely accepted Christ by being led to the point of deciding to accept Him or reject Him. Feedback on this is welcomed. Perhaps this topic of evangelistic crusade-style “decisionism” deserves a post all by itself.

#4 MacArthur is of course a member of the Reformed tradition so he promotes the doctrines of predestination and election. Not a problem. I’m somewhere in the middle of the Arminius-Calvin debate and remain politely non-committal.

#5 Overall, I enjoyed “The Gospel According to Paul” very much. It was such a balm to my soul to contemplate with MacArthur some of the glorious depths of the Good News! of salvation in Jesus Christ as proclaimed by His apostle, Paul.

“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.“ – Romans 2:16

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