Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching, by John MacArthur
“Salvation is a creative work of God, not a do-it-yourself project for sinners.” While that quote sums up John Macarthur’s perspective on 2 Corinthians 5, it could summarize the message of his latest book, The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching.
The approach of the book is to use
some of the principle evangelistic texts from Paul’s New Testament epistles, we will survey the gospel as Paul proclaimed it. We’ll consider several important questions, including: What is the gospel? What are the essential elements of the message? How can we be certain we have it right? How should Christians be proclaiming the good news to the world?
As Dr. Macarthur explains in the introduction,
My design in this book is to explain the most important gospel texts from Paul’s epistles as clearly and as thoroughly as possible. I hope to underscore (as Paul did) the eternal importance of gospel doctrine and the absolute necessity of getting it right.
In Chapter 1, “Things of First Importance,” Dr. Macarthur uses 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 to lay out the basics of the gospel, including the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In Chapter 2, “First, the Bad News,” he uses Romans 3 to stress that all have sinned and no one seeks God. Chapter 3, “How can a Person Be Right with God?” uses a question posed by Job to illustrate the dilemma we all face. Chapter 4, “Sola Fide” explains that we are saved by faith, not by works. Chapter 5, “The Great Exchange” deals with the doctrine of substitionary atonement. Chapter 6, “Alive Together With Christ” describes the power and results of the resurrection. Chapter 7, “The Lessons of Grace” compares grace and legalism. In the appendices, Dr. Macarthur includes four sermons preached on these topics along with a glossary of terms.
For those who are concerned that Dr. Macarthur overemphasizes Calvinism, he offers an explanation and a balance.
We have stressed the sovereignty of God in salvation because that doctrine stands out prominently on the face of this text (2 Corinthians 5:21). It’s an amazing and counterintuitive truth. After all, God is the offended deity. But reconciliation for sinners comes at His instigation, through an atonement that He sovereignly provides. (p. 91)
God’s sovereignty does not eliminate human responsibility. God holds us responsible for what we do and don’t do, and it is perfectly just for Him to do so. He doesn’t control human actions by constraint. (p.92)
Just as God’s sovereignty doesn’t eliminate the sinner’s responsibility, likewise the plea for sinners to “be reconciled to God” poses no actual contradiction to the fact that God is the One who sovereignly draws those who do respond to the plea. (p. 93)
…the point to grasp here is that no one is compelled by force or coercion to reject the gospel message. They do it freely, by their own choice. Those who turn away in unbelief are therefore wholly responsible for putting themselves under God’s condemnation. (p.94)
The book will stretch your thinking on the topic and give you a much better understanding of the doctrine of salvation.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.