CULTURE · Theology

The Eclipse of the Gospel and the School of Hard Knox

A Powerful Man

I stood in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. Clouds gathered overhead and people walked curiously through the front doors. Here, the famous reformer, John Knox faithfully tended the flock until his death in 1572.

Once inside this massive cathedral, I was transfixed by the sheer beauty of this place. I was overwhelmed by the architecture – the awe-inspiring flying buttresses that point worshippers to the transcendence of God. A single elevated pulpit is located in the center of the sanctuary. It stands strategically above the worshippers, which symbolically places God’s Word above sinful creatures.

John Knox brought reform to Scotland and re-energized a nation that had all but forgotten God. Knox helped awaken a nation that neglected God’s truth which led to a virtual eclipse of the gospel. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes Knox as a man who preached “with the fire of God in his bones and in his belly!  He preached as they all preached, with fire and power, alarming sermons, convicting sermons, humbling sermons, converting sermons, and the face of Scotland was changed …” Simply put, the faithful preaching of Knox brought much needed reform to the Scottish landscape and renewed evangelical fervor to the church.

John Knox courageously raised the banner of the gospel and defended the truths of the Protestant Reformation. He was unashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and fearlessly proclaimed the Word of God. He stood boldly and with Peter and the apostles, obeyed God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Indeed, Knox is a true exemplar of faithfulness in the face of adversity.

A Personal Lesson

As I made my way out of St. Giles, my mind was filled with stories surrounding the life and ministry of John Knox. As I turned to gaze again at the rising fortress where Knox served the Lord, a thought occurred to me. It was not a new thought. Rather, it was a lesson that has moved me for many years now but in this moment, the lesson was magnified as I scanned the edifice of St. Giles. The lesson is this: church history matters.

It seems like such a simple lesson. But it is a lesson that many contemporary Christians are unfamiliar with. Even as a young Bible College student, I failed to understand the importance of church history. The buildings seemed so old and the names were so hard to pronounce. It is a sentiment that is not unique to me. I hear it all the time. I hear the cruel remarks about John Calvin and the caricatures that biased people have cooked up about Jonathan Edwards. But when we move past all the petty talk and face reality, we realize that church history truly does matter.

A Pivotal Mindset

First, Church history matters because when we forget the past, we fail to learn valuable lessons that impact our lives. George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So Christians who minimize the importance of church history are vulnerable to the theological error that plagued the church in the past. Additionally, they repeat the sins committed by our forefathers.

For example, Arius committed a fatal theological error by teaching that Christ was the first created being. This theological controversy which erupted in 318 A.D. led to a series of erroneous Arian propositions:

  1. The Son was created by the Father.
  2. The Son owed his existence to the will of the Father.
  3. The Son was not eternal, that is, there was a time when he was not.

Such teaching stood diametrically opposed to Scripture and was outside the bounds of orthodoxy. In the end, Arius rejected the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Second, Church history matters because it strengthens our faith. Scripture instructs, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7, ESV) The term remember is a present imperative verb that means, “keep thinking about,” or “call to mind.”

Remembering godly leaders in church history is not optional; it is a command in sacred Scripture. The author of Hebrews does not limit the scope of these “leaders” to men like Moses, Abraham, Paul or Peter. He instructs us to remember leaders “who spoke to you the word of God.” So remembering leaders like Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, Luther, and Spurgeon is an important part of the Christian pilgrimage. We do well to follow in their paths by boldly proclaiming the truth and living faithfully before the Lord, even when our detractors heap insults on us for faithfully remembering these heroes of the faith.

Third, Church history matters because God ordained specific events that lead to the worldwide spread of his glory. Church history truly is “his story.” Whenever we discount history, we subtly stand in judgment over God and claim to know a better way. Whenever we disparage church history and subtly place ourselves in a position that was never ours to enjoy. Indeed, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3, ESV).

The School of Hard Knox

John Knox was a faithful man who led a gospel-centered life, according to the grace that was given him by his Savior. His relentless preaching helped drive away the darkness and restore the light of the gospel to his land. Almost five hundred years later, St. Giles still stands but the truth has fallen on hard times. Once again, the gospel is being eclipsed by man-made philosophy and foolishness.

As Christ-followers, we must learn well the lessons that church history teaches us. When we forget the past we falter in our faith and fail to exalt the sovereign purposes of our Savior. When we forget the past, we become comfortable stumbling around in the dark and begin to glory in our ignorance.

Let us become educated in the School of Hard Knox. And may the gospel shine brightly again. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV). And may we recover our love of truth and our passion for the gospel.


Travel With John Knox

travelDavid Campbell, Travel With John Knox Leominster: Day One Publications, 2003, 128 pp. $20.00

Travel With John Knox by David Campbell is another installment in the Day One series the introduces readers to the heroes of the Christian faith. This 128-page volume is a great introduction to the Scottish Reformer who is described as “the most excellent man Scotland ever produced.”

Color photographs appear throughout this work, sparking interest in the Scottish Reformation and the theological genius of John Knox. A perfect traveling tool for anyone making a trek to the United Kingdom.


With Jesus: Finding Your Place in the Story of Christ – Brian G. Hedges (2017)

hBrian Hedges, With Jesus: Finding Your Place in the Story of Christ. Wapwallopen: Shepherd Press, 2017, 185 pp. $13.95

With Jesus, by Brian G. Hedges is a book that invites readers on a journey of a lifetime. The gospel is weaved into the fabric of this story and helps readers understand the role that Christ places in individual lives. Hedges writes, “Whatever the shape of your life, whether your personal saga is comedy, tragedy, adventure, or soap opera, the gospel resounds with good news for all who believe: you’ve been inserted into a new story – the story of Christ.  This book is about finding your place in the story of Jesus.”

The author is convinced that many people read the gospel “through the wrong lens.” Therefore, his goal is to help people read the gospel narratives in a “gospel-centered way.”

So the book begins with the birth of the self-existent Son of God in the manger. Hedges guides readers through the gospel narratives and highlights each of the major aspects of Christ’s earthly life from his baptism to Gethsemane, the crucifixion, the resurrection, ascension, and return. Each chapter includes well-thought-out observations about the person and work of Christ that both encourage and challenge.

Hedges work weighs in at 185 pages. Each page is packed with biblical wisdom and insight. The writing is pastorally challenging and theologically engaging. Many Puritans and stalwarts from church history are consulted, which only strengthens the punch in this already excellent study. The investment of time and energy in Hedges book will pay rich dividends and will shower a wealth of gospel-centered joy on each reader.

The lesson that stands out for me above all come in a few short sentences by the author:

“I have been gripped with this glorious truth: that in all of his obedience, Jesus was acting as our representative, husband, and head.  If I am in Christ, then his achievements are counted as mine.  What he accomplished, I accomplished with him.”

Readers are urged to plunge, prayerfully into this very well-written book and spend some time With Jesus.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.


The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes – Mark Dever (2018)

sibesMark Dever, The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018, 198 pp. $16.00

The Long Line of Godly Men Profiles is a series published by Reformation Trust that has been educating and inspiring Christians for over ten years. Steven Lawson serves as the series editor and oversees this important project. This excellent series introduces readers to pastors and theologians from different generations – men like Calvin, Edwards, Luther, Tyndale, and Spurgeon. Each book stands alone and each one offers a treasure chest of biblical resources – historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral. The latest offering is no exception as Dr. Mark Dever introduces the life, ministry, and theology of Richard Sibbes.

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes is a short biographical sketch of the influential pastor. In Dever’s words, Sibbes was “the quintessential Puritan.” The aim of the author is to present Sibbes in a clear light and provide historical and theological clues along the way that will portray him in a proper light. In a final sense, Dever’s goal in this work is to “recover Sibbes as a historical and theological whole.”

Dever traces the ministerial career of Richard Sibbes and alerts readers to some of the high points of his ministry and makes reference to some of the controversies that emerge, along the way. One of the dominant themes is the tension which existed in the 17th-century Elizabethan era between the conformists and the non-conformists.

Three specific pastoral matters that occupied the attention of Sibbes was the centrality of the heart, assurance of salvation, and the role of the conscience. Dever introduces each subject and highlights the various points, which were emphasized by Sibbes.

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes has a more academic feel than most of the other books in the Long Line of Godly Men Series. Students interested in the Puritan era and 17th century England will find Dever’s observations interesting and illuminating. Dever’s fine work should be welcomed and applauded.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Apologetics and Worldview · BOOK REVIEWS · Evangelism

The Gospel for Muslims – Thabiti Anyabwile (2018)

musThe Gospel for Muslims is another winner by Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile.  This short but powerful work shatters the assumption that Muslims are impossible to reach for Christ.  A former Muslim himself,  Anyabwile demonstrates that loving and faithful proclamation have and will continue to reap benefits among our Muslim friends.  For the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Pastor Thabiti employs the same strategy for unpacking that gospel that emerges in Greg Gilbert’s excellent book, What is the Gospel? Four components summarize this God-centered approach to evangelism, namely, proclamation concerning God, the sinfulness of man, the person and work of Christ as well as the responsibility for sinners to believe.  Each section contrasts Muslim dogma with the truth of Scripture.

This little book is loaded with practical help in sharing the gospel with Muslim people.  Anyone who has contact with Muslim people should read Anyabwile’s book.  And everyone should practice the principles set forth so Muslims everywhere might know the hope and forgiveness found in Christ alone!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

4.5 stars


Did God Kill Jesus? – Tony Jones (2015)

It takes 234 pages for Tony Jones to answer the central question in hisjones new book, Did God Kill Jesus?  The author is a self-described “theological provocateur,” so the question posed in his book should not surprise anyone.  The answer that emerges on page 234 is crystal clear: “No, God did not kill Jesus,” says Dr. Jones.  Readers will find that the path to this answer is paved with doubt and skepticism.  Frankly, it is a path fraught with theological compromise.

Tony Jones has a knack for asking questions.  He has an uncanny ability of questioning the theological status quo and forcing readers to decide, even re-evaluate their cherished views.  Unfortunately, some of the answers that Jones provides do not match the biblical record or pass the test of orthodoxy.

The author sets out to examine the various views of the atonement which have been offered up throughout church history.  The questions he fires at these theories are fair enough:

  • What does the model say about God?
  • What does it say about Jesus?
  • What does the model say about the relationship between God and Jesus?
  • How does it make sense of violence?
  • What does it mean for us spiritually?
  • Where’s the love?

Ultimately, none of the theories fully satisfy the author.  But the one he finds the most repugnant is penal substitutionary atonement.  Jones argues that this view, which he labels the payment model is currently in vogue “largely because it appeals to our sense of justice and our understanding of law and penalties.”  And he is not particularly bashful about how he feels about penal substitutionary atonement.  In his previous book, A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin, Jones writes, “I’m on no quest to reject the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement (PSA).  (I merely intend to dethrone it).”  However, what he fails to see is this: when penal substitutionary atonement is dethroned, the gospel of Jesus Christ is thrown into the ash heap and the hope of every person perishes.

In his explanation of penal substitutionary atonement, the author assures readers that “God is holy, and we are less-than-holy.”  This appears to be a strange starting point since all who hold to penal substitutionary atonement embrace the biblical idea of total depravity – which is quite a leap from “less-than-holy.”  However, Jones’ starting point makes perfect sense (just not biblical sense) when one discovers that he has also discarded the doctrine of original sin:

“What I’ve come to realize is that the idea of original sin is not, in fact, God Eternal Truth.  It is, instead, like so many other items of faith, historically conditioned.”

To be fair Jones’ acknowledges the existence of sin.  However, he rejects the “notion that human beings are depraved from birth.”

Jones caricatures the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement by placing God the Father in an untenable position by “sending his perfect Son to Earth, then letting him – or making him – die as a substitute for the billions of human beings past and future who are incapable of paying off the debt incurred by their sin.  That’s the Payment model” according to Tony Jones.

The biggest disappointment in this book is the repudiation of penal substitutionary atonement, the doctrine which contains the very core of the gospel message.  As noted above, the path which leads to the ultimate question in the book is riddled with “rocks” and “weeds” and “branches” that careful readers should navigate in order to understand the position the author takes. Two of these stumbling blocks are noted below.

1. Dishonoring God

A.W. Tozer was certainly on target when he wrote, “What we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  Yet what we find here is a view that has much in common with process theology.  The author writes, “… We can surmise that in Jesus, God was learning.”  He continues, “But on the cross, something else happened altogether, possibly something that even God did not expect.”  The implication here appears to be a compromise of God’s comprehensive omniscience, a troubling turn of events to be sure.

Additionally, the author promotes what he refers to as the “weakness of God.”  He adds,

“Here is the guiding idea: God has forsaken power in order to give creation freedom.  In other words, God’s primary posture in the world is that of weakness, not strength.  This is a tough pill for many Christians to swallow – we’ve been taught to claim God’s power in our lives, to pray for power, and to trust God’s power and perfect plan for our lives …”

A “tough pill” to swallow?  You bet!  Discerning readers would do well to keep that “pill” out of their mouths, especially when the testimony of Scripture points to a God who is all-together sovereign and omnipotent over everything and everyone in the cosmos.  Swallow such a “pill” will leave readers spiritually sick.

2. Destroying the Heart of the Atonement

Jones makes it clear early in the book that he along with other liberals have “grown increasingly uncomfortable with the regnant interpretation of Jesus’ death as primarily the propitiation of a wrathful God.”

Yet, when one reduces the cross to a mere display of love and refuses to acknowledge that Jesus bore the wrath of God, the gospel is utterly stripped of its saving power.  Such a move is to destroy the very heart of the atonement.


In the final analysis, the answer to the question of this book is not a simple yes or no answer.  The Scripture makes it plain that both God and man killed Jesus Christ.

“… let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.” (Acts 4:10, ESV)

“… for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27–28, ESV)

This is a book that should upset a lot of people.  Frankly, I’m glad Jones wrote the book because it will rally conservatives around the truth of the gospel.  This book should motivate pastors and scholars to go deeper into the reality of the gospel and prompt God-centered reverence and worship as they glory in the beauty of penal substitutionary atonement.

Evangelicals need to pay careful attention to books like this that grow more and more popular.  Jones urges readers to participate in what he calls, “the smell test.”  Unfortunately, something doesn’t smell right about this book.

Admittedly, Tony Jones stands in a theological stream that is more liberal-minded.  One important distinction between Jones and many other liberals is that he actually affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  For this, we can be thankful.  However, since he rejects penal substitution and as a result softens (or even eliminates) the wrath that Jesus bore on the cross, the scandal of the cross is blurred and even obscured.  Indeed, as Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach have rightly written, “If we blunt the sharp edges of the cross, we dull the glittering diamond of God’s love.”

Whenever wrath is removed from the cross, something crucial is missing, which is to say, the gospel is at stake.  For this reason, the view promoted here does not pass the “smell test.”

Readers are encouraged to explore the God-honoring doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement in three powerful and provocative books which include: The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross – Leon Morris, Pierced For Our Transgressions – Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach, and It is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement – Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence.




The Moment of Truth – Steven J. Lawson

the momentSteven J. Lawson, The Moment of Truth. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018, 227 pp $17.16

Nothing is more important than contemplating the truth. Each person has a specific way of approaching the truth. For example, the Sophists did not believe in absolute truth – they were relativists. Protagoras said, “Man is the measure of all things.” Socrates believed that everyone could find the truth by looking within. “Know thyself,” was his mantra. Plato struggled in his quest for the truth is reported to have said, “It may be that someday there will come forth from God a Word (λόγος) who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain. In our day, many people influenced by postmodern thought reject the very notion of absolute truth: “Nothing is certain, nothing is absolute,” they reason, failing to realize the built-in contradiction they suppose.

Jesus Christ was born to bear witness to the truth. “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice“ (John 18:37). Even though Pilate stood face-to-face with the Truth, he willingly suppressed the truth (Rom. 1:18). He exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). And he refused to listen to the truth (John 8:43, 47).

Steven Lawson unveils the importance of this vital subject in his new book, The Moment of Truth. Lawson invites readers to examine Pilate’s repudiation of the truth and contrasts his hostility with the crisis of truth in our generation. “The downward spiral always begins with the rejection of the truth,” writes Lawson. He continues, “This all-out refusal to recognize truth is hitting our society like a tsunami, and its breakers have submerged the majority of modern minds.” So the stage is set for what will prove to be a very important book.

Part One: The Reality of Truth

The first section contains foundational aspects of truth including eight distinguishing marks of truth:

  1. Truth is divine
  2. Truth is absolute
  3. Truth is objective
  4. Truth is singular
  5. Truth is immutable
  6. Truth is authoritative
  7. Truth is powerful
  8. Truth is determinative

The author underscores the reality of truth in the inerrant Word, which builds the confidence of people and demands total submission to a truth-telling God. Aspects of biblical revelation are explored and readers are drawn into an important discussion to focuses on the reliability and historicity of Scripture and the important dimensions of the cross.

Part Two: The Rejection of the Truth

The second section is a sobering look at the widespread repudiation of the truth, beginning with Adam and Eve. Lawson also reveals how truth is rejected by atheists and compromised by the church.

In what proves to be one of the most helpful chapters is a discussion on how truth is marginalized. Lawson writes, “Any disobedience to the truth of God’s Word must be treated as a serious encroachment against His holy name.” But in an unexpected turn, the author focusses on seemingly unimportant sins that prove to be devastating, in the final analysis. The sin of discontentment, impatience, envy, and the sin of the tongue are presented and readers are urged to mortify these sins by the power of the Spirit.

Part Three: The Reign of Truth

In the final section, Dr. Lawson presents four powerful expressions of truth – preaching the truth, living the truth, truth in worship, and the reign of truth in the final judgment. Each of these chapters are packed with God-centeredness as the truth of God’s Word comes to light. Readers will walk away humbled and encouraged as they are affirmed in the truth.

Summary and Commendation

The Moment of Truth is an explosive book that will encourage Christians from all walks of life and backgrounds. Pastors who have been beaten down and discouraged will walk away from this book with new resolve and energy. Teachers of God’s Word will be motivated to remain faithful. Compromisers will be encouraged to repent. And unbelievers will come face-to-face with the truth of God’s Word. Like Pilate, each reader will be forced to rejoice in the truth or reject Him. My prayer is that every reader will choose the former; that many will be compelled to live the truth, proclaim the truth, and defend the truth.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.


Spurgeon on the Christian Life – Michael Reeves (2018)

spurMichael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 181 pp. 192 $14.95

Spurgeon on the Christian Life by Michael Reeves is the latest installment in the Crossway Series, Theologians on the Christian Life. This excellent book covers some basic biographical information on the Prince of Preachers. He is rightly described as a man who “went at all of life full-on.” Spurgeon was a man of “deep affections.” Reeves is quick to characterize Spurgeon as a man of deep joy and God-centered wisdom.

Spurgeon was a man who possessed a strong reverence for Christ and his Word. A fair amount of space is devoted to showing how Spurgeon made Christ central in his life and his pastoral ministry: “You cannot taste the sweetness of any doctrine till you have remembered Christ’s connection with it,” writes Spurgeon. He was a man who was gripped by the Bible which is evident to anyone who reads his sermons.

Spurgeon was cut from the cloth of the Puritans. This man was a Calvinist through and through. Reeves adds, “Spurgeon was a Puritan and a Calvinist not through adherence to any theological system or tradition as such but because he believed such theology most glorifies Christ.” But Spurgeon never got boxed in by his theological systems. Above all, he was a Christian: “We believe in the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic; but we do not regard those five points as being barbed shafts which we are to thrust between the ribs of our fellow-Christians. We look upon them as being five great lamps which help to irradiate the cross; or, rather five great emanations springing from the glorious covenant of our Triune God, and illustrating the great doctrine of Jesus crucified.”

Reeves labors to explore the essence of Spurgeon’s preaching. The general purpose of his preaching is explored and his exegetical habits are examined. Spurgeon’s first aim in the pulpit was to clearly and faithfully preach Christ crucified. The author remarks, “If he is to be preached faithfully, the Christ who is the light and glory of God must be preaching by clearly and beautifully.” This is the kind of preaching that marked the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon.

Spurgeon’s passion for doctrine appears through this work with an emphasis on regeneration, conversion, human inability, sanctification, and the cross of Christ. “The cross,” writes Spurgeon, “that deepest revelation of the glory of God – is the great weapon that breaks down the heart’s defenses.”

Dr. Reeves presents an honest appraisal of Spurgeon. He was a man of prayer. But he was also a man who battled most of his adult life with despondency and depression. This leads to what may very well be the most important feature of the book, namely, the emphasis on fighting for joy. In one sentence, Reeves articulates Spurgeon’s heart on this matter with deep insightfulness: “Christians must, then, fight for joy, and fight for that intimacy with God that fosters joy. Such is the warp and woof of the Christian life that Spurgeon lived so well.

One may wonder how such a book could make any significant contribution, especially in light of some very good recent publications that survey the life and ministry of Spurgeon. Books like Living By Revealed Truth by Tom Nettles, The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray, Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zach Eswine, and most recently, Steal Away Home by Matter Carter and Aaron Ivey have uncovered a wealth of information about the Prince of Preachers. But Spurgeon on the Christian Life is a helpful addition, indeed. This very readable book presents Spurgeon in an honest light which glorifies the great God of the universe. Readers would be remiss to ignore this precious treasure!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.


Slave – John MacArthur (2010)

John MacArthur has been churning out quality Christian books and resources for over thirty-five years.  He has been defining and defending the biblical gospel in books like The Gospel According to Jesus, Faith Works, Ashamed of the Gospel, Hard to Believe, and The Truth War. Each of these books, beginning especially with The Gospel According to Jesus has had a profound effect on my life and pastoral ministry.

MacArthur’s book, Slave continues to articulate the biblical gospel, the very same gospel that was preached by the apostles, Reformers, and Puritans.   The uniqueness of this book is that the author seeks to “pull the hidden jewel” as he says, “all the way into the sunlight.”

MacArthur’s concern is that what is means to be a Christian has been and is being redefined by many evangelicals.  But the New Testament clearly delineates the meaning of what is means to be a Christian, namely, a “wholehearted follower of Christ.”  MacArthur picks up the same theme he began in The Gospel According to Jesus when he argues that Christian discipleship “demands a deep affection for Him, allegiance to Him, and submission to His Word.”

The Greek term doulos is at the heart of MacArthur’s concern.  While English translations have been notorious for mistranslating this term as “servant,” the proper translation is “slave.”  He notes this glaring error and insists that while many Greek words can be translated “servant,” doulos is certainly not one of them!  The author highlights the key distinction between a servant and a slave, namely, “servants are hired; slaves are owned.”

Therefore, Christian disciples are defined in a biblical sense as slaves of God.  MacArthur adds, “He [Christ] is the Master and Owner.  We are His possession.  He is the King, and the Lord, and the Son of God.  We are His subjects and His subordinates … True Christianity is not about adding Jesus to my life.  Instead, it is about devoting myself completely to Him – submitting wholly to His will and seeking to please Him above all else.”

MacArthur argues convincingly that Christ is Lord and Master over his church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18).  Indeed, Christ is sovereign over every person and everything in the universe.  John Hus is cited as a model of one who fully gave his life “to the sovereign lordship of Christ and the supremacy of His Word …”

The author demonstrates the folly of a watered-down version of Christianity: “To diminish the dominating role of Scripture in the life of the church is to treat the Lord of the church as if His revelation were optional … Nonbiblical ministry, non-expository preaching, and non-doctrinal teaching usurp Christ’s headship, silencing His voice to His sheep.”

MacArthur presents the biblical portrait of man apart from Christ, namely, “bound, blind, and dead.”  The backdrop of depravity sets the stage for grace to rule and reign in the hearts and minds of sinners.  For “it is from slavery to sin that God saves His elect, rescuing them from the domain of darkness and transferring them as His own slaves into the kingdom of His Son” (Col 1:13).  The author continues, “Freedom in Christ, then, is not freedom to sin but freedom from sin – freedom to live as God intends, in truth and holiness.”

MacArthur presents an excellent summary of particular redemption, a doctrine that has been neglected for years in the church.  He argues, “Christ’s death on the cross actually pays the penalty for the elect sinner, redeeming him from sin and rescuing him from God’s wrath … the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work are applied only to those whom God has chosen for Himself.”

The author sets forth the biblical teaching concerning adoption.  The historical precedent for adoption is shown in the Old Testament.  And the New Testament reality of adoption is explained in detail.  All of God’s elect are thus “simultaneously sons and slaves.”  MacArthur adds, “Like justification, adoption rests on the loving purpose and grace of God.”

Finally, the author presents four compelling paradoxes that relate to the overall theme of the book:

1. Slavery brings freedom.

2. Slavery ends prejudice.

3. Slavery magnifies grace.

4. Slavery pictures salvation.

John MacArthur just keeps getting the gospel right.  Ever since he wrote The Gospel According to Jesus, he has been warning the church to define the gospel biblically and keep Christ at the center of the gospel.  He continues to remind the church to steer clear from the no-lordship position that is promoted by the Free Grace Movement, which is, in the final analysis, a different gospel.

MacArthur hits the Christological target with this book.  With the skill of a theologian-marksman, he exalts and magnifies Christ.  In the final analysis, Slave is a primer on Reformed theology and is written with humility and great erudition.  It should receive a wide reading for years to come and make a significant difference in the body of Christ.

I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program.




The Gospel According to God – John MacArthur (2018)

macJohn MacArthur, The Gospel According to God,  Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 206 pp. $17.38

C.H. Spurgeon calls the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah “a Bible in miniature … the condensed essence of the gospel.” John MacArthur agrees refers to Isaiah 53 as “the most remarkable chapter in the Old Testament.” This is the grand theme of Dr. MacArthur’s most recent book, The Gospel According to God.

Part One: The Suffering Servant

The first part of the book, which also comprises the majority of the book includes the key doctrinal distinctives of Isaiah chapter 53. The author explores the identity of the suffering servant, his humiliation, his suffering, and his exaltation. The doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is presented, both biblically and polemically. MacArthur rightly notes, “Isaiah is describing a purposeful act of penal substitution carried out by the sovereign will of his Father.”

Part Two: The Life and Times of Isaiah the Prophet

The remainder of the book focusses on the prophet, Isaiah. The historical setting is set forth in vivid detail, including the demise of Judah. Readers are warned to steer clear from apostasy and serve Christ with unfettered devotion.


The Gospel According to God is a faithful exposition of a crucial section of Scripture that informs and inspires followers of Jesus Christ. The combination of rich doctrine and practical application make this book an important piece of a growing believer’s theological library. The gospel-centered truths that MacArthur presents are important reminders to remain faithful in a day marked by unbelief and apostasy.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.