The Gospel According to Paulby John Macarthur
Length: Approximately 6 hours. To read (219 pages).
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There have been few writers in the history of the world that could compare with the Apostle Paul. He provided us with some of the best writings on what the Gospel message of Jesus Christ was. In his book The Gospel According to Paul John MacArthur gives us an overview of the Gospel writings of the Apostle Paul throughout his epistles. With his usual academic vigor mixed with accessible writing style we find here a strong sense of the good news message given to us in the Bible.
Who should read this?
One of the unique strengths about this book is that it has depth and richness that really could help scholars and pastors. But also, this work is very accessible and easy to read making it available to all believers. This would be a very helpful read for those seeking and wanting more understanding of the Gospel message. Lastly, this read is important for those that have heard or are following the New Perspective on Paul.
The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Christian faith. Many times in our world today we seek out other avenues for understanding the Gospel message beyond the Scriptural authority itself. In the book The Gospel According to Paul, John Macarthur compels us to return to the scriptural authority for our understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. He specifically in this book drives us to look at the inspired words from the Apostle Paul.
As with his other Gospel books he begins in the introduction by preparing us for the task at hand. He reviews the life of Saul who turned Paul, and gives an overview of the “guarding of the gospel” that must be done by all true Christians. He concludes in this section with, “No truth in all the universe is more uplifting than the good news that we have a living Savior who removes the great burden of guilt and cancels the power of sin for those who truly believe in Him” (xxxvii).
The book chapters flow from things of first importance to the problem and solution of the Gospel message. Macarthur here using different sections of Paul’s writings addresses each of these Gospel issues. He begins by highlighting the most important areas of the Gospel message from the Apostle’s letters. One of the issues highlighted here is that there is only one Gospel message, not many.
The first chapter of Galatians is where Paul really drives this point home. Also included in this section of most important items of the Gospel are the atonement, and the burial and resurrection of Jesus.
One of the major problems with modern Gospel beliefs is the misunderstanding of the true problem. John Macarthur highlights in chapter two that the true problem is that we are all universally sinners, without a way on our own to reconnect with God. He comments here, “That is because all false religions are systems of human achievement… By contrast, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of divine accomplishment” (24, 25).
The problem is that we are totally depraved and it leaves us facing the ultimate punishment of physical death alongside spiritual death. The author points out that this must be the starting place for the Gospel message as it is in Paul writings in Ephesians 2:1-10.
The rest of the book is the solution to the above problem through answering the question, “How can a person be right with God?” He highlights here the need for salvation not by our own merit, but on the merit of Jesus’ death and resurrection. One of the highlighted passages of Paul’s writings here is Romans 3:21-26. These passages teach the important doctrine of faith alone that is one of the key components of the Gospel message.
One of the most disputed parts of salvation is what John Macarthur calls “The Great Exchange.” He supports the penal substitution view using the writings of Paul here. One of the best passages written by Paul is Ephesians 2:8-9- “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
This passage really teaches us how salvation works, and the great grace we have been given by our Savior. The author comments here, “But when Christ, God incarnate, came to earth, He quite literally personified grace and truth” (122). Paul gives us so many great passages to teach us about Christ’s Gospel.
The writer also includes a strong epilogue, which further discusses some specific salvation issues through the Apostle’s inspired words.
Philippians 3 is addressed as a great testimony in how Christ’s salvation has worked in his personal life. John MacArthur in the back part of the book discusses issues such as the substitutionary atonement of the Lord, the glory of God being the reason for Christ’s death, and sermons on Paul salvific writings from the author and Charles Spurgeon. This gives the reader different perspectives and allows them to hone in on specific issues that needed to be addressed with salvation.
The most important aspect of the Christian belief and life is our salvation through Christ. There has and will be continual discussion, debate, and division about the different aspects of this topic. John MacArthur lays out clearly in this book using the words of Scripture, specifically the writings of the Apostle Paul on the topic of Christ’s salvation.
One of the greatest strengths of this book is the ability for the reader to have depth and richness, but also make it easy to read, not being overly academic in nature. John Macarthur has always had the ability to reach all of his audience as he writes. This book as stated above would be helpful for all Christians and non-Christians alike. However, it would be really good for scholars and pastors to work through this work as well. It takes a great deal of intentionality and thought to provide this wide reaching nature of this book.
The author also does an excellent job of exegeting the passages that come from Paul’s writings in Scripture. There is a lot of controversy currently about the truth about the meanings and nuances behind the Apostle’s writings on salvation. It is refreshing to have in this book some very intentional and direct looks at the most impactful passages on the Gospel in the Pauline Epistles.
His take on the importance of the burial of Christ was quite beneficial to me personally. Some of the sweetest and most impactful passages discussed in this book are Ephesians 2:1-10, Philippians 3, and Romans 3. Paul had great skill in short, concrete, and direct statements on the Gospel. John Macarthur in an important way brings out the salvific truths from these passages.
There is also a great flow and progression in the outline of this book. Being that it probably comes from a collection of sermon series, it makes perfect sense it would be so. It surely helps the reader to have a clear direction and heading as you are reading. It is a very natural outline that keeps the reader more engaged throughout.
He begins by looking at the most important truths of the salvation issue, progressing to the looking at the problem and solutions that are a part of the salvation timeline. It is one of the most overlooked parts of writing as with preaching, the strong outline that is known by the reader or listener. John MacArthur here provides us with a clear direction through a strong outline.
Lastly with the strengths of this work, I see the appendecies in the back of the book adding great value to this work. The author addresses more specific issues that couldn’t be talked about in the larger section of the book. He also provides us with words and sermons from other voices, which I find always important when talking about these deep issues.
Charles Spurgeon, one of the other voices, had such a deep love for the Gospel, and especially the writings of the Apostle Paul. I am thankful for the added resources that Dr. MacArthur gives us at the end of his work.
There is not much to critique with this book, but I think a few things could bring improvement. Firstly, I think that it was great to have heard from other people in the appendix area of the book. But, throughout much of the larger section of the book there isn’t much more than Paul’s writings and John MacArthur’s thoughts.
I do appreciate that he sticks so well to the text and the biblical authority. I think it is also okay to use some quotes from other authors and pastors to help bring clarity to the salvation questions at hand.
Secondly, it would have been great to have a little stronger, and direct defense against the New Perspective on Paul. Many teachings of N.T Wright and others needed to be addressed. Some of them certainly were through the Pauline texts, but a stronger and more direct line against these views would have been helpful for all readers.
There is a growing sense of denial from many different areas of Christianity on the Apostle Paul’s teachings on salvation that need direct defense in works such as these. He didn’t do a bad job by any means here, but could have been a little more direct.
Overall, this book was an excellent read and I would highly recommend to any person to take the time to read this. We all need daily refreshers and reminders of the Gospel message. The Apostle Paul’s words and John MacArthur give us a great work here on the power of grace and mercy that gave us salvation from our sins.
We are living in a time and culture where strong convictions and beliefs are paramount to our faith. What we believe about the Bible and Christ’s salvation is very crucial to all Christians. In his important work, The Gospel According to Paul, John MacArthur provides us with a strong case for the true biblical salvation through the very words of God through the Apostle Paul. This is a thoroughly biblical work that is clear, and compelling, alongside the usual truthfulness and depth we usually get from this seasoned author.
“Of all the apostles, the Holy Spirit chose Paul, the profound scholar, to defend the gospel’s simplicity against any hint of academic elitism or philosophical gentrification.” (Intro)
“So the burial of Jesus is a vital part of the gospel narrative, mainly because it serves as another reminder that the gospel is rooted in history, not mythology, the human imagination, or allegory.” (17)
“In the preaching of Christ and the apostles, the gospel was always punctuated by a clarion call to repentant faith.” (75)
“In explaining Paul’s gospel, we must begin with Christ. The Person of our Savior is the foundation-stone of our hope.” (177)