First sentence: If you're familiar with the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, you have probably heard of "the Down-Grade Controversy." Spurgeon spent the final four years of his life at war against the trends of early modernism, which he rightly saw as a threat to biblical Christianity.
Ashamed of the Gospel was first published in 1993. Is it still a relevant read for Christians today?! My answer is yes--a thousand times yes. Though the key players may have changed and shifted throughout the decades since this was first published, the church is still threatened by the ideas, philosophies, worldviews, or tactics of the enemy.
In the preface, MacArthur defines a few key terms for readers giving a hint at what the book is about.
Pragmatism is the notion that meaning or worth is determined by practical consequences. It is closely akin to utilitarianism, the belief that usefulness is the standard of what is good. [Pragmatism] is inherently relativistic, rejecting the notion of absolute right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error. (xii)
Pragmatism as a guiding philosophy of ministry is inherently flawed. Pragmatism as a test of truth is nothing short of satanic. Spiritual and biblical truth is not determined by testing what "works" and what doesn't. (xiii)
Worldliness is the sin of allowing one's appetites, ambitions, or conduct to be fashioned according to earthly values. (xvii)Why is the book titled ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL? Because, MacArthur writes, "Unfortunately, 'ashamed of the gospel' seems more and more apt as a description of some of the most visible and influential churches of our age." (xix) He later writes, "Why do you suppose Paul wrote, 'I am not ashamed of the gospel' (Rom 1:16)? Surely it is because so many Christians are ashamed of the very message we are commanded to proclaim." (31)
MacArthur sees a parallel between the current threats facing the church today and the Down-Grade Controversy of the nineteenth century. (Though he does point out that each and every generation or age of the church has faced challenges and threats. The enemy has never lost sight of his goal though his specific tactics may alter here and there and get a new makeover now and then.)
Biblical truth is like the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain, Spurgeon suggested. One step away, and you find yourself on the down-grade. (21).
"False doctrine and worldliness"--the same two influences Spurgeon attacked--always go hand in hand, with worldliness leading the way. (23)What should guide a church ministry? MacArthur argues that THE WORD OF GOD is the only solid foundation for guiding or establishing a ministry. The Word of God is authoritative. Its authority isn't one of many but the one and only. MacArthur sees this principle--this doctrine--being attacked in modern days. He sees this threat not only on the fringes but in the mainstream.
No human message comes with the stamp of divine authority--only the Word of God. (32)MacArthur shows us the right and wrong way of doing ministry, of doing church. Each chapter is saturated with the Word of God. He teaches readers what the Bible has to say about preachers and preaching, about the church, about the gospel, about sinners and sin. Each chapter also discusses the current threats facing the church. The specifics may change--who's teaching what where--but the threats are constant.
Why does this matter? MacArthur writes, "When the church is on the down-grade, it means that multitudes of individuals are carried along on the spiritual decline. False doctrine and worldliness in the church infect every member of the body." (27)
I loved, loved, LOVED this one. DOCTRINE MATTERS.
Let's play a game of true or false...
- TRUE OR FALSE. People's deepest need is to confess and overcome their sin. (34)
- TRUE OR FALSE. Preaching that fails to confront and correct sin through the Word of God does not meet people's need. (34)
- TRUE OR FALSE. Paul suggests that the way to reach society is to soften the message so that everyone will be comfortable with it. (35)
- TRUE OR FALSE. Salvation comes from wanting to join the fun and end the emotional pain. (63)
- TRUE OR FALSE. Salvation comes when the heart cries out for deliverance from sin. (63)
- TRUE OR FALSE. An honest belief in the sovereignty of God would bring an end to a lot of the nonsense that is going on in the church. (85)
- TRUE OR FALSE. We are called to fight a spiritual battle, and we cannot win by appeasing the enemy.
- TRUE OR FALSE. Paul's message was always non-negotiable. (91)
- TRUE OR FALSE. There has never been a time when biblical Christianity was not threatened with worldliness and false doctrine. (105)
- TRUE OR FALSE. The gospel's significance does not end the moment the new birth occurs; it applies to the entire Christian experience. (122)
- TRUE OR FALSE. The gospel itself is disagreeable, unattractive, repulsive, and alarming to the world. (128)
- TRUE OR FALSE. The gospel is first of all a message about God's righteousness. Divine righteousness is the starting point and the theme of the gospel message. (130)
- TRUE OR FALSE. God's wrath is almost entirely missing from modern presentations of the gospel. It is not fashionable to speak of God's wrath against sin or to tell people they should fear God. (131)
- TRUE OR FALSE. God planned our salvation. Christ purchased our salvation. The Holy Spirit effects our salvation. (167)
- TRUE OR FALSE. Churches cannot abandon biblical standards to accommodate their leaders' sin. (183)
- TRUE OR FALSE. We must be willing to grow and adapt and try new things--but never at the expense of biblical truth, and never to the detriment of the gospel message. (188)
- TRUE OR FALSE. If a church is not willing to take a firm stand against abortion, how will that church deal with erosion of crucial doctrine? If a church lacks discernment enough to condemn such overt errors as homosexuality or feminism, how will that church handle a subtle attack on doctrinal integrity? (193)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible