Review: The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of ChristThe Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It sounds correct to speak of being Gospel centered. I wonder how well we understand what it actually means to be a Gospel centered church. The author makes a case for what it looks like to be Gospel centered in practice as well as profession. Every church has a culture, whether it is deliberately shaped or more organic. Having the Gospel correct in our doctrinal statement does not mean our church body is Gospel centered in practice. Ortlund brings out that Gospel centeredness can happen, but it doesn’t happen by a plan or program. A church must adorn the Gospel preached with a community of disciples who live out the Gospel in their lives.

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Statements on the Gospel

I could not count the times that I have been reading a passage that I have read many times before, when the text just grabs me! This happened recently while I was reading Paul’s account of his conversion and calling to preach the gospel in Acts 26. Jesus appeared to him and said, “For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16). Before we move to the primary statement in verse 18, let us consider a couple of things from this verse.

Saul was brought to a confrontation with the Lord of Glory, Whom he previously did not own. Saul was made to bow, submit to the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. Note that in exercise of His kingly authority (all authority in heaven and in earth), Jesus makes demands of Saul—“I have appeared unto thee for this purpose.” He says that Saul is not free to do as he pleases, rather is under the yoke of Christ. The message of salvation that Saul received was not a message of a personal escape from trouble and trial. It was not a liberation of the flesh to serve self without guilt. It was a message that meant owning the dominion of the Most High and serving Him fervently with his whole person. Paul would later exhort the Romans to offer themselves as living sacrifices, consecrating their whole selves to God.

Jesus called Saul to be a minister and a witness. He was to preach the gospel, evangelize, do missionary work. The words of Jesus constrained him in this work—“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). The message he had received was the message he took to the world. He saw his work as to turn men from the darkness of their idolatries, no matter how sophisticated, and reprove them of their false loyalties. He declared to them the true and living God, Creator of heaven and earth, and men must “turn” to Him “that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance. . .”

This gospel message seems lost to many in our day. Salvation is turned into a personal escape and reward. It is counted among myriad remedies for the various problems of modern man. A gospel of decision and choice is foisted upon eager “seekers”. Modern men have tried a number of things to help them and so they will give religion its fair chance. The result of this is individualistic, selfish lives that do not bow to the lordship of Jesus Christ. A religion that gets them where they want to go.

Solomon said, “Where the word of a king is, there is power” (Ecclesiastes 8:4). The gospel is none other than the word of the King, and not surprisingly, it has power. The word for power in Ecclesiastes 8:4 is a word that means authority or bearing rule. The king has authority and speaks with power. The gospel is the word of the King that speaks with power, authority and He is to be obeyed, reverenced, and served.

Along this line, I read another great statement on the gospel the other day.

The church is the bearer to all the nations a gospel that announces the kingdom, the reign, and the sovereignty of God. It calls men and women to repent of their false loyalty to other powers, to become believers in the one true sovereignty, and so to become corporately a sign, instrument, and foretaste of that sovereignty of the one true and living God over all nature, all nations, and all human lives. It is not meant to call men and women out of the world into a safe religious enclave but to call them out in order to send them back as agents of God’s kingship.
(Leslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks—The Gospel and Western Culture, p. 124).

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His reflections on the Bible clarify for all readers the full implications of understanding God as he was revealed in both the Old and New Testaments. Ever the pragmatist, Charnock focuses his reflections on sustainable, practical application, offering Christians at all times the knowledge that leads to greater obedience and more invigorating worship.

The discourses in this book cover such important theological themes as: the existence of God; the failure of practical atheism; the spiritual nature of God; spiritual worship; God’s eternality; God’s immutability; God’s omnipresence; God’s knowledge (omniscience); God’s wisdom; God’s power; God’s holiness; God’s goodness; God’s dominion; God’s patience. Each discourse combines with all others to produce a truly broad, multifaceted look at God and God’s qualities, giving all readers an inspirational, devotional, and scholarly look at Christian theology.

Let this seventeenth century classic bring your twenty-first century faith to a whole new level. As you learn more about God, you will begin to reflect more of His character and nature to the world.