Thursday, January 19, 2017

Recovering The Gospel - A Review

The Gospel is a Treasure

The most important book in the lives of all Christians is the Bible. The truth of first and foremost importance in the Bible is the gospel. If you're looking for a resource to help you understand the treasure of the gospel, outside of the Scriptures themselves, look no further than Paul Washer's Recovering The Gospel series.

This series includes three separate books:
  1. The Gospel's Power & Message
  2. The Gospel Call & True Conversion
  3. Gospel Assurance & Warnings
I've read a number of books that attempt to describe the glory of the gospel in a paragraph. I've read others that relegate it to a chapter. Paul Washer has been a faithful preacher of the gospel for decades. He gives the gospel the breadth and depth it deserves. Even still, Washer understands that he is only scratching the surface of this glorious truth.


Greatest Strengths

Paul Washer is my favorite modern preacher to listen to. Those who know me know my great fondness for Washer's ministry in my own life. I must resist the urge to go overboard with strengths. Here are my top three.

1. Layout and Approach

Washer takes a massive topic and breaks it into very manageable sections. Each book is divided into two or three major parts. Each section contains several chapters that each contribute to the main section without being overly long.

I've read each book, in their entirety, more than once. I appreciate the short chapters because the depth of information and the glory of what is being discussed make it difficult for me to take more than a chapter or two in any one sitting. This is not a book to breeze through. It is a book to meditate on with your open Bible nearby.

2. Content

Although the layout and overall approach make the books enjoyable to read, the content pulls no punches. Washer dives into topics and aspects of the gospel that many preachers and teachers have either forgotten, never learned, or are unwilling to discuss openly.

This is the reason Washer wrote these books in the first place. Washer states in the preface of the series, "One of the greatest crimes committed by this present Christian generation is its neglect of the gospel, and it is from this neglect that all our other maladies spring forth." I believe that Washer's assessment is correct.

I've met some professing Christians who have been around the church a long time who are angered and sometimes surprised by the content of Washer's books. It is a tragedy that people can be associated with the church for years without ever hearing the full gospel presented in any meaningful way. Washer further states,
"Untold millions walk our streets and sit in our pews unchanged by the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet they are convinced of their salvation because one time in their life they raised a hand at an evangelistic campaign or repeated a prayer. This false sense of security creates a great barrier that often insulates such individuals from ever hearing the true gospel."
I know this is true because I have met many of these insulated individuals while sharing the gospel on the streets. This strength leads very naturally into the final one I'll mention.

3. The Encouragement and Warning to Those Who Profess Christ

The Bible commands Christians to examine themselves and see if they are genuinely in the faith. The Bible does not provide the test of church attendance. Neither does it point to a time in the past when you were baptized, raised your hand, or repeated a prayer with some sense of sincerity.

So what does the Bible say? Washer's final book gives both stark warnings to those who claim to follow Christ but whose lives do not match their profession, along with genuine biblical tests for true salvation. For those who are born-again these tests are given by God to be a wonderful assurance of the salvation we have received in Christ. For those who are unregenerate these same tests can serve as a diagnostic and warning to repent while we still have breath.

We who profess the name of Jesus can be sure if we are saved. We must never be so foolish to trust any other evidence other than what the Bible gives us. Washer's third book is a great resource for the Christian who desires to soberly examine themselves in light of biblical standards.

Greatest Weaknesses

I find Washer's three books to be wonderful resources and worthwhile reads. However, if forced to discuss weaknesses I can come up with two.

1. Book Two, Part Three

Of all the parts of the series, I personally found the third section of The Gospel Call & True Conversion to be the weakest in general. If I had to lose an entire section it would be this one. The first two parts of the second book I found to be more edifying and beneficial. However, that's not to say there was nothing edifying in this section.

There were aspects of this section that I found Washer to be interpreting passages in a way that I wasn't sure were completely accurate. There is a good chance that he is correct and I am in error. However, the other sections were built off better exegetical reasoning and explanation.

2. The Assurances Section Was Not Exhaustive

Washer's approach in the assurance section (Book 3, Part 1) is essentially a study of 1 John. This is an excellent place to start. However, this is not the only relevant biblical section to study. As a result, Washer makes an excellent yet incomplete presentation of the topic.

While this is a weakness, I must admit that the tests Washer covers from 1 John are fantastic. He just didn't cover everything. In fact, Washer doesn't even include every test from 1 John. As a result, this stands out to me as a weakness. I would have liked to see this section expanded.

A separate chapter could be added for, at least, these three passages outside of 1 John:
  • the evidence of God's discipline in your life (Hebrews 12:1-13)
  • the leading of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13-14)
  • the presence of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24)
Despite these other tests being absent I believe Washer's goal in writing was achieved. Anyone who claims to follow Christ could genuinely examine themselves with what Washer provides.

Concluding Thoughts

Paul Washer's series, especially the first and third books, come with my highest recommendation. I not only encourage Christians to read this who haven't already but would also encourage those who've read it before to read it again and again.

The material in these books is faithful to the Scriptures. The glorious truth of the gospel is no doubt neglected in our own day. Let us not neglect it ourselves.

No comments: