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Review: “Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic”

The Gospel is the heart of the Christian faith – gut that from Christianity and you’ll end up with a shell of good works and moralism which saves no-one. Unfortunately, the Gospel is the one thing that Christians are most to prone to either forget – or subtly redefine.

In our day, it’s never been more en vogue to talk about the Gospel. Christians proudly call themselves Gospel-centered, we are glad to critique every believer who doesn’t preach the Gospel in every sermon, books are piled up from floor to ceiling talking about Gospel-centered X and Y – and yet no one stops to answer the basic question: what does it mean to preach the Gospel? One of the most profoundly helpful books I have read on that subject is Pastor Walter Chantry’s little gem Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?

Published in 1970 (my personal copy is a first edition published by Banner of Truth) and weighing in at 93 pages, Chantry works through the account of Jesus and the young rich man of Mark 10 to present six facets of true Gospel preaching:

  1. Preaching the Character of God
  2. Preaching the Law of God
  3. Preaching Repentance towards God
  4. Preaching Faith towards God’s Son
  5. Preaching Assurance of Acceptance with God
  6. Preaching with Dependence upon God

With a skill of a surgeon, he develops these themes powerfully and Biblically, along the way  asking the question, “Is the Gospel we preach the authentic deal or a synthetic knock-off?” – a question that makes a world of difference.

Now why would I recommend a book that is 43 years old to a generation steeped in books about the Gospel? Well, if I may wax polemical for a few moments, I’m not all that convinced we are as Gospel-centered as we make out. Think with me through some questions:

  • When was the last time you heard a teaching on repentance?
  • When’s the last time you heard preaching on the wrath of God – and not just from John Piper or Paul Washer?
  • When was the last time you heard a sermon on the implications of the Gospel or the call to discipleship?
  • Why do we feel the need to downplay the place of good works as a fruit of the Gospel? (a book review of The Hole in our Holiness is in the works where I will develop this further)

A book like Today’s Gospel proves itself very handy in regards to these questions, especially since being so old, it is free of the hangups that have been enshrined in “Gospel-centered” circles.

I would heartily recommend this book for a treatment of how to preach the Gospel as Jesus would have done it, which, when all is said and done, is the most important thing – after all, He is the One who called us to follow Him and be fishers of men, right?

 

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