John MacArthur’s book The Gospel According to Jesus deals with the idea that people accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Most Christians will say they have accepted Jesus as their Saviour, but what about as Lord? What’s the difference? To accept Jesus as Lord means that being a Christian affects the way you live.
MacArthur argues that to accept Christ as Lord (kurios) means that God takes over every facet of your personality. Everything you do is to honour Christ. You belong to Christ, you are a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a popular doctrine today. You don’t hear it preached in churches very often.
MacArthur says there are 1.6 billion Christians in the world, yet millions are tragically deceived because they accept Christ as their Saviour but not as their Lord. Their lifestyle does not show the fruits of true conversion (Matt 7:17). When Jesus called people to follow him he was not seeking companions or admirers whom he could entertain with miracles. He was calling people to yield completely and unreservedly to him and his Lordship.
A Christian is a slave of Christ. A servant gives service to someone, but the slave belongs to someone (1 Cor 6:19). A slave’s obedience is implicit. He unhesitatingly does what his master says because he is owned by his master. His desire is to please his master in every way.
Those who have difficulty submitting themselves to Christ as Lord always have difficulties with repentance. You rarely hear people use the word “repentance”, where they’ve said, “Lord, I’m sorry for my sins, forgive me. I turn from sin and turn back to you.”
Jesus preached repentance. In his first sermon he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt 4:17). He also said “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). The Apostles also preached repentance.
Those who don’t preach repentance have swallowed the line of easy believerism. The gospel according to Jesus Christ rules out easy-believerism. A faith that may be exercised with absolutely no impact on the fleshly life of sin is not saving faith.
Nothing that Christ said about the cost of discipleship was pillowed in soft words, dumbed down, lightened or glossed over. Christ was a confrontational preacher. His strategy in witnessing was always frank, direct and to the point. He did this with Nicodemus (John 3), with the woman at the well (John 4), with the man born blind (John 9), and with the rich young ruler (Matt 19). With regard to the rich young ruler MacArthur says, “We have no business preaching grace to people who do not understand the implication of God’s law.” If you don’t feel your sin, if you’re not honouring Christ with the way you live as a human being, then you’re not a Christian.
This is very confronting, but we have such a system in society, in our own churches today that it’s all H-A-P-P-Y. It’s just not biblical Christianity. Macarthur makes this point in this very hard-hitting book.
The very heart of all redemptive teaching is that Jesus entered this world on a search and rescue mission for sinners (Matt 1:21). We see this in Jesus’ call to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), the outcast of society. Nothing about Jesus’ approach to Zacchaeus was subtle and pleasant and a stroking of the paw. Jesus effectively said, “Get down, I’m coming to your place for dinner to challenge you about your faith.” If we believe in Christ’s Lordship then we must confront people with the gospel.
In the NT, Christ is called “Lord” 747 times; 92 times in Acts. He is called “Saviour” only twice in Acts. Rom 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord … you will be saved.”
The gospel according to the Apostles and according to the early church was the same: they preached the Lordship of Christ.
Will you take this book, will you read it, will you look at every doctrine, everything he says and make notes about it. In 50 years of reading books this has got to be one of the best books I have ever read.
Review by Trevor Middleton