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Ashamed of the Gospel
February 22, 2010
A quick note from Tim: Crossway has just released a third edition of John MacArthur’s “Ashamed of the Gospel.” Depending on when you ask me, this book was either the first or second Christian book I read in adulthood. It rocked my world. At the time I was a member of a church that was almost exactly the kind MacArthur warned against in this book. I read this along with James Boice’s book on the five points of Calvinism and I was never the same. All this to say that I’m thrilled with the re-release of the book and the additional chapters that have been added to it.
In this newly revised and expanded edition of Ashamed of the Gospel, John MacArthur issues a warning against preaching and teaching a candy-coated gospel that neither offends nor convicts anyone. He challenges readers to return to the roots of the Great Commission.
Here is an excerpt:
What kind of ministry pleases God? “Preach the word” (v. 2). Obedience to that simple command must be the centerpiece of every truly biblical ministry philosophy. The preacher’s task is to proclaim Scripture and give the sense of it (cf. Neh. 8:8). All other content is extraneous to the message.
My father was a pastor, and when I first told him that I felt God had called me to a life of ministry, he gave me a Bible in which he had written, “Dear Johnny, preach the Word. 2 Timothy 4:2.” That simple statement became the compelling stimulus in my heart. I have never forgotten that simple biblical instruction from my dad—preach the Word. What else is there to preach?
Preaching the Word is not always easy. The message we are required to proclaim is often offensive. Christ Himself is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8). The message of the cross is a stumbling block to some (1 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11), mere foolishness to others (1 Cor. 1:23). “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). 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.
As we have noted, Timothy evidently struggled with the sin of being ashamed. He was “ashamed of the testimony about our Lord,” and even ashamed of Paul (2 Tim. 1:8). Timothy seems to have been a timid soul, not at all like the strong and courageous apostle Paul. He was young, and some people demeaned him because of that (1 Tim. 4:12). He knew full well that even being associated with Paul was dangerous. Publicly proclaiming God’s truth could land him in prison with Paul. At the very least, he was sure to incur hostility and debates from Jews who were antagonistic to the gospel.
What is more, Timothy apparently struggled with the impulses of youthful lust (2 Tim. 2:22). He may have felt he was not all he should be.
Those were some compelling reasons for Timothy to silence his proclamation. So when Paul commanded him to preach, he was demanding that he go against his own natural inclinations and inhibitions.
What was the Word that Timothy was to preach? Paul had made this clear at the end of chapter 3: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added). This is the Word to be preached: “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). In chapter 1 Paul had told Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me” (v. 13). He was speaking of the revealed words of Scripture—all of it. He urged Timothy to “Guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (v. 14). Then in chapter 2 he told him to study the Word and handle it accurately (v. 15). Now he is telling him to proclaim it. So the entire task of the faithful minister revolves around the Word of God—guarding it, studying it, and proclaiming it.
For more information, visit Crossway.