If the mark of a good book is that it causes you to worship your Saviour, then The Jesus Gospel is truly an excellent book.
The subtitle ‘Recovering the Lost Message’, demonstrates the book’s purpose – it’s a response to Steve Chalke’s The Lost Message of Jesus, which cause something of a furore in 2003. This was not simply because Chalke was denying the atoning work of Christ on the cross – countless numbers have done that over the generations – but that Chalke was denying penal substitution whilst claiming to remain evangelical.
Thankfully, Liam Goligher does not defend the truth of scripture by poring over Chalke’s work point by point. Instead (to paraphrase Spurgeon), he lets the lion out of the cage. The Jesus Gospel is no mere defence against liberal theology, it’s a glorious affirmation of the truths of the whole Bible in relation to the Cross.
Goligher, who is the minister at Duke Street Baptist Church, structures the book using thirteen ‘scenes’ (chapters), grouped into three ‘acts’. Each scene is solidly based on a biblical chapter or book, and this is what gives the book it’s authority and power.
In Act 1, the book opens with the High Priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17, before moving to the Pentateuch for a thorough biblical grounding of sin and atonement, with chapters on the fall, the flood, the Exodus and the Day of Atonement.
In Act 2, Goligher moves to the person and work of Jesus, showing the scandal of forgiveness (Psalm 51), the suffering servant (Isaiah 53), and the purpose of Jesus (the Gospel of Mark).
Act 3 shows the consequences of the cross, with chapters looking at the book of Romans, reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5), God’s love (1 John), holy living (1 Peter) and judgement (Revelation).
This is a book to be read alongside an open Bible, and one that should have has two main audiences. Christians who want to know more of what the Bible says about Jesus’ atoning work will find their hearts warmed as their minds are challenged. As the majesty of gospel truths stir your heart, you will be brought to your knees in worship. But it’s also a book that could be of particular value to those who say they believe that Bible but haven’t grasped the implications of it’s message. They will discover that its impossible to ignore the seriousness of sin, or the glory of God’s redemptive plan.
This review was published in the November 2006 edition of the Evangelical Magazine.