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The Gospel According to the Apostles

The Gospel According to the Apostles

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by John MacArthur

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Ever since the days of the apostles Paul and James, Christians have struggled to define the proper tension between faith and works. Salvation, Paul stresses is "not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). But James argues, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (2:18).

In his characteristic


Ever since the days of the apostles Paul and James, Christians have struggled to define the proper tension between faith and works. Salvation, Paul stresses is "not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). But James argues, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (2:18).

In his characteristic compelling style Dr. MacArthur reconciles these two seemingly divergent threads of biblical truth, taking on the difficult questions head on:

  • What is cheap grace?
  • Have some Christians adopted a "no-lordship" theology?
  • What must a person do to be considered righteous by God?
  • Do our works have any affect on our salvation?

Jesus asked his followers, "Why do you call me Lord and not do the things that I tell you to?" When John MacArthur dared in his earlier book to ask us this question, critics accused him of shelving grace. Others read the same book and heard in it the identical message preached since the founding of the Church.

"The Gospel According to the Apostles is the same gospel Jesus preached," Dr. MacArthur says, "but it differs dramatically from the diluted message popular today. I pray you'll find this book an encouragement as you seek to put your own faith to work."

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Read an Excerpt

The Gospel According to the Apostles

The Role of Works in the Life of Faith
By John MacArthur

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 John MacArthur
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7852-7180-2

Chapter One


In the gospel, I find satisfaction to my mind that I find nowhere else. ... There is no problem of my life but that the gospel deals with it and answers it. I find intellectual rest and an answer to all my questions.

And, thank God, my heart and my desires are also satisfied. I find complete satisfaction in Christ. There is no desire, there is nothing that my heart can crave for but He can more than satisfy. All the restlessness of desire is quelled by Him as He breathes His peace into my troubles and problems and restlessness....

So I am given rest in spite of my circumstances. The gospel enables me to say with the Apostle Paul, "I am persuaded"-which means, I am certain-"that neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39). That is perfect rest which is independent of circumstances; that is to be calm in the midst of storm. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

While I was writing this book my whole life suddenly changed.

One afternoon while waiting for my son to join me at the golf course, I received a telephone call informing me that my wife, Patricia, and our youngest daughter, Melinda, had been involved in a very serious automobile accident. Patricia had been gravely injured and was being airlifted to a hospital about an hour away from where I was. No other details were available. Inadvertently leaving my golf clubs on the practice tee, I immediately got in my car and headed for the hospital.

That hour-long drive to the hospital will be forever etched in my memory. A thousand thoughts flooded my mind. I realized, of course, that I might never see Patricia alive again. I thought of the gaping hole that would exist in my life without her. I reflected on the essential part she has had in my life and ministry over the years. I wondered how I could ever manage without her. I remembered when we first met, how we grew to love each other, and hundreds of other little things about our life together. I would give anything to keep her, but I realized now that choice was not mine to make.

A supernatural peace flooded my soul. My grief, sorrow, uncertainty, and fears were all enveloped in that restful peace. I knew that Patricia and I were both in our Lord's hands, and under the circumstances that was the only place I could imagine any sense of safety. I did not know His design. I could not see His purposes. I could not understand what had happened or why. But I could rest in the knowledge that His plan for us was ultimately for our good and for His glory.

When I arrived at the emergency room, I learned that Melinda had been badly bruised and cut but was not seriously injured. She was severely shaken but not in any danger.

A doctor came out to explain Patricia's injuries to me. Her neck was broken. Two vertebrae were severely crushed. The damage had occurred above the crucial nerves in the spinal cord that control breathing. In most cases like hers, the victim dies immediately. But our Lord had providentially spared her.

She had also sustained a severe blow to the head. The impact of the roof crushing down on her head as the car flipped was powerful enough to have killed her. They were giving her massive doses of a new drug designed to stop swelling in the brain. The surgeon was concerned that the head injury could yet prove fatal. He had used more than forty sutures to close the wound in her scalp. Her jaw and several bones in her face were broken. She would not be out of danger for several days.

Emergency room personnel were about to move Patricia to surgery, where doctors would attach a steel halo to her head by means of four bolts drilled directly into the skull. The device would suspend her head and stabilize her neck while the vertebrae healed. She would wear the halo for several months and after that undergo a grueling program of physical rehabilitation.

In the next few days doctors discovered additional injuries. The right collarbone was broken. Worse, Patricia's right arm was paralyzed. She could move her fingers and grip things, but her arm hung limply and she had no sensation in it. Her left hand was broken and needed a cast. That meant Patricia could not use either hand.

This all has brought a wonderful opportunity for me to serve my wife. All our lives together she has cared for my needs, served the family, and ministered to us in a myriad of ways. Now it is my turn, and I have relished the opportunity. My love for her and my appreciation of all that she does has grown by magnitudes.

As of this writing, Patricia is still in the halo. It is a remarkable contraption, a huge steel yoke that suspends her head by resting the weight of it on four steel rods rising from a plastic upper-body vest. It holds her head and neck immobile in traction.

I am glad to report that she is out of danger now. If God graciously permits, by the time this book is published she will be out of the halo. She has regained some use of her right arm, and doctors tell us she could be on the way to a full recovery.

This whole experience has been the most difficult trauma of our lives together. Yet through it all both Patricia and I have learned again-in a very practical way-that faith works. Our faith in Christ-the same faith with which we first trusted Him as Lord-has remained strong and enabled us to trust Him through this trial.

We have understood as never before the sweetness of our Lord's invitation in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light." We have found again and again that though the yoke does not always seem easy and the burden does not always feel light, living under the precious reality of Christ's lordship offers the only truly restful life, no matter what.

That is, after all, the heart of the gospel according to Jesus. The apostles knew this truth both from the Lord's teaching and from their own experience. It was the heart of their message to an unsaved world. They preached that faith works; it cannot fail or remain passive, but immediately goes to work in the life of the believer. It works for us and in us and through us. Faith is sustained and it sustains us in the midst of life's trials. It motivates us in the face of life's difficulties. It carries us through life's tragedies. Because faith works, it enables us to enjoy a supernatural spiritual rest.

Our experience throughout Patricia's ordeal has given me a new vigor for this book. I am constantly reminded that my confidence in the lordship of Jesus Christ is the foundation and the support of my life. The immense provision of His saving grace enables us to endure.

The lordship of Christ is not some dry and musty abstract doctrinal subject. The gospel is not an academic matter. Faith is not a theoretical pursuit. The grace of God is not a conjectural reality. How we understand the truths of the gospel will ultimately determine how we live our lives. All these issues are dynamic, intensely practical, and supremely relevant in our day-to-day lives. Please bear that in mind as you study these pages.


Excerpted from The Gospel According to the Apostles by John MacArthur Copyright © 2007 by John MacArthur. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John MacArthur has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, since 1969. His ministry of expository preaching is unparalleled in its breadth and influence; in more than four decades of ministry from the same pulpit, he has preached verse by verse through the entire New Testament (and several key sections of the Old Testament). He is president of the Master’s University and Seminary and can be heard daily on the Grace to You radio broadcast (carried on hundreds of radio stations worldwide). He has authored a number of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, Twelve Ordinary Men,and One Perfect Life.

For more details about John MacArthur and his Bible-teaching resources, contact Grace to You at 800-55-GRACE or gty.org.

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