I have never been the kind to enjoy an afternoon at the art gallery. It’s not that I don’t like art—I really do—but more that I don’t understand it very well. Of course the fact that I am red-green color blind probably doesn’t help my cause too much, but it seems that what excites artists, what stands out to them, does very little for me.
One of those funny little memories of my childhood involves a day visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario with my aunt and uncle. Both of them are artists and both of them love visiting art galleries. Hour after hour we would walk into a room with paintings hung on every wall. I would do a quick survey, glance at each painting, and then go to the middle of the room and grab a snooze on the little padded bench. Meanwhile, my aunt and uncle would walk slowly, they would take a long look at each painting, they would look at it from different angles, they would express joy and delight at the technique the artist used, at the colors he chose, at the detail he included—the light falling upon an object, the careful brushstrokes, the shading, the precision. The three of us were in that art gallery together, but one of us had a very, very different experience from the other two.
I thought of my aunt and uncle and I thought of that art gallery as I read Paul Washer’s new book The Gospel’s Power and Message. There is something in my nature, I think, that wants to glance instead of linger. I get restless quickly, I look for a moment and then move on to other things. I have come to see that it is often better to linger, that certain things can only be seen and grasped by that long and dedicated study. And this is exactly what Washer does in his book.
The Gospel’s Power and Message is the first of a trilogy from Washer, three books together titled “Recovering the Gospel” that take a long, deep look at the gospel. Washer begins in a slightly defensive posture, showing how the gospel has been reduced, neglected, and attacked in so many contemporary churches.
One of the greatest crimes committed by this present Christian generation is its neglect of the gospel, and it is from this neglect that all our other maladies spring forth. The lost world is not so much gospel hardened as it is gospel ignorant because many of those who proclaim the gospel are also ignorant of its most basic truths. The essential themes that make up the very core of the gospel—the justice of God, the radical depravity of man, the blood atonement, the nature of true conversion, and the biblical basis of assurance—are absent from too many pulpits. Churches reduce the gospel message to a few creedal statements, teach that conversion is a mere human decision, and pronounce assurance of salvation over anyone who prays the sinner’s prayer.
Against this radical neglect he says, “It does not become us as ministers or laymen to stand so near and do nothing when we see ‘the glorious gospel of our blessed God’ replaced by a gospel of lesser glory. As stewards of this truth, we have a duty to recover the one true gospel and proclaim it boldly and clearly to all.” This is exactly what he sets out to do in this book and in this series of books.
This book, then, is a long, careful, joyful look at the gospel. It is as if Washer walks into the room of an art gallery and studies a work of art first from one side and then another. He steps back to look at the entire work and then steps close to examine the finest details and the most careful nuances. He marvels at the workmanship and delights in the artistry. His joy in this work of art is contagious and the reader just can’t help but be drawn in to the excitement.
Yet unlike a work of art which is necessarily limited, a work that can be exhausted, the gospel is infinite in its depth and beauty.
As preachers and congregants, we would be wise to see the gospel anew through the eyes of [Paul] and to esteem it worthy of a lifetime of careful investigation. For though we may have already lived many years in the faith; though we may possess the intellect of Edwards and the insight of Spurgeon; though we may have memorized every biblical text concerning the gospel; and though we may have digested every publication from the early church fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans, and up through the scholars of this present age, we can be assured that we have not yet even reached the foothills of this Everest that we call the gospel. Even after an eternity of eternities the same will be said of us!
In a book that is deep, methodical, and powerful, Washer calls every Christian to make the gospel his lifelong obsession. “Remember this: you must always be growing in the gospel and your knowledge of it. It is not Christianity 101, but Christianity from A to Z. You have not mastered the gospel, nor will you master it, but it will master you!” This book, and the two that follow it, are intended to allow you to grow in your knowledge of the gospel so it can increasingly master and delight you. The Gospel’s Power and Message lingers over the message of the gospel and proclaims the objective facts of the gospel. The next volume will focus on the call of the gospel to true conversion; the final volume will look to the gospel’s assurance and warnings.
This is a book for every Christian—a book that calls us to know and to delight in the good news of the gospel. It is a book that will bless everyone who reads it.