I’ve just finished reading Liam Goligher’s book The Jesus Gospel and if the mark of a good Christian book is that it causes the reader to stop and consider afresh the enormity of God’s provision to humankind through the person and work of Jesus Christ, then this book is certainly excellent.

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 caused something of a furore in 2003. The furore surrounding the publication of Chalke’s book was not simply because Chalke was denying the atoning work of Christ on the cross – countless numbers have done that over many generations – but instead it was that Chalke was purporting to deny penal substitution whilst wishing to remain firmly evangelical.

Thankfully, Liam Goligher does not defend the truth of scripture by poring over Chalke’s work point by point. Instead he lets the Bible speak for itself, and in doing so, to quote the words of Spurgeon, lets the lion out of the cage. The Jesus Gospel is no mere defence against liberal theology, it’s a no-nonsense 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 so obviously what gives the book it’s impact.

In Act 1, the book opens with the High Priestly prayer of Jesus in John Ch.17, before moving through 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 Ch.53), and the purpose of Jesus (the Gospel of Mark).

In Act 3, Goligher shows the consequences of the cross, with chapters looking at the book of Romans, reconciliation (2 Corinthians Ch.5), God’s love (1 John), holy living (1 Peter) and judgement (Revelation).

This is a book that’s best read alongside an open Bible, and one that should have two main audiences. Firstly, those Christians who want to know more of what the Bible says about Jesus’ atoning work will find encouragement as their minds are challenged. And secondly, it’s also a book that could be of particular value to those who say they believe the 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 wonder of God’s redemptive plan.

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