Every now and then, a book comes along that will dramatically enrich your life. This was one of those books for me.
When Piper says that God is the gospel, what he means is that “the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gift would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment” (p. 13). In other words, the point of the gospel is not just that we’re justified, but that justification allows us to be restored to fellowship with God! That the gift of justification (or redemption or imputation or expiation etc.) is ultimately the gift of being enabled to fellowship with God himself who is the giver of all gifts and without whom no gift would be good.
Piper exposes the man-centredness of a gospel which exists to elevate man; which brings joy in the gifts of the gospel while paying little attention to the gift of the gospel—God. “We are willing to be God-centred, it seems, as long as God is man-centred” (pp. 12, 13).
First, this book glows with God-centred, gospel-saturated, joy-filled theology. It’s not shallow or sappy. It is rich and deep; theological and accessible; practical and devotional.
Second, if you’re not familiar with Piper’s theology and writing, this is probably an ideal introduction to his ideas. Though Desiring God is probably his defining work, it is fairly long and heavy. This book is quite accessible to the average layperson and will, I feel, give the reader a fairly good idea of what Piper believes. Chapter eleven could be viewed as a brief primer on Christian hedonism.
Third, this book helped me see clearly that the gospel is not the end, but rather the means to the end of glorifying God. It therefore helped me to understand more clearly how God and his gospel relate to each other and how to avoid preaching Christ’s gospel without preaching the Christ of the gospel.
Fourth, Piper exposes the hypocrisy of those who preach that the cross proves the value of man. He quotes Jonathan Edwards: “They are pleased in the highest degree, in hearing how much God and Christ make of them. So that their joy is really a joy in themselves, and not in God” (p. 137). Piper rebuts this Hillsong-style gospel decisively.
I could give a dozen more…
Honestly, I have few concerns with this book at all, hence the five star rating. However, I’ll point out a few minor things that raised questions for me.
First, there seems to be some confusion on p. 155 surrounding man’s creation in the image of God and the effect of the curse on that image. Piper seems to suggest that our growth into the image of Christ in sanctification is directly related to our creation in the image of God in Genesis 1. This seems to me to confuse two separate issues.
Second, Piper suggests in reference to 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 that “The glory of God shone in the historical, bodily face of Jesus” (p. 70). I tend to think the term “face” here is synecdoche.
I’d be hard pressed to find even a minor third down. Those who know me well recognise this as little short of miraculous as I tend to be a very critical reader. But Piper is precise and he has laid out his words carefully.
After reading the introduction to this book, I scribbled the following: “Breath-taking! Sweet water to a thirsty soul. Amen! Amen! Amen… Amen… Amen.”
I read this book with tears of delight. I hope you will do the same.
Grace to you.