Book Review: “The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ” by Ray Ortlund

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  • Series: 9marks: Building Healthy Churches (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (April 30, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433540835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433540837
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7 inches

 

Book Review:

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund is part of 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches Series.  Ray Ortlund (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Gospel is a mere 144 pages in length.  Its Foreword is by elder churchman and theologian J.I. Packer.  The theme, which runs throughout, is “gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture.”  Following the Introduction, Mr. Ortlund explores his theme through seven chapters.  There’s a noticeable movement.  To develop each chapter, the writer selects a text of Scripture and offers a brief exposition to meet the overall theme of “gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture.” For example, “The Gospel is For You,” the first chapter, is a line by line treatment of John 3:16.  Mr. Ortlund interacts with voices from the past in the form of Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, and so on.

The Gospel is well-written.  Pastor Ortlund challenges his readers throughout.  Each chapter not only features a brief exposition of a text but is well-illustrated.  While there’s a concise definition of the gospel, for a book titled the gospel, I was hoping for a better definition–one that is clear and concise, especially when so many are already confused about what is the gospel.

But it’s Mr. Ortlund’s passion and pastoral tone to gently lead the reader from not only the necessity of gospel doctrine but equally to gospel culture what really commends why I think every church leader, pastor, and believer should read The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ.  Ortlund writes, “The primary barrier to the ministry of the gospel through your church is not out in the world; the primary barrier is within your church itself.  Every church, to some extent, clogs and hinders the gospel, even as we intend to advance the gospel. So each one of our churches should examine itself” (pg. 108-9).

“How will people on earth see the true beauty of our Head if his body below is scarred with ugliness, like everything else in this world? We have no right to disfigure his image upon us. Among the followers of Christ, beauty has authority” (pg. 112).

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