Book Review: The Gospel and its Ministry by Robert Anderson

“The Gospel and its Ministry” is a great read, because Anderson addresses many essential gospel terms and concepts. If there is any subject the enemy wants to distort, it is the gospel. Having written 150 years ago, he does not deal with current distortions like baptismal regeneration or open theology, but his clarifications are important for any age.

The 1800s were dealing with a textual criticism movement that brought so-called scholarly men who peddled errors and misinterpretations of holy Scripture. They were clouds without water. They purposely or unknowingly were weakening the foundation of a clear gospel presentation and Anderson was timely to address key doctrines and concepts. He dug into the Word of God in order to ensure the Truth was proclaimed and his words are an admonishment to us to reach our generation.

Anderson deals with the essentials of grace, the cross, faith, repentance and election. Grace is fundamental, because there would be no salvation without it. The holiness of God could not extend forgiveness to a sinner if it were not for grace. The cross and grace go together, for who can God bless with grace without the cross. And who can God bless with grace without one who practices faith? God is not arbitrary. He is One who exercises sovereign grace as one exercises faith dependence on Him. To him who has faith, the unseen is real and Jesus is openly crucified having seen the marred and agonized face. As Anderson wrote, “Salvation is the gift of God, bestowed on the principle of grace, and received on the principle of faith.” (p. 54)

Anderson very wisely deals with repentance and election in order to rightly divide the Word. Repentance is not in addition to faith, but is what man does in the Spirit’s work. The Spirit has come to turn hearts to God and to secure to believers every blessing Christ has won. (p. 57) Anderson wrote, “Salvation there cannot be without repentance, any more than without faith; but the soundest and fullest gospel-preaching need not include any mention of the word.” (pp. 57-58). His treatment is balanced with Scripture instead of theology. He does not go to either extreme of God’s sovereignty or man’s free will, but communicates both are true approaches for election and both on the extreme will cause the grappler trouble if used by themselves.

Then Anderson deals with substitution, righteousness, sanctification and justification by faith. Each of these essential teachings make or break a person’s understanding of Biblical salvation. Jesus’ substitution makes grace possible, because man’s righteousness would never satisfy the holiness of God. One who is saved will be motivated in sanctification, but man’s work and efforts to change are never a part of the Spirit’s sanctification process. How cruel of those who promote theology that sanctification that is not seen in a man demonstrates he was never saved. Otherwise it could not include grace. In fact, grace insists that man can have no part in the Spirit’s work, except for the faith that allows God’s Spirit to work.

Additionally, Anderson concisely defines justification by faith, works and blood. How embarrassing we will be for adding to the work of Christ on the cross and missing the liberty with which Christ has set us free, so that we are not saved by works, but our works are a testimony of Christ’s saving work. This is not a theologian’s book, but a layman’s guide to understanding the richness of the salvation gift God makes available to all who turn to the holiness of God and are brought to oneness in Christ. Anderson has an accurate understanding of types, figurative language and the hope of Scripture. While written in the culture of England, it makes the simple gospel message ring clear for Christ-loving saints to the beauty of His holiness.

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