Originally published in 1970, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? has been reprinted seven times by The Banner of Truth Trust; the most recent reprint being in 1997. The author, Walter J. Chantry, has a Bachelor of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and has pastored Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania since 1963. Among his other responsibilities, he currently serves as editor of the monthly “Banner of Truth” magazine from Banner of Truth Trust publications.
Today’s Gospel is a short book, only 93 pages in all, with large print. It is an exposition of Jesus’ conversation with the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:17–27 and each chapter discusses different portions of this dialogue. After brief explanations of each verse, the author then proceeds to discuss how those truths relate to today’s evangelism. Jesus’ exchange with the wealthy young man was an evangelistic one and this book seeks to apply the lessons from this encounter to evangelistic opportunities today.
To get a better understanding of how Today’s Gospel accomplishes this task, it would be best to review one of its chapters. Chapter four entitled “Preaching Faith Toward God’s Son.” In the story of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus has told the young man that he lacks one thing: “Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mk 10:21). He then proceeds to say, “And come, follow Me.” At the start of this chapter, the author makes the insightful remark that,
Repentance and faith are Siamese twins. Where one is found, the other will not be absent. They are invariably joined in the true convert’s heart. True faith always involves repentance. True repentance always has faith mixed with it . . . Christ demanded of the ruler faith in Himself as well as repentance from the dead works of sin (p. 57).
Chapter three, entitled “Preaching Repentance Toward God,” had previously discussed what repentance means and how the Rich Young Ruler was commanded to repent. But, here in Chapter four Chantry takes some time to describe how the Rich Young Ruler was commanded to have faith along with repentance.
In commanding repentance, our Lord was urging the rich man to abandon his philosophy of life. He must rip his intelligence, emotions and will away from earthly riches or he would possess no “treasures in Heaven”… Yet the inquirer’s thoughts, desires, and allegiance could not remain in a vacuum. When the heart is swept clean, it must not be kept unoccupied, or seven devils worse than the first will fill it (Matthew 12:43–45). A new doctrine must fill the mind. Another object must possess the affections. Some master must direct the will. The ruler must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, or turning from one sin would only be a diversion to a worse one. He must have faith (pp. 57–58).
Chantry’s thesis is that in order to be saved the young man was going to have to turn from his former way of life and turn towards a new one by placing his faith in Jesus Christ. Mere repentance was not enough. There must not only be a change of behavior, there must be a change of thinking. To receive eternal life, the man was going to have to repent of his sins and believe in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.
Repentance is a common theme carried throughout the pages of Today’s Gospel. In fact, if the book could be summarized in one sentence, it would be: “When a half truth is presented as the whole truth, it becomes an untruth” (p. 17). According to Chantry, many churches today are woefully neglecting to tell the lost that they must believe and repent in order to be saved.
Men are not turning to Christ because they have no sense of sinning against the Lord. They are not convicted of sin because they don’t know what sin is. They have no concept of sin because the law of God is not being preached (p. 43).
Today’s Gospel maintains throughout a strong emphasis on repentance.
Our ears have grown accustomed to hearing men told to “accept Jesus as your personal Saviour,” a form of words which is not found in Scripture. It has become an empty phrase. These words may be precious words to the Christian – “personal Saviour.” But they are wholly inadequate to instruct a sinner in the way to eternal life. They wholly ignore an essential element in the Gospel, namely repentance. And that necessary ingredient of Gospel preaching is swiftly fading from evangelical pulpits, though the New Testament is filled with it (p. 48).
As far as criticism regarding this work, it would be helpful if the author elaborated more on God’s grace in salvation. In regards to the biblical emphasis, grace is a huge component in salvation. In fact, grace is salvation! Ephesians 2:4–5 tells us,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
Second Timothy 1:8–9 says,
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
To speak of repentance without a healthy balance of grace, could lead someone to legalism. The Bible teaches the need for repentance side–by–side with the doctrine that salvation is by grace alone and any book about the gospel should seek to do the same. While Today’s Gospel does not teach a works–based salvation, a better balance of grace along with the discussion of repentance would provide a healthier assessment of this topic.
For what it seeks to communicate, Today’s Gospel is an excellent, thought provoking and challenging book. Many Christians today are attending churches that water down the gospel message and leave out any commands to repent. If that is you or your church, Today’s Gospel comes highly recommended. However, if you are looking for a thorough explanation of the biblical gospel, this would not be the book to purchase.
Book Review by Jeremy Cagle, Pastor, Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, Illinois