A review by Stuart Brogden. Book available on Amazon.
The subtitles of Jon Cardwell’s book must not be overlooked or you will be confused. The focus of this book is the proper understanding of the biblical gospel – that is the title: The Simple Gospel. What our brother rightly understands is that one cannot have a true understanding of the gospel if one does not have a true understanding of the person and work of the Lord Jesus. Without a biblical Jesus, faithfully fulfilling the requirements of the Law and the Prophets and taking our place in facing God the Father’s wrath for our sins (Him being without sin), we do not have the biblical gospel. The subtitle, Including Other Essays Exalting Christ’s Person and Work, gives us advance notice that we will spend some time reading about essentials that provide the foundation of the true gospel.
In this title chapter our author gives us his summary of what the Bible presents as the gospel:
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, according to the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which focuses on the Person and work of Jesus Christ in His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and restitution of all things in His bodily return. 1
Note this: the gospel is about the redemptive work of Christ and our need of Him; the gospel is not the entire Bible, although all Scripture has this meta-plan as its ultimate purpose. A little later in this chapter, while reviewing the meaning and significance of the crucifixion, Jon pleads the sufficiency of Christ’s blood, saying, “The power of the purity of Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse the redeemed soul from every confessed sin he has committed after he has been saved by God’s grace (1 John 1: 7-10).” 2 While I agree with the intent, I think this idea would be better stated as “The power of the purity of Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse the redeemed soul from every sin he has committed or will commit, and is applied when he is saved by God’s grace (1 John 1: 7-10).” For we are commanded to confess our sins, all the sins of the redeemed are forgiven when he raised from spiritual death to new life, not just those committed after salvation and not only those confessed.
Still in this section, Jon brings to our mind the picture of Christ suffering God the Father’s wrath for our sins – a much more horrifying punishment than physical death on the cross, as painful and horrible as that is. If we don’t see Jesus being punished spiritually for the sins you and I committed, we are taking His sacrifice too lightly. This is closely tied to this statement: “The shame that comes to our souls in the light of the revelation of the offense our very lives bring to God, far exceeds the shame of Adam and Eve when their nakedness was revealed to them.”3 Far more powerful than our shortcomings in our foolhardy attempts to keep the law or earn God’s favor by our own strength, seeing the glory of God in Christ will undo us as it did Isaiah and the Apostle John and others who were privileged to see Him clearly. This is the power of the cross!
When he quickly reviews the resurrection’s part in the biblical gospel, our brother tells us two dear truths: “The resurrection of Christ is God’s open display to the entire creation of His seal and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice.” 4 and “When we speak of the resurrection of Christ we also speak of God’s assurance of a resurrection to come. God promises to all whom He has saved in Christ will one day be resurrected from the dead. The importance of the resurrection is such that a denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ means a denial of the faith altogether (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).” 5 Let no one who claims Christ forget the import of the resurrection – if Christ be not raised from the dead, we are to be most pitied.
His last section on The Simply Gospel is about the restitution or restoration of all things. We cannot, Jon tells us, fully comprehend the recreation of heaven and earth and the Lord’s glorious return without understanding the biblical doctrine of hell. And, he goes on, we cannot rightly comprehend either the new earth or hell if we do not rightly comprehend God! “The same presence of God that is a consuming fire for the wicked dead, Christ’s presence is peace and comfort (2 Corinthians 1: 3), and fullness of joy with pleasures forever more at His right hand (Psalm 16: 11).” 6 This oft-repeated exhortation to see the Lord as He is in His glory and power is a welcome one that does the souls of the saints much good.
Chapter 2 – Propitiation through Faith is an enlightening walk through Romans 3:23 – 27. Our faithful author tells us, “Romans 1: 17 is the key to this epistle, Romans 3: 23-27 is most certainly the door the key unlocks.”7 and “It is through this door one must pass in order to enter life eternal. In one way, it may be here that the Lord’s cryptic words become especially insightful: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10: 9; cf. 10: 7). The door of this passage is that wicket gate Mr. Bunyan’s allegory refers. Jesus Christ is that door, that wicket gate, and His cross, His propitiation, is eternal treasure.”8 Such exegesis is welcomed in this day of shallow, superficial reading, as is this: “To sum it up, God’s righteousness was openly displayed and manifested in the… Person of Christ Presentation at the Cross Power of Christ’s resurrection Perfection in Christ’s ascension.”9 As the Apostle Peter told us (2 Peter 1:12), we need to be reminded of the essential things even though we already know them. Cardwell does well in this regard, as he desires to stir up the saints of God to dig into the Word and walk as those who have been raised from the dead. I do wish Jon had spent some time on exploring what Paul meant by the phrase, “the law of faith” in verse 27. I think it is tied to what he elsewhere calls “the law of Christ,” which (I believe) is defined by the Lord’s answer to the Pharisee in Matthew 22:37 – 40 (I highly recommend Charles Leiter’s excellent book, The Law of Christ).
Cardwell emphasizes the fact that the life of a person who has been raised from spiritual death will be evident: “the result of the saved life will be evidenced by, but not limited to these things: a growing resemblance to the life of Christ in sanctification (1 John 1: 7); repentance of sins as the illumination of His light reveals them (1 John 1: 8-10); a love for God’s Word (1 John 2: 3-5); abiding in the Holy Spirit-led life (1 John 2: 6); exhibiting a sacrificial love for fellow-believers (1 John 2: 9-11); a hatred for the things of this world and hatred for the lusts of the flesh because those things are at enmity with the Father (1 John 2: 13-17); and a love for and discernment of the truth (1 John 2: 20-21).” 10 Let no one go easily on with the lie that one can be saved yet unchanged.
I will only touch on the topics of the balance of the book, each chapter will challenge the reader to examine his belief in the Word and the meaning of specific passages and traditions as Cardwell examines the meaning of the sign of Jonah, the Shroud of Turin, traditions of men, and a few other topics.
The fifth chapter examines the Chief End of Man, and Jon does well to debunk the seeker sensitive madness Rick Warren is famous for, but he also takes the Westminster Shorter Catechism without question to answer the question. The problem with the catechism and its answer is the lack of defining the audience. About which man is it asking about the chief end – fallen man or redeemed man? In the context of the catechism, the very beginning, the catechism must be talking about man in general, not the redeemed. And because of this, their answer fails – because those who are bound for eternal torment do not have, as their chief aim “enjoying God.” Further, I find no support in Scripture that our benefit (the redeemed enjoying God forever) is our chief end. All of creation has as its chief end the glory of God. They should have put a period after the first phrase and worked out the latter portion in a later part of the catechism, making it clear enjoying God is a blessed benefit the redeemed will reap. Jon does point out that, to “enjoy God forever did not mean that man’s ultimate happiness comes as the result of what we receive from God. Following this thought toward its logical conclusion would ultimately suggest that God exists for man’s good pleasure and not the other way around.”11 Amen!
Christian – are you satisfied with your understanding of God’s Word and how it applies to you? I trust that is not the case. This short book is a good one to provoke any believer to dig deeper into the Scriptures, to pray for God’s wisdom, and examine some of those things we have been taught but never have thought about. Take and read!
1 Cardwell, Jon J. (2014-11-15). The Simple Gospel – Including Other Essays Exalting Jesus Christ’s Person and Work: The Gospel Truth of Jesus Christ According to Scripture (The Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ Book 2) (Kindle Locations 172-174). Vayahiy Press. Kindle Edition.
2 ibid; Kindle Locations 210-211
3 ibid; Kindle Locations 241-242
4 ibid; Kindle Locations 252-253
5 ibid; Kindle Locations 259-262
6 ibid; Kindle Locations 299-301
7 ibid Kindle Location 332
8 ibid Kindle Locations 339-342
9 ibid Kindle Locations 361-365
10 ibid Kindle Locations 504-509
11 ibid Kindle Locations 915-917