The Gospel [un]Cut – a (short) book review

Free means free. That is the message from start to finish in The Gospel [un]Cut, a new book from first time author Jeremy White.

I bought a copy of this book from the author’s own hand (which wasn’t too difficult since I’ve been attending the church he pastors for about a year and a half now). Jeremy’s book covers the basics of God’s grace, and how radical that grace truly is. Here’s the opening from Chapter One:

Ironically, the God who identifies himself as love has entrusted His people with the most offensive message in the world. That message is not deny yourself or take up your cross or die to self or sell all you have or live your faith radically … .

The most offensive message in the world is simply grace. No matter how gently, lovingly or patiently one presents it, grace offends the legalist in everyone.

Jeremy carefully presents the teachings of Jesus, Paul, John and others in the Bible to show that life in the New Covenant is nothing less than life in Jesus, and argues that in him all is grace: there’s no room for our efforts to supplement anything Jesus has already done completely for us. (He also carefully refutes any charges of antinomianism, relying principally on Paul’s own defense of the gospel of grace in Romans 6.)

Jeremy takes positions on a few side issues that I might disagree with doctrinally, but none of them detract from the importance of his thesis that free means free, and there is nothing anyone who belongs to Jesus needs to do to earn God’s favor: Jesus truly has done it all, and has done it for us for all eternity.

God is for us, never against us, and his grace is more amazing than we know. The Bible is clear about that:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. (Romans 8:1, 31-34.)

and,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1.)

Free means free.

***

For those who like to listen rather than read, Jeremy just started a sermon series based on the book. The first video is available here.

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25 Responses to The Gospel [un]Cut – a (short) book review

  1. Nick says:

    So what’s Pastor Jeremy’s reason for saying Jesus’ own words are “predictable mantras” that aren’t really part of the gospel?

    • Tim says:

      That’s what i get for providing excerpts and not a fuller representation of the book! White’s phrase “predictable mantras” refers to how people will take these phrases out of context and use them in mantra-like fashion, not that Jesus was doing so. (As many have said about Shakespeare relying so much on cliches, when in fact they weren’t cliches when he came up with them.) Rather than continue the confusion, I’ve just dropped that part of the quote. Thanks for calling it to my attention, Nick.

      • Nick says:

        Thanks for clearing up, Tim. It sounds like the author is saying we have a tendency to take the things Jesus said that are more palpable to the world and promote them as “the gospel”, rather than spread the offensive message of undeserved grace.

  2. Jeannie says:

    Like Nick I’m very uncomfortable hearing Jesus’ own words called “predictable mantras.” I don’t think the writer’s point is that these are not valid — sounds like he’s emphasizing that these aren’t the REALLY offensive things; grace is. But I think you can say “grace is all” without pooh-poohing the words of our Saviour — I hope the writer makes that clear.

    See, now you’ve made us want to go out and get the book. Nice one. 🙂

  3. When I see other people receive grace to partake in certain liberties I might get a little fidgety! (Out of self-righteousness? Envy?) I might start looking around for a nice sturdy salt box to stand on! But I can’t recall anytime that I haven’t felt glad when God has put His hand under my chin and lifted my head. The grace I have received has never felt offensive to me at all. Looking forward to reading some more thoughts on this.

    • Saltbox? hee hee — I meant soapbox! I actually own one. I keep it on my front porch. One July 4th my husband’s grandma got into a rant about how the country is “going to the dogs” and my BIL helped her up onto the soapbox where she proceeded to give a scalding sermon — with a cigarette dangling from between her fingers all the while! 🙂 This has nothing to do with what we’re discussing today. Sorry. 🙂

      • Tim says:

        That story’s a hoot, Adriana! And I think it does have to do with grace, because that’s what your brother in law and you and the rest of the family showed your husband’s grandmother when giving her a chance to speak out and be heard. Nice illustration of grace.

    • Tim says:

      I love that image of God putting his hand under out chins and lifting our heads. It’s very John 15 Vine and branches like.

  4. Doug says:

    The message is true, powerful, and accurate… but… 😀

    Still not sure how we handle “sinning so grace abounds”…. The two most vocal advocates of grace in my present church found it possible to walk away from their families… I suspect that while God’s grace is indeed big enough for them, that they were a little unclear on the concept.

    • Tim says:

      Doug, I hear you loud and clear. Paul spent a lot of time trying to answer that question to the satisfaction of his readers, but I confess I’m still not clear myself on all the nuances of grace vis a vis freedom and sin. I think one thing is clear, though, and that is that we are no longer to try to obey the law but we are to bear fruit, per Jesus’ teaching in John 15 and Paul’s in Galatians. Walking away from one’s family doesn’t seem like very godly fruit to me.

      • Doug says:

        Yes: it seems to me that real grace (like real love) *requires* us to pay it forward. That is, the more we are connected to *real grace* the more we act graciously to those around us. The more we are connected to *real love* the more we act lovingly to those around us. Some might object that that doesn’t sound very much like “unconditional love” — and I’d agree: “unconditional love” is a concept that has gone beyond its “use by date”, and needs to be re-assessed in the light of scripture.

        • Tim says:

          Good point. The phrase “unconditional grace” means something, but I don’t think it means what everyone says it means. Grace does come to us without conditions, but it does not come to us without consequences.

        • I’ve always experienced grace as the fuel which empowers me to do right when I’m too weak to do right on my own steam. Do you think that is a proper analogy?

        • Tim says:

          Or perhaps, Adriana, grace is what grafts us to the Vine so that we can bear the fruit of the Spirit who dwells within us because we are in Christ.

        • Jeannie says:

          I like this comment very much and just wanted to add something. I was watching Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGKfrgqWcv0); it’s so joyful and heartfelt that I can’t get enough of it! And the words are powerful: “So I’l be bold as well as strong/And use my head alongside my heart/So tame my flesh and fix my eyes:/A tethered mind free from the lies.” To me this expresses a beautiful response to grace. Grace doesn’t give us freedom to do whatever we like (“I sin; God forgives; great arrangement”) but rather it’s a freedom that comes from knowing Whose we are and submitting with joy. It’s a paradox: tethered (to what/Who is good), yet free (from condemnation and from lies). Amazing grace!

          (I’ve kind of got away from your pastor’s book, Tim, but it’s such a good subject.)

        • Jeannie, I saw the link to that song a couple wks ago on your blog and I was hooked! Love it!

  5. Aimee Byrd says:

    The offense of grace is so strangely true to our sinful nature, because it tells us we are not good enough. It may be free to receive, but it isn’t cheap. And as we know that all too well as receivers, we also recognize it’s power to transform. That’s why all of our “yeah, but” addendum’s we try to add pale in comparison.

    • Tim says:

      Aimee, that is so good about how our “yeah, but” attempts are feeble additions to God’s powerful grace. It’s like the broken reed that God decries in the Old Testament, when his people thought they could rely on Egypt instead of on the One True God. “Yeah, but” is just another broken reed we foolishly try to substitute for God’s awesomeness.

  6. Jeremy White says:

    Thank you Tim for your review of the book! And thank you others for the great questions and dialogue so far. Hopefully the book will do justice in addressing some of those obvious concerns and “yeh but’s” that naturally arise when we hear statements like the ones Tim highlighted. For those who may be concerned that I’m arguing for a “let’s sin so that grace may abound…” kind of message, I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you read the book.

    However, I also agree with theologian D. Martin Lloyd-Jones on the subject when he said in his commentary on Romans:

    “There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament Gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the Gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the Gospel…. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.” (D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, The New Man: An Exposition of [Romans] Chapter 6, 1972)

    Again, thanks so much for interacting over these critical ideas in pursuit of the Jesus who passionately pursues us! 🙂

    Grace and Peace,
    Jeremy

    • Tim says:

      Right, it’s the same charge they leveled at Paul, after all. If someone accuses me of the same things Paul was accused of, I’ve got a good chance I’m on the gospel path!

  7. I will be honest. The condemnation of Christ verse. . .the fact that nothing and no one can pluck you from the Love of God. . .that verse I have seen used over and over again as if it is okay for people to do what they want. It drives me crazy that I have come to hate the verse. It is a terrible thing, but whenever I see or hear it, I roll my eyes instead of feeling excitement.

    • Tim says:

      People who rely on that verse for license to act as they wish have never bothered to study the rest of Romans 8. If they did, they’d see that Paul has dealt handily with the issue. It’s sad people take these verses out of context, but while I feel sorry for them I rejoice that God loves me so much he will never let me go no matter how bad I might behave.

      Yet another example of Jesus’ wonderful grace!

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