What is the most important book written by John MacArthur? This would be fascinating debate for years to come and only history will tell, but I want to argue that at the list of possibilities would have to be The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? Originally written in the early 1980's, MacArthur was responding to the Lordship controversy which argued that one can come to salvation without ever submitting to the Lordship of Christ, thus forsaking all and submitting to His authority living a life of repentance and bearing fruits in keeping with faith. In other words, the debate was over the legitimacy easy-believism (I realize this is an oversimplification reflecting my own conclusion on the subject matter).
The first chapter of the anniversary addition begins:
Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3).
That is the single, central, foundational, and distinguishing article of Christianity. it is also the first essential confession of faith every true Christian must make: 'If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved' (Rom. 10:9). The belief that someone could be a true Christian while that person's whole lifestyle, value system, speech, and attitude are marked by a stubborn refusal to surrender to Christ as Lord is a notion that shouldn't even need to be refuted. It is an idea that you will never find in any credible volume of Christian doctrine or devotion from the time of the earliest church fathers through the era of the Protestant Reformation and for at least three and half centuries beyond that. The now-pervasive influence of the no-lordship doctrine among evangelicals reflects the shallowness and spiritual poverty of the contemporary evangelical movement. It is also doubtless one of the main causes for evangelicalism's impoverishment. you cannot remove the lordship of Christ from the gospel message without undermining faith at its core. That is precisely what is happening the church today. -25
From here MacArthur launches into his defense of affirming Jesus as Lord and attacking the contrary belief. I must side with MacArthur in this old debate. I say old because no one is talking about it, but anyone who has served in ministry will tell you that this debate continues today. Within the past year I have come across a number of church members who have no functional understanding of the gospel though they have been "members" since a child and have been baptized. They were told that all they had to do was say a prayer and get baptized without ever being told Jesus command to pick up one's cross and follow Him. The call to surrender, submit, follow, obey, and repent is foreign to most Christians and most pastors care more about numbers than they do about faithfully proclaiming the gospel.
MacArthur's book is a must read as he walks the reader through the message, the gospel, of Jesus Christ. He surveys His teachings, His parables, His preaching, and of course, His death and resurrection. The gospel isn't cheap but many treat it so. Let us not forget that in order for the gospel to exist, Jesus had to die. The gospel, again, is not cheap. It is imperative that the Church recover the full message of the gospel. The gospel is not limited to justification, though I wholeheartedly affirm sola fida, but also includes sanctification, regeneration, adoption, and final justification. MacArthur is right when he says that the God who justifies also sanctifies. We know this because the Jesus that was crucified was also raised. The God of the gospel is not content in leaving His adopted children in sin but through His Spirit is making them more like Him.
What is the gospel? That is the most important question anyone can ask and in this book MacArthur provides a deep, satisfying, and costly answer.
Reviews - The gospel According to Jesus" by Chris Seay
Reviews - What is the Gospel?
Reviews - Hard to Believe
Reviews - "A Tale of Two Sons"
Reviews - "the Jesus You Can't Ignore"
Reviews - Why One Way
See also MacArthur's other book on this subject: The Gospel According to the Apostles