I recently picked up this book: A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent (Focus Publishing, 2008). A Gospel Primer is something like a devotional that teaches people to meditate upon the gospel every day. Or, in Vincent’s terms, “This book is offered as a handy guide to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves each day” (p. 5). A Gospel Primer is right around 100 pages and consists of four parts: 31 brief devotionals, 41 very short summary statements of those devotionals, a poem about those devotionals, and Vincent’s story of how he came to write this book. It’s easy to read and, as I mentioned, not lengthy.
What are my thoughts? First, it is a great idea to teach yourself how to reflect on the gospel each day. Whether you talk about “preaching” the gospel to yourself or “meditating” on the gospel, it’s an excellent thing to be thinking about the gospel all the time. The aim of this book is for sure a good one!
Second, I appreciated the typed out Scripture references on each page. It was nice to be able to look down and see the Bible verses Vincent was thinking of when he wrote what he did. I must also note that the poem was enjoyable to read.
However, I do have some critiques of A Gospel Primer. First, Vincent didn’t really define “gospel” in this book aside from a blurb on the title page (“good news of salvation for hell-deserving sinners through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.”). It would have been nice to have some introduction to the various facets of what the gospel is – biblically defined.
Second, some of the phrases were a bit ambiguous. I’m not sure what these phrases mean: “seize upon the gospel,” “…loving them [people] with the gospel,” “…the deeper I go into the gospel,” “absorbed…in the gospel”, “reenact the gospel,” etc. I just don’t track with such wording; those phrases bogged me down when I was reading.
Finally, there is some imprecise theology/doctrine in the book that made me pause. Here are two examples: 1) “…What results from my obedience to its [justification’s] rule is sanctification, or holiness of life” (p. 21). It’s confusing to say that sanctification results from our obedience. Instead, sanctification includes obedience (1 Thess. 4:3, 1 Pet. 1:2, etc.). 2) On page 28 Vincent writes “…the gracious love of God, lavished on me because of Christ’s death….” It’s incorrect to say that because Christ died for me, God lavished his love upon me. Instead, because God loved me, he gave his Son to die for me (John 3:16, Rom 5:8, Eph. 2:4ff, etc.). I know what Vincent was getting at in these phrases, but sometimes his wording wasn’t so precise.
Although I don’t highly recommend this book for the above reasons, I do believe it is worthwhile to read. It’s a resource that will help the Christian personally reflect upon Jesus’ work in saving sinners.
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