Recently I was honored to receive a preliminary copy of Jon Cardwell’s most recent work, The Simple Gospel. As many of you already know, Jon is Pastor at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama, and is the author of several books including Christ and Him Crucified. His latest work, The Simple Gospel is a compilation of nine fairly short essays in which he unpacks the scriptures concerning several misrepresented (and misunderstood) topics such as propitiation through faith, manmade traditions, what it means to be born-again, and others. Despite its brevity (131 pages total), The Simple Gospel is theologically rich and scripturally dense. Cardwell demonstrates his high regard for the Word of God by supporting each assertion with multiple scriptures that he expounds upon. This is the kind of book that you will want time to absorb fully
In the first chapter, Cardwell lays out the essential truths contained in the gospel by focusing on the Person and work of Jesus Christ in His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and restitution of all things upon His return. A right understanding of these essential doctrines is important lest we have “believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2) and if we are to grow in grace, and persevere. It’s a humbling chapter to read in view of the fact that many Christians cannot stand up for the faith — let alone articulate it.
In a chapter called “The Trouble with Traditions of Men” Cardwell discusses how clinging to seemingly benign traditions — like believing the three kings went to worship Jesus at the manger (despite biblical proof to the contrary) are indication of our own rejection of the Word of God. When we downplay the importance of these errors we “testify against ourselves as Christian believers, behaving as if God’s gospel were powerless.” Cardwell concludes, “If we would only cling to Him and submit to the Spirit of Christ as much as we did our erroneous traditions, we might find ourselves walking in the spirit, moment by moment, in the Spirit’s power with the reality of the truth that the cross of Jesus Christ, according to God’s holy Word, is all that matters in the universe.”
In another chapter entitled “The Chief End of Man” Cardwell addresses the prevailing belief in many Western churches that church growth begins with “the felt needs” of the unchurched. He systematically and biblically dispels the faulty premises that support this thinking. He writes, “The lack of discernment because we just don’t know the full counsel of God … is appallingly grievous and alarmingly disconcerting. As church leaders in America, it seems that we have become more or less like Eve; deceived and unconscious of the truth (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14); or like Adam; willfully disobedient to the truth (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 11:3).”
In the final chapter, “A Glimpse of Eternity” Cardwell asserts that most Christians don’t have a biblical view of eternity. Rather than renew our minds with the full counsel of God, many are too easily influenced by preachers who falsely assert Christians don’t need all sixty-six books of the Bible. “This is what really bothers me about skits, plays and dramas within the local congregations,” says Cardwell. “In the Dark Ages, plays, icons, and the lighting of votive candles were used to placate the masses because the Word of God was not available to everyone … Why have we relapsed into such a sinister time? We have lost the glimpse of heaven because we have removed the Word from its place of importance and replaced it with visual stimulation in skits, plays, dramas, and cinematic entertainment.”
In typical Cardwell fashion, each chapter of The Simple Gospel exalts Christ in his person and work. For Cardwell, it is Christ and him crucified — the whole counsel in its unadorned simplicity or nothing else. The common thread in each essay is that the root of all debase thinking concerning Jesus Christ is the total depravity of man, and the downward tendency toward sin in redeemed men. In an age when so many have grown weary of the plain gospel, where entertainment is preferred over preaching, where programs and pragmatism, fables and pleasures take the place of truth, Cardwell’s The Simple Gospel is a clarion call to return to the “old paths.” It is a plea for biblical discernment in an age of error.
As in the day of Jeremiah, God is calling us back to “stand in the ways, and see.” He desires that we “ask for the old paths where is the good way, and walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16) because it is in the old gospel paths found in the Word of God, the way of the cross of Jesus Christ, that allows us to take the Lord’s yoke upon us to learn of Him, and we “shall find rest” for our souls (Matthew 11:28; 16:24). – Jon Cardwell
GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Jon Cardwell has generously made 5 ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) available in paperback. Thank you, Jon! You may enter the contest by leaving a comment on this post. And be sure to spread the word! If you share this on any other form of social media, indicate what you have done and I will add your name for each share. The contest will close Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 9pm EST. Winners will be notified by email.