THE GOSPEL FOCUS OF CHARLES SPURGEON – Steven J. Lawson (2012)
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon begins by surveying the short but memorable life of one of the most effective preachers of all time. Lawson provides a clear summary of Spurgeon’s birth, conversion, entry into pastoral ministry, and some of the controversial waters he was forced to navigate.
The author describes the theological “rebar” that helped shape this unique British pastor. Most notably, Spurgeon was a five point Calvinist. He famously said, “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by the nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.” Instead of hiding his theological presuppositions (like many evangelicals today), Spurgeon revealed them clearly, bravely, and decisively. Doctrine mattered to this man – and doctrine helped drive his ministry; a ministry that would flourish in nineteenth century England.
But Spurgeon was not only a committed Calvinist; he was also convinced of the authority of Scripture. Indeed, his strong belief in the authoritative Word of God was the central thrust of his pastoral ministry. Lawson adds, “Spurgeon was thoroughly convinced that in every page of Scripture is found the absolute truth of God. When the Bible speaks, Spurgeon believed, God speaks.” His confidence in Scripture was manifest in his preaching ministry; a ministry that has touched and continues to influence literally millions of lives.
Perhaps the most helpful section of the book is Dr. Lawson’s discussion of Spurgeon’s commitment to the doctrines of grace. The author carefully describes the five pillars that emerge in Spurgeon’s theological infrastructure:
1. Total Depravity
2. Unconditional Election
3. Definite Atonement
4. Irresistable Grace
5. Preserving Grace
Spurgeon notes, “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth, I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel; that which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.” And this gospel did in fact thunder throughout England. This same gospel must be preached from pulpits in America!
Dr. Lawson rightly portrays Spurgeon as a pastor who was deeply committed to evangelism. He carefully forged a path between the grievous errors of Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism and paid a steep price for his convictions. But the primary take-away is his love for the gospel and his heart for sinners.
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon is a much-needed antidote in a church that downplays theology and especially has a nasty habit of misrepresenting historic Reformed theology. It reminds pastors of the need for courage and conviction. It reminds pastors to stand for the truth no matter what the cost. It is a rebuke to the tepid theology that is being promoted in many American pulpits. Here is a book that pastors need to read and digest. It is time to open the Book and preach with the passion and fervor of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.