Saturday, July 03, 2010

Book Review: The Naked Gospel

In traditional Christian theology there has been three uses of “the law”:

1) provoke a sense of sin in a person
2) drive people to the cross of Christ
3) provide the ethical basis for living as a Christian

The so-called “third use of the law” has usually become the focus of living the Christian life. But, as the apostle Paul has pointed out, particularly in his letter to the Romans, the law, while good, actually provokes sin in a person rather than resolving the problem. Focusing on the law as a Christian actually has the opposite of the intended effect — leading to legalism, frustration, oppressiveness, and a loss of the freedom that God intended to come as the result of the work of Jesus Christ on behalf of humanity.

I have spent most of my life living under the law and have experienced all of the negative consequences of doing so. It wasn’t until I came to a deep understanding of the difference between the old Mosaic covenant God made with Israel and the New Testament covenant of grace brought by Christ that I was liberated into the true freedom the apostle Paul celebrates in Galatians 5:1. In this verse, Paul pleads with his Roman Christian readers to live in the new freedom Christ has brought. He writes:

… Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Much Christian teaching directly works against the Christian living in this freedom and nothing more so than the teaching that the New Covenant Christian is still subject to the law. Since I have come to an understanding of the new covenant and the fact that the Christian is no longer under the law but lives by the new way of life in the Spirit, biblical passages I used to have to twist to conform to the old thinking have become refreshingly clear.

There is an urgent need for many Christians to discover the “naked gospel” of the New Testament so that they can be liberated from the imprisonment of the law and live in the brilliant freedom that the New Covenant has brought. And there is, perhaps, no clearer articulation of this new covenant than Andrew Farley’s book The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church.

Farley has written a superbly simple (but profound) book that describes and explains the gospel and which strips away ‘all the religious fakery' (from a comment by Leonard Sweet about the book) that has accrued over the centuries.

Farley begins his book by describing “obsessive-Christianity disorder”. He describes his own experience of works-based Christian living that left him frustrated despite how much he tried to keep the law. For those of us who have tried to genuinely live under law, his story resonates as it portrays the anxiety, guilt, and emotional exhaustion of trying to live up to the law. It is no wonder that, in Farley’s words, ‘Christianity is seen [for many] more as a cancer than a crutch.’

Then, Farley launches into a magnificent articulation of what it truly  means to live under the new covenant. He explains how:

  • noone can live successfully under the old covenant law
  • it is not the “Law of Moses” that is written on the heart of believers
  • some Christians are fixated on the law even though it was a shadow pointing to a reality that has arrived
  • the law has one intended audience — unbelievers; NOT the believer
  • being under the law is like being prison
  • legalism never produces love
  • the law sets us up for failure
  • the law is a poor substitute for the Holy Spirit
  • the law is irrelevant to life in Christ
  • the law breeds two things: defeat if you’re honest and hypocrisy if you’re not
  • Christ has brought us genuine freedom

Of course, all of these assertions (which Farley superbly bases in the Scriptural text) raise many questions: does that mean we can do anything we like? how, then, do we know how to live as a Christian? what does sanctification mean for a Christian? and many more…

Farley deals with each of these issues in a very considered, simple, engaging, way. And finally he explores the way in which the fact of a person in Christ being a new creation brings a radical new liberty to be all we were meant to be.

I cannot exaggerate how good this book is. It’s an absolute pleasure to read. Every Christian would benefit from reading it. In fact, those who have been long-time Christians may find it radically changing the way they view their relationship to God. And if non-believers want to read about the very best, most liberating form of Christianity, then they should take a look at it as well. Go and buy one immediately!

Check out Andrew Farley’s website where you can watch videos and download a free preview of the book.


  1. I used to believe as you do until God pointed out to me what sin is in I John 3:4 - "Sin is lawlessness" (having no law). Therefore, having laws and being obedient to them is what makes and keeps us free. We're either law-breakers or law-keepers; there is no in-between. You may want to take a peek at my post of July 4, 2010.

  2. Christine, You are making humor; aren't you? Certainly even a casual glance at the New Covenant shows that once in Christ one is dead to the Law that once had bound. That God found fault with the old.
    I'll take it that your comment is 'tongue-in-cheek' if not a Hebrew slant at the New Covenant (to whom the law was given.
    One would greatly err to think that the walk of grace is a walk of lawlessness. Instead it esteems the law for the purpose of the law.