In a book claiming to explain Jesus’ personal view of the Gospel it is inconceivable that MacArthur spends so little time explaining the significance of the work of the Cross! There is a noticeable omission of key Gospel texts concerning Christ’s death (e.g., Mark 10:45). Concepts like the substitutionary nature of the atonement and the finished nature of the work of the Cross are never fully discussed.
In fact, in reading The Gospel According to Jesus one is left with the impression that the crucifixion is almost incidental to salvation; necessary, but not central to man’s acquisition of eternal life. MacArthur’s emphasis is not on man simply receiving what Christ Himself actively accomplished through His death, but on man actively working with Christ to appropriate the benefits of the work of the Cross (again, shades of pre-Reformation theology!).
Thus, man’s devotion, and blood spilled, in taking up the cross becomes the central focus of the way of salvation. Christ’s blood spilled on the Cross is largely ignored. The very least one can say is that The Gospel According to Jesus provides a view of salvation that is out of balance. What man must do should be balanced with and preceded by a theologically adequate discussion of what Christ has already done to provide eternal life. Dr. H. A. Ironside used to say that there are really only two religions in the world: the religion of “do” and the religion of “done.” The true faith is the religion of “done.” It is the biblical Gospel expressed by Christ on the Cross: “It is finished!” All the rest of the religions of men (including, sadly, many forms of Christendom) are religions of “do.” This is the only methodology which would mirror a biblical emphasis and it is notably absent from MacArthur’s work.