Isaiah (NIVAC) by Oswalt

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I love this book. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in the New International Version Application Commentary (NIVAC) series. Two words come to mind about the content of this commentary: mature and conservative. The tough questions are in no way dodged and quality, robust analysis can be found on every page. It probably helped that John Oswalt had already turned out an impressive commentary on Isaiah in the NICOT series. This second pass is something special.

The Introduction to Isaiah that he provides is rich, probing, and something different. Not that he fails to cover the normal introductory issues, but how he succeeds in tying these introductory issues to contemporary life is something to behold. The historical background he provides is a page turner. His conclusions in the section on authorship and date blow much of the absurd liberal scholarship that Isaiah has been subjected to right out of the water. The section on the central themes of Isaiah bring the book alive. He discusses the uniqueness of Jehovah, servanthood, the Lord of history, and realized righteousness. There’s some quality theology all across that section.

The commentary itself is excellent and follows the typical pattern of this series. Whether you agree with every conclusion he makes or not, you will find this commentary an outstanding asset to your studies. You need this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton

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Mark this systematic theology down as one that tries to unite deep theological thinking with living the Christian life. The Christian Faith by Michael Horton provides another viewpoint and presentation for those doing systematic theological study. The volume truly has its own voice and in no way regurgitates what other major systematic theologies have to say.

Be sure to check out the introductory chapter that lays out both his ideas of doctrine and theology as well as a description of what he will attempt to do in this volume. He states that he is “writing from the perspective of a reformed Christian living in North America”. He admits that he doesn’t speak for all Christians but hopes to speak to all Christians in this book. While sticking to his own perspective, he also emphasizes that the Christian faith is one faith.

Part One is five chapters on knowing God where he discusses the presuppositions of theology and covers the doctrine of the Scriptures. Part Two is about the God who lives and in three chapters he discusses the doctrine of God and the Holy Trinity. Part Three is five chapters on the God who creates which will discuss his view of predestination, creation, providence, as well as the doctrine of man. Part Four is three chapters on the God who rescues which covers the doctrine of Christ. Part Five is 10 chapters on the God who reigns in grace that covers the doctrines of salvation and the church. The final part discusses in three chapters the God who reigns in glory which is a look at eschatology. As you can see, he organizes the material of systematic theology in a different fashion that I’ve seen others do.

I’m glad to have this volume on my shelves. It may not be the first systematic theology that I will pull out when I’m studying a particular doctrine, but it is one I plan to consult in any detailed study of theology that I’m digging into. It’s a boon to a Bible student to have an asset like this volume that approaches the subject from a different angle. You will see listed in the book an impressive array of respected theologians who highly recommend this book. It’s one that you will want to check out!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Deuteronomy (NIVAC) by Daniel Block

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Daniel Block has this commentary-writing thing figured out. He has already excelled in the past with both Ezekiel and Judges/Ruth, and now he succeeds again with Deuteronomy in one that marries exegesis and application. To my mind, this is one of the finest commentaries in the New International Version Application Commentary (NIVAC) series.

In the preface you see Mr. Block’s love of Moses shine in the first paragraph. He literally brims with things to say about the Book of Deuteronomy. If you’ll do a little checking, you’ll find he has written some additional books with deep scholarly insights on Deuteronomy.

He gives us a fine introduction to Deuteronomy. He succeeds in imparting much scholarly information with the clarity that lends itself to this style of commentary. He begins by explaining the history of interpretation. He succinctly brings us through that history, and as you probably know, Deuteronomy has been subjected to some of the worst scholarship imaginable. He’s not sure if Moses wrote the book, but he has no doubt of the historicity of Moses and the authenticity of what is found in Deuteronomy. The section on hearing the message of Deuteronomy was well done and shows how Mr. Block finds fault with the place many take Deuteronomy. He sees it as a book with a great message for us today rather than just a foil to the New Testament. The brief section on theology gets to the heart of the matter and he explains structure and design with an expressive chart and thorough outline.

The commentary itself is the caliber you expect from Mr. Block. He is able to give helpful homiletic suggestions without ever resorting to fluff. The style of this commentary series that includes the sections of original meaning, bridging context, and contemporary significance is one that Mr. Block clearly mastered. The publishers allowed him more pages than many received in this series and he put them to good use. This commentary fills a real need and makes it to the must-buy category.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Power in the Pulpit by Vines & Shaddix (Books on the Ministry #22)

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This book is probably the most thorough on preparing and delivering sermons that I’ve come across. This work has been appropriately revised to stay up-to-date. It includes the original works by Jerry Vines entitled “A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation” and “A Guide to Effective Sermon Delivery” with additional material by Jim Shaddix. The authors wisely address expository sermons in this volume because that’s the kind of preaching that brings out God’s Word.

Part 1 looks at preparation for exposition. In three chapters you will see the philosophy of expository preaching with a broad view of the preacher’s work. Exegesis, interpretation, and application, as well as a host of other things that are at play in preaching an expository sermon, are explained carefully. The second chapter gives us a theology of expository preaching that touches upon both inspiration and the work of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 3 looks at the preacher himself and pushes us toward inward reflection. These three chapters cover 135 pages and lay a great foundation before you get to the nuts-and-bolts section of how to put a sermon together.

Part 2 provides another three chapters that guide you through the process of exposition itself. Chapter 4 gives insight into the interpretive process with guidance on things like how to choose a text to preach on. From that careful process, the next chapter tells us how to organize our sermon. It’s to just how to turn from exegesis to homiletics. It explains how to take the mass of information you glean from the interpretive process and arrive at an outline. Chapter 6 continues by explaining things like introductions and conclusions in sermons.

Part 3 tells us how to take our finished sermon and deliver it. In four chapters we are told how to express our thoughts, how to understand what style is, how to care for and effectively use your voice, how to connect with the congregation and other pointers on delivery. I can’t think of any detail they overlooked.

The suggestions were balanced and clear. I’ve been preaching a while and found myself agreeing with them on so many points. On occasion, they explain how to break something down on the level that would be most beneficial to a beginner, but it’s all excellently presented. It would be fair to call this the Broadus volume of our generation. This is the book to put in a young preacher’s hands. Seasoned preachers will find it a helpful evaluative tool to review their own preaching. It’s hard to find a book like this one that is at once classic and current, but that’s what you have in this excellent book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

I, II, III John (NTL) by Lieu

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This commentary in the New Testament Library (NTL) series published by WJK on the Epistles of John has been written by Judith Lieu who had worked previously on these epistles. As is common with this series, she writes from the critical angle. Not only is her work better than most from that viewpoint, but she pushes back against some of the critical conclusions of the past few decades that were, quite frankly, from left field. In this book, then, you will not only get the theological pointers that this series is known for but also more plausible critical conclusions.

The Introduction is also more in-depth than several that I have reviewed in this series. The Introduction begins with a look at the acceptance and interrelation between the three epistles of John. The next section discusses the setting and looks at author, audience, and situation. She sees more uncertainties than I do, but still finds ways in which these three epistles clearly go together. The next section looks at the structure, background, and the thought of the letters. That will include a look at argument and style, Johannine tradition, and an in-depth look at the thought of the letters. From there, we find a review of reception and text, the overall importance of the letter and a concluding brief section on translation and language.

In the commentary proper, we find good coverage in line with this type series of the three epistles amounting to over 250 pages of discussion. The same critical assumptions found in the introduction are present here, but it is, without doubt, one of the more thoughtful and clear critical presentations. A solid effort!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Sermons on Titus by Calvin

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Banner of Truth is the home of many of John Calvin’s writings. This gorgeous volume includes a fresh translation from the French by Robert White of all of Calvin’s sermons on Titus. We have a perfect blending of outstanding sermons and sterling translation between the covers of this expertly produced book. I’m convinced that if you started reading this volume to someone they would easily believe it was from our day. To say that this book is up-to-date would not be trite in this case.

There’s a short introduction by Mr. White. He puts the Book of Titus in context in a few beautiful paragraphs. The balance of the introduction explains where the sermons fall in Calvin’s life. Don’t miss it. There’s also Calvin’s outline of Paul’s letter to Titus that gets us going. What follows is 17 wonderful sermons that cover the entire Book of Titus. Mr. White adds titles, uses modern punctuation, and has done a service to us all.

Some of the sermons about leadership in the church are a great challenge to preachers. Families will also find blessing in the sermons where Titus touches upon the family. Though it’s quite out of date in our day, Calvin is not afraid to expound God’s wisdom for the traditional home. Still, there’s plenty of balance to keep those in authority in check. No matter where you fall on the theological spectrum, you will admire and respect this book of sermons for its faithfulness to the text.

At the end of the book there’s a pleasant edition of the prayers prayed before and after these sermons. It’s a prayer for illumination as well as one of intercession. There’s both an index of Scripture references and one of subjects to conclude this book.

This book will be a blessing in your studies of the Book of Titus. The icing on the cake is that it’s a beautiful edition that will look graceful on your shelves for decades to come. Since this volume was released, Banner has also published the companion volume on 1 Timothy. Now we only await 2 Timothy in the treasure of Calvin’s sermons on the pastoral epistles for its completion. This book succeeds on every possible level and I highly recommend it!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Matthew (2 volumes) by Frederick Dale Bruner

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I must confess that I looked forward to getting a look at this massive commentary on the Book of Matthew. Volume 1 alone looking at Matthew 1-12 reaches 600 pages! Eugene Peterson called this book a “theological wrestling with Scripture”– you’ve got to admit that sounds intriguing. The set was updated in 2004 which makes it fairly recent. The designation that I had heard of it being mildly critical and theologically powerful is justified. I had also been told that many question its exegetical conclusions, but you will appreciate it for its theological insights. The Book of Matthew is blessed with other commentaries that might be your exegetical first choice.

Whatever Bruner has to say on introductory matters for Matthew is given in the preface. I take it that the introduction is not the contribution to studies of Matthew that he intends to make. The commentary itself is thorough, thought-provoking, wide-ranging, and theologically astute. I see this commentary as a noble second. After you have a good start on the Book of Matthew, then pick this volume up to see things that you have missed. When I peruse this volume, I don’t see any regurgitation of some other book. Bruner delivers an original production. I love the second viewpoint; don’t you?

This one is worth looking up!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Volume 2 of Frederick Dale Brunner’s highly-respected commentary on the Book of Matthew is even more massive than the first volume. It checks in at over 800 pages. As was the case with the first volume, whatever introductory discussion he wants to have is found in the preface. Page 1 picks up with Matthew 13 and the commentary carries on through the end of the book. All the superlatives of volume 1 are repeated in this volume. Theology is its greatest contribution. Though it must’ve taken Bruner years to write this large-scale work, there’s no tapering off toward the end. The last chapter of Matthew is given the same quality work as the first. I’m glad to have this volume for the type of extra insights it delivers.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Ephesians (NTL) by Fowl

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Stephen Fowl has delivered this volume on Ephesians in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. Mr. Fowl would rate as one of the more conservative writers in this critical series. If you are familiar with this series it’s safe to say that the author delivers what you’ve come to expect. There’s the same theological insight with even a higher level of exegesis as compared to other volumes in the series.

The introduction that follows a lengthy bibliography is rather short. Some typical introductory issues aren’t even touched upon. He does explain his view of the argument of Ephesians. He gives a fairly detailed outline of the book. He covers historical background in a section on Ephesus and Paul in Acts. When he discusses authorship, he doesn’t completely dismiss the possibility that Paul wrote the letter as we might have expected in this series. In any event, he doesn’t feel that authorship has all that much bearing on the interpretation of the book. He discusses briefly its relation to the book of Colossians, and he overviews vocabulary, style, themes, eschatology, and its use of the Old Testament. He ends the introduction with a look at the recipients and occasion of the book.

Even the commentary section is shorter than I anticipated. Still, the size is somewhat mitigated by a succinct style that is thorough enough to get to the heart of the matter in most passages. Again, the theological help makes this commentary worth consulting. Here’s a good look at Ephesians from a moderately critical perspective that is better than many in that same category.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Historical Theology by Gregg Allison

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Here’s an excellent help for when you are studying doctrine. Designed as a companion to Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, this volume looks beyond what to believe to what has been believed. I fully agree that what has been believed is a wise thing to consider when formulating doctrine. Though this book is technically a textbook, any pastor or Bible student could glean much from its use. It reads much better than a typical textbook too. Mr. Allison must have aced a creative writing class somewhere in his past.

Though this book is tied to Grudem’s work, it could be used independently or with any systematic theology. The order the doctrines are approached matches Grudem, as do the overall conclusions. I’ve used Grudem’s work extensively over the years, so I knew in advance where I would and would not agree with Mr. Allison. His judicious handling of historical fact even when it didn’t completely match his own opinions is praiseworthy. For that matter, I found his tone toward other viewpoints a model of grace. His respectful approach adds much value to its already rich content.

When working systematically on doctrine in the future I’ll still first reach for my favorite, trusted systematic theologies, but I will definitely grab this book too before I stop. Discovering the history of belief on the major doctrines is at once revealing and the icing on the cake. This book delivers!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Lies Pastors Believe by Dayton Hartman

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It seems several other groups have books about the lies they’ve believed, so it’s good to see pastors get their turn. The lies we believe, however, come from deep within and are ugly when examined as in this book. Every generation has a book of this nature for pastors and this volume is ideal for ours. It’s a short volume that can be read rather quickly in our busy age, yet there’s nothing shallow about it. It probes deeply and pastors who read it must either look within or close the book and walk away.

The subtitle reads: “7 ways to elevate yourself, subvert the gospel, and undermine the church”. The seven types are the visionary, the iron chef, the achiever, the called, the holy man, the anti-family man, and the castaway. I don’t know which is more shocking: the fact that we pastors could fall into seven such ridiculous things or that we so often have fallen into many of them! Pride shows up in several of these and the consequences of being swallowed up in them are devastating. If you don’t see that, Mr. Hartman will provide several examples.

The visionary is one of the worst because it springs directly from ego. It’s an assumption that we are destined for great things as we are coming into the ministry even though the Lord might have other plans. The iron chef is similar in that over time we begin to believe that no one preaches or teaches at the grand level we do and we kind of fall into being the iron chef over time. The achiever tries to earn and ministry ranks are filled with achievers. I was least in agreement with the chapter about “the called”, but still it was filled with some great insights.

The chapter on the holy man reminds us that real holiness is far more important than perceived holiness. The next chapter debunks the lie that we must sacrifice our home life for our ministry. He really takes us to task if were failing in this area. He gives balanced counsel to the castaway as well. There’s a short conclusion that gives three steps to take to get back on track. There’s a rather intense appendix on elder qualifications as well as a nice one on recommended reading.

If we pastors took the truths in this book to heart, our churches, our families, and our own lives would be so blessed. Warmly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.