John (Pillar) by D. A. Carson

book john pil

This commentary on the Gospel of John (Pillar New Testament Commentary series) by the renowned D. A. Carson has stood as a giant among commentaries for several years now. Glowing reviews can be found in a multitude of places. Carson himself comes the closest to having a following of any scholar I know. He’s conservative, sharp, thorough, and never fears going on record with what he believes. My guess is that the publishers of this series will hold on to this title for a long time, and if there’s ever any revision done it will be done by Carson himself.

Since Mr. Carson never beats around the bush about what he believes, he is particularly adept at writing an Introduction. He doesn’t meander through scholarly prognostications, but lines them up, assesses them quickly, and shoots down the ones that don’t deserve to stand. You will learn what he believes, why he believes it, and why it is right! Whether you will agree that he is right or not, his style of writing sticks in your mind and makes an impression long after other things would be forgotten.

He begins by explaining some distinctive characteristics of John’s Gospel. That section opens up issues that will reappear in many ways later. His second section has to do with the early reception of John’s Gospel. He sifts a lot of history quickly and makes a strong case for his opinion. As he moves closer to present times, he effectively banishes some of the stranger scholarly reconstructions that have been foisted upon John. In the third section on authenticity he gets into evaluating source criticism as well as some other critical analyses. To be the conservative hero that he is, he occasionally steps farther into criticism than I would expect, but his conclusions still come down firmly in the conservative camp. These discussions, of course, lead naturally to one about the relation of John and the Synoptics. At length, he gets to the section on the authorship of John’s Gospel. In my opinion, he particularly excelled in this section. After you read this section, you will see that attempts to discredit the possibility that John the Apostle wrote this gospel are more smoke and mirrors than reality. In the section on the date and provenance of John’s Gospel he well surveys the field before he arrives at a date around A.D. 80-85. Another section on the purpose of John’s Gospel is enlightening as is the one on the theological emphases in John. He barely discusses structure before he provides us with an outline.

The commentary proper is the same thoughtful, careful, determined work that you found in the Introduction. The Gospel of John is one of the most important books in the Bible, and I have two or three special commentaries on John that I never fail to consult when looking at a passage in John. This commentary is one of those volumes. You could almost label this commentary “famous”. Believe it or not, it’s quality can bear its fame.

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 Origin of Paul’s Gospel by Seyoon Kim–A Classic!

book pauls gospel

The designation “classic” isn’t trite regarding this groundbreaking study by Seyoon Kim. It would not be hyperbole to say that this book could stand up against the 10 top books on the New Perspective on Paul and still come out ahead. With scholarly wizardry, Mr. Kim neuters the arguments of the NPP’s most influential proponents. While we can’t deny that this book leans heavily to the technical side, nor dispute the fact that it might be beyond the reach of the beginning student, it’s a tour de force on how to marshal the Scriptures themselves to craft tight arguments rather than the nebulous fair that much of the scholarly world releases these days.

Chapter 1 is essential to rank the most important elements of Paul, his theology, and his background. Chapter 2 is about Paul the persecutor and reviews his life before the Damascus experience. Many scholars hijack this background to form the basis of the later conclusions about Paul. As you will see here, they stretch a few facts much too thinly as well as creating others from thin air.

Chapter 3 is about Paul’s incredible experience on the road to Damascus. Mr. Kim returns to the clear portrait of Scripture that meeting Christ on the road to Damascus is exactly what changed Paul’s life and led to everything he believed. It’s sad that the scholarly world would rob us of the obvious and replace it with something that is obscure at best. Chapter 4 looks at Paul’s gospel, the revelation behind it and the mystery involved in his New Testament revelation. The balance of the book is three extended chapters on the Christology and soteriology at the core of Paul’s teaching.

There are a few other amazing things in this book. I was impressed with the extensive exegesis that was done on all kinds of passages. Fortunately, there are great indexes that makes this book an outstanding reference volume on your shelves as well. There are sections of this book that served better as a reference than afternoon reading. Still, the depth of thought is incredible.

We owe Wipf and Stock Publishers a debt of gratitude for keeping this important work in print. For the record, this book will still be important 20 years from now. It’s hard to explain how influential this book has been. In any event, it deserves a place in every serious library New Testament today.

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.

1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink by Taylor Downing

book 1983

Who would’ve thought that 1983 was so pivotal? I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on Ronald Reagan and thought the mantra was Reagan and Gorbachev, not Reagan and Andropov! This book for me was a shocking revelation. In addition to its revealing nature, this book is as fortuitous in its timing as I’ve seen in a long time. We live in the days when the fear of nuclear war has been taken from the closet, dusted off, and put prominently back on the shelf. There’s North Korea, there’s Iran, and Russia is starting to seem more 1983 than 2018.

When I say that this book is a shock for me, it’s not only the major history from the 1980s that I was clueless about, but worse it’s the fact that we almost had a nuclear war and the United States wasn’t even aware of it at the time. I pray we figured something out since then, but it’s all a little unnerving in light of where confidence in the United States government falls on the scale at this moment.

This book reads well and is hard to put down, which is quite a feat since you know we didn’t have nuclear war 30 years ago. The author, Taylor Downing, has done some interesting research into some recently-declassified material. I can see why they waited a while to release it! We owe a debt of gratitude to our intelligence services, but it appears they let one slip by them here. The author has a background in producing documentaries and looking into these overlooked subjects. Isn’t it strange that someone from Great Britain produced this book of so critical an episode in our history that has been often overlooked?

The book isn’t perfect. Though I appreciated much of what he had to say once he got to this crisis, I thought he caricatured Ronald Reagan leading up to that event. Of course, President Reagan responded as he went along but it was always from core principles. The pre-Gorbachev “warmonger” Ronald Reagan was the same man as the post-Gorbachev peacemaking Ronald Reagan. The results he managed to get were the ones he was always after. I doubt the same could be said of Gorbachev who I’m sure never intended to lose the Soviet Union.

This book is so good, interesting, and revealing that to say much about it would make me a spoiler. Part of the enjoyment of this book will be the surprises you will gain as you go. There will be events you’re aware of such as the death of three Soviet presidents before Gorbachev, the shooting down of a Korean civilian jet, the “evil empire” comment, and so much more, but I promise you there’s so much you didn’t know too.

The year 1983 never stood out to me before and I’m even a Ronald Reagan fan. It’s a big deal to me now – I’ll never think of 1983 the same again. For that reason, how could I label this book anything other than a success?

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.

Check it out here.

We Want You Here by Rainer

book want you

This attractive hardback is a resource to put in the hands of visitors to your church. Thom Rainer, who has provided so many church resources, wrote this book. Since guests have such a wide variety of backgrounds, it took a lot of skill to pitch this book at a level that could catch the attention of many. It seems to me that Rainer pulled it off.

The first chapter gives five good reasons that the visitor is wanted at your church. Chapter 2 is one that not so much lowers expectations as it changes expectations. Gone is the idea that the church is a place of perfect people, yet there remains the high expectation that we as broken people will be loving to the broken people who visit us. Chapter 3 advertises the beauty of relationship. Chapter 4 talks about strengthening families in the context of the variety of family situations. Chapter 5 introduces God and is gently evangelistic. Chapter 6 encourages coming and being part of it while the last chapter thanks them for coming.

The chapters are short and easy to read without sacrificing what needs communicating. It’s classic Rainer. As a pastor, I’d be happy to put this attractive resource in visitor’s hands.

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.

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

book deut nivac

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)

book power pulpit

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

book titus cal

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.