The Message of Discipleship (BST) by Peter Morden

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This latest release in the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series explains the topic of discipleship by careful exposition of key texts. If you are familiar with this series, you know that that is how these volumes on Bible themes work. Peter Morden appears quite comfortable in this format. Personally, I wondered what would be the best texts to consider, and I found that I pretty much agreed with what Mr. Morton has chosen. Partially because of the subject matter, I found this volume to be one of the most devotional that I have read in the series. Mr. Morton comes across as equally adept at handling the devotional aspect. The only tiny criticism that I could find in the volume is that he, perhaps, quoted others a bit much. To be fair, I didn’t actually verify that with the other volumes, but that was my impression as I read. At least, he chose wonderful works to quote, and some you don’t normally see quoted in one of these types of works too.

The 17 chapters, or expositions, are divided into three parts: the foundations of discipleship with four chapters, the resources for discipleship with four chapters, and the practice of discipleship with nine chapters. The chapters on the foundations of discipleship look closely at the ministry of Christ and the call he put on us. The chapter on Isaiah 6 was an excellent addition here as well. In part two there were fine chapters on prayer and the church regarding discipleship, but my personal favorite was a gem of a chapter on discipleship and the Holy Spirit. Part three dug deep into our personal walk with Christ and included the resurrection, holiness, a needy world, daily work, finance, living in dark times, the key of love, making disciples in our world, and a concluding exposition on finishing the course.

Though this book has quality scholarship, I would deem it to be helpful to any Christian reader. The writing is accessible and the message is warm. Mr. Morton is a pastor in addition to being a scholar and it shows throughout.

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.

Paul and Union with Christ by Constantine Campbell

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Wow! I knew this book was highly regarded on the influential subject of union with Christ. I’ve seen Constantine Campbell’s name show up all over this issue as well. What surprised me, though, is this book’s laudable design. I cannot think of a more ideal way to examine Paul’s relationship to the theological subject of union with Christ than to simply exegete every passage in the epistles of Paul that touch on the subject. Along the way, Campbell tackles “in Christ”, “through Christ”, “into Christ”, as well as every other conceivable expression on the subject. In addition to exegeting each passage, he outlines the possible uses of the word and categorizes each passage as to its likely usage.

Before all those passages are exegeted, there are two chapters that cover introductory matters and a history of the issue seen through the eyes of the major theological players that have most contributed to how the debate has gone. There’s a lot to evaluate there as Campbell does a fine job explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each theologian. After chapters 3 through 7 exegete all those passages, there are several chapters of theological study. More terms are defined and exegeted as well as major concepts of participation like the body of Christ, Temple and building, marriage, dying and rising with Christ, and the new Adam being explained. There’s one chapter that well explains Trinitarian issues and another that tackles the often-debated relationship of union with Christ and justification. The twelveth chapter defines union with Christ with all the information we gained throughout the book and there’s one final chapter on implications and future directions that will really appeal to scholars. Fortunately, there’s a scriptural index that will make this volume as wonderful a reference as it is a theological read.

To my mind, this volume is without peer for the needs of Bible students and pastors on union with Christ. Without a doubt, it will be my go-to volume.

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.

Old Testament Ethics by John Goldingay

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Mark this down is an interesting addition on a subject that runs as wide a gamut as almost any in biblical studies: Old Testament ethics. Enter John Goldingay who has written both major exegetical commentaries and substantial works on Old Testament theology into the Old Testament ethical debates. To be honest, sometimes he’s just a little too far left for me. On the other hand, if we were to tabulate the top scholars on the Old Testament today, he would make most people’s list. I actually enjoyed this volume more than some others of his that I have reviewed.

He divides the book into five parts with the first 3 being subject oriented. He categorizes those subjects as qualities, aspects of life, and relationships. Part four looks at eight of the most important texts in the Old Testament, or at least texts where ethics would be most discussed. Part five contains seven chapters on various people in the Old Testament who had pronounced ethical dilemmas. In my view, this was an excellent framework to approach ethics in the Old Testament.

I found some of the subjects enlightening while others were provocative. If you’ve read him before, that comes as no surprise. In a few cases, he shocked me by taking a more conservative viewpoint than I anticipated. In a few other cases, I found him a little hesitant. In other words, I sensed he might be afraid he would offend someone a little left of him. That’s just my impression. Impressions are a dime a dozen so you can analyze that for yourself.

In any event, there is some good material here to help you wrestle with these highly-debated subjects. In a book of this nature, it’s not if a writer agrees with you on every point, but if he or she is able to stretch you to think about more sides of the issue than you otherwise would have. On that score, Mr. Goldingay has wonderfully succeeded.

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.

“In Christ” in Paul edited by Thate, Vanhoozer, and Campbell

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This book is a substantial resource on the important doctrinal concepts of union and participation. As the title suggests, the expression “in Christ” is key in the Pauline writings and, perhaps, an important peg to hang New Testament studies on. When I saw the names Michael J. Thate, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and Constantine R. Campbell listed as editors, I knew this would be a book of significant theological depth. Probably more important for the parts than its whole, this is a book that can be referred to for almost any issue imaginable touching on union and participation.

Vanhoozer himself provides a lengthy introductory article that serves as a grand overview of the subject. The rest of the articles are divided into three parts: Pauline theology and exegesis, some highlights from reception history, and theological reflection. I found the articles in parts one and three more interesting, but that probably has more to do with my tastes rather than any deficiency in part two. Most of the articles are narrow in scope. In other words, they slice off a small part of the overall discussion and examine it thoroughly. I imagine this book will be used more for reference than for being the textbook on the subject. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this work referenced repeatedly in future scholarly articles.

The first five articles by Douglas Campbell, Constantine Campbell, grant McCaskill, Susan Eastman, and Matthew Croasmun were most helpful overall. After that, you received help on baptism in relation to the subject, and the digging into 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians on participation. Part two sifts history to see what some of the theological giants thought about the subject before it received its more recent extensive coverage in the scholarly world. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Martin Luther, Calvin, John Owen, and Karl Barth all received attention over these six chapters. Part three contained three articles that showed you how much this important theological concept can require new reflection in a variety of other parts of Scripture. Here we looked at going from the Trinity to Christian virtue, participating in the body and blood of Christ, and unity.

There’s no way that any scholar doing detailed work on union and participation will not have this work near at hand for decades to come. In addition, the rest of us can glean from its pages to draw out profound theological reflections.

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.

Maturity by Sinclair Ferguson

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Over the past few years, I’ve made it a point to read new works by Sinclair Ferguson that come along. I’ve been blessed immensely and have greatly expanded my doctrinal understanding of many points. I don’t always agree with him, but he can’t be dismissed carelessly as he thinks deeply before pen ever touches paper. As it turns out, this work on maturity or growing up and going on in the Christian life is a revised volume of the work he wrote in his earlier days. It’s not as overtly doctrinal as other works of his that I’ve read, but the doctrinal underpinnings are obvious throughout. As the title suggests, it has a devotional flavor and is really geared to propel us forward in our Christian lives.

The book is simply set up. There are five subjects of growing up, standing firm, facing difficulties, pressing on, and maturity that gets anywhere from 1 to 4 chapters each. Some sections were more valuable to me than others, but that probably has more to do with needs in my life rather than a wavering quality of writing.

His first chapter throws down the gauntlet for why maturity is so critically important to Christians. A few paragraphs in and Ferguson refuses to allow us to think that there’s some magic formula to rush the process of maturity. As he says, it takes time and patient progress. There are several hindrances, which he outlines carefully, but the Bible also presents a process that will lead to maturity – a process that we should cooperate with. Later, he’ll talk about the key of abiding in Christ and what he calls full assurance. He tackles what guidance is as well.

In the next section, just as you would expect if you’re familiar with Ferguson’s writings, he outlines the problem of sin. From there he’s going to talk about handling temptation and fighting the enemy. In one of the best sections of the book, he talks about coping with suffering. In the section called “pressing on”, he explained serving faithfully and running patiently. He concludes with one chapter on maturity itself.

The book is well written. He marshals much Scripture, disperses much doctrine, and gives practical, balanced help. There’s none of the cheesiness of so many current titles on the market today. If you want realistic help, a help that understands that sanctification is a lifelong affair as is the maturity that springs from it, then this is the book for you.

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.

Exalted Above the Heavens (NSBT) by Peter Orr

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The New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) has had several outstanding releases over the last year or so, but this new volume by Peter C. Orr on the risen and ascended Christ is one of the best I’ve seen in some time. Its main strength is its ability to step inside nebulous, often-misunderstood subjects and really illuminate them for the reader. This book really helped me sew up some tears in my own thinking. The scholars will love it because he has an ability to give succinct overviews of where scholarly interaction on the subject has gone. On the other hand, those of us who are just jumping in to gather all the theology and biblical understanding we can receive will get it in spades!

After a brief introduction that explains what this book is all about, he jumps into the identity of the exalted Christ. He sensibly surveys what’s the same and what’s not the same between the exalted Christ and the earthly Jesus. Chapters 3, 4, and 6 were worth the price of the book alone for their expert guidance. The author really expanded my thinking about the relationship of the exalted Christ and the Holy Spirit. For that matter, his explanation of the church as a corporate identity of Christ was outstanding.

He looked at the location of Christ from several angles over several chapters. That discussion helps bridge the gap between biblical passages that talk about Christ at the Father’s right hand with those that speak of Him as with us here and now. Later, he went beyond location to talk about the activity of Christ both on earth and in heaven. There was a short, clear concluding chapter of reflections as well as a full bibliography and indices.

I see some things now that were muddy to me before. This is a fine 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.

Knowing God Through the Old Testament by Christopher J. H. Wright

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Having three titles by Christopher J. H. Wright between the covers of one attractive hardback is a treat indeed. I’ve found all his writings to be theologically perceptive, devotionally warm, and personally helpful. He reminds me much of his mentor, John Stott, only that the Old Testament is his specialty while Stott’s was the New Testament. That’s not to say that he mimics him in any way, just that he writes with that same spiritual penetration. The scholarship is always topnotch, but the spiritual concerns just rank a little higher—as of course they should.

These three titles deserve to be together. You can figure that out by the titles alone. Knowing God the Father Through the Old Testament, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, and Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament weave together perfectly to take the role of each member of the Trinity as revealed in the Old Testament in this compilation.

The book on Jesus was the first title written back before it became apparent that he would pen the trilogy. It has been popular enough to call for the second edition in 2014, which is the edition here. The latter two books were originally published by publishers other than IVP. This edition will the one you will want for all three titles.

Since I happened to be studying the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, I really dug into that title for this review. What the Old Testament has to say on the Spirit is somewhat more obscure than the later revelation of the New Testament and help is appreciated. Wright masterfully found the Spirit on the pages of the Old Testament in five chapters on the Creating Spirit, the Empowering Spirit, the Prophetic Spirit, the Anointing Spirit, and the Coming Spirit. He really helped me crystallize my thinking in places where I really needed the help. Glancing through the other two, I what the same clear thinking and good writing throughout.

This book is a treasure that you simply must have at hand. I love it and 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.

The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson

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There’s no doubt that Sinclair Ferguson is a savvy theological writer. There’s no doubt that the Contours of Christian Theology series by IVP is a theological heavyweight either. While I couldn’t exactly call this my favorite Ferguson title, it did dig deep as the series is known to do. Books in this series don’t merely regurgitate the main tenets of a doctrine but linger where it makes sense to look under stones where treasure might be found. I always reach for this series when I’m starting a detailed study of a particular doctrine.

Chapter 1 introduces the Holy Spirit in an effort to shorten the distance that stands between Him and most believers while explaining all kinds of theological perspectives. Chapter 2 looks at the Spirit of Christ by explaining “Paraclete” and scoping out the relationship between Christ and the Spirit. Chapter 3 looks at the gift of the Spirit by examining Pentecost. Chapter 4 tackles the ongoing aspects of Pentecost. Chapters 5 through 7 wades through the Spirit’s role in salvation. I felt the author bogged down in a pet subject here. His theological positions are well known, and whether you agree or not, perhaps some of this would have fit better in a different book. Chapter 8 looks at other issues involving the Spirit and salvation like first fruits and sealing. Chapter 9 reviews the relationship between the Spirit and the body before chapter 10 dives into the explosive territory of gifts. The final chapter on the “Cosmic Spirit” serves as a great conclusion.

Ferguson always stretches my mind. Whether I agree with him or not, I always find a warmness of one who loves Christ as he writes. There’s no way I’d study the Spirit and not see what he has to say.

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.

Foundations of the Christian Faith by Boice

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Here’s a book that deserves to slide not only onto your shelves among your important systematic theologies, but also to be open on your desk. James Montgomery Boice was the quintessential pastor-scholar. In other words, there’s real scholarly depth in what he shares to go along with a full-orbed real-life outlook. I’ve used several of his volumes that cover books of the Bible to real profit. I’ve seen glowing recommendations in book review sources printed in the 1980s of the original four volumes that later turned into this volume as well as the current reviews that suggest the luster hasn’t faded as is often the case in many academic titles. It’s nice to finally get my own crack at it.

What, then, is my own opinion of its value? Strangely enough, I opened it first to the section on the Spirit of God because I had been doing some in-depth study on that doctrine. I noticed two things quickly: a) he had something to say that was worth wrestling with, and b) it was not a regurgitation of what I just recently read in the well-known systematic theologies I consulted.  As I looked further into the book, I then saw that the section on the Spirit wasn’t even the best one in the book!

The book is an attractive hardback that also now has a study guide. I don’t agree with every conclusion he arrives at, but this is a quality resource. Better still, for pastors, it will help you see how to take deep theological concepts and make them palpable to those in the pew without devolving into watered-down, calorie-free doctrine trying to pass itself off as a real theological meal.

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 Message of the Holy Spirit (BST) by Keith Warrington

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The Holy Spirit is expertly drawn by Keith Warrington from all across Scripture in this helpful volume that’s part of the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. I’ve used BST volumes on various books of the Bible for a long time but have really started loving these ones on Bible Themes. The design is simple but laudable: develop the doctrine directly from properly-exegeted texts. You probably have your systematic theology volumes at hand, but these books come from another angle and add something meaningful to your studies. I’ve not seen a loser among those I’ve perused.

After a bibliography and a brief Introduction, this book jumps in at Genesis and starts finding the Holy Spirit. The flow of argument follows the path the best works on the Holy Spirit do. We have two chapters on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Next, the author lingers over the relationship of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in six chapters covering the Holy Spirit in the Gospels. In my estimation, this section carried the most bullion on its pages. Part Three, as you would expect, presents the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. The final seven chapters on the Holy Spirit in the Epistles covers many additional doctrinal subjects involving the Spirit such as gifts, the role in salvation, sealing, unity, and filling. You need not agree with every point made to glean from this careful walkthrough of the most important biblical passages on the subject.

I enjoyed this book, underlined many sentences, wrote the most important page numbers in the front to be able to return to them, and clarified many points along the way. What more could I ask for from this book well worth seeking 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.