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Book Review: A Worshipful Book on Biblical Worship

8 Jun

“Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship From the Garden to the New Creation” by Allen P. Ross. Published by Kregel Academic, 2006.

Right from the start this book about Biblical worship soars in worship. I was immediately overwhelmed by the introduction to this book in its challenge to modern worship in contrast to our exalted God of glory. If I hadn’t stopped myself, I would have highlighted every line of those six pages in bright yellow..

Far from being polemical in nature, this book sets out a positive view of worship straight from the Scriptures. While no one will agree with all of his conclusions, everyone will benefit in some way from his exposition.

Dr. Allen Ross takes the reader on the journey through each stage of redemptive history, from Creation to New Creation, diving into the details of each seeking to learn more about God and how we are to worship Him. Once I reached the end I really enjoyed how the book was laid out in this way. Though, while I was in the first few chapters I wasn’t as thrilled about it. The reason why was that, while Dr. Ross was making connections to the New Testament, I wanted much more. I knew a great transformation was coming in the worship of the Old Testament. And so, anything we gleaned from what we saw there had to first come to us through Christ and the transformation that the New Covenant in Him brought.

As a result, this is one of those books that must be read until the end. For the sections on the new covenant, worship in Christ, and especially the perfection of worship in glory were amazing! What a breathtaking view of what worship will look like when we see God face to face on the New Earth!

Also, the detail covered is amazing. Periods I wouldn’t have considered looking at aren’t forgotten. Insightful and interesting details abound as he paints pictures of what worship looked like in each stage of history.

Finally, the ending section on “Basic Principles for More Glorious Worship” was very helpful. It took some of the best and most prominent points on the book and summarized them as hopefully a platform off of which to apply these things to particular local churches.

All in all, a very informative, interesting and inspiring book! I was moved to worship as well as informed about things I had not considered or known before.

Below is a summary of the major sections along with key quotes:

Part 1: Worshipping the God of Glory
This section, more like an introduction, sets the stage for the book before getting into the stages of redemptive history by working out the questions of who this God is and what worship should be. God is the Holy Lord God of Glory and we are called to worship Him. So worship is God-centered. Further foundations are that it is also in Christ and by the power of the Spirit. And ultimately, worship is celebration. But not just any celebration, here is how Dr. Ross defines it:

“True worship is the celebration of being in covenant fellowship with the sovereign and holy triune God, by means of the reverent adoration and spontaneous praise of God’s nature and works, the expressed commitment of trust and obedience to the covenant responsibilities, and the memorial reenactment of entering into covenant through ritual acts, all with the confident anticipation of the fulfillment of the covenant promises in glory.”

Part 2: The Memory of Paradise
Here in this section Dr. Ross moves into the first stage of redemptive history: Creation and the Garden of Eden. Though that earthly “paradise remains a memory from the distant past” it is “a memory that helps us unlock some of the mysteries of the divine plan.” And indeed we see in all of worship down through the ages how elements from that original paradise impact and inform it. For God was at the center of it. And man had access to Him. Every good thing came from Him so all things looked to Him for it’s provision. Therefore the tabernacle, the temple, and Christian worship then and now are echos of that time and communion with God that also look forward to it’s full consummation in the New Creation.

Also, in this original scene we see the beginnings of how we would come to know God as not only the God of creation but also of redemption. For, we see the perversion of paradise as well as the promise of a provision of a Savior. So, already in the memory of creation the essential elements of our worship begin to stand out.

Part 3: Worship with Proclamation: The Development of True Worship in a Religious World
Here Dr. Ross begins to dive into the world of Abraham and what worship looked like for those around him as well as in his own life once God had called him.

Here is how he described the pagan worship during Abraham’s time:

“All the evidence indicates that from the beginning people began to worship all kinds of forces and creatures other than the true LORD God, and over time they gradually developed what they must have thought were the higher religions–organized, elaborate, and meaningful. But they were grotesquely human, confusing, and corrupting. There was very little in them that was uplifting, transcendent, or glorious.”

In the midst of that God called Abraham who then came to “realize that there is only one sovereign God, and therefore only one way to worship. Accordingly, God called him to leave his old way of life and introduce the true faith to the world.”

Abraham learned that God was the Living God, the Sovereign God, the Righteous Judge, the Gracious God, and the Faithful God. Abraham also learned to sacrifice to God, not just animals, but also his “own will, his own desires, and his own affections” as was demonstrated in the scene with Isaac on the altar. And with all the pagan sacrificial rituals around him the only thing that would separate Abraham’s worship from that of the other’s would be proclamation. So, Abraham’s altars were built and sacrifices were done in the name of the LORD. He was a “witnessing worshipper.” Otherwise, how could he be a blessing? How could people know his God?

Further, he shows how the patriarchs worshipped after Abraham similarly. Even before the giving of the law all the main elements of worship had begun to appear.

What we learn is:

“From the beginning it was absolutely critical that the worship of the holy God be clearly distinguished from corrupt false worship, the common element throughout these early biblical narratives was the proclamation of the faith. In a world that is so pervasively religious, proclamation must characterize all acts of worship.”

Part 4: Worship With Sacrifice: The Establishment of Sanctity in Worship
In this section Dr. Ross moves us into the stage of the nation of Israel and the patterns of worship given at Sinai where we see “the meeting with God, the covenant with God, and the rebellion against God.” At the incredible scene at Sinai, the people of Israel met with their holy and powerful God. They needed a mediator to communicate with Him and found that in Moses. They then celebrated their covenant peace with God and declared their intention to obey. We all know the sad story of how “in spite of the dramatic evidence of the divine presence, and in contrast to the glorious and holy ritual on the slopes of Sinai, it was no time at all before the people violated the covenant by making an idol.” As a result we also learn that:

“worship had always been understood to be a response to the sovereign God of creation, but now the spectacular revelation at Mount Sinai made it clear that this God was a holy God. That in itself created all kinds of barriers to approaching him; but his desire to dwell among his people necessitated the provision of ways to do just that.”

So, worship of the holy God would include a place for people to worship, a ritual for how to celebrate their communion with God along with how to enter that communion. Finally, priests, leaders who could uphold and direct the ritual.

Part 5: Worship as Praise: The Provision for Celebration in Worship
Here in this section we move into the particular emphasis on praise in worship in the time of David. God wasn’t just wanting cold, dead ritual to be performed, but for a people who joyfully praised and obeyed Him from the heart. A people who prayed and depended on Him. Indeed, alongside the proclamation and sacrifice in the ritual developed a rich “pattern of prayer and praise” that complemented it.

“The worship of God was intended to be a joyful celebration of communion with the sovereign and holy Lord God, the Creator and Redeemer. When the Israelites ascended the holy hill of Zion for any reason, they were acknowledging that they owed the LORD their thanksgiving and praise; and when they assembled for their great convocations, they were acknowledging that all time and every season belonged to him… All their worship was greatly enhanced by the majesty and beauty of the temple, the powerfull ritual, and the glorious music and singing that filled its courts daily.”

Part 6: Worship Reformed: Prophetic Rebukes and Reforms
This section covers the age of the prophets with their rebukes and reforms. Though it is hard to conceive, the nation of Israel with all of the stage set for glorious worship of God fell into deeper and deeper sin and rebellion against God. And the prophets’ message was one that must always be remembered. That though the forms of worship be in place, if the heart is far from God and idolatry is rampant then worship is no longer worship. And so, there are qualifications for worshippers. They must be faithful, confessing believers who follow after holiness and are spiritually motivated. They can’t live duplicitous lives in and outside of the assembly. The prophets rebuked corrupt and hypocritical worship.

“There are several important points to be made in the light of these prophetic messages. First, true worship is an expression of the believer’s dependence on the Lord and submission to his will. Second, sinful people must find forgiveness and restoration before they can expect God to accept their worship. Third, unrepentant sin in the would-be ‘worshipper’ nullifies the worship and brings divine discipline. Fourth, worldliness–living according to the priorities and practices of the pagan world system–denies everything that worship is designed to do; it is the opposite of the life of holiness, purity, and love that worship inspires.”

Part 7: Worship Transformed: The New Setting of Worship and the New Covenant
This is a fascinating section looking at what worship was like for the nation of Israel between the Exile and the coming of Jesus. Prophecies of the New Covenant had been made. Because of the severe judgment that they had incurred before there was a renewed “importance for the Word of God in the worship and service of the people” that led to everything being strictly based upon the law. Synagogues began to play a prominent role alongside the temple while different groups with different views began to grow alongside another.

Indeed, “by the time Jesus appeared on the scene, the worship of Israel was being zealously guarded by a whole new religious order, an order that sought to prevent the catastrophe of the Exile from happening again, while hoping for the promised deliverance from all oppressors…. Corruption in the Jewish royal family and priesthood, which were often united, led to the conflicts between different religious groups and the confusion of the people. The Sadduccees fought to hold the seats of power; the Pharisees sought to maintain a rigid compliance with the law; the Essenes left for the desert; and the common person was left with little hope because he was considered a sinner…. Self-righteous hypocrisy became the besetting sins of the religious people, and not idolatry.”

Jesus comes into this setting and rebukes so much of the worthless worship and gives instruction on true worship in Spirit and Truth.

“Jesus, however, transformed worship for all time by giving believers something greater to remember in their worship–his body and his blood that was poured out for the sins of the world… Now true spiritual worship would be in Christ, the divine Son of God. Now when believers recall the hope of glory as it was revealed down through the history of worship, they must interpret it in the light of the fulfillment in Christ Jesus.”

Part 8: Worship in Christ: Patterns of Worship in the Early Church
This section covers the period of the early church and seeks to find the essentials to Christian worship from them. Some of those essentials are seen to include: faith in Christ as the basis of worship, identification with Him in baptism, empowerment from Him for worship, private worship inspired by public worship, the public reading of Scripture, teaching from the Word, and people’s response to worship in confessions of faith, praise, offerings, commitments and prayers. Further, a liturgy developed that situated the Lord’s Supper at the center of worship: the remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, communion with Him, and hope for His return.

Part 9: The Perfection of Worship in Glory
This section is really a wonderful section that not only talks about our need to be reminded of the vision of worship in glory, but also does the reminding as well. Dr. Ross moves through many of the worship scenes we see in the book of Revelation and spells out their implications.

First, looking at the songs found in Revelation 1, 4, & 5 we see a glorious vision of Christ in glory.

“The heart of the believer should race with anticipation for that day in glory when praise and worship will be so magnificent. But until then, we may draw inspiration from these visions of the hope of glory as the Holy Spirit continually draws us into the presence of God.”

We also learn:

“to be held by the power of the One who was dead and is alive forevermore, the one who holds the keys to death and hell, is cause for unending praise and adoration. But there is one other thing that we can learn from the order of these two chapters. The great song of creation, a song that has not ceased since the first day the morning stars sang together, is a song that humans cannot take part in until they have learned to join triumphantly in the song of redemption. We join the heavenly choirs because of the Lamb that was slain; then we can truly participate in all the praise that belongs to God.”

Secondly, looking at songs found in Revelation 7, 19, 21 & 22 we see that worship must be eschatological:

“In addition to giving attention to the ways that we celebrate being in covenant with the sovereign and holy Lord God of glory, we must also keep the goal in mind. All of our worship is done in anticipation of the fulfillment of the covenant promises in glory. Therefore, worship must also be eschatological, that is, concerned with things yet to come.”

Filling our eyes with what will be at the end:

“the ultimate picture of worship after the end of this age is one of eternal worship. It will be centered on the marvelous reality of the presence of the Lord with his people and his provisions for all their needs. It will be the true Paradise, of which the earthly was a mere shadow. And in this glorious new creation, the people of God will serve the Lord and worship him forever. That is the hope of glory.”

Part 10: Basic Principles for More Glorious Worship
This section is a final summary of several of the principles that “surface again and again and therefore seem… absolutely essential for developing the worship of God.”

1. The revelation of the exalted Lord God in glory inspires glorious worship and fills us with the hope of glory.

2. The evidence of the Lord’s presence makes worship a holy convocation in a holy place that calls for holiness.

3. Sacrifice is at the center of worship as the basis and expression of it.

4. Sound biblical proclamation informs all worshipful acts.

5. The ministry of the Word, an act of worship itself, is the key to coherent, corporate worship.

6. Individual public praise and thanksgiving is the evidence of the spiritual life that is alive in the church.

7. Singing, chanting, playing musical instruments, and dancing done to the glory of God are a part of the praise of God’s people.

8. Worship is the response of people to the divine revelation.

9. Worship prompts moral and ethical acts.

10. Great festivals preserve the heritage of the faith, unite believers, and gather resources for greater worship and service.

11. The household of faith preserves the purity and integrity of worship.

12. Worship possess a balance of form and spirit.

13. Worship is eschatological.

14. Prayer enables all the acts of worship to achieve what God intended.

15. Worship transcends time and space.


More Books by Allen P. Ross

Book Review: The Shepherd Leader at Home by Timothy Witmer

27 Apr

A Practical Guide to the Bible’s Principle’s of Shepherd-Leadership in Our Homes

In his recent book “The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Family” Timothy Witmer gives us a practical vision for what it looks like for a man to care for his family under God through the lens of the shepherd-leader.

An examination of an actual shepherd shows that they know their sheep, they lead them, they protect them and they provide for them. Witmer divides his book into those very sections: Knowing, Leading, Protecting and Providing for our families. Under each of those sections he first walks through it’s principle and practice in marriage and then moves to parenting.

As a young man, husband and father of two I found this book incredibly helpful. Over time I’ve picked up things here and there from different friends, pastors, and teachers on how to be a husband and father, but there have inevitably been certain practices and principles I’ve missed. Maybe I knew the principle, but hadn’t thought through it’s practical outworking, or conversely maybe I been taught a practice but not connected it to it’s principle. This book helped me here even though I’m surrounded by what I consider to be some of the best guides to godly parenting. It was helpful, because all in one place, it laid out a vision for shepherd-leadership, gave me practical instructions on how to implement it, and showed numerous examples of those practices played out. It’s always good to read multiple books on parenting, some that are heavy on theology and principle others that lean towards particular practices so each person will need to consider this in light of his own family and situation. I found this one to lean more towards the practical side of the spectrum and it was one that I needed.

It’s time that we men learned what it means to be true men in relation to our wives and children. That we grow in our ability to identify our own sin, selfishness and laziness and lay our lives down for our wives and children. So often we men think we are “leading” but it’s a leadership not characterized by service. Really we are just doing whatever we want and leaving it up to our wives to handle the rest. Or, we “lead” by driving our families like a dog-sled. Bearing down on them, pointing out their problems, and enforcing strict codes of conduct all the while never getting at the heart, never truly knowing, and never affectionately communication our desire to provide and protect.

The call to servant-leadership is a tall one. And the author sounds it for us and seeks to guide us in it. This call may cost us our hobbies, our free time, our self-indulgences, nights of sleep or moments of relaxation. But it is worth it.

When we stand on the brink of eternity, looking back over our lives, what will matter most? Those “things” we spent all our time and money on? The job we were consumed with? The moments of pleasure we risked it all for? Or, a family that has flourished because of our leadership? A family that still loves us during our dying moments and gathers to see us off? A wife who was tenderly loved and lovingly led? Grown children who knew their father loved them and set an example for them in word and deed that will impact generations to come? Children who heard the gospel preached and saw it lived out towards them?

I’ll take the latter.

In Christ, God has made us for this. He has given us fresh hope and new life in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is gradually conforming us into the image of His Son who is the Shepherd-Leader. The One who perfectly knows, leads, protects and provides for His sheep. And God graciously has given us the power by His Holy Spirit to walk in that same way.

May God freshly work in us to make us men who are willing to lay down our lives for our wives and children. To serve in the big things… and in the small things. Men who realize what matters most in life. Men who take the time to know our families, men who take care to nourishingly lead our families. Men who fiercely (and warmly) protect our families. And men who gladly provide for our families.

And may God be pleased to use this little book to help some of us to do just that.

I commend it to you.

Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

17 Sep

“‘I am a spiritual failure, but, praise God, Jesus came to save spiritual failures like me! I cannot obey God’s commands for one nanosecond. I never truly God with all my heart or my neighbor as myself. Even my righteous deeds are like filthy rags. If you could see my heart, you’d see that my sins are as bad as anyone else’s or worse! I am a spiritual screw-up through and through, unfaithful to my faithful God. But the good news is, God has saved me because of Christ’s death and resurrection. I am his adopted child, forgiven and clean. Nothing I ever do can make God love me any more-or any less–than he already loves me in Christ. Even though I continue to sin, I can never disappoint my heavenly Father, for he looks at me and sees the righteousness of his beloved Son. What unspeakable good news!’

‘So what’s wrong with this?’ you may ask incredulously. Well, as a general statement confessing sin and clinging to the righteousness of Christ, it is absolutely true and beautiful. If I heard a paragraph like this my first reaction would be to praise God for such a powerful reminder of gospel grace. But if someone asked me to probe deeper, I’d caution that this statement is not very careful. And where our theology is not careful, our Christian lives are often adversely affected.”

This quote is an illustration of the dynamic that this book attempts to tackle head on. Speaking to the gospel-centered movement Kevin DeYoung’s book interacts with questions like: has our desire to be gospel-centered led us into any imprecise or careless ways of talking about the Christian life after believing the gospel? And, is it possible that we have in any way flattened the dynamic biblical view of holiness and reduced every problem or struggle we have to a failure to believe the gospel? Or, is the any more to holiness than simply needing to believe or appropriate the gospel more deeply? Can we even be holy? Is the Christian life only about simply giving God all the glory over and over as we continually fail and sin or can we actually grow in holiness, in lives that are pleasing to Him?

These questions and more DeYoung seeks to take up in his new book recently released by Crossway Books.

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness

In this short and easy to read new book, DeYoung begins the by observing the apparent lack of enthusiasm to pursue holiness in our generation. We may be passionate about many things, but holiness is not often at the top of the list. In fact, for many of us, we have trouble connecting the pursuit of holiness with our passion for the free grace of the gospel. DeYoung helpfully moves right into helping resolve this disconnect by leading us through the very reason for our redemption: God creating a holy people for Himself. After establishing the fact that since God is in the business of conforming us to His image i.e. making us more holy He gets to what I consider the bread and butter of the book.

‘The Impetus for the Imperatives’ is the title of the fourth chapter and here is where DeYoung really helps to lay out for us in balanced fashion how the gospel rightly leads us to a pursuit of holiness. I appreciated his effort here to maintain the utter importance of the gospel on the one hand while also pushing us to think more accurately about the connection between gospel passion and the pursuit of holiness. For example, in regards to every command in Scripture simply and only being a command to further mediate on the gospel DeYoung says this:

“The irony is that if we make every imperative into a command to believe the gospel more fully, we turn the gospel into one more thing we have to get right, and faith becomes the one thing we need to be better at. If only we really believed, obedience would take care of itself. No need for commands or effort. But the Bible does not reason this way. It has no problem with the word “therefore.” Grace, grace, grace, therefore, stop doing this, start doing that, and obey the commands of God. Good works should always be rooted in the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, but I believe we are expecting too much from the “flow” and not doing enough to teach that obedience to the law–from a willing spirit, as made possible by the Holy Spirit–is the proper response to free grace.”

Read that carefully, DeYoung is not casting gospel-centeredness aside, or down-playing gospel meditation. What he is saying is that there is a ‘therefore’ that comes with the gospel. It has implications.

He then moves into what was, for me, the most gloriously encouraging chapter of the book. The chapter, ‘The Pleasure of God and the Possibility of Godliness’ is a wonderful look at how we have been so changed by God that we actually can grow in godliness. If you’ve been a Christian for long you will have encountered seeming steps backward in your Christian walk. What are you to do with that when it continually occurs? Can you ever change? Will you ever stop committing that sin? If Jesus is your Savior, then the Holy Spirit dwells within you and you CAN change. It IS possible. What good news that is! Being careful not to be triumphalistic, there is something freeing in statements of faith like this that move me to action. We are no longer mere victims of our domineering sin but are able to make ground in this already-won-yet-still-to-be-lived-out war.

And to bring even more gospel-precision to this DeYoung helpfully distinguishes for us the difference between the reality of our once and for all union with Christ and our ongoing communion with Him in his chapters ‘Be Who You Are’ and ‘Abide and Obey’:

“Our progress in the pursuit of holiness comes largely from understanding and appropriating our union with Christ. As John Murray states, ‘Nothing is more relevant to progressive sanctification than the reckoning of ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 6:11).’ Apart from our union with Christ every effort to imitate Christ, no matter how noble and inspired at the outset, inevitably leads to legalism and spiritual defeat. But once you understand the doctrine of union with Christ, you see that God doesn’t ask us to attain to what we’re not. He only calls us to accomplish what already is. The pursuit of holiness is not a quixotic effort to do just what Jesus did. It’s the fight to live out the life that has already been made alive in Christ.”

And,

“We don’t just want holiness. We want the Holy One in whom we have been counted holy and are no being made holy. To run hard after holiness is another way of running hard after God. Just as a once-for-all, objective justification leads to a slow-growth, subjective sanctification, so our unchanging union with Christ leads to an ever-increasing communion with Christ….
Union with Christ is the irrevecable work of the Spirit. Once united, nothing can separate us from Christ. Nothing can make us a little more or a little less united. Union with Christ is unalterable. Communion with Christ, on the other hand, can be affected by sin and unresponsiveness to God’s grace.”

What a helpful paradigm through which I can view my Christian life.

Any charge that DeYoung needs to point us more to the gospel has simply not fully appreciated paragraphs like the above. This book is gospel-soaked. DeYoung pushes us to think in terms of the robust vocabulary of the Bible and urges us to see how gospel and obedience are not mutually exclusive terms.

There is much, much more to this book, including a chapter near the end titled “Saints and Sexual Immorality” that many will find of great encouragement.

This is a well-written, Bible-saturated work that will challenge and encourage you at the same time. We don’t need less gospel, but we do need more Biblical precision when it comes to thinking of our lives now as Christians. Let us be careful not to dilute the gospel or trample the work of the Holy Spirit by carelessly speaking or thinking in ways that the Bible does not regarding the gospel and our pursuit of holiness. The indicative leads to the imperative. The gospel leads us to the pursuit of holiness. The pursuit of becoming more like the one who is at the center of the gospel, Jesus. We’ve not only died with Christ, but we’ve also been raised with Him. And we can slowly but surely begin to walk in the newness of life He has given us. He has not only canceled our sin and saved us from much, but He has also spiritually resurrected us and saved us to much, lives that increasingly please our gracious Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the glory of Christ and empowers us know more of Him and, yes, to be more like Him.

“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10


Get a Copy Today:
Hardback | Kindle | Crossway


Interested in Reading More by Kevin DeYoung?

Books by Kevin DeYoung

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Full Disclosure: This book was received for free from Crossway as part of their book review program. I was not obligated to review it one way or the other but was free to review it as I saw fit.

Book Review – O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

21 Aug

William Wallace, the great character from the movie Braveheart, said “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” When we read statements like that we can get excited about living a life that is worth something. But so often we skip too quickly past the part that every human knows to be true, that every one will die. It is a certain reality. I remember seeing a sign on the road one time that said “Welcome to Florida, Mortality Rate: 100%.” And grim as it may be it is the truth isn’t it? We will all die. Yet, somehow, we can easily live our lives without giving much thought to dying, thinking it may never come, or at the very least not letting ourselves dwell on it too much, certainly not letting it be the topic of conversation.

As Christians how are we do think about this? Should we act the same way everyone else in the world does when it comes to the topic of death in general and our own impending death? In her book, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go – Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God edited by Nancy Guthrie, she helps us to see what Christians throughout the centuries have had to say about this.

You may ask, “why would I want to read a book about death? This is the very thing I would like least to think about.” That is exactly the reason why we need a book like this. I believe that God’s desire for us is that we would not live our lives in the fear of death. Indeed in Hebrews 2:14-15 we are told that one of the reasons Jesus partook of the same flesh and blood we all share was that: “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who though fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Amen! May God grant us to look at this subject with faith and receive help in an area that plagues us all.

This book is a compilation of writings by various Christian authors from contemporary authors to authors from past eras. I really loved the headings for the four sections that this book is divided into:

Part One: A Reality That Will Not Be Denied
Part Two: An Aim That Keeps Me Pressing On
Part Three: A Hope That Saves Me From Despair
Part Four: A Future That Will Not Disappoint

Those alone were very helpful! I will leave it to you to find out what the rest of the book is like. I am so grateful to God for this book and I pray that God would grant many of us to live lives that, instead of being lived in the fear of death, are lived with a courageous confidence in God that looks death in eye and welcomes it knowing that it has indeed lost its sting!

Book Review: God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment

8 Aug


When I first began reading this book I remember seeing a comment by a blogger stating that this book wasn’t quite like any he had ever read. He couldn’t put it down.

I have felt the same way. Dr. James Hamilton’s extensive knowledge of biblical criticism, of extra-biblical literature, balanced by his wit and unrelenting focus on the biblical text and God’s glory found therein have indeed made this a unique book. But I would be off the mark to say that the writer is the only one who has made this book unique. Because this book closely follows God’s Word, seeking to understand it and explain it as it was revealed made God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment a unique and wonderfully refreshing read.

Now, one thing that is important to know at the outset is that this is a biblical theology. That means that Dr. Hamilton begins in Genesis and works his way through the entire Bible, book by book, examining the text, explaining it’s meaning and theological significance and moving forward as God continued to reveal more and more of Himself and His purposes.

What was fascinating was all the ways this kind of bird’s eye view of Scripture allows readers to see the Bible. Traveling through the books of the Bible quickly with this skilled theologian I was able to see textual interconnections, types, and themes that continually reappear throughout Scripture growing ever more nuanced and beautiful as they point forward to their anti-types of Christ and the new covenant in His blood culminating in the new Heavens and the new Earth. I was able to see how faithful God has been to fulfill all the different promises He has made and words He has spoken. And finally, I was able to see in all it’s beauty how God loves to glorify Himself in salvation through judgment.

This theme of God’s glory in salvation through judgment is everywhere in the Bible as Dr. Hamilton demonstrates. And where it is most clearly seen is the most astonishing and glorious act of God saving sinner’s through bringing the judgment of death on the cross to His own Son as He died on their behalf.

I believe that this is a weighty and unique book. One worthy of having on your bookshelf. One worthy of getting out your Bible along with it and working slowly through it. I am grateful to God for this book!

Book Review – For the Fame of God’s Name

4 Apr

In my pre-review For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper I cited a quote by Sam Storms:

“Having read this book numerous times (that’s what being an editor requires) I can honestly say that it is the finest collection of essays on a variety of themes that has been produced in quite some time.”

There I pondered whether this book would live up to Dr. Storm’s high praise of it. After having read the entire 500 + pages (no small feat for this slow reader) I can say that I enthusiastically agree with Dr. Storm’s assessment! This is quite a book! It is generally very difficult for me to read lengthy books all the way through if I am not encouraged and intrigued by what the pages hold. This book more than kept my attention and kept me coming back for more.

So what specifically was so great about it you ask? Here a few reasons I appreciated it:

1. As Dr. Storms said above, this really is a fine collection of essays from an incredible collection of intelligent and godly men. Each article is serious and substantial in it’s own right.

Here is the full list of contents:

A Note to John Piper
Sam Storms and Justin Taylor

Part 1: John Piper

1. A Personal Tribute to the Praise of God’s Infinite Glory and Abounding Grace
David Michael

2. Three Doors Down from a Power Plant
David Livingston

3. Who Is John Piper?
David Mathis

Part 2: Christian Hedonism

4. Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God
Sam Storms

5. When All Hope Has Died: Meditations on Profound Christian Suffering
Mark R. Talbot

Part 3: The Sovereignty of God

6. The Sovereignty of God in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards
Donald J. Westblade

7. Prayer and the Sovereignty of God
Bruce A. Ware

Part 4: The Gospel, the Cross, and the Resurrection of Christ

8. What Is the Gospel?—Revisited
D. A. Carson

9. Christus Victor et Propitiator: The Death of Christ, Substitute and Conqueror
Sinclair B. Ferguson

10. The Role of Resurrection in the Already and Not-Yet Phases of Justification
G. K. Beale

Part 5: The Supremacy of God in All Things

11. A Biblical Theology of the Glory of God
Thomas R. Schreiner

12. The Kingdom of God as the Mission of God
Scott J. Hafemann

13. The Mystery of Marriage
James M. Hamilton Jr.

14. Pleasing God by Our Obedience: A Neglected New Testament Teaching
Wayne Grudem

15. The Glory and Supremacy of Jesus Christ in Ethnic Distinctions and over Ethnic Identities
Thabiti Anyabwile

16. Dethroning Money to Treasure Christ Above All
Randy Alcorn

17. “Abortion Is About God”: Piper’s Passionate, Prophetic Pro-Life Preaching
Justin Taylor

18. A God-Centered Worldview: Recovering the Christian Mind by Rediscovering the Master Narrative of the Bible
R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Part 6: Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

19. Proclaiming the Gospel and the Glory of God: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards for Preaching
Stephen J. Nichols

20. The Pastor and the Trinity
C.J. Mahaney

21. The Pastor as Worshipper
Ray Ortlund

22. The Pastor as Shepherd
Mark Dever

23. The Pastor as Counselor
David Powlison

24. The Pastor as Leader
John MacArthur

25. The Pastor and His Study
William D. Mounce

Part 7: Ministries

26. The Vision and Ministry of Desiring God
Jon Bloom

27. The Vision and History of The Bethlehem Institute
Tom Steller

2. Though these are essays in honor of Dr. Piper they are not mere repetitions of what he has said elsewhere. They are serious engagements by the respective authors on topics that are precious to Dr. Piper, but the authors plod their own course and at times interact with Piper’s views. Many times the interactions are agreements with and expansions of Piper’s thought, but at other times there is respectful disagreement and critical engagement with his thought. At others they are simply the authors on work on the topic with little more than a hat tip in Piper’s direction when it serves the article to do so.

3. The topics themselves are broad and reading through this book has encouraged and taught me in many wide-ranging categories. As you can notice from above topics like Christian Hedonism, the Sovereignty of God, Prayer, different aspects of the gospel, the glory of God as central in scripture, marriage, obedience, money, abortion, thinking, preaching, the Trinity, and different aspects of pastoral ministry are all covered. It is quite a feat.

4. It is evident that these authors share a love for the Bible and for the Savior that it points to. Each of these articles is looking at the Scriptures, just as Piper would have it, and deriving their points from it. This is probably the main thing that makes them each so good, not that they are honoring John Piper but that they are honoring God by being in submission to His Word.

5. By God’s grace John Piper’s teachings have been instrumental in my own life and so it was with great interest that I read any part of the book that was more personal or biographical. Some of the authors would take a moment at the beginning or end of their articles to say something about or directly to Piper. These provided glimpses of the personal ministry and influence he has had on many men that might not otherwise be publicly known. Others were more biographical as colleagues at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Desiring God Ministries, or the Bethlehem College and Seminary detailed their personal histories with Dr. Piper and how some of the ministries were started.

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Finally, I’d like to finish with a list of my favorite articles (which were many) with a significant quote or two from each.

I particularly was helped by the following:

Chapter 2 [Livingston]: “What follows is an effort to plot the progress of John Piper’s implanted power, like successive upward ‘conversions,’ from cold to candle to coal plutonium–or in other words, from lost to found to Calvinism to Christian Hedonism.”

Chapter 3 [Mathis]: “As I brainstormed the main things I’ve learned about John, and from him, in the last four years, they brought together realities that we often think of as being in tension or in contradiction rather than in complementary union: 1. Rigorous Study and Reliance on the Spirit, 2. Introversion and Relational Investment, 3. Publishing and Pastoring, 4. Theology and Everyday Life, 5. Productivity and Family, 6. Passion for Truth and Capacities for Kindness, 7. Life for Christ and Death as Gain.”

Chapter 7 [Ware]: “What a privilege we have been given in this marvelous gift of prayer by which we enter into closer relationship with and heartfelt dependence upon God, and by which we are allowed–indeed, called–to participate in the outworking of the very eternal plans and purposes of God.”

Chapter 8 [Carson]: “We will gain a clearer grasp of the gospel if we hold a clear grasp of the desperate situation the gospel addresses. If we see that we are guilty, we will understand that for the gospel to be effective it must clear us of our guilt; if we are alienated from God, we must be reconciled to him; if we stand under his judicial wrath, that wrath must be propitiated; if we are estranged from one another, we must be reconciled to one another; if the entire created order lies under the curse, the curse must be lifted and the created order transformed; if we are, morally speaking, weak and helpless (as well as guilty), we must be empowered and strengthened; if we are dead, we must be made alive, if the heart of our idolatry is abysmal self-focus and the de-godding of God, God must be restored in our vision and life to his rightful glory.”

Chapter 9 [Ferguson]: “Jesus appears as the divine champion, as it were, entering into enemy-occupied territory under the guidance of the Spirit..Rather than overcome Jesus, Satan is comprehensively defeated…. Thus, through his death as it dealt with our guilt and its implications in relationship to God, Christ disarms him who had the power of death, and releases his people from their lifelong bondage to the fear of death.”

Chapter 10 [Beale]: “The final judgment that was to occur at the very end of history has been pushed back into history at the cross of Christ…. The resurrection vindicates Christ’s innocence, thus overturning the unjust verdict against him. On the other hand, the saints were justly accused of sin and guilt and sentenced to death. Nevertheless, they have been vindicated by Christ’s work, declared not guilty but innocent because he suffered the penalty of death due to them and represents them in his resurrected being with his own innocence (i.e. righteousness), which has been vindicated by his own resurrection.”

Chapter 11 [Schreiner}: “God’s purpose is to bring glory to his name. God’s name is honored in both salvation and in judgment. And yet the Scriptures focus on the glory of God in saving his people, and hence it is not surprising to discover that God is particularly glorified in Jesus Christ, and particularly in the salvation he accomplished in his cross and resurrection.”

Chapter 13 [Hamilton]: “Perhaps no other metaphor for Yahweh’s relationship to Israel could capture the pain of betrayal and the wonder of forgiveness the way that marriage does.” “Just as the death of Jesus opened the gates of life, so also the husband’s death-to-self love for his wife puts gospel life in his heart. There is an awe-inspiring symbiosis in this, too, for the wife who knows her husband is ready to lay down his life for her will gladly submit to such a man.”

Chapter 14 [Grudem]: “I suspect that just as Satan accuses Christians and wants them to feel false guilt and false accusation, so he also seeks to keep them from the great joy of knowing the favor of God on their daily activities, of knowing that God is pleased with their obedience.” “When we disobey God, we can experience his love as a disapproving, disciplinary love that flows from his fatherly care for us.”

Chapter 15 [Anyabwile]: “What the Scripture teaches about the glory of God in ethnic difference must be set alongside another truth. Namely, that Jesus Christ is supreme over our ethnic identities.”

Chapter 16 [Alcorn]: “Jesus gave us a choice: a life wasted in the pursuit of wealth on earth, or a life invested in the pursuit of wealth in heaven.”

Chapter 20 [Mahaney]: “Our pneumatology must never take precedence over–and in fact cannot be understood apart from–the gospel of Jesus Christ”

Chapter 22 [Powlison]: “Pastor, you are a counselor. Perhaps you don’t think of yourself that way. Perhaps you don’t want to be a counselor. But you are one.”

Chapter 23 [Dever]: “The image of God’s people without a leader, being like sheep without a shepherd, is meant to be a pathetic image, one that would bring to mind the confusion, fear, and slow, meandering self-destruction of the flock.”

Chapter 24 [MacArthur]: “There we see two sides of spiritual leadership in perfect balance: the tenderness of compassionate, motherly care alongside the fortitude and strength of fatherly supervision.”

Chapter 25 [Mounce]: “Bible study can be one of the greatest idols of all times if we stop at study and do not move on to loving the author.” “If my students are going to move from exegesis to proclamation, they needed to see me do it. If your students are going to love God, they need to see you love God more than academic degrees, books published, or the praise of men.”

Book Review: The Theology of B.B. Warfield

5 Feb

In another beautifully produced book by Crossway Publishing, Fred Zaspel, a pastor in Pennsylvania, has produced an incredible systematic summary of the Theology of B.B. Warfield. Hence, the title: The Theology of B.B. Warfield – A Systematic Summary.

B.B. Warfield lived from 1851 to 1921 and was a widely respected theologian. He wrote “more than forty books and booklets, nearly seven hundred periodical articles, more than a thousand book reviews, hundreds of brief book notices, other lesser works, and unpublished manuscripts and lecture notes.” But he never wrote a systematic theology. All of his thoughts were scattered across all these varied works he produced. Many were glad, then, to see this present work produced.

The Book

This book is a labor of love by a man who obviously deeply respects Warfield and wants to give students and readers everywhere a “comprehensive account of the theology of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. This work is intended to fill that void and reintroduce Warfield to today’s theological discussion.” It is amazing to think about how much work went into this.

Zaspel’s goal in this book is to “present Warfield’s arguments accurately on their own terms. There has been no attempt either to confirm or refute his views, his arguments, or even his understanding of other writers… The purpose is not to critique or evaluate but to clarify the views Warfield actually held and the arguments he advanced in their support.”

Conclusion

Since I have neither the ability nor the space to interact with ever part of this book I can offer only a few comments to a work of this size. I began this book with a bang and began to run out of steam around 200 pages in. This book is probably not going to be read cover to cover by most readers, but not all books find their value in being read straight through. It is a wealth for any who would want to see Warfield’s thought on different topics. Zaspel amazingly pulls from a plethora of resources, synthesizing Warfield’s thought from diferent articles and books to give a coherent flow to this work.

One possible critique I had of this book is that while reading, at times, it is difficult to discern where Warfield stops and Zaspel begins. Bu this is obviously a challenge anytime we aren’t reading from primary sources.

This book is an amazing resource for anyone wanting to consult Warfield on a variety of topics.