China’s Reforming Churches

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Featured, Theology

China’s Reforming Churches

Baugus, Bruce P. China’s Reforming Churches.  Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014.China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom

“China’s Reforming Churches” is a mine of information for those who want to understand and evaluate Reformed faith’s history, current issues, opportunities, and future in China. Sweeping in scope, its contributors take us from the early days and figures of the Reformed mission in China to an assessment of its character, growth, and challenges today, with an acuteness that is informative and convicting.

The authors ground their appeals in the lives, politics, and culture of Chinese Christians as well as Reformed denominations inside and outside China, chronicling their mistakes and triumphs. In doing so, this book is an important tool for moving forward in the Reformed churches vision for mission, polity, and ministry.

The chapters are very well researched and present a collage of information. The authors painstakingly strip away outsider-ignorance by sketching Reformed China from the inside out. When knitted together these portraits appeal to Reformed churches to take a balanced, patient, and culturally thoughtful approach to missions and partnership within China. They also appeal for the strengthening of Reformed church in its government and growth within China, through making use of the opportunities afforded it today and arguing for the importance of church polity.

Those not acquainted with a basic understanding of China and Christianity may have some difficulty catching up with the language and premises of the book. There are some assumed points of knowledge not accounted for in the appendices or footnotes, no timeline, and only one map at the beginning of the book.

The multi-author format offers both strengths and weakness to this project. The reader may find one chapter’s writing style more palatable than the next. However, at the same time, the mental reorientation required by a new style and topic, keeps the reader engaged.

Overall, this book is a very interesting read and an important tool for thinking about the church’s mission, polity, and ministry in China in the coming years. It lays the groundwork for coming alongside an already growing Chinese Church, made more valuable by the unpredictable future of the communistic state.

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The Secret Life of a Pastor (and other intimate letters of ministry)

Posted by on Jun 27, 2015 in Featured, Theology

The Secret Life of a Pastor (and other intimate letters of ministry)

downloadBible College and seminary is a time where students are challenged in every aspect of life. For many students, these challenges are more severe than others. Other students find seminary to be extremely easy. I was one of those students who found Bible college and seminary to be mostly easy (except studying the Hebrew language which was very difficult for me). Here at Servants of Grace we’ve written a lot on the topic of Bible college and seminary because most of our writers have gone to seminary, including some of them even teaching at seminaries. This is why when I read The Secret Life of a Pastor and other intimate letters on ministry) I was greatly helped. This book reminded me of another book Dear Timothy Letters on Pastoral Ministry Edited by Dr. Tom Ascol in that seeks to help future pastors understand pastoral ministry and encourage those in pastoral ministry.

This book is broken down into twenty chapters. It covers topics such as your seminary experience, original language, pastoral counseling, home life, equipping the saints, family, preaching, pastoral prayer, pastoral leadership, leading through change, preaching the gospel, and rest. The only part of this book I disagreed with as a Baptist is the chapter on infant baptism. Outside of this chapter the entire book is very helpful.

What stood out to me about this book was the tone of the book. As the subtitle suggests these are intimate letters meant to encourage and equip readers on the nuts and bolts of ministry. Books like this are needed for those preparing for pastoral ministry to learn what ministry life is really like. This is also why I encourage future pastors to get to know current pastors and pick their brain about ministry and family life as a pastor. In addition to this, watch as your pastor ministers from inside and outside the pulpit and learn from his example.

The Secret Life of a Pastor is a book I highly recommend if the Lord is calling you into vocational pastoral ministry. This book will help you to understand what it’s like Monday through Saturday in ministry and what is expected of you on Sunday. This book will help aspiring pastors and ministry leaders who desire to faithfully serve the Lord, His church, and His people for His glory.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus for this review. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Exploring our Hebraic Heritage: A Christian Thelogy of Roots and Renewal

Posted by on Jun 26, 2015 in Featured, Theology

Exploring our Hebraic Heritage: A Christian Thelogy of Roots and Renewal

Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage There is a movement afoot and a good one I might submit that is seeking to understand the roots of the faith. This implies there is a system of thought and a way of approaching Scripture that perhaps has not been properly understood or utilized over the years. Marvin Wilson, in his excellent and timely book Exploring our Hebraic Heritage: A Christian Thelogy of Roots and Renewal, outlines for the reader exactly what it means to get back to a proper understanding and application of God’s Word.

This process of getting back to our roots has been labeled in many ways over the years with a number of movements coming and going that had as their stated goal a return to our Jewish or Hebraic roots. Some of those movements have been quite successful in their efforts to properly define what getting to our roots means while others have I will submit been far less successful. Outside of these movements and their various permutations, what are our root and why is getting back to them of such importance? Does it mean we are to become Jewish to get back to our roots?

Wilson approaches these and many other related questions by first establishing what theology is and for that matter, what theology is not. He rightly notes the difference in the Hebraic approach to Scripture as opposed to the Greek mindset that permeates the modern approach to many principles and concepts found in Scripture. Furthermore, Wilson aptly notes that while systematic theology, biblical theology, and even denominational creeds and confessions are helpful, “it is critical to seek to mold that system by Scripture, not Scripture by that system.”

Building on these important principles on how to “do” theology, Wilson then begins to unpack what it means to have our theological mindset underpinned by a Hebraic approach to Scripture. He first outlines the hallmarks of what he terms “Hebraic Theology”, notably the fact that its theology is rooted in actual history, it builds on God’s revelation of Himself throughout history to His people, it has a focus on a personal God and not some entity detached from His creation, God’s word is living and active, Hebraic theology has as a main focus the overarching message of redemption, and it is focused on the how of what it means to live holy and ethically.

It seems as if the front of the book or the Old Testament has to take a back seat in theological discussion, since in the minds of many in the church, the New Testament has superseded the first 39 books of the Bible. In taking that approach, Wilson notes “Over the centuries, while most of Christian interpreters understood the Old Testament as witnessing to Christ, considerable disagreement existed on what else from the Old Testament can be legitimately salvaged. This troubling feeling concerning the largest portion of the Word of God has often been resolved with a sort of cherry-picking approach.” Arguably, one sees that cherry-picking approach in discussions about the continued validity or lack thereof concerning what is termed the “Law”.

To help the reader better understand what Hebraic theology is all about, Wilson next invests some time looking at the foundational sources of Hebraic thought. Of great importance is the aforementioned and often debated term and portion of Scripture called the “Law”. The modern Christian affirmation in many circles that the Law has been completely abrogated would have been a foreign concept for the people of Israel in the time period Scripture was written. Wilson aptly notes the entirety of Psalm 119 extols the Law of God. Furthermore, the term Torah itself means far more than just “Law”. Conversely, it actually carries the meaning of “guidance, direction, instruction, or teaching” meaning that anytime in Scripture where God is doing any of those things, whether directly from His mouth or in the lives of those Scripture discusses, it is Torah. Since that takes place all throughout Scripture, all of Scripture is really Torah. Wilson saliently reminds the reader that “Living a life of love requires all the help that a serious believer can get; led by the Spirit, one will be informed by the fullness of God’s teachings, including the law.” Those who teach Christ is the end of the law and thus the law is no longer valid, are also reminded by Wilson that end is the word “telos”, meaning “the purpose or goal of something.” Furthermore, as noted by Wilson, “Didactically, however, or by principle, when these laws are understood in context, many carry significant meaning about God or the timeless priorities he wishes to establish for his people.”

Wilson also builds on the subject matter presented in his previous book Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, another book I highly recommend reading before reading Exploring Our Hebraic Heritage. Wilson explores what it means to be part of the root, a concept often very misunderstood or ignored in the church today. Understanding what being grafted in to the root is all about is vital to understanding the need to grasp why one needs to get back to the root to understand what they have been grafted into in the first place. This really is a matter of proper identity and Wilson states “Our biblical, Hebraic heritage is not the dead faith of the living but the living faith of the dead. It is not a relic to put in a museum but a life-giving source to embrace. There is no way the church may define itself without being connected to the people of Israel.” This is indeed something of a paradigm shift for many and a needed one at that.

There is much to be gleaned theologically from the life of Abraham and Wilson roots his discussion (pun fully intended) in this important figure of the faith. We find in the life of Abraham the concept of covenant, something no new to Abraham specifically, but certainly elaborated more fully in God’s dealing with him as the father of the faith. Wilson avers “the expression ‘Our Father Abraham’ expresses more than some historic remembrance of a virtuous biblical character or present spiritual ties to a family of faith. The expression is ultimately an eschatological statement. Abraham is a symbol of hope; he binds Christians and Jews together with a common vision of the outworking of the kingdom of God.”

I also appreciated Wilson’s sections on who God is, how we should worship Him, and repentance and prayer with the focus in his discussion on the Hebraic (i.e. biblical) approach to such matters. With that said, perhaps the most important aspect of this book is Wilson’s question on whether the church has superseded Israel. This particular point truly gets to the heart of what it means to be connected to our roots. If the roots have been replaced, then there would be no need to be concerned with getting back to anything. Wilson correctly states “A spirit of triumphalism and arrogance on the part of the church has largely characterized most of the history of Christian-Jewish relations.” A rather bold yet again correct statement. Wilson urges the reader to understand “The teaching of Gentile believers ‘grafted into Israel’ and being part of the spiritual ‘seed of Abraham’ is an important piece of Paul’s theology.”

Getting back to our roots is not a call to become Jewish in our practices as followers of Christ. Conversely, it is better termed as the necessity to understand Scripture from the viewpoint (i.e. historical, linguistic, cultural, etc.) of those who wrote the words that we find in the pages of God’s Word. To get back to our roots is to both understand our Hebraic heritage and to grow in God’s Word via that heritage which will in turn promote a more cogent and holistic understanding of what God has revealed to us in His Word.

I highly recommend this book to all believers. Wilson does an excellent job of explaining his thesis and the importance of our Hebraic heritage and a Hebraic theological understanding. Full of theological insight, excellent references to both Jewish and Christian scholars, and most importantly, biblically based, this book is a valuable resource for those desiring to better understand, study, and apply Scripture.

This book is available for purchase from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing for this review. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in Featured, Theology

Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged

Future Israel There are some segments of Christianity that espouse the belief that God is done with the Jewish people. This idea is rooted in Replacement Theology, namely the affirmation that the Church has completely replaced Israel in salvation history and therefore God no longer has any plans or use for the people of Israel. Essentially, this system promotes that Israel has been set aside, no longer to be of any consequence. Such a notion is biblically unfounded. Barry Horner, in his book Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged presents a biblically sound approach to the reality that God is not done with His people and why such an idea must be rooted out from within the body of Christ.

Horner begins by looking at a variety of theological thought on this topic to include the writings of Augustine, John Calvin, Horatius Bonar, and C. H. Spurgeon, noting the attitudes taken by these prominent theologians towards the Jewish people and their understanding of whether or not God still has a plan for His people. Horner also explores the rather unsavory history of anti-Judaism and supercessationism by many throughout church history. He rightly notes “An astonishing ignorance abides today concerning the legacy of Christian anti-Judaism, and works of church history frequently fail to discuss it.” Thankfully, Horner exposes this ugly side of things and rightly so, providing the reader with valuable insight into how anti-Judaism fervor reared its ugly head far too often.

Such fervor continues even today in various forms. Horner not only explores past anti-Judaism but he also demonstrates how this attitude has shaped the theology of many current and noted authors and theologians in the United States and throughout the world. I will be honest in saying some of the names he mentioned were quite surprising. Mentioning these individuals whether past or present is not intended as a personal attack. Conversely, Horner is merely trying to point out that anti-Judaism is a pernicious and often sneaky wrong doctrine that can present itself in the writings of even the most astute theologian. Thus, it must be guarded against.

I found Horner’s discussion of the alignment of certain authors and theologians with anti-Israelite camps to be both interesting and frightening. Love for their land has been at the core of the Jewish people’s very being and Horner traces different points in history when the Jewish people have been scattered from their homeland and when they have returned. Some within the Church reject Zionism while others are, as noted by Horner, “torn in two directions, even as did Paul when he described the unbelieving nation of Israel in his day as God’s beloved enemy.” While many Jewish people continue to reject Jesus as the promised Messiah, , Horner rightly comments, “God retains a deep covenantal interest in His people of the flesh in the same manner that he indicated this loyal love toward Israel as an adulterous people by means of the prophet Hosea.”

Of course, the fight over the land of Israel continues to be front and center. While it is quite clear that the Palestinians and the Arab countries surrounding Israel have no love for her as a nation, it is quite shocking to see the number of well-respected Christian theologians who reject the very idea that the people of Israel returning to the land as promised by God long ago. One will be surprised to see the well-known theologians who affirm such an idea. Horner does a great job of explaining this promise of the land found in both the Old and New Testaments. He suggests this future reality will be a “future, holy, consummate messianic kingdom subsequent to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and whose nature may be designate as spiritual materiality.” Furthermore, “In this setting of heaven come to earth, Israel and the Jewish people will be fulfilled, not superseded, and the Gentile nations will happily submit to this divine order as engrafted wild olive branches.” While such an approach is certainly opposed to the popular Dispensationalism theory promoted by many today, Horner’s statement is more in line with biblical truth and a more cogent approach to matters of eschatology.

Romans 11 is an often wildly debated chapter with many using it as a springboard by which to either affirm the Church replacing Israel or the opposite approach, namely the reality that Gentiles are grafted into the olive branch. As such, Horner’s chapter that addresses this often thorny issue is in my opinion the best aspect of this book. He begins his examination of Romans 11 by noting “a correct interpretation of the new covenant passages requires a hermeneutic that gives serious consideration to the Jewish presuppositions that are inherent in them.” To do otherwise involves the aberrant theories of replacement, supercessionist, or fulfillment theologies. The exegesis conducted by Horner is quite excellent and very in-depth.

I highly recommend this book for all believers. The subject matter is extremely important and Horner does a marvelous job of digging into past and present thought and how it aligns with Scripture. While this book will likely not resolve all of the raging debate within Christianity and theological thought, the reader will certainly have a much better understanding of the fact that God still has a plan for the Jewish people. While many of them continue to reject Jesus and are in need of the saving message of the Gospel, this does not mean the Church has superseded them nor does it mean God has washed His hands of the people He made a covenant with. Horner’s work has certainly brought many issues to light for me and I will definitely return to it in the future for further study on this topic as it is chock full of valuable information.

This book are available for purchase from B&H Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from B&H Academic for this review. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Preaching Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism

Posted by on Jun 24, 2015 in Church, Featured

Preaching Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism

download (2)It seems every year at least a few preaching books coming out. In recent days, we’ve seen a steady stream of these books come out from a variety of practitioners of varying experience and skill. One preaching book I knew I was going to read this year and enjoy was Dr. Timothy Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.

Dr. Keller’s book is very good. It covers a lot of the same ground that Bryan Chappel’s Christ-Centered Preaching book does but in a different way. Rather than focusing on laying out a method of preaching, Dr. Keller lays out a theology of preaching that is grounded in the gospel and makes the text the focus of the sermon. This book reminded me of what Charles Spurgeon said when he noted that when he preached he preached the text and made a beeline to the cross. This is what Keller does so well he focuses on the text and doesn’t seek to make the text say what it doesn’t say in order to get suddenly to the gospel in awkward ways. In fact, there is a whole chapter two and three that helpful outlines how to preach the text and then make a beeline to the cross.

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism is an excellent book on preaching but for every Christian faithfully committed to preaching and teaching the whole Bible and the whole gospel to the glory of God. Keller notes, “Every Christian should be able to give both teaching (didaskalia, the ordinary word for instruction) and admonition (noutheo—a common word for strong, life-changing counsel) that convey to others the teachings of the Bible. This must be don carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one. That is the most fundamental ministry of the Word. Let’s call that level 1” (2). Level two of the ministry of the Word is “informal, ever-Christian conversation and formal sermons” (2). Keller continues, “Every Christian needs to understand the message of the Bible well- enough to explain and apply it to other Christians and to his neighbor in informal and personal settings (level 1). But there are many ways to do the ministry of the word at level 2 that take more preparation and presentation skills yet do not consist of delivering sermons (level 3). Level 2 today may include writing blogging, teaching classes and small groups, mentoring, moderating open discussion forums on issues of faith, and so on” (4).

This book has three parts. In part one, which has three chapters, Keller looks at preaching the word, preaching the gospel every time, and preaching Christ from all of Scripture. In part two, which focuses on reaching people—the author considers preaching Christ to the culture, preaching and the late modern mind (a chapter that felt more like it should have been delivered as a lecture than in a book), and preaching Christ to the heart. In part three, Keller looks at preaching and the Spirit. There’s also a helpful appendix on writing an expository message that is excellent.

My favorite parts of this book were the prologue and chapter six. In the prologue, Keller notes, “Spiritual eloquence should arise out of the preacher’s almost desperate love for the gospel truth itself and the people for whom accepting the truth is a matter of life and death (14). He continues explaining, “This is how to deliver not just an informative lecture by a life-changing sermon. It is not merely to talk about Christ but to show him, to “demonstrate” his greatness and to reveal him as worthy of praise and adoration. If we do that, the Spirit will help us, because that is his great mission in the world” (17-18). Keller notes, “As we preach, we are to serve and love the truth of God’s Word and also to serve and love the people before us. We serve the word by preaching the text clearly and preaching the gospel every time. We reach the people by preaching to the culture and to the heart” (23). Also noteworthy here is this sentence, “You should be something like a clear glass through which people can see a gospel-changed soul in such a way that they want it too, and so that they get a sense of God’s presence as well” (23). There is also so much from chapter seven and for that matter, the entire book that I gleaned from. One thing, in particular, stands out from chapter chapter, “If you want to preach to the heart, you need to preach from the heart. It’s got to be clear that your own heart has been reached by the truth of the text. This takes non-deliberate transparency. Heart-moving preachers (in contrast to heart-manipulating ones) reveal their own affections without really trying to. What is required is that as you speak it becomes evident in all sorts of ways that you yourself have been humbled, wounded healed, comforted, and exalted by the truths you are presenting, and that they have genuine power in your life” (167).

Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller is an excellent and very helpful book on preaching. While this book doesn’t cover everything related to preaching what it does cover is excellent. This book majors on helping preachers focus on preaching the point of the passage as the point of the sermon and making a beeline to the cross. Sermons that don’t do that fail as Keller states because they are more talk than they are a proclamation of God’s Word. I highly recommend Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller and believe it will serve a rising generation of preachers, along with serving as an encouragement to seasoned practitioners of the seriousness and soberness of the task of preaching God’s Word to God’s people to the glory of the Risen Christ. I encourage you to go pick up Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller and be encouraged and equipped by a seasoned practitioner of preaching.

I received this book for free from Viking for this review. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Shepherding God’s Flock Ed. by Benjamin Merkle & Thomas Schreiner

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in Featured, Theology

Shepherding God’s Flock Ed. by Benjamin Merkle & Thomas Schreiner

download (1)“The importance of church leadership can so easily be either overstated, or understated.” (283)

It is common knowledge that when it comes to the leading of people by people, everything rises and falls on leadership. Whether it is a small business or a large multi-billion dollar corporation, both can be brought to their knees under bad leadership. Moses’ father-in-law realized as much when he approached him and suggested that he divide his oversight by appointing capable men to rule over the Israel with Moses. People need competent men and enough of them to lead them rightly.

For centuries, Protestant churches have debated over proper and biblical polity, particularly regarding the office of elder and deacon and the roles they play within the local church and beyond. It seems that within the literature, this issue does not die down and there are new books on both sides of the debate being published regularly. Writing from a Baptist perspective, Benjamin Merkle and Thomas Schreiner have teamed up with a number of Baptistic pastors and theologians to bring us Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond from Kregel (2014). This book provides a thorough presentation of Baptist polity while also looking at Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian forms.

Overview

While the book contains 10 chapters and no sections, there are essentially two sections to the book: chapters that address the issues raised theologically and those that handle them historically.

Historically, in chapters five and six Michael Haykin and Gregg Allison address the rise and development of the papacy within the western church (Haykin) and from Leo I to Vatican II (Allison). Both men ably handle the historical development of the papacy and its well-developed polity. Haykin begins at the first few centuries after the establishment of the New Testament church and builds on the early Catholic understanding of Peter’s role and significance as the one upon whom Christ said He would build His church. Gregg Allison picks up where Haykin leaves off (mid 400’s) and walks the reader right through to Vatican II. After all of the historical survey it is concluded of course that the idea of the papacy as a model of church polity is unbiblical and smacks of men grasping for power which is not theirs to have (195-96).

Following these chapters Nathan Finn outlines and critiques the Presbyterian model of church polity and in doing so he touches briefly on its historical development and context. His historical survey is by no means comprehensive, but he lays out the relevant data nicely. Of particular focus is the Presbyterian differentiation between teaching and ruling elders and the role of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

The final historical chapter addresses the Anglican form of church polity by Jason Duesing. Jason provides an overview of the historical and theological development Anglican polity from the Church of England to the Modern eras. Like the critiques of the Catholic churches view of polity, Duesing concludes that one of the central problems with the Anglican view is that it does not see the terms for bishop and elder as interchangeable. (247) Further, like Catholicism, Anglicanism has a dependence on tradition that clouds its ability to see what is revealed in Scripture. (248)

Theologically, this book makes a defense for Baptist polity which defines itself as seeing the terms for bishop and elder as interchangeable, places a different emphasis upon congregational rule, and does not see the events in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council as paradigmatic for the church today.

The first three chapters lay the groundwork for describing the essence of church leadership –the suffering righteous shepherd. This is of course patterned after Christ. So how do we get there?

In the first chapter, James Hamilton Jr. compares and contrasts the Old and New Testament qualifications for church leadership. He notes that in the OT the qualifications were not laid out as they are in the NT because of the difference between the covenants and how one is admitted into those covenants. In the OT “elders are never defined and no qualifications are ever given” because “the evidence in the Old Testament indicates that eldership arose from the standing that derives from age and the wisdom and stature that tends to accompany life experiences.” (15, 22) Qualifications for leadership are spelled out in the covenant so separate ones are not needed.

The event that makes the change from the OT to the NT is the “new birth”. The change of structure from Israel to the church initiates the need for specific requirements for church leadership. “This change in what makes people members of the people of God changes the pool of candidates from which the elders will be drawn. The making of converts into disciples introduces people into the congregations who have little or no background in the Torah, resulting in the need for qualifications to be spelled out more explicitly.” (24-25)

From here Hamilton works his way to establishing the pattern of leadership as seen through the suffering, righteous shepherd. This is picked up by Andreas Kostenberger in the second chapter as he walks through the Gospels and the life of Jesus to show how He fulfills the suffering shepherd motif. Kostenberger fleshes out three aspects to the shepherding motif: teaching, training, and modeling. (51-57)

In chapter three Benjamin Merkle works through Acts to establish a pattern of leadership by elders. Merkle points out that while the office of elder is not as emphasized in Acts as much as the function, there is a recognizable emphasis on the role of certain believers who are gifted in such as way as to be primarily responsible for the teaching and leading of the churches. (70, 75, 85)

In chapter four Thomas Schreiner addresses the character and role of elders and deacons within the church. While there is a lot of discussion in the Pastoral and General Epistles regarding the teaching ability of elders, “what stands out in the list is the emphasis on character qualities instead of skills.” (95) Schreiner rightly sees a marked difference in the text between the role, and therefore requirements, for deacons and elders. Elders are to be gifted in teaching and leadership while deacons are servants in the church attending to the physical needs. (109-12) In regards to the “wives” mentioned in I Timothy 3:10 Schreiner is under the impression that they are not the wives of male deacons but are in fact women who serve alongside the men as deacons. (111) Later, Bruce Ware echoes the same sentiments when he says, “if Paul is so concerned with the qualifications of the wives of deacons….then why does he not also propose this same requirement when it comes to elders?” (302) In my mind this has always been the issue for me as well.

Chapter seven by Nathan Finn is one of the best chapters in the book. In it, Finn lays out and critiques the Presbyterian view of elders. Essentially, they make a distinction with the biblical text between teaching and ruling elders (200). This is grounded in Ephesians 4:11-13 where shepherds and teachers are listed as offices “for building up the body of Christ.” Further, Presbyterians see the Jerusalem meeting in Acts 15 as a prototype for the church in all times. But, as Finn points out, they must make a number of assumptions about the text in order to arrive at this conclusion, namely, that “the decision made by the general assembly is a binding church law rather than a contextual decision for a particular season in redemptive history.” (219)

The final three chapters provide a conclusion to the book in regards to Baptistic understandings on the plurality of elders, Christ as the head of the Church, and the qualifications of elders and deacons.

Conclusion

From start to finish Shepherding God’s Flock is a short (considering the issues covered) but packed book on the nature of Baptist polity. It is excellent in its treatment of the related biblical passages. This is the perfect kind of book to use for college or grad school in teaching this subject. Additionally, its treatment of Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian polity from a historical and theological angle are thorough and fair. This book should be in every pastor’s library.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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