Jesus, Continued…. Why The Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Christian Living, Featured

Jesus, Continued…. Why The Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You

jesuscontinued_tab_905It’s been said by many theologians that the Holy Spirit is the neglected Person in the Trinity. Critical to understanding the Holy Spirit is knowing how the Holy Spirit empowers Christians to live on mission for God in order to spread the gospel to the nations through making, maturing, and multiplying disciples in and through the local church. This is why when I read Jesus, Continued… Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You by J.D. Greear, I was reminded once again about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave His disciples the promise that the Holy Spirit He would send to live inside of them would be even better than if He Himself remained beside them. In this excellent new book, Greear helps Christians consider their connection to the Holy Spirit. He helps us learn how the Holy Spirit indwells in us and empowers us to shine the light of Christ. This book has three parts. In part one, Greear outlines how we need to understand the Holy Spirit. In part two, he moves from his biblical-theological framework on the Holy Spirit to focus on experiencing the Holy Spirit through in the gospel, in the Word of God, in our gifts, in the church, in our spirit, and in our circumstances. This entire section answers well a number of issues Christians struggle with such as knowing the will of God, focusing too much on our circumstances, making life’s major decisions, and more. In the final section, the author writes about seeking the Holy Spirit. Here he helps us focus more on God, revival, prayer, and serving the Lord.

The Holy Spirit is a divine person, eternal, underived, possessing all the attributes of personality and deity, including intellect (1 Cor. 2:10-13), emotions (Eph. 4:30), will (1 Cor. 12:11), eternality (Heb. 9:14), omnipresence (Ps. 139:7-10), omniscience (Is. 40:13, 14), omnipotence (Rom. 15:13), and truthfulness (John 16:13). In all the divine attributes, He is coequal and consubstantial with the Father and the Son (Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:3, 4; 28:25, 26; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; and Jer. 31:31-34 with Heb. 10:15-17). It is the work of the Holy Spirit to execute the divine will with relation to all mankind. We recognize His sovereign activity in creation (Gen. 1:2), the incarnation (Matt. 1:18), the written revelation (2 Pet. 1:20, 21), and the work of salvation (John 3:5-7). A unique work of the Holy Spirit in this period of redemptive history began at Pentecost when He came from the Father as promised by Christ (John 14:16, 17; 15:26) to initiate and complete the building of the Body of Christ. His activity includes convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and transforming believers into the image of Christ (John 16:7-9; Acts 1:5; 2:4; Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 2:22).

The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin, glorifies the person of Jesus, and transforms believers into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts people of their sin and points them towards Jesus in order that they may with confidence “draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The person, work and receiving of the Holy Spirit, who acts sovereignly to gives life, indwells and teaches the elect in order deepen their understanding of the work of Jesus and then sends them out to testify about the glory of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is One who longs to breathe new life into those who come to Jesus and to sanctify the Beloved by washing them with the sanctifying power of the Word of God.

Jesus Continued… is an excellent and helpful book that will help every Christian to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I highly recommend this book and believe that reading it will help Christians who struggle knowing the will of God, how the Spirit has empowered them to be on mission in the world, and to live consistent godly lives.  Whether you’re a Sunday school teacher, pastor, lay leader, or a new Christian, I encourage you to pick up this readable and practical guide on the Holy Spirit.

I received this book for free from Zondervan 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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Interpreting the Prophetic Books by Gary V. Smith

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Featured, Theology

Interpreting the Prophetic Books by Gary V. Smith

51032GxzzfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Twenty five percent of the 66 books of the Bible are categorized as prophetic books. The genre of prophetic books is perhaps the least preached among the nine genres in the Bible. Like apocalyptic literature, they can be hard to read and interpret let alone preach and teach. But if Paul is right about the Old Testament, and “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (I Cor. 10:11) then this 25% of the Bible is much more relevant for the Church than we give it credit.

Having already written, taught, and published extensively on the OT prophets, Gary V. Smith has now made a recent contribution, Interpreting the Prophetic Books: An Exegetical Handbook, for the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis (HOTE) series (Kregel, 2015). The HOTE series is dedicated to giving students of the text the necessary basic skills to exegeting, preaching, and teaching the text of Scripture from each genre of the Bible. Smith summarizes the goal of his book as follows:

In addition to understanding the historical setting and the literary forms, a person who wants to share the messages of the prophets needs to be able to outline the text around one main theme, the illustrate the main theme in practical ways that are meaningful and interesting to people today, to discover the theological principles that each message teaches, and to present a challenging application that is derived from the themes in that prophetic text. (18)

Background Work

As a handbook, this book is a guide on how to read and interpret the prophets and then present the text in a way that is meaningful to the modern day reader. Smith breaks down the prophetic books into three main categories of temporal prophecies: present events, future events, and symbolic apocalyptic events. Smith points out that what makes the third category more challenging to identify is that “some future prophecies contained symbolic language that was part of a vision.” (27) The prophecies are further divided by the genre of the prophecy (judgment, salvation, trial speech, etc.) and even further according to their literary structure as poetry.

In chapter two Smith gives a thematic summary of each prophetic book. Regarding the controversy over Isaiah and whether it has more than one author, Smith is not favorable to the critical scholarly opinion that there is a second and third-Isaiah (62-63). Equally summative as chapter two, chapter three provides a brief survey of the historical contexts in which each book is written. Smith has a good four page discussion on comparative ancient near eastern prophets and their false prophecies (94-98). Understanding “this background,” Smith notes, “to the prophetic situation should help the reader sympathize with the frustration that many prophets experienced when people rejected their prophecies.” (97)

Chapter four addresses a number of interpretive issues that are unique to prophetic literature. Smith summarizes the issues under contrasting options: literal or metaphorical, limited to context or open beyond it, conditional or unconditional, near or far future, and the New Testament use of the Old Testament. What many interpreters struggle the most with will be whether a prophecy is literal or metaphorical and whether its fulfillment is near or far future. Of metaphorical interpretation Smith states that

Many of the predictions in future prophecies were much more nebulous or general in nature, and they were not tied so closely to identifiable people, places, events, or objects. Many prophecies were expressed in highly symbolic poetic language that was much harder to interpret in any kind of literal fashion. (116)

Smith closes chapter four by discussing the fulfillment of prophecies in light of the fact that some are in fact not fulfilled. How so? It is clear that some are conditional, like the prophecy to Ninevah to repent, and might or might not happen. Some prophesies are not to be fulfilled until some time in the future like the coming of the Day of the Lord. Further, some prophecies fulfillment is extended over time like God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation.

Preaching Work

After all of the background work is done with the text, Smith moves onto crafting the text itself into a teachable/preachable outline. While Smith does not break any new ground as far as developing a preaching outline, he does help the preacher and teacher to synthesize and package the background information about the text in a way that is presentable and not overbearing with minute details. While opinions may vary as to the best way to preach the texts, Smith is keen to bring all of the text down to one main principle that is drawn from the text, and to shape the sermon around that idea.

Drawing application from the OT can be hard, and even more so from the prophetic books. Smith uses Isaiah 31:1-9 as a test case to help the reader see how one would put into practice all that he has outlines in the book. This helps the preacher to see how application is drawn from the text in a more natural, rather than forced way.

Conclusion

Interpreting the Prophetic Books follows the trusted and reliable reputation of the HOTE series in providing the preacher and teacher with the necessary basic information and tools to interpret the prophetic books. This book points you in the right direction for further study and should be on the shelf of every pastor, teacher, and serious Bible student.

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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The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology by Anthony C. Thiselton

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Featured, Theology

The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology by Anthony C. Thiselton

51xKDDZEX1L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_In an era of theological education which prizes specialization over generalization, there are very few people who can speak authoritatively across the theological playing field. One such player is Anthony C. Thiselton. Professor emeritus of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, England, and one of Britain’s leading theological scholars, Thiselton has successfully written in the areas of hermeneutics, New Testament studies, and two commentaries on 1 Corinthians. Thiselton has earned the respect of pastors, teachers, theologians, and scholars worldwide.

Drawing on the concept of his previous work Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 2002; Baker, 2005), Thiselton has taken to write The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology (Eerdmans, 2015). This book contains 600 articles, from A-Z, on various people, theological concepts, Biblical words, time periods, systems of thought, etc.; all within the Christian theological sphere.

So Why This…..

At 600 articles, and just over 850 pages, there are a lot of subjects Thiselton has written about. As you read through the alphabetical list at the beginning of the book you will naturally wonder why some entries are included in such a “short” list of 600. As the title of the book indicates, this is a book written by a single author, and as such has the limitations of the one choosing the articles. Thiselton has chosen subjects that he deems the most relevant. This would no doubt vary from person to person if others had decided to write the same kind of book.

Thiselton has drawn on a lifetime of research, study, and personal judgment as to what to include in this volume. It is, as the title indicates, a companion to Christian theology. In a sense, Thiselton himself is the readers companion to guiding the reader into further study on all of the subjects he has written on.

…..And Not That?

Naturally, to include everything that is important to theology would require a multi-volume effort. Take for instance The Encyclopedia Britannica. Though no longer published, the 15th edition has 28 volumes and, with more than 4,000 contributors, it has almost 3 million articles. Even an exhaustive work like that has to say no to something. A work by a single author has to do the same.

Whatever the limitations of this work, it cannot be missed that this is a remarkable achievement. For instance again, the long-standing Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, in its second edition has over 1,300 articles and over 300 contributors. EDEis still missing things, which Elwell notes in the preface. Thiselton has essentially achieved the work of half of the contributors to EDE; and all on his own!

Readers will undoubtedly notice that while Thiselton has provided the reader with content that is intended to service a wide range of users, the book still, in part, reflects his theological leanings. While the articles (less so with the shorter ones) are intended to be informative, Thiselton’s own theological leanings tend to surface in areas like the doctrine of God, the atonement, soteriology, evolution, justification, and sin; just to name a few. This is less a criticism and more of an observation. It would be the same no matter who wrote the book.

Regardless of whether one lines up completely with all of the finer points of Thiselton’s theology, The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology is a valuable reference tool for teachers, pastors, and Bible students worldwide. This is the kind of book that few are qualified to write, or should, and Thiselton has done it masterfully.

I received this book for free from Eerdmans 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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40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper by John S. Hammett

Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in Featured, Theology

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper by John S. Hammett

9780825442773Despite the vast differences in church practices that exist among Protestants (even Protestant vs. Catholic and Greek Orthodox), the practice of baptism and the Lord’s supper are universal among them. Reformed, Baptist, Anglican, and Pentecostal alike. But while the practices themselves are universal, their meaning and participants vary. While there is some unity in these things, there is greater disunity. When we begin to press on questions like “How is Christ present in communion?”,  “Who can participate in communion?”, “Who do we baptize?”, and “What does baptism signify?”, we begin to see the differences emerge.

Examining these questions and more, John S. Hammet has written 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Kregel, 2015). This is the most recent installment of the Kregel 40 Questions series which provides a unique look at and an overview of  various theological issues through 40 questions and answers. Hammet’s book is different from most books on baptism and the Lord’s Supper in that he treats both in the same book, discusses both theological and practical considerations, discusses the theology and practice of various denominations, and has follow-up questions at the end of each chapter to aid the reader in understanding the material better.

Hammet himself is a Baptist. He makes this clear throughout and can be seen in his evaluation of various viewpoints presented. This is not a defense of a Baptistic understanding of baptism and the Lord’s supper. Keeping in line with the nature of the series, Hammet is more concerned with presenting the various theological and practical views of each tradition regarding these practices. His actual critique of various positions is a very minor aspect of the book.

The books is divided into three basic categories. The first questions answered deal with issues which apply to both practices: are they called ordinances or sacraments?, who can administer them?, and how many sacraments/ordinances are there? It is generally agreed that they are called ordinances, only pastors can administer them, there are only two ordinances, and they are to be done under the authority of and in conjunction with a local church. On the issue of who is allowed administer the ordinances, it is generally agreed that the pastors/elders of the church are to administer them but, Hammet argues, though tradition might demand “this would not be theologically necessary.” (37)

In the second and third sections Hammet discuses questions surrounding baptism and the Lord’s supper. After addressing several introductory issues for both he moves into presenting the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist views separately and then the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Methodist views together. In order to fairly present each view, Hammet draws on the “authoritative denominational documents” of each tradition. (79) After presenting and evaluating each traditional view of the ordinances Hammet moves onto other theological and practical questions and looks at them from the perspective of each tradition.

What is interesting to see is the almost polarized views between Roman Catholics and Baptist’s in regards to both ordinances. Additionally, most denominations have a well established and broadly agreed upon theological/biblical understanding of the ordinances (with some exceptions for the Reformed) but Baptist’s have the most diversity of them all. Further, most denominations baptize infants and allow them to participate in communion while Baptists (almost solely) do not. In evaluating the covenantal case for infant baptism, Hammet believes “by far the most central critique of the covenantal case is that it greatly overstates the continuity in Scripture to the almost complete exclusion of discontinuity.” (141) Theologically astute readers will hear the standard argument of Baptist’s (read Dispensationalist’s) against covenant theology ringing through that statement (though Hammet does not identify as a Dispensationalist in the book).

It is also interesting to note than in the discussion of each traditions view of baptism, Hammet only references Scriptural support for the Baptist position (minor exception for the Lutheran position). Whether this is a tacit indication that he feels there is no possible biblical basis for their views I am not sure. In discussing the Baptist view, he cites several verses. It is possible that Hammet does this because he sees their views relying more heavily on tradition rather than Scripture. This is not the case when the various traditions views are discussed on the Lord’s supper.

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is a great introduction to the various theological and practical positions on these twin practices of the Christian Church. This would serve as a great guide for a Bible study, Sunday school class, or personal study. Hammet introduces the reader to the major issues at hand and provides you with a good base from which to do further study.

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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God, Adam, and You Biblical Creation Defended and Applied

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Apologetics, Featured

God, Adam, and You Biblical Creation Defended and Applied

prpbooks_images_covers_md_9781629950662In recent days, many people have questioned whether Adam and Eve are really persons or not. Typically the people who question Adam and Eve also question whether the Bible is authoritative, inerrant and sufficient. Most of these people are scientists with no Bible or theological training and traditionally come to the Bible not to learn from its teachings but rather to impose their scientific findings upon the Bible. In 2013 there was a conference held by the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology under the title “God, Adam, and You” out of which comes the book God, Adam, and You Biblical Creation Defended and Applied.

The whole book explores one question, “What difference does Adam make?” The book takes a serious look at Genesis 1-3 with a view to defend the literal interpretation of the first three chapters of Genesis. Some people have abandoned Adam as a historical person who lived and died in real history. As the authors open the biblical text they help us understand not only how to respond to attacks on the first three chapters in the Bible but also what they mean. In chapter one Dr. Thomas looks at the Bible’s first word. Chapter two by Dr. Joel Beeke considers the case for Adam. Kevin DeYoung looks at two views of the human person in chapter three. Chapter four by Liam Goligher looks at Adam’s role in the Garden. Richard Phillips looks at the Bible and evolution. In chapter six Mr. Phillips also considers God’s design for Gender, Marriage, and Sex. Dr. Thomas in chapter seven considers differing views on the days of creation. Chapter eight is where Dr. Beeke considers Christ, the Second Adam. Chapter nine looks at God’s Garden to God’s city by Richard Phillips. Carl Trueman in the final chapter looks at original sin and modern theology.

The issue of whether Adam and Eve are historical persons is a vital issue because it has bearing on the believer’s biblical and theological understanding of God, the Bible, creation, marriage, sin, and salvation. The consequence of Adam and Eve not being historical persons is that the creation record in Genesis is undermined, the institution of marriage (which God established) defamed, and the reason Jesus came to die for sin torn from the biblical record. Those who advocate for the view that Adam and Eve are not historical persons minimize God’s Word which teaches that Adam and Eve were real people in real history. The issue of Adam and Eve is important, not only because ideas have consequences, but because the foundation upon which the scientists built their argument. A believer who believes in a biblical worldview understands that Adam and Eve are historical persons.

Ideas have consequences, and those consequences are evidenced in how one understands Genesis 1-3. A literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 will help the believer to have a proper understanding of God, His Word, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. If one takes Genesis 1-3 any way other than literally, then it will result in a faulty understanding of the Bible and in asking the wrong questions, such as scientists are asking about whether Adam and Eve are real persons. Understanding Adam and Eve as historical persons is important because Paul explains in Romans 5:12-21 that Adam and Eve were, in fact, real persons.

God, Adam, and You is an excellent book that will help readers to understand the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and how to respond to attacks on the Bible. In seminary, I wrote a research paper on the subject of the historicity of Adam and wish I had this book during my research and writing of that paper. This book would be helpful for pastors, Sunday school teachers, and Bible study leaders to use in their studies on Genesis, and Romans, among a whole host of other topics. I highly recommend this book and believe that as you read it you’ll learn the difference the historical Adam makes for us today, as followers of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

I received this book for free from P&R 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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Philippians (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) by Joseph H. Hellerman

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in Featured, Theology

Philippians (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) by Joseph H. Hellerman

51AsyUCRSkL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Adding to the solid list of contributors to the B&H Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series, Joseph H. Hellerman has written the newest volume on Philippians. Hellerman, professor of New Testament language and literature at Talbot School of Theology, received his Th.M. in Hebrew and his Ph.D. in the social history of early Christianity. Upon starring as a professor at Talbot, Hellerman began to focus his studies on Philippians, the fruit of which has grown into this commentary.

In keeping with the aim of the series, Hellerman’s book accomplishes two primary services for the reader. First, the commentary is solely based on the Greek of the New Testament from the fifth edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (xvi). 1 Peter is divided into pericopes by its Greek text, block diagrammed and then exegeted phrase-by-phrase. A good grasp of New Testament Greek is required to benefit from this book as well as an ability to understand the grammatical abbreviations used in the book. Second, as a guide, the series goal is to list and discuss all of the grammatical/exegetical possibilities for the translation of each word, construction of the grammar, and possible meanings. They are doing the work of giving you options so you can focus more time on other work.

What is particularly striking about Hellerman’s work on Philippians is his focus on the social-historical aspects of the book (though he does attend to the theological issues at hand as well). This social-historical focus comes to light when discussing the occasion of the letter. The occasion for the book gives way to the social-historical focus of the commentary. First, regarding the translation of 1:3, Hellerman believes that “the immediate occasion for Philippians was a gift Paul received from the church through their emissary Epaphroditus.” (4) Thus, contra the traditional translation of 1:3 as stating that Paul was remembering them, Hellerman believes the better translation should be “because of your every remembrance of me,” thus making Philippians a book of Paul thanking them for their gift to him (2 Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:15).

This opportunity to express gratitude to the Philippians for their gift is used by Paul to speak truth about the church “in a highly Romanized sociopolitical environment.” (4) There was acursus honorum (“race of honors”) that pervaded the Roman society which Paul took the occasion to resist (4). He notes that,“The apostle recognized that a stridently Roman honor culture had the potential to seriously undermine the radically different relational ethos that Jesus intended for his community of followers.” (4)

For example, Hellerman notes that while “traditional interpretations of Philippians 2:5-11 focus upon ontological Christology,……Paul’s agenda, however, is primarily sociological, not ontological.” (105) Paul is showing how Jesus used his universal status, which superseded any sociopolitical status on earth, to serve others, rather than lord it over them. “Instead of using social capital to gain more honors and public recognition, Christ leveraged his status in the service of others. Such utilization of power – indeed, a voluntary relinquishing of rank and prestige – would have stuck Roman elites as abject folly.” (107) Jesus is the ultimate example for how to serve those whom the world may see as less than us.

As with all of the books in the EGGNT series, Hellerman’s work on Philippians is a welcome addition that follows in the tradition of Murray Harris’ inaugural volume on Colossians and Philemon. This will serve pastors and teachers well for decades to come.

I received this book for free from B&H 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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