Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew

Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Book Reviews, Featured, Theology

Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew

indexThe Gospel of Matthew is one of the most significant of the four Gospels. The early church used the Gospel of Matthew to catechize (disciple) new Christians about who Jesus is, what He has done in His death, burial, and resurrection, and how to live the Christian life. As Matthew expounds on these great truths—he also gives many of the great parables of Jesus. This is why when I received and read Dr. David Platt’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, I was greatly helped. This commentary on the Gospel of Matthew is part of a new series called Christ-Centered Exposition published by B&H Academic.

The series editor note, “This series affirms the Bible is a Christ-centered book, containing a unified story of redemptive history of which Jesus is the hero. We purpose to exalt Jesus from every book of the Bible. In doing this, we are not commending wild allegory or fanciful typology. We must be constrained to the meaning intended by the divine Author Himself, the Holy Spirit of God. However, we also believe that the Bible has a Messianic focus, and the authors in this series will exalt Christ from all of their texts.”

The exposition offered by Dr. Platt throughout this commentary is faithful to the text of Scripture. This commentary follows solid exegesis with helpful insight, illustrations, and application that will help readers understand the the Gospel of Matthew. The best pastoral commentaries of which I would consider this to be a part of, engage the text in meaningful ways, provide plenty of illustrations; all the while helping readers understand how the particular passage aligns itself with the context of the book, and its argument. Having read some of the other commentaries in this series already, I encourage you to be on the lookout as each successive volume rolls out.

Whether you’re a new Christian or engaging in regular teaching and preaching of the Word in Sunday school or pulpit ministry in the local, this commentary on Matthew by Dr. David Platt is one to check out. First, this commentary will help you to understand the meaning of each passage in Matthew with non-technical language. Finally, this commentary provides thoughtful application that will help you think through how the text under examination applies to your life. In a day and age where biblical illiteracy is the norm commentaries like this one by Dr. David Platt on Matthew will help readers learn how to read the Bible in light of the finished work of Jesus. I highly recommend this commentary and believe it will help readers to not only understand but apply the message of Matthew’s Gospel into their daily lives.

Buy the book at Exalting Jesus in Matthew (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), or from B&H Academic.

Title: Christ-Centered Exposition Exalting Jesus in Matthew

Authors: David Platt

Publisher: B&H Academic (2014)

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.”

Read More »

Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom

Posted by on Jan 24, 2015 in Book Reviews, Featured, Theology

Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom

Jesus the Sage There are times when I feel the urge to dig into what can easily be labeled as a “nerdy” book and there are some theological subjects that arguably deserve such an in-depth treatment. Exploring the wisdom literature of Scripture, as well as the extra-biblical writings that impacted Jewish and early Christian thought is one of those topics deserving of such a deep dive. Ben Witherington, in his book Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom, walks the reader through the grand and important history of wisdom literature, how it flows throughout Scripture, and most importantly, why it is necessary for believers to spend time studying this subject matter.

Let me first state this is a very scholarly book. If you are looking for a quick overview of biblical and extra-biblical wisdom literature, you should look elsewhere. Conversely, if you desire to take the time to work through this topic and are looking for a book that digs very deep into the various elements of wisdom literature, then this book is one you will want to explore. Those not familiar with all the various aspects of wisdom literature and thought will, again if they take the time to digest the material Witherington presents, will find upon completing this book they have gained a great deal of important knowledge. Ultimately, this is not a quick read but it is well worth the read.

Witherington notes in the Preface that “This book…is not only about the pilgrimage of Wisdom but also about Jesus the sage as one who contributed to the growth and development of Jewish Wisdom and, for the community of his own followers, charted a course that they would follow in further developing Wisdom ideas and forms.” As such, Witherington efforts to trace for the reader not just wisdom literature itself, but more importantly, how Jesus continued this wisdom tradition.

Reading, understanding, and identifying wisdom literature is a pursuit that demands a great deal of effort. Witherington reminds the reader of that important fact at the outset of this book. With that said, those who take the time to grasp what wisdom is all about and what it means to be wise, will find their efforts rewarded. In an effort to break down this journey through wisdom literature, Witherington divides this book into two parts with the first part examining this genre from the period of Solomon to the time of Jesus and with part two looking at how wisdom literature was shaped from the time of Jesus to the period of the early church.

For myself, the most interesting chapter was “Wisdom in Person: Jesus the Sage”. Of particular interest was Witherington’s engagement of Jesus’ parables and aphorisms. Jesus used the form of the parable to relay important theological truths to those who listened to his words. As Witherington notes, this approach is indicative of how a sage would have chosen to instruct his followers. He also suggests “It is also quite likely that Jesus was perceived to be some sort of sage by the part of his audience that was conversant with the world of Jewish Wisdom traditions.” Witherington presents some very interesting thoughts on the manner by which Jesus presented his teaching, parables, and speeches, asserting they take the form of Jewish wisdom traditions, thoughts that will certainly require further examination given the sheer volume and specificity of information Witherington provides all throughout this book.

Anyone desiring to further their breadth of understanding of Jewish wisdom literature and how it presents itself throughout Scripture to include the words of Jesus, should give this book a read. As noted earlier, this is a very scholarly book and will take the reader time and patience to dig into all the information Witherington provides. This is a book, I will be returning to this book in the very near future to examine various individual elements discussed throughout as I continue my studies of wisdom literature.

This book is available for purchase from Fortress Press by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Fortress Press 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.”

Read More »

Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life

Posted by on Jan 23, 2015 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life

Gospel Formed There are a multitude of Christian books, both in the Christian living section as well as the more academically minded fare, that use the buzzword “gospel” or its associated term “gospel-centered.” These terms have become so cliché that in part they have to some degree lost their theological, biblical, and everyday impact, if the term is even defined at all these days. Into the mix of the “gospel” focused textual overload comes a much more defined and appropriate entry, namely that of J. A. Medders’ book Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life.

Focusing on the subtitle alone, one can certainly be quite excited that on the cover of this book, what it means to be gospel oriented and focused is immediately and correctly defined for the reader. In fact, Medders aptly comments his goal in this book is “not merely enjoy a parade of gospel-centered jargon.” Conversely, this effort by Medders is focused on outlining to the reader what it means to live a life of worship to God, the One who extended His grace towards us meaning in response, we should let the gospel permeate every fiber of our being so that we may strive to walk in holiness.

Medders correctly states concerning the gospel itself that “the news of the eternal Son of God dying in our place for our sins, is not only the center of the Bible; it’s also the center of history.” This message of redemption is the flow of history, one in which we as His people are intimately involved. Thus such a statement roots the gospel in that overarching truth, rescuing it if you will from being a mere buzzword or cliché approach that makes for a feel good book and placing it as a foundation for all we do as believers.

The manner in which Medders writes is truly engaging. I appreciated the fact this book, while a very easy read, is nevertheless not short of important and deep theological truths. Those who read this book will find it is presented in a devotional type style meaning the chapters are not lengthy, thus allowing the reader to choose to read several chapters at a sitting or to take a more meditative approach to what Medders is presenting.

The best section of this book in my humble opinion was “Deep and Wide Worship.” In this chapter, Medders really captures the heart of what being gospel formed is all about, namely allowing this message of salvation, this good news to grow deep into your heart. Medders saliently notes, “The evangelical church is flimsy today because too many pulpits are busy scratching people’s ears rather than preaching to their hearts.” The comment “The Diet Gospel is no gospel” is truly one of the best one-liners I have read in some time as it is absolutely true. Being gospel formed, as noted by Medders is all about growing deep in Christ and deep in the Word of God. Side step that and you are in the diet section of the faith, a place that indeed views this gospel centered reality as just another buzzword.

I highly recommend this book for anyone tired of the misuse of the reality of the gospel that has found its way into far too many books on the shelves of the local bookstores. Medders drives right to the heart of the biblical message, encouraging the reader to live a life devoted to the glory of God. This is a message sorely needed in a day when ten steps to this or 5 steps to that seems to be the norm with those steps devoid of any gospel truth. Medders’ book is a welcome wake-up call and reminder to what the Christian walk is really all about, that of being washed in the grace of God so what we may in turn each out to others to bring them to Christ for transformed lives.

Buy the book from Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life, or from Kregel by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Kregel Publications 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.”

Read More »

Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Book Reviews, Featured, Theology

Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory

Exodus The Book of Exodus is full of history, personalities, action, miracles, and theological important teaching. Many people associate this book with Moses and the 10 commandments and in doing so, they are mostly correct; however, the Book of Exodus is more than an exciting story with interesting characters who did some amazing things by the power of God. Exodus reveals God’s salvation plan, one that focuses on the people of Israel. Moreover, it is a story that continues to have great importance for us today. Philip Ryken, in his contribution to the excellent commentary series Preaching the Word, shares with the reader the message of deliverance for the glory of God.

Ryken’s commentary on Exodus is rather lengthy and rightly so given all the important events and information found throughout the Book of Exodus. At over 1200 pages, some may be initially taken aback and scared away from tackling this commentary. To those concerned over its length, remember this is a commentary. Most commentaries are not intended to be read from beginning to end. A work such as this should be used as a valuable resource when engaging elements of Exodus that may require additional insight.

Furthermore, while Ryken is most certainly a scholar and approaches the Book of Exodus in a scholarly manner, this commentary is one that is highly accessible to all believers. The goal of the Preaching the Word commentary series is after all to provide pastors with salient theological insight on the books of Scripture that they in turn may share with their parishioners. This means those parishioners should also feel quite comfortable tackling even a commentary as large as this particular volume. There may be aspects of Ryken’s discussion that will force the reader to grow in their knowledge of Scripture which is yet another positive aspect of this commentary.

At the outset of this commentary, Ryken aptly notes in regards to the story found in Exodus, “Once heard, the story is never forgotten. For Jews it is the story that defines their very existence, the rescue that made them God’s people. For Christians it is the gospel of the Old Testament, God’s first great act of redemption.” The significance of the Exodus and events such as the Passover and the giving of God’s Law at Mt. Sinai cannot be overstated. Throughout this vital biblical book, we find that underlying biblical message of redemption from bondage.

Ryken correctly states this book must be understood as completely historical in nature. The events that are noted throughout Exodus actually took place in history. They are not mere symbolism to note how much God loves His people. God actually and actively worked within history and we should have the utmost confidence that He actually delivered a real people (Israel) from a real country (Egypt) and took them across a real body of water (Red Sea) towards a real land of promise (the land of Israel). Ryken does an excellent job of noting the historical “difficulties” that have been asserted by those who desire to question the historical validity of the Exodus account. He aptly interacts with historical research and archaeological accounts to demonstrate what we should not to be true already, namely that the biblical account is completely accurate.

There are certain areas of every book of Scripture that seem to cause a great deal of debate. When it comes to Exodus, it seems the continued validity of the Law falls into that category of fervent debate. Ryken does a great job of first affirming that God’s Law is still applicable for us today. He then focuses on the moral law, that aspect of the law that demonstrates exactly how we are to love God and love others. He correctly notes “The more clearly we see what God’s law requires, the more obvious it becomes that we cannot keep its commands, which is exactly why we need the gospel.”

In the Book of Exodus, we find a magnificent demonstration of salvation from bondage. We see the message of the gospel revealed. Furthermore, we find what Ryken clearly notes as an important “connection between God’s grace and God’s law.” God has delivered His people from bondage by His grace. In response to that grace, God’s people are provided with what God expects from His people, namely holiness. Ryken avers “As believers in Christ, we are called to live in a way that is pleasing to God, which means living according to his perfect standard.” Thus, within the pages of Exodus, believers must recognize God’s standard of behavior as well as noting that through the work of the Holy Spirit, God’s Law will be written on our hearts so we can live for His glory.

This is a commentary I highly recommend for all believers to sink their teeth into. Ryken covers a wide range of important topics, all of which are highly important for us to understand not only within the context of the book of Exodus, but also within the grand scope of Scripture and the message of redemption and salvation that resides within its pages. If you are looking to begin an in-depth study of Exodus, this is most definitely a commentary to have as part of your Bible study tool belt.

Buy the book at Exodus (Redesign): Saved for God’s Glory (Preaching the Word), WTS, or from the publisher Crossway by clicking here.

Read More »

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World

Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 in Book Reviews, Church, Featured

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World

OrdinaryContemporary Christianity seems to be overly fascinated with the extraordinary. Most Christians are most excited when they hear elaborate and exciting testimonies of God’s hand at work in this person’s life or we’re drawn to “this” person’s ministry because of their charisma and or gifting. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those who have been gifted from the Lord. We can and should learn from such saints; however, most of us though aren’t extraordinary. Sure, we have our areas where we are strong and we can help people by God’s grace. The truth is that most of our gifting’s and talents are ordinary. Thankfully we serve an extraordinary God who uses ordinary people. This is why I was glad to see Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World by Dr. Michael Horton come out.

Ordinary may seem like a weird title for a book. When “ordinary” is used in reference to Christianity we tend to think of how boring some church services are even though we would never voice that thought out loud. Or, we might think of some other ministry we are part of and how “ordinary” that ministry is. We tend to be most excited about the most charismatic and gifted leaders in the Church. Christians flock to these types of leaders and their ministries grow rapidly as a result. Or, we find a writer we truly enjoy and soon people are attracted to that writer or blogger, and devour everything they write. On the surface there is nothing wrong with this as long as we’re opening up our Bible’s along with what the teacher is saying. In addition to this what the teacher says/writes must be biblical. All of this is precisely why we need a book like Ordinary by Dr. Horton.

Ordinary seeks to call God’s people to New Testament Christianity. That is where Christians live their lives under Christ, under the authority of His undershepherds in the context of the local church, participating as often as the church does in the sacraments, living in community, building relationships with one another and hearing the Word preached, among other activities local churches may engage in!

Ordinary has two sections: part one is radical and restless, and part two is ordinary and content. In the first part of the book, the author critiques what he thinks is wrong with how many Christians approach Christianity. In the second part of the book the author calls readers to focus on applying the truth of biblical Christianity into their everyday lives. Within this section there was one passage that I disagreed with.

The author notes, “The power of our activism, campaigns, movements, and strategies cannot forgive sins or raise the dead. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation,” and, with Paul, we have no reason to be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16). That is why phrases like “living the gospel,” “being the gospel,” and “being partners with Jesus in his redemption of the world” are dangerous distortions of the biblical message of good news. The gospel is not about what we have done or are called to do, but the announcement of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ” (39-40).

At first this may sound good to us. After all, it’s not about us, it’s all about Jesus. With that said in the New Testament the Bible uses the indicative (what Christ has done) to inform or fuel the imperative, (what we are to do in light of what Christ has done). When Horton notes that “phrases like living the gospel” and the like are “dangerous distortions of the biblical message of the good news”, and “the gospel is not about what we have done or are called to do, but the announcement of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ” our first reaction may be to cheer him on and say, “Yes!” At first, I thought, I agreed with him. After all it’s not about our works—we are saved by the finished works of Christ, as R.C. Sproul famously said.

No faithful Christian wants to say it’s about them or boast in the work they are doing for the Lord. With that said the Bible presents a different view than Horton advocates so authoritatively. He states that “living the gospel” and the like are “dangerous distortions of the biblical message of the good news”. No Bible-believing Christian would ever say they contribute anything to the sovereign work of God’s grace. The Book of Romans elaborates on the great themes of salvation that is our depravity, sinfulness, justification, sanctification (definite, progress and glorification) and much more. Throughout the Book of Romans Paul uses the “therefore” to point his readers back to what he’s already taught them. Paul spends 11 chapters of Romans teaching the great truths of salvation and Christianity and only then moves to look for three chapters at how those truths are to be lived out in the context of everyday life. Yet, Horton wants us to believe that there is no “living out” of the gospel. This may not be what Horton means to suggest but it how it comes across at least to this reader. While Horton may want to call the reader away from performance based Christianity, which is a real threat to the good news, what he does isn’t helpful. Instead of rightly noting the biblical balance between the indicative and imperative—Horton overemphasizes the indicative and neglects the imperative. The indicative provides the fuel for the imperative. This is the balance we see in the Bible.

With that critique aside there is much to benefit from in this book. Horton has a clear love for the Lord Jesus and the local church. Furthermore, Horton calls his readers to the local church and not to be people who sit on the pews and observe only but are active participants in the local church. All of that is to be commended and applauded. We need these calls to the ordinary ministry of the Word and Spirit in the context of the local church today. This book will also help Christians to find contentment and a sustainable ministry in the hidden and humble places.

Ordinary has something for Christians at every stage of their growth. Growth in the grace of God doesn’t often occur overnight but rather steadily and over long haul. We need to understand today that yes, the Lord gives His people gifted saints, but He also uses ordinary people with ordinary gifts in extraordinary ways for His glory. That truth is worth celebrating in and enjoying because our God has given the Body of Christ these saints. Whether you agree with Horton on infant baptism or his points about “living the gospel” or not, there is much to be enjoyed in this book. Ordinary addresses the problems in contemporary evangelicalism with clarity and insight. This book will help Christians to move away from a hero, and celebrity Christianity to a more balanced and biblical understanding of New Testament Christianity. It is for that reason, I recommend this book and pray the Lord would use this book to encourage ordinary Christians with ordinary gifts to begin or continue serving an extraordinary God who saves, is sanctifying, and will one day glorify His people whom He is presently using by His grace, and for His glory.

Buy the book at Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, WTS Books, or from Zondervan.

Title: Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World

Author: Dr. Michael Horton

Publish: Zondervan (2014)

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.”


Read More »

New, Notable, and Forthcoming Books in 2015

Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Books, Featured

New, Notable, and Forthcoming Books in 2015

indexHere at Servants of Grace we read a lot of books. So many books that we regularly review over two hundred titles a year. You might be thinking, “That’s a crazy number of books”, and you’re right it is. As I was thinking about this towards the end of 2014, and knowing that our audience also loves to read, I thought it would be neat to regularly feature books we’re excited about. Sometimes this list will be quite long and at other times quite small. Our aim as it pertains to book reviews is to keep you up to date with the latest and greatest in Christian publishing. We trust that you find our reviews helpful in making our purchasing decisions. The majority of these books in the list that follows below haven’t been released yet but some have already been released. Where the books have more information I’ve included links so you can check them out. Where there wasn’t any information I didn’t include any links. With that said here’s a list of books from publishers we regularly read from.

Bethany House

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa


Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Dr. Russell Moore

Unleashed: Being Conformed to the Image of Christ by Dr. Eric Mason

I Will: Nine Habits of the Outwardly Focused Christian by Dr. Thom Rainer

Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy edited by David Mathis and John Piper

B&H Academic

Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture by Steven Smith

Going Public Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership by Bobby Jamieson

Commentary on Hebrews by Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner

A History of Christianity: An Introductory Survey by Joseph Early Jr.

Christian Focus

Mea Culpa: Learning from Mistakes in the Ministry by Kyle McClellan

Tough Topics 2: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions by Dr. Sam Storms

Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross by Colin S. Smith

Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Dr. Zach Eswine

Cruciform Press

Good News About Satan: A Gospel Look at Spiritual Warfare by Bob Bevington

The Secret of Spiritual Joy by William Farley


Why We Pray by William J. U. Philip

Experiencing the Trinity by Joe Thorn

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson

Newton on the Christian Life: To Live is Christ by Tony Reinke

Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word by Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr.

Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, walking by the Spirit by Dr. Sam Storms

Praying the Bible by Dr. Donald Whitney

Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice edited by Owen Strachan, and Jonathan Parnell Edited by Owen Strachan, Jonathan Parnell.

Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service by John Bolt

Owen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ by Dr. Matthew Barrett and Dr. Michael Haykin

Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry Edited by Matthew Hall and Owen Strachan.


He Will Be the Preacher: The Story of God’s Providence in My Life by Dr. Erwin Lutzer

The ISIS Crisis: What You Really Need to Know by Charles Dyer and Mark Tobley

Pathway to Freedom How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives by Alistair Begg

New Growth Press

Get your Story Straight by Kristen Hatton

God Made All of Me: A Read-Aloud story to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb

The Gospel Centered Parent by by Rose Marie Miller, Deborah Harrell, and Jack Klumpenhower

Grief Undone: A Journey With God and Cancer by Elizabeth W. D. Groves

Like Father, Like Son How Knowing God as Your Father Changes Men by Pete Alwinson

Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores by Diane Langberg

Rewrite Your Story: Discovering Your True Self by Adrian Smith

Reformation Trust

The Daring Mission of William Tyndale  (Lawson; Long Line Series)   

Crucial Questions (3) by Dr. Sproul

William Carey profile by Dr. Haykin (Long Line Series)

The Knight’s Map (children’s book) by Dr. R.C. Sproul

John Bunyan profile by Dr. Joel Beeke (Long Line Series)

Reformation Heritage

The Win Our Neighbors for Christ: The Missiology of the Three Forms of Unity by Wes Bredenhof

The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermenutics, and Human Origins by William VanDoodewaard

God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David Saxton

What is experiential Calvinism? By Ian Hamilton

Passion Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness by Jeremy Walker

Thomas Nelson

The Happy Christian by Dr. David Murray

The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World by Dr. Owen Strachan


Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls

Read More »