John Newton once wrote, “I have often wished we had more female pens employed in the service of the sanctuary. . . . In the article of essay writing, I think many are qualified to succeed better than most men, having a peculiar easiness of style, which few of us can imitate.” I agree with Newton. I am thankful for female pens within the church. The words “easiness of style” are especially poignant as I reflect on Gloria Furman’s latest book, Alive in Him. This short but bountiful book is a study of Ephesians, and Furman leads the reader through Paul’s well-known letter as if she is an experienced tour guide. She knows the sights well. One can tell that she has taken the energy and time to study these artifacts deeply so that those passing through might learn something, and be captured by the wonder of it all.
A major strength of Gloria Furman’s Alive in Him (besides being endorsed and foreworded by the venerable J.I. Packer of course) is that Furman takes an expositional look at the Scriptures in her study of Ephesians. She is not looking to reinvent the wheel with Ephesians. Rather, she leans on church history, exegetes the text, and the same-old gospel reminders we need day in and day out to form her content. I could totally see implementing this study into a small group or a reading group, or even studying Scripture one-on-one with someone.
I had many underlines throughout the book, but here are a few things I starred and re-read along the way:
“The first three chapters of Ephesians describe God’s eternal purpose to bring all things together in Christ, and so it is that our unity under Christ is the destiny of every believer. Christian unity isn’t a poetic metaphor; it’s an enduring reality grounded in the fellowship of the Trinity.” (109)
“Now, by God’s grace alone, we’re creatures of the new creation made in the image of the ascended one. The constitution of our hearts is changed, so we renounce our former way of life. Our loyalty is reassigned, so we serve the victorious king and walk in his loving way.” (126)
“You’re safe in Christ, beloved. Our captain has sealed us by his Spirit forever; there are no real “defectors” in God’s kingdom. The doctrine in Ephesians teaches us that those who do return to the kingdom of darkness were never truly in the light.” (170)
Furman’s work here is deeply theological, but she writes with wonderful clarity and shares much of her own experiences and how these truths have been made manifest in her life. This re-investigation of Ephesians through Alive in Him was insightful and full. I recommend this book to men and women alike seeking a solid, accessible resource on one of Paul’s most significant letters.