Review: Acts (EP Study Commentary)

Waters, Guy Prentiss. “Acts: EP Study Commentary,” Evangelical Press, Watchmead, UK: 2014. 614 pp. $44.99

Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews, I’ve had the opportunity to review another book. This time around, to my delight, it is a commentary. I own a few commentaries on Acts, so I was curious to see what this one might offer. The EPSC is a solid series that boasts a handful of renowned scholars and theologians, and it seems that it just keeps getting better. Guy Prentiss Waters’ volume on Acts is a welcome addition.

                                                                               The author dedicates this book to Richard Gaffin (author of “Perspectives on Pentecost”) and relies heavily on commentators such as F.F. Bruce and John Stott, which are good indicators as to where he is coming from. Waters is a confessional Presbyterian (a teaching elder in the PCA) and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, which are appealing credentials.

The commentary begins with a useful outline and introduction that includes information about the author, date, title, genre, and purpose. Waters breaks the commentary up into 18 chapters, focusing on “a geographical progression—Jerusalem; Judea and Samaria; the end of the earth,” including a supporting role of Jewish and Gentile missions as documented by the respective ministries of the apostles Peter and Paul (pp. 22–23). This is helpful for the reader because it orients the narrative in salvation history—which is crucial for proper interpretation of the book of Acts.

One of things I appreciate the most about this commentary is the “Application”  at the end of each chapter. Waters uses these sections to drive home the practical aspect of the narrative. This is where we catch a glimpse of the authors’ pastoral heart. Though it is clear he has done the heavy exegetical work for the reader, he doesn’t bog the audience down with the intricacies of his scholarship. What we do see is the fruit of a masterful expositor rightly dividing the word of truth.

I would happily recommend this commentary to anyone who has the task of teaching the word of God, or even the lay person who just wants to dig deeper. A commentary on Acts written from a confessionally Reformed perspective is a great benefit to the Church, and Guy Waters’ volume in the EPSC holds a respectful position in the ever-increasing archive of biblical commentaries.

Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

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Review: Salvation by Crucifixion

This season is a time for renewal. People everywhere rejoice as the gloom and chill of winter gives way to the warmth and freshness of spring. There is no question that this annual climate change has been orchestrated by God to be a creative parable for redemption. For instance, Richard Sibbes, the great 16th and 17th century Puritan theologian, once said: “As the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.” It is no wonder, to us who celebrate Resurrection Day, that death and resurrection also apply metaphorically.

Philip Graham Ryken’s latest book, “Salvation by Crucifixion” (Christian Focus Publications), has arrived just in time for Easter and I have the privilege of reviewing it for Cross Focused Reviews. This short book is based on a series of evangelistic sermons given at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA. Ryken and the late James Montgomery Boice revived an old tradition of preaching during the lunch hour in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Day, and this book is the fruit of that ministry.

The books consists of seven chapters, which are sermons on the cross of Christ. Each sermon explains a characteristic or result of the crucifixion of Jesus. Ryken seeks to show the reader why “the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most important event in human history.” (p. 13)

In the first chapter, the author tells us of the necessity of the cross—that it was necessary to fulfill God’s plan, pay for sin, and to save sinners. Chapter two speaks of the “offense” of the cross. It was an abomination to the Romans and a curse to the Jews, but it is also insulting to any “moral” person. (pp. 35–37) “The Peace of the Cross” is the title of the next chapter. Here, Ryken writes of the enmity between humanity and God and the reconciliation that Christ has provided in His cross-work.  The fourth chapter is similar to the second, in that the shame of the cross (Heb. 12:2) is closely related to its foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). The author spells out the power and wisdom of God in the saving cross of Christ. Chapter five is probably my favorite exposition in the book. Entitled “The Triumph of the Cross,” it speaks of the debt acquired by our sin and its cancellation upon the cross. Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities [and]… made  a public spectacle of them,” (Col. 2:15) which has wrought victory over death for those united with Christ. In the sixth chapter, Ryken shows us the humiliation of Christ in His incarnation and (active/passive) obedience. He was humble in life and even unto death—by willingly being nailed to a vile cross in obedience! The reader can’t help but ask, “How should I then live?” Finally, in chapter seven, the author concludes by helping us understand the “unusual obsession” of boasting in the cross of Christ. (pp. 86–87) This boasting is unusual because it is other-focused, rather than self-centered. The Christian knows he has not brought anything to the salvation equation except for his sin, and so his boast is in the cross that saves.

“Salvation by Crucifixion” is a wonderful little book. It’s helpful for preachers and teachers in that it shows what an evangelistic, cross-focused sermon is supposed to look like. It’s an encouragement to Christians everywhere because the gospel is laid bare and the doctrines of salvation are clearly explained. And since the content is evangelistic, it is an excellent resource for outreach. The book is small and short, so one could very easily hand them out while witnessing to others. I recommend having a few on hand for the purpose of distribution.

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Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.