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: Worshipping with Calvin

Johnson, Terry L. “Worshipping with Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism,” Darlington, England: 2014. 460 pp. $23.99

The recent resurgence of Calvinistic soteriology and Reformation theology has sparked many a conversation and produced quite a few popular-level books by the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” crowd. Although we’ve seen many responses to these works, typically addressing the theology and general ideology of the New Calvinism movement, Terry Johnson sets out to provide a scholarly work that focuses on the elements of Reformed worship.

In “Worshipping with Calvin,” Johnson presents extensive biblical and historical arguments for how a local church should conduct its worship services. He begins by looking at the contemporary evangelical landscape and the unfortunate historical and theological anemia that plagues it. After offering a comparison between the early Church and the current state of the western Church, and giving a brief historical survey of the 20th century “worship wars,” he provides strong exegetical, historical, and theological arguments in favor of a decidedly Reformed approach to worship and ministry.

Next, the author emphasizes the strengths of Reformed worship and ministry. He contends that this particular approach to liturgy is God-centered, Bible-filled, Gospel-structured, Church-aware, and Spirit-dependent.

This book was a great encouragement to me. I am in agreement with much of what is said within, but there are several arguments that the author gives that either changed my mind or solidified an existing position. For instance, Johnson has convinced me of the use of lectio continua (consecutive reading) Bible readings and singing Psalms in corporate worship. While previously, I have utilized lectio selecta (selective reading) Scripture readings to “reinforce” the passage preached, the author has convinced me of the wisdom in implementing a continuous reading of both the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, while I have understood the importance of the Psalms for corporate worship, this book has convinced me of their necessity. Without dogmatically promoting a strict Psalms-only liturgical model, the author insists the inclusion of the Psalter and has convinced me that it is necessary to regularly and consistently involve Psalms in a worship service.

As a Reformed Baptist, I am in disagreement with the author’s views with regard to Covenant Theology and the sacrament of baptism (it is unfortunate that his treatment of credobaptism in chapter 6 only addresses the 16th century Anabaptists and not the 17th century Particular Baptists—though I acknowledge the book’s emphasis on John Calvin and the potential for anachronism), and while I have reservations with Johnson’s observations about ethnicity, his research is top-notch. Regardless of any covenantal differences I may have with Johnson, I strongly agree with the over-arching theme of this book—that our worship should be prescribed by Scripture and rooted in the historicity of the Church (and particularly that of the Reformation period). The cultural trends and encroachment of worldliness in contemporary American Christianity have spurned a new downgrade in the liturgical life of the Church, and my hope is that books like this will precipitate a doxological reformation in local evangelical churches.

Although this is a book primarily aimed at Presbyterians, I would recommend this book to any one who claims to be a Protestant Christian—particularly Pastors and Elders. Johnson offers a cogent exhortation for modern Christians to compare their liturgy with Scripture and Church history. He provides an abundance of Scriptural references, and quotes a multitude of well-known Pastors, theologians, and church historians (around 37% of the book is comprised of a bibliography and notes) to support his position. Terry Johnson’s “Worshipping with Calvin” is a helpful resource for Christians who want to glorify God in worship according to His Word.

For more on this subject, please visit the Historical Theology page.

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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Enter to win a subscription to Leadership Journal from The Brave Reviews

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“Why should my heart be fixed where my home is not?” (Richard Baxter)

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Thank you for visiting ACTIVE/didactic. Please take some time to browse the rest of the site (pages are located in the tabs above). Start with the Pastoral Theology page or Systematic Theology page first. Soli Deo Gloria!

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Get Timothy Witmer’s “The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Family” for only 99¢ for Amazon Kindle

Get Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert’s “Preach: Theology Meets Practice” for only $4.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get James Boice and Philip Ryken’s “14 Words from Jesus” for only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Ligonier Connect is offering FREE web courses on Worldview, Apologetics, and Philosophy

Enter to win Michael Haykin’s “Patrick of Ireland” and Marvin Jones’ “Basil of Caesarea” from Christian Focus Publications

Enter to win a stack of New Growth Press books from Tim Challies

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Check out Ligonier Ministries’ $5 Friday featuring Douglas Bond’s “The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts”

Enter to win Thom Rainer’s “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” and a genuine leather HCSB Study Bible

Get Walter Brueggemann’s “Spirituality of the Psalms” for FREE for Logos Bible Software and enter to win the 24-volume collection

Get Ben Witherington’s “What’s in the Word” for FREE for Logos Bible Software and enter to win the 5-volume collection

Enter to win a subscription to Leadership Journal from The Brave Reviews

Heath Lambert on the priority and capacity of balancing family and ministry

David Prince gives a helpful corrective to Andy Stanley’s claim that we should not pray for revival

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Thank you for visiting ACTIVE/didactic. Please take some time to browse the rest of the site (pages are located in the tabs above). Start with the Pastoral Theology page or Systematic Theology page first. Soli Deo Gloria!

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Get William Edgar’s “Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality” for 50% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

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Get Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert’s “Preach: Theology Meets Practice” for only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get James Boice and Philip Ryken’s “14 Words from Jesus” for only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Enter to win an autographed copy of Brian Hedges’ “Active Spirituality”

Get Walter Brueggemann’s “Spirituality of the Psalms” for FREE for Logos Bible Software and enter to win the 24-volume collection

Get Ben Witherington’s “What’s in the Word” for FREE for Logos Bible Software and enter to win the 5-volume collection

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Please take the time to browse the other pages on this site. You’ll find several articles, book reviews and recommendations, and even some FREE e-books. Check out the Systematic Theology page or Biblical Theology page first. Soli Deo Gloria!

SALE: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Crossway‘s 2009 edition of John Bunyan’s classic “The Pilgrim’s Progress” is now available for the excellent price of $15 at Westminster Bookstore. Even better, they’re throwing in a FREE copy of Leland Ryken’s “Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress” from the Christian Guides to the Classics series (valued at $5.99)!

For more on Bunyan and “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” please visit Chapel Library

Recommended reading:

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Please take the time to visit some of the other pages on this site (you’ll find them above in the tabs). There are a number of FREE e-books, articles, and book recommendations for your edification. Check out the Systematic Theology page or Historical Theology page first… enjoy!

Review: “Spiritual Warfare”

The latest book review from Cross Focused Reviews is the new title from Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura, “Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective” (Reformation Heritage). As always, I appreciate the opportunity given to me by Cross Focused Media to review books… it is especially nice when they are titles I am looking forward to reading. There was a lot of momentum building up with the release of “Spiritual Warfare,” and by the grace of God, I’ve had the pleasure of reading it in order to provide my thoughts to prospective readers.

“Spiritual Warfare” is a short book (124 pages) that covers the biblical teaching of “The Armor of God” in Ephesians 6. The foreword is written by Steven Lawson, who, in my opinion, is one of the best expositors of our time. He rightly points out: “There are three  formidable foes with which we contend—the world, the flesh, and the devil.” (p. vii) This is the basic theme of the book, which authors Borgman and Ventura seek to unpack.

The introduction is a call for balance. The authors contend that the biblical approach to spiritual warfare is to avoid naturalism and over-spiritualizing. We are right to recognize the “supernatural” reality of things unseen, but this is an area of much theological confusion, fantasy, and even false teaching. But, as Christians, “have been delivered from Satan’s dominion through the finished work of Christ, yet we still battle.” (p. 5) The importance of biblical literacy and discernment cannot be stressed enough.

Through the next four chapters, Borgman and Ventura lay the foundational context for comprehending the “whole armor of God.” We must have explanation prior to application. In order for us to employ this text in our lives, we need to know something of the historical background of the epistle to the Ephesians. The authors give us a guided tour of the “spiritual city” of Ephesus (pp. 7–10) and help us understand the apostle’s exhortation in the midst of spiritual warfare. We are called to “be strong in the Lord” (chapter 1), and to “put on the whole armor of God” (chapter 2), so we can “stand against the wiles of the Devil” (chapter 3), because we “wrestle against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (chapter 4).

Chapter 5 marks the beginning of the exposition on the armor passage (Ephesians 6:14–17) and continues through to chapter 11. We learn what it is to stand and survive in the fight of our lives. Below are some highlights:

The Belt of Truth:

“As the soldier’s belt was placed at the center of his body, so truth must be central in our lives, encompassing all that we do if we are to be prepared for the fight with Satan, our crafty foe.” (p. 44)

The Breastplate of Righteousness:

“The breastplate was a chief piece of defensive armor for a soldier because it protected his vital organs during battle, and it serves the same function for us spiritually in our battle with Satan.” (p. 50)

The Gospel of Peace Footwear:

“Under enemy attack, we can dig firmly into the soil of the good news. The gospel is an indispensable part of our spiritual military equipment. It makes us immovable in the day of trouble.” (p. 63)

The Shield of Faith:

“As the shield protected a soldier in combat, so also faith spiritually protects us in every situation from whatever the devil might launch at us.” (p. 66)

The Helmet of Salvation:

“As the soldier’s helmet protected his head in battle against enemy fire, so the helmet of salvation spiritually protects our minds against Satan’s attacks.” (p. 74)

The Sword of the Spirit:

“The sword of the Spirit comes from the Spirit. Certainly, the sword belongs to the Spirit, but the emphasis falls on the Spirit as the source of this sword… When the Word is in our heart and mind, when we apply it and use it, it is the sword of the Spirit…” (pp. 80–81)

In chapter 11, the authors explain the centrality of prayer in spiritual warfare. As the apostle Paul concludes his section with an exhortation for constant prayer and watchfulness, Borgman and Ventura rightly emphasize the importance of prayer. “Prayer is not a seventh piece of armor,” they write, “but the means by which each piece is effectively employed… We can only appropriate the armor through prayer. The armor of God does not consist of literal pieces we can put on; rather, it consists of spiritual truths that the Christian appropriates through prayer.” (p. 88) The theme of prayer carries over into chapter 12. As the apostle’s teaching on prayer moves from combat supplication (Ephesians 6:18) to wartime proclamation (Ephesians 6:19), so does the book in this section. Borgman and Ventura explain the components of warfare proclamation: The Word must be given (pp. 101–102), the mystery of the gospel must be made known boldly (p. 102), and the Spirit must empower the preacher in his holy obligation. (pp. 102–103)

The book closes out with a “Spiritual Warfare Debriefing,” in which the authors help the reader understand the nature of the Christian life. It is a struggle that must be lived in God’s strength, so that we may stand and resist in order to advance the gospel. This is done by way of union with Christ—we must utilize the spiritual blessings that we have in Him. (pp. 106–110).

There are also a few appendices that the reader may find helpful as well. Appendix 1 is a pastoral approach to explaining God’s sovereignty over Satan, featuring case studies of Job and Paul. The second appendix considers the question, “Can a Christian Be Demon-Possessed?” and exposes some false teaching on the issue. The final appendix is a plea for people to pray for their elders. The authors’ hope is for the reader to consider the reality of the enemy’s strategy—Satan seeks to attack leaders in order to inflict the most possible damage upon Christ’s flock. Our pastors and elders desperately need our prayer so that they may lead effectively in the war against sin, the flesh, and the devil.

This book was a fairly easy read and I would recommend it as a good introduction to the topic of Spiritual warfare. It may also be a useful teaching or preaching resource for this section of the Bible. I found some of the information to be very helpful, but I was expecting a little more from this book. While I was hoping for it to be an in-depth teaching on the subject akin to Thomas Brooks’ “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” or William Gurnall’s “The Christian in Complete Armour,” it read more like a beginner’s guide to “the whole armor of God.” Be that as it may, my preconceived notions should not take away from the importance and potency of this small book. With so much sensationalism and false teaching going around on the topic of spiritual warfare, this is a solid presentation of the biblical teaching on the subject and is a valuable resource for the Church militant.

For more on the subject, please visit the Pastoral Theology page.

See also:

Rob Ventura interviewed on The Janet Mefford Show

Borgman and Ventura interviewed at The Confessing Baptist

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.