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.

SALE: Carson/Gaffin/Piper

There is a great deal going on now at Westminster Bookstore… three books for $20! Get D.A. Carson’s “Collected Writings on Scripture,” and the respective festschrifts of Richard Gaffin and John Piper, “Resurrection and Eschatology” and “For the Fame of God’s Name”—all for just $20! Click the links above or image below for more info.

Of course, you could buy them individually for up to 72% off, but why not save around 80% by buying all three?

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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Three contextual keys to studying the Bible

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How Pastors accidentally ruin their church

“Christians are in themselves no wiser than are other men. What they have, they have by grace.” (Cornelius Van Til)

“A fearer of God steers the rudder of his life according to the compass of the Word.” (Thomas Watson)

Please take some time to check out the other pages on this site. You’ll find several articles, FREE e-books, and book recommendations for your encouragement. Visit the Systematic Theology page or Historical Theology page first. Thanks!

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Here are the top stories and links for the day…

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David Murray shares 10 characteristics shared by great leaders

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Common problems with contemporary preaching

Christian Conservativism, Russell Moore, and Talk Radio

“Dismissal of the law leads to terrible consequences at every point—in our coming into the Christian life and in our continuing in the Christian life. It always leads to a superficial, glib, lightly happy Christian life, which has a false joy. There are people who say, ‘I’ve never had a doubt ever since I was converted.’ Some of them very much need to have doubts.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

“The death of Christ is efficacious to destroy and demolish the depravity of our flesh, and his resurrection, to effect the renovation of a better nature.” (John Calvin)

Please take some time to browse the other pages on this site (located in the tabs above). You’ll find several articles, FREE e-books, and book recommendations for your encouragement and edification. Check out the Exegetical Theology page or Apologetics page first… Soli Deo Gloria!

Canon Facts

Michael Kruger has provided a series on the New Testament canon at his site Canon Fodder. The series is entitled, Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize. I have provided excerpts from each article below:

1. The NT books are the earliest Christian writings we possess.

“They are the earliest Christian writings we possess and thus bring us the closest to the historical Jesus and to the earliest church. If we want to find out what authentic Christianity was really like, then we should rely on the writings that are the nearest to that time period.”

2. Apocryphal writings are from the second century or later.

“Not only are all New Testament writings from the first century, but all apocryphal writings (at least the ones that are extant) are from the second century or later. And many are from the third or fourth century… apocryphal writings constitute an interesting and fascinating source for the study of early Christianity. But, largely due to their late date, they do not offer a more compelling version of Christianity than the New Testament writings themselves.”

3. The NT books are unique—they are apostolic.

“One of the most basic facts about the New Testament canon that all Christians should understand is that the canon is intimately connected to the activities of the apostles… the apostles had the very authority of Christ himself. They were his mouthpiece. As such, their teachings, along with the prophets, were the very foundation of the church… If the church wanted to know the true Christian message, they would always need to look back to the teaching of the apostles… The books that the church regarded as apostolic were the books that were read, copied, and used most often in early Christian worship. These are the books that eventually became the New Testament canon. The canon is the byproduct of the ministry of the apostles.”

4. Some NT writers quote other NT authors and refer to it as Scripture.

“If the NT writers were citing other NT writers as Scripture, then that suggests the canon was not a later ecclesiastical development, but something early and innate to the early Christian faith.”

5. The four gospels are well established by the end of the second century.

“‘It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer than the number they are…’ (Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons). Here Irenaeus not only affirms the canonicity the four gospels, but is keen to point out that only these four gospels are recognized by the church.”

6. At the end of the second century, the Muratorian Fragment lists 22 of 27 NT books.

“One of the key data points in any discussion of canon is something called the Muratorian fragment (also known as the Muratorian canon). This fragment, named after its discoverer Ludovico Antonio Muratori, contains our earliest list of the books in the New Testament. While the fragment itself dates from the 7th or 8th century, the list it contains was originally written in Greek and dates back to the end of the second century (ca.180)… the Muratorian fragment affirms 22 of the 27 books of the New Testament. These include the four Gospels, Acts, all 13 epistles of Paul, Jude, 1 John, 2 John (and possibly 3rd John), and Revelation. This means that at a remarkably early point (end of the second century), the central core of the New Testament canon was already established and in place.”

7. Early Christians often used non-canonical writings.

“It is important to note that while Christians often cited and used non-canonical literature, they only rarely cited them as Scripture. For the most part, Christians were simply using these books as helpful, illuminating, or edifying writings. This is not all that different than practices in our modern day.”

8. The NT canon was not decided at Nicea—nor any other Church council.

“The Council of Nicea had nothing to do with the formation of the New Testament canon (nor did Constantine). Nicea was concerned with how Christians should articulate their beliefs about the divinity of Jesus. Thus, it was the birthplace of the Nicean creed… councils did not create, authorize, or determine the canon. They simply were part of the process of recognizing a canon that was already there… The shape of our New Testament canon was not determined by a vote or by a council, but by a broad and ancient consensus… the canon is not just a man-made construct. It was not the result of a power play brokered by rich cultural elites in some smoke filled room. It was the result of many years of God’s people reading, using, and responding to these books.”

9. Christians have disagreed about the canonicity of some NT books.

“God, for his own providential reasons, chose to deliver the canon through normal historical circumstances. And historical circumstances are not always smooth… these disagreements amongst Christians are sometimes used as an argument against the validity of the 27-book canon we know today… God sometimes uses normal historical processes to accomplish his ends. And those historical processes are not always neat and tidy. But, this should not detract from the reality that the ends are still God’s.”

10. Early Christians believed that canonical books were self-authenticating.

“It is interesting to note that the early church fathers, while agreeing that apostolicity and church-reception are fundamentally important, also appealed to another factor that is often overlooked in modern studies. They appealed to the internal qualities of these books… they argued that these books bore certain attributes that distinguished them as being from God… the early church fathers believed that evidence for the canonicity of books can be found in the books themselves. In other words, canonical books are self-authenticating… In the end, the church fathers teach us a very important truth. The NT canon we possess today is not due to the machinations of later church leaders, or to the political influence of Constantine, but due to the fact that these books imposed themselves on the church through their internal qualities.”

For the entire series, check out Canon Fodder.

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

 

Recommended reading:

Westminster Wednesday

THE WESTMINSTER LARGER CATECHISM

What man ought to believe concerning God…

Question 8:

Q. Are there more Gods than one?

A. There is but one only, the living and true God (1 John 5:7; Matt. 3:16–17; 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; John 10:30).

QUESTION 7

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH

Chapter I: Of the Holy Scripture

VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

ARTICLE 7

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

Recommended reading:

Sola Scriptura?

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY SOLA SCRIPTURA?

“We must see that the canon of Scripture is, in a real sense, established by the Scripture itself, because the canonical books are self-authenticating. As God’s revelation, they are recognized by the people of God as God’s own Word… In the deepest sense we cannot judge the Word, but the Word judges us… The self-authenticating character of the canon is demonstrated by the remarkable unanimity reached by the people of God on the canon.” (W. Robert Godfrey)

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

 

Recommended reading:

Heaven Tourism Rebuked

With all of the nominal “Christian” fanfare that books like “90 Minutes in Heaven” and “Heaven is for Real” have received in recent years, I was encouraged by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ accurate assessment of Christian experience according to the Bible:

“If my experience does not tally with the New Testament, it is not the Christian experience. It may be wonderful, it may be thrilling, I may have seen visions. But, I say, it matters not at all; if my experience does not tally with this, it is not the Christian experience.”

For more on this subject, see The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine and Heaven-Tourism.

Recommended reading:

Westminster Wednedsday

THE WESTMINSTER LARGER CATECHISM

Question 3:

Q. What is the Word of God?

A. The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19–21), the only rule of faith and obedience (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 22:18–19; Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:19, 21; Gal. 1:8–9; 2 Tim 3:15–16).

question 2

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH

Chapter I: Of Holy Scripture

III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.

ARTICLE 2

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

Recommended reading:

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