Review: China’s Reforming Chuches

120Baugus, Bruce P. “China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom,” Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, MI: 2014. 320 pp. $20.00

As a relatively sheltered westerner with no missionary experience, I can safely say that my knowledge of Christianity in foreign contexts is extremely limited. Although I have read books and watched DVD’s on missions that have improved my understanding of global Christianity, there are still historical-cultural realities that are beyond my grasp. My perspective on Chinese Christianity, as this book informed me, has been quite skewed and I’ve been guilty of constructing  a naive caricature of the Church in China.

I am very grateful to Cross Focused Reviews for opportunity to review this book—it is an encouraging, and eye-opening read that has helped me to better understand and appreciate global Christianity. What this book offers is an orientation to the history of Christianity in the south Pacific, the presence of Presbyterian and Reformed churches in China today, and the shape of things to come with regard to Reformed/Presbyterianism in the far east.

In this book, you’ll find fascinating stories of missionary bravery as well as major mistakes that have occurred in the history of missions in China. You’ll learn about the sociopolitical issues throughout China’s history and how the gospel mission has been advanced and hindered. You’ll read of the great similarities between the Church in the west and east—the rise of postmodernism and the challenges of materialism in a post-industrial world.

Perhaps the most compelling section of the book is Part 3, in which the authors take a look at the challenges and opportunities for Presbyterianism in China. Here, readers will read of the multitude of social issues that pose difficulties for gospel ministry and the dichotomous relationship between the state-registered TSPM (Three-Self Patriotic Movement) churches and unregistered house churches. The section closes with an essay in which David VanDrunen offers a two-kingdoms approach to ministry in China (which is sure to cause a bit of a stir), and Guy Prentiss Waters offers an argument for global Presbyterian polity from Acts 15.

The book concludes by looking at the opportunity for Christian publishing in China, a report on Chinese theological education, and the indigenization (the use of Chinese language) and contextualization of the Reformed faith in the Chinese culture. The appendix includes Robert Morrison’s (the first Protestant missionary to arrive on Chinese soil) 19th century catechism that is based upon the Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1647.

Regardless of one’s views of soteriology or ecclesiology, this book should prove to be an encouragement for those interested in the gospel mission in China—which should be all who name Christ as their Savior. Baugus’ “China’s Reforming Churches” provides a captivating look into the past, present, and future of the gospel mission in China, which helps Christians understand the global impact of the gospel so they can minister effectively to those they come into contact with.

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.

Advertisements

Notable & Newsworthy

Here are the stories and links for today…

Get Wayne Grudem’s “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of Over 100 Disputed Questions” for 50% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Get John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and Leland Ryken’s “A Christian Guide to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress” for just $15 at Westminster Bookstore

Download R.C. Sproul’s “5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow” for FREE from Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries

Enter to win FREE registration to the 2015 Gospel Coalition National Conference and FREE books by John Piper and Mez McConnell from 20 Schemes

Get Iain Duguid’s “Hero of Heroes: Seeing Christ in the Beatitudes” for just $1.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get Mark Dever’s “The Church: The Gospel Made Visible” for just $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get Kevin DeYoung’s “The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness” for just 99¢ for Amazon Kindle

Check out Ligonier Ministries’ $5 Friday deals featuring Stephen Nichols’ “Reformation Profiles” teaching series (DVD)

Enter to win 11 Reformation Heritage books from Tim Challies’ Free Stuff Friday

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

Get Willem van Asselt’s “Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism” for FREE from Reformation Heritage

Download a FREE copy of Iain Duguid’s “Is Jesus in the Old Testament?” from Westminster Bookstore

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

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

Three contextual keys to studying the Bible

A short biography of John Bunyan by Geoff Thomas

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!

Notable & Newsworthy

This is my first time posting from my phone, so I am sure my OCD tendencies will spike due to formatting and layout… but I want to be more “active” here and my computer is on the fritz.

These are some of the links, articles, and quotes I’ve come across recently:

Win 5 Welwyn Commentaries from Evangelical Press

FREE J.I. Packer e-book on the 10 Commandments

Win Paul Washer’s 3-Volume “Recovering the Gospel” series

Win a stack of books by Jeremy Walker and Mez McConnell plus some other stuff from 20 Schemes

Get J.I. Packer’s “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” for FREE (audiobook)

Get Douglas Bond’s “The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts” for FREE (e-book) from Reformation Trust and Ligonier

Father arrested after voicing concern over undisclosed questionable content in daughter’s 9th grade reading curriculum

Kevin DeYoung on Elders and confessional subscription

Russell Moore on sexual morality and capitulating to cultural pressures for church growth

Tim Challies’ helpful explanation of how Roman Catholicism is an unbiblical perversion of the Gospel

Also, have you ever wondered “What does Jesus mean when He says, ‘to fulfill all righteousness’ (Matt. 3:15) with regard to His baptism?” Well, here is a helpful answer from Ligon Duncan:

“He doesn’t just say, it is appropriate for Me to fulfill all righteousness by being baptized. He recognizes that there is something that both He and John must do in order to fulfill the plan of God and part of that is going to be done in receiving John’s baptism. Notice as well, that He gives an explanation to John. John, I am not being baptized because I need repentance. I am being baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness.

Baptism as you know, was used in the Old Testament. It was a form of consecration. When a priest reached the age at which he was entering into his public ministry, we are told in Numbers chapter 8, that he was baptized. He was consecrated, set apart, showing that God had called him into service and that he was to serve in God’s kingdom and the Lord Jesus Christ is being consecrated to service in this baptism. What does it mean though? That He was to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness? Well, there are many, many things that that means. But let me just share a few of those things with you.

First, Jesus’ baptism was an affirmation of John’s ministry. By being baptized it was as if Jesus was saying, John I want you to baptize Me, because that will show that your message was true, your ministry was true, and it will link Me, the Messiah, with your ministry, which was to pronounce the coming of the Messiah, and it will link My ministry with your ministry as building upon it. So that is the first thing that His baptism does to fulfill all righteousness.

It also serves to relieve John’s doubts. We know from John 1:31, that John himself had been unsure about the identity of the Messiah up until this time. In fact, we are told in the Gospels elsewhere that John had his doubts later on. Jesus did not turn out to be quite who he was expecting, and he had to ask the Lord on at least one occasion, “Are You the one, or is there another?” This baptism was the Lord Jesus’ gift to John to assure him, “Yes I am the one. John, remember you baptized Me. Remember I am the one that you were preaching towards.”

This baptism also serves to confirm the message of John. It symbolizes the Lord Jesus’ identification with His people and their plight. It is as if Jesus is saying, ‘Yes, John’s message is right. You are sinners, you do need redemption from sin. And My receiving of this baptism, is My sign that I am identifying with you and I will be the sin-bearer so the baptism of repentance has efficacy.’

It is also a sign that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah. He is publicly showing and claiming that He is the Messiah who comes to take away the sins of the world. And that is why He enters into the baptism of repentance even though He is sinless. For He is the Messiah who comes to eradicate sin in the lives of His people.

The baptism also serves, and this is clear from verses 16 and 17, that God has anointed and appointed and equipped Christ for ministry. The baptism is a sign of God’s approval of the Lord Jesus. A sign that God has chosen the Lord Jesus to be Messiah on the part of His people.

And finally, the baptism fulfills all righteousness because it is a sign Christ Himself is willing to take on the role as our Mediator. He is willing to be our Redeemer. In the baptism, the Lord steps down. He enters humbly and receives the baptism. He acknowledges, Lord, I will receive all the humiliation that is necessary to fulfill My work on behalf of My people. I will take any humiliation necessary in order to save My people from their sins. The baptism shows Jesus’ willing acceptance of the Messianic role. And so John, how much he understood, we don’t know, John says, ‘Okay, Lord, I will baptize You.’

The Lord Jesus’ baptism was an act that He performed on our behalf as the mediator of the covenant of grace. He did not need the baptism of repentance. And He did not repent on our behalf. But He did identify Himself with His people as the one who would be the sin bearer and the whose baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit would bring renovation of our hearts and lives.”

Here is a great quote from Graeme Goldsworthy’s “According to Plan” on the work of the Holy Spirit and the temple in the New Covenant:

“Wherever the Holy Spirit takes the word of Christ and gathers people to the Savior, there is the new temple.”

JD Hall of Reformation Montana shared this excellent quote from Charles Spurgeon the other day:

“I do not hear him say, ‘Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow.’ Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.”

Review: Gospel Assurance and Warnings

The latest volume in the Recovering the Gospel series, “Gospel Assurance and Warnings,” has been published and follows “The Gospel’s Power and Message” and “The Gospel Call and True Conversion” (read my review here) in the attempt to clear up misconceptions and boldly proclaim some of the essentials of the Christian faith. Paul Washer aims to present Biblical truth as taught by faithful men throughout the historic Protestant tradition while unraveling many of the popular, but erroneous teachings that have crept into American evangelicalism. Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with the opportunity to review Washer’s newest book.

“Gospel Assurance and Warnings” is a decent sized book (around 250 pages) that is composed of two sections. The first section is on Biblical Assurance and part two is on Gospel Warnings.

In the first two chapters, Washer writes about the false assurance of empty professors and the necessity of self-examination in the life of a Christian. The remaining chapters of the first section are essentially an exposition of the apostle John’s first epistle and covers the biblical evidence of conversion such as confession and repentance of sin (pp. 29–39), keeping God’s commandments (pp. 41–50), purification (pp. 105–114), and practicing righteousness (pp. 115–125).

The second half starts off with the claim that the modern “gospel” has been reduced to a shell of redemptive truth and provides the sobering truth that many professing Christians in the West are self-deceived due to false assurance. Whether they have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” or walked an aisle or received some kind of pastoral confirmation of conversion, Washer points out that these relatively recent inventions are not biblical representations or the doctrines of regeneration and conversion. The last three chapters of the book are an exposition of Jesus’ strong words in Matthew 7; Washer elaborates on the small gate (pp. 167–188), the narrow way (pp. 189–211), the evidence of gospel transformation (pp. 213–225), and the dangers of a false profession (pp. 228–252).

The book closes with an incredible quote by Charles Spurgeon urging us to be about our Father’s business: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” (p. 252)

I enjoyed much of this book, and as someone who is familiar with the pulpit ministry of Brother Washer, I have benefited from a lot of the content within by listening to his sermons. Anyone who has been blessed by the preaching of Paul Washer will be encouraged by “Gospel Assurance and Warnings,” and they will inevitably note familiarity and similarities between his sermons and the book. His bold stance against “decisional” regeneration, the “sinner’s prayer”, and “easy-believism” is to be commended in an era of theological compromise and downgrade. There are many people who would benefit greatly from the counsel and correction in this book.

While I agree with pretty much everything said by the author and applaud him for his thoroughly Scriptural exposé of American Evangelicalism, there are a few things that bothered me about the book. First of all, it is somewhat repetitive. To be fair, there is a lot of repetition in the apostle’s letter, and while it is a good way to drive things home and secure them in the memory banks of the reader, the author’s thoughts sound more like echoes of lament rather than didactic reinforcement. As true and important as his sentiments may be, I believe Brother Paul’s points came across loud and clear, and his book could have been shorter without sacrificing essential content.

Secondly, there seemed to be more “warning” than “assurance” in the first section of the book. Sure, topics like “false assurance” and “self-examination” require cautionary measures and must be discussed in a book like this, but even Washer’s exposition of John’s first epistle reads more like a way to tell if someone is a false convert. While this information is undoubtedly helpful, and while John’s epistle has it’s share of warnings, the purpose of his letter was to assure believers that they were recipients of eternal life. With that in mind, I thought this first section of the book did more to reinforce my thoughts about problems in evangelicalism and the rampant theological errors (and possible empty professions) perpetrated by many who claim faith in Christ. This section does focus on assurance, but it seemed to be eclipsed by the exposure of error in contemporary evangelicalism. I understand that the purpose of this book as a whole is different than that of 1 John, but I felt Washer could have been more pastoral in the “assurance” section.

Lastly, I was not impressed with the way it was ordered. I think the publisher could have done a better job with the layout. It seems that if the book sections were reversed, it would have been a better book. I know that sounds like a petty complaint, and it certainly is a minor detail that does not affect the content (definitely a matter of preference that would not cause me to demerit the book), but it is my opinion that the book would have greater efficacy in driving home the main point.

While my review may sound overly critical (which is quite possible), I am thankful for this book and would recommend it to a number of people. It would be rather difficult to recommend it to the self-deceived false converts that the book exposes, but they would surely be the people who need it the most. I would surely recommend this to pastors and preachers. Those who are already laboring to make the truths in this book known will be encouraged and those who need to apply these truths in their ministry will be challenged and hopefully convicted. The author does an excellent job of addressing downgrade in contemporary evangelicalism and puts his finger on those areas of greatest concern with the hope of revival in the churches and recovery of the biblical gospel.

For more on this subject, please visit Monergism.

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.

Review: John Knox

Simonetta Carr has done it again. “John Knox” is the seventh installment of her acclaimed “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series (published by Reformation Heritage). Here she sets out to tell the story of John Knox, the great Reformer of Scotland. If you would like to know more about this great series, please check out the Christian Biographies for Young Readers website.

I am always looking forward to new volumes for this series as I am a student of Historical Theology and plan on raising my children with great respect for the Christian heritage and reverence for Church history. I have read Carr’s volume on Anselm of Canterbury (you can read my review HERE), and plan on purchasing the other volumes in the future. The literary content and artwork (by Matt Abraxas) in these books is wonderful, but what is also impressive is the quality of materials used produce them.

Carr begins the book with an introduction that informs the reader of the sociopolitical context in which Knox lived (pp. 5–6). The Protestant Reformation had moved from continental Europe to England and Scotland by way of travelers. The author makes note of one such pilgrim, Patrick Hamilton, who brought the biblical gospel back to his home country of Scotland only to be killed by Roman Catholic authorities. After a few changes in the political landscape, commoners were given access to the Bible and Knox was converted by the preaching of the gospel of salvation through faith alone. (p. 8) Shortly thereafter, the freedoms which the Protestants enjoyed were rescinded (p. 10) and so Knox went to work as a bodyguard for George Wishart, who was a gospel preacher on the run from Roman Catholic authorities. (pp. 11–12)

Wishart was killed, and Knox went to live at St. Andrews Castle (pp. 14–15), where he began his pulpit ministry. The author points out that both Protestants and Roman Catholics shared preaching responsibilities, which I thought was very interesting. According to the author, Knox rebuked a Catholic priest who claimed that Rome was the “true bride of Christ” and preached his first sermon as a response to the claim. “In his sermon,” writes Carr, “Knox explained that Christ is the only Head of the church, and only the Bible has the final say. He also showed how many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church had been invented by men.” (p. 18)

In 1547, the Scottish government overthrew St. Andrews with the help of France and the Protestants were arrested. John Knox was sentenced to row in the galleys of a ship, and endured severe persecution from his Roman Catholic captors along with the miserable living conditions and grueling slave labor. (pp. 19–24). Two years later, he was released and sent to Berwick, England where he was free to preach under the rule of King Edward VI, a Protestant. Unfortunately, his stay in England was cut short when King Edward died suddenly, leaving his Roman Catholic half-sister Mary Tudor (commonly referred to as “Bloody Mary” for her vicious reputation) to rule the throne. Knox fled to France, and later moved to Switzerland to learn from John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger. (pp. 25–30)

Knox married Marjory Bowes in Scotland in 1555 before returning to Geneva to pastor a church of English refugees who fled Mary Tudor’s persecution. (p. 31–32) John returned to Scotland at the dawn of the Scottish Revolution to pastor St. Andrews Church, and also served as an army chaplain. When the war was over, Scotland formed a parliament which established the country as a Protestant nation and Knox was one of the men who drafted the Scots Confession of Faith. (pp. 31–42)

Shortly after the death of Marjory, the Roman Catholic Queen Mary Stuart returned to a very Protestant Scotland. Knox was quite vocal about her participation in the mass and they spoke their concerns to each other on a number of occasions. According to Carr, Knox even spoke out about the Queen’s desire to marry a Roman Catholic Prince! (pp. 44–48) This, of course, caused severe hostility between them and marked the decline of the Queen’s rule. When Scottish Nobles forced the Queen to resign the crown, her son James VI of Scotland became the King and Knox preached at his coronation. He continued to preach in his home country until his death in 1572. (pp. 50–54)

Simonetta Carr has written a wonderful little biography of John Knox. I’m a history nerd with a special appreciation for the Reformation, so I am rather biased in my opinion… but she puts a lot of time into researching her subject and likes to include interesting details and side stories, which makes the book an entertaining read for anyone. One example of such is the downward spiral of Queen Mary Stuart. Though it was a sad state of affairs, I was fascinated by the alleged conspiracy to murder her second husband, her imprisonment, and the plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth that resulted in her execution. (pp. 49–50, 60) The author also includes a “Did You Know?” section with additional information relative to the story, as well as a portion of The Scots Confession of faith, which I thought was very helpful in rooting the reader in the historical reality of the book. I really enjoyed “John Knox” and look forward to the release of future volumes.

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

Recommended reading:

See also:
Review: “Anselm of Canterbury”
Carl Trueman and Todd Pruit interview Simonetta on Mortification of Spin

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: Christian Biographies

Westminster Bookstore has the 7 volume “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series by Simonetta Carr (Reformation Heritage Books) on sale for 50% OFF (individual volumes are on sale for 45% OFF). These are excellent Church History resources for children and adults alike—and a great series for use in discipleship and homeschooling. Click the images or links below…

7 Volume Christian Biographies for Young Readers Set (50% OFF)
(Anselm and John Knox biographies are not shown in above image)

Lady Jane Grey (45% OFF)

Athanasius (45% OFF)

John Owen (45% OFF)

Augustine (45% OFF)

John Calvin (45% OFF)

Anselm (45% OFF)

John Knox (45% OFF)

You can also check out the promotional video here:

Read my review of Simonetta’s “Anselm of Canterbury” and be on the look out for my review of the latest volume in the series, “John Knox.”

Recommended reading:

 

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.

Review: Life in Christ

The good folks at Cross Focused Reviews have blessed me with another book to review. I was really excited about the prospect of reviewing this book, as it deals with what I see as one of the most neglected aspects of the Christian life as represented in mainstream American evangelicalism: Discipleship. As the title implies, the book also covers the glorious doctrine of Union with Christ—which in its own right is a teaching that is largely overlooked. Jeremy Walker‘s “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ” is a welcome addition to contemporary discipleship resources that is not only pastoral, but thoroughly biblical and theologically precise.

In the first chapter, “Looking to Jesus,” he instructs the reader as to how one comes to Christ for salvation. Walker examines the command and invitation of the gospel, as well as the purpose and promise of the gospel. Beginning with the contrast between human depravity and the necessity of regeneration, the author weaves biblical references in and through to help the reader understand the Bible’s teaching of conversion–repentance and faith–and the grace of being declared righteous according to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In chapter two, Walker seeks to unpack the doctrine of Union with Christ. He points to the teachings of the apostle Paul to explain the Christian’s position “in Christ” and the Christian’s nature as a “new creation.” (pp. 22–27) The author continues by rightfully expounding upon 2 Corinthians 5:17. He explains that for the Christian, “the old has gone and is gone for good; the new has come and keeps on coming.” (p. 28) Walker then closes out the chapter with an evangelistic appeal: “Whoever comes to Christ in faith–repenting of his sins, seeing his misery without Christ, seeking grace to be in Christ–and earnestly desiring that one day he might see and be with Christ–will find Christ to be his Savior and Lord and will enter into the blessed realities of the new creation in himself now and look forward to a life in a new heaven and new earth with Christ in days to come, the very heaven of heaven.” (p. 34)

Walker speaks of “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ” in the third chapter, and described the glorious riches of Christ. Surveying the book of Ephesians, he shows the reader the “unsearchable” love, grace, forgiveness, wisdom, power, joy, truth, assurance, hope, and mercy in Christ (pp. 38–44). The glorious person of Christ is next to be considered, as the author gives a Christological overview regarding the deity, humanity, agony, and glory of the Savior. The chapter concludes with an explanation of the glorious mystery of the gospel and the revelation of Jesus Christ. “The unsearchable riches of Christ are proclaimed in order that they might be known and enjoyed, received by sinners who have come to rest in the boundless resources of Jesus Christ as their Deliverer, the One given for the very purpose of meeting the needs of fallen people. That in itself is unsearchable!” (p. 48) All other pursuits leave something to be desired, but the knowledge and loveliness of Christ, which is inexhaustible, is satisfying beyond measure.

Chapter four is about the blessed doctrine of adoption. Rooted in the writings of the apostle John, the author presents the breathtaking reality of God’s love towards His children: “This is indeed a love that comes from God the Father, the God who does abiding good to the utterly undeserving, establishing an intimate relation with them in giving, as a gift of love, His own beloved Son. This is a love without measure flowing from the infinite heart of a good and loving God, an ocean without shore, a realm without frontier.” (p. 58) The author shows how the love of God is everlasting and unchangeable, abounding and unlimited, and undeserved and overwhelming. (pp. 58–59) He has given us a new nature and calls us His sons, and Walker beckons us to behold this truth for wonder and encouragement, for trust and confidence, for obedience and fortitude, for joy and thankfulness, and finally, for joy. (pp. 60–65)

Continuing with his examination of the apostle John’s writings, Walker addresses eternal security in chapter nine: “The Jewel of Assurance.” He points to the pastoral mindset of John in his first epistle and how he wanted his readers to know Christ and have life in Him (cf. 1 John 5:13). We see that assurance of salvation is definable, desirable, and possible. (pp. 67–76) The author closes the chapter with the pneumatological reality of assurance: “It is the Spirit of adoption who works in us faith and its fruits, implanting and stimulating graces which are the evidence of new life and witnessing with our spirit to their presence and reality and owning us by His sweet influences and by these means as children of God. The good grounds of confidence in the life of a saved person produce, through the Spirit’s witness, their full gift in our minds and hearts.” (p.77)

In what I see as the most important chapter of the book, “The Marks of God’s Children” seeks to present a framework of the Christian life. The author begins by laying to rest some common “inconclusive indications” of assurance of salvation like visible morality, head knowledge, and external religion. (pp. 80–84). He then devotes the rest of the chapter to showcase the marks of a true Christian. These “indispensable indications” of biblical assurance are repentance and faith, devotion to God, growth in holiness, and love for the saints. (pp. 85–108) This section alone is worth the cost of the book and is a spiritual gem for the newly converted and veteran Christian alike. I will certainly be using this material for disciple-making in the future.

“A Work in Progress” is the title of chapter seven, in which the author surveys the apostle Paul’s writings on sanctification. It is a masterful call to persevere; to press on in the Christian life. We should strive to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) and not be passive in our pursuit of holiness. Walker rightly points out that Paul’s exhortation to put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:13–17) “is not a call to occasional endeavor but a command constantly and thoroughly to work at a task until the point of completion.” (p. 113) This is not works-righteousness… the indicatives of the gospel (what Christ has done) are prior to the imperatives of the gospel (what is expected of us). “Our joy and blessing as God’s children,” says Walker, “are bound up in God’s ultimate purpose for us, and he is sovereignly bringing it to pass.” (p. 125)

The final chapter focuses on the apostle Paul’s later writings, particularly those sections where we gain some insight into his impending death. “A Life in Review” is a heartfelt look at the apostle’s unending endurance in the fight and race of the faith. Paul looks around, looks back, and finally looks ahead to a great crown, a great Christ, and a great company of redeemed sinners in the consummation. (pp. 130–138)

Review

Jeremy Walker’s “Life in Christ” is a warm and encouraging explanation on what it means to be a Christian. With pastoral sensitivity and theological clarity, he presents a biblical faithful work on being a disciple and living life to the glory of God. Like a modern-day Puritan, Walker marries doctrine and practice to create a magnificent resource for instructing maturing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For more on this subject…

Jeremy Walker interviewed on the Janet Mefferd Show

Jeremy Walker interview with The Confessing Baptist

A Reader’s Review of “The New Calvinism Considered”

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.

A Reader’s Review of The Gospel Call and True Conversion

Approximately eight years ago, I was travelling from Atlanta to Chattanooga to do some street evangelism with some friends from church. I had never been involved with evangelism (and quite frankly, I am not fully convinced that I was truly converted at this time), but I thought it would be a good opportunity to serve the church and assist my friends in their ministry. On the way to the church camp in North Georgia that we were partnering with, we listened to a conference message by Paul Washer that has been dubbed “Shocking Youth Message”. I don’t remember the specific details of the car ride, but I do recall experiencing an acute sense of my own depravity and conviction of sin. This was my introduction to the ministry of Paul Washer and since then I have listened to many of his sermons and even read a book or two that he wrote.

Cross Focused Reviews has once again provided me with the opportunity to review a book by one of my favorite authors/preachers… “The Gospel Call & True Conversion” by Paul Washer.

This particular book is the second in the “Recovering the Gospel” series (the first being “The Gospel’s Power and Message”) and it aims to do just that. The gospel has been assumed, neglected, and even forgotten in our time and the purpose of this series is to restore a biblical understanding of the good news and “recover” it from contemporary mutations and distortions. Here is the series description:

“Although the Recovering the Gospel Series does not represent an entirely systematic presentation of the gospel, it does address most of the essential elements, especially those that are most neglected in contemporary Christianity. It is the hope of the author that these words might be a guide to help you rediscover the gospel in all its beauty, scandal, and saving power. It is his prayer that such a rediscovery might transform your life, strengthen your proclamation, and bring the greatest glory to God.”

The book has three parts: “The Gospel Call”, “New Hearts and the Nature of True Conversion”, and “New People and the Nature of True Conversion”. These units are comprised of a selection of Washer’s sermons.

In the first section, the author describes the biblical teaching on the “double-sided coin” of conversion… repentance and faith. He properly explains repentance as a “change of mind” (pp. 5–8), points out that it involves “sorrow for sin” (pp. 8–10) and a “personal acknowledgment and confession of sin” (pp. 10–11) as well as a “turning away from sin” (pp. 11–13), the “renunciation of works” (pp. 13–16), and “turning to God in obedient submission” (pp. 16–18). Biblical repentance also includes a life marked by “practical obedience” (pp. 18–19), and a “continuing and deepening work of repentance” (pp. 19–21). Next, Washer explains what true saving faith is. He explains that it is essentially trusting in the finished work of Christ alone, by the grace of God alone (to exclude boasting), to the glory of God alone. The author takes to task the modern evangelical traditions of “the sinner’s prayer” and “making a decision for Christ” (ch. 3–4) and finishes the unit by deconstructing a common misinterpretation of Revelation 3:20 (ch. 5).

Washer dedicates the second part to the biblical doctrine of regeneration. He explains the motive (the love of God) and end (the glory of God) in salvation (ch. 6), shows that God is both the author, sustainer, and perfecter of saving faith (ch. 7), and that sanctification (separation and cleansing) is a necessary result of justification (the legal declaration of righteousness by God upon a sinner through faith in Jesus) for those who have been adopted by the heavenly Father (ch. 8). If there is one thing about this book that I am most grateful for… it is this section. Regeneration (i.e. the new birth… being “born again”) is one of the most distorted elements of salvation that is in dire need of being “recovered”. Building upon the previous unit where he refutes the unbiblical teaching of “decisionism” (in which a person is “saved” by making a “decision” for Christ), he explains the Scriptural doctrine of divine monergism. The Bible clearly teaches that because of his sinful nature, man is separated from God and his will is in bondage to sin. Because of this depravity and enmity towards God, man is not able or willing to come to God on His terms and will not seek Him or submit to His will. Salvation is of the Lord, and the only way a sinner comes to salvation by faith in Christ is by the grace of God alone… in drawing them by His Spirit and giving them new life. One cannot seek God or believe in Christ for salvation unless they have been “born from above” by the Spirit (ch. 9–10).

Part three is about the new covenant community of God. The author devotes this section to helping the reader understand some differences between the old covenant and the new covenant. He writes:

“In the old covenant, God called a physical nation descended from Abraham to be His people, but within that great multitude of individuals, only a small number of them were truly regenerate and believing. The rest were unregenerate and carnal, and are now suffering eternal perdition. In the new covenant, God is calling forth a spiritual nation made up of Jews and Gentiles, and all of them are regenerate and believing. There is not a godly remnant in the true church; that true church is the godly remnant.” (p. 121)

Washer continues by describing the new covenant prophecies of the Old Testament and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ:

“Through the atoning work of Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, God has made for Himself a new people. He has taken out their heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of living flesh. He has recreated them to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession; a people who will proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (p. 129)

The author seeks to correct unbiblical notions of ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) and dispels contemporary accusations against the body of Christ (ch. 12), he addresses the importance of the knowledge of God in the revelation of Jesus (ch. 13), and explains division and unity within the visible church (ch. 14). Washer closes out the book by teaching about God’s covenant faithfulness and the unrelenting lovingkindness He has towards His covenant people (ch. 15)… the covenant He has with the saints is everlasting and as a perfectly faithful God, His promises to them will and must come to pass. Believers stand on the covenant promises of our Lord and trust that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose… He has begun a good work in each one of us, and He will continue to work effectually in us until the return of Christ when we will be made like Him (ch. 16).

Overall, I thought this was a pretty good book. Since it is a compilation of sermons, there are times when the book does not necessarily flow from one thought to the next, but the content is great. I would have liked to see an index with references, but nonetheless, this book is saturated with Scripture throughout and along with presenting sound biblical doctrine, it accurately defends orthodox Christianity while dismissing common contemporary misconceptions and false teachings.

For more on this subject, visit HeartCry Missionary Society.

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.

A Reader’s Review of “Prepared by Grace for Grace”

The kind people at Cross Focused Media have asked me to do another book review. I am grateful for the pulpit and pen ministry of Joel Beeke, so I jumped at the opportunity to read and review “Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Ordinary Way of Leading Sinners to Christ”, which is co-authored with Paul Smalley. I must admit that I had no prior knowledge about the Puritan doctrine of “preparation” before encountering this book, so I was a bit intimidated knowing I would have to review it.

The concept of “preparation” is summed up in the subtitle: “God’s ordinary way of leading Sinners to Christ”. In other words, preparation is the means God uses to draw sinners to Himself prior to regeneration and faith. The authors of this book aim to defend the Puritan practice of preparation from those who argue that it is a departure from the theology of the Reformers.

The book consists of fourteen chapters, wherein Beeke and Smalley take the reader on a historical and theological tour of notable Puritan preparatory proponents. It begins by presenting the contemporary challenges to preparation in modern scholarship, which are claims the authors seek to undo throughout the rest of the book. Next, we read about the “Precedents to Puritan Preparation”… the men who paved the way for puritan theology (Augustine, Luther, Calvin). From here, we learn of a number Puritans who, while teaching the doctrine of preparation, maintain the sovereignty of God in salvation and monergistic regeneration. The authors clearly show that they have done the necessary work with primary source material and take pains to refute the claims of modern scholars. The Puritans featured in the book clearly held to the God-centered orthodoxy of Reformed soteriology while keeping in tension the truth of man’s responsibility.

The Puritans featured in this book are:

William Perkins (1558–1602)

Richard Sibbes (1577–1635)

John Preston (1587–1628)

William Ames (1576–1633)

Thomas Hooker (1586–1647)

Thomas Shepard (1605–1649)

William Pemble (1591–1623)

John Cotton (1585–1652)

Jeremiah Burroughs (1600–1646)

William Guthrie (1620–1665)

John Norton (1606–1663)

Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680)

Giles Firmin (1614–1697)

John Flavel (1627–1691)

John Bunyan (1628–1688)

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758)

After presenting a long trail of evidence supporting the consistency between the preparatory theology of the magisterial reformers and that of the Puritans, the authors then compare Puritan preparation with the doctrine of the “continental divines” (some of them also belonging to the “magisterial” group): Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531); Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575); Theodore Beza (1519–1605); Peter van Mastricht (1630–1706); Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583); Francis Turretin (1623–1687); WIlhelmus à Brakel (1635–1711); Herman Witsius (1636–1708); and Arthur Dent (1553–1607). Beeke and Smalley show repeatedly that the ordinary means of preparing sinners for salvation (i.e. the preaching of the Law) is a practice that the entire Reformed tradition has in common.

The book closes with a reprise of the contemporary criticism of Puritan preparation and the summation of the investigative work of the authors to refute such claims. They point out that while some Puritan concepts with regard to preparation were erroneous (for instance, Thomas Shepard and Thomas Hooker taught that one must necessarily be content with being damned prior to conversion, which many in the Reformed tradition rightfully deny), the majority views amongst those who hold to the ordinary means of preaching the Law with a view toward preparatory humiliation are consistent with Reformed theology and practice. The appendix contains William Ames’ “Praeparatione Peccatoris ad Conversionem” (On the Preparation of the Sinner for Conversion).

While this book is not necessarily a leisurely read and therefore one that I would broadly recommend, it would nonetheless benefit a great number and variety of people if they were to read it. For the preacher, teacher, and evangelist, it presses upon them the importance of preaching the Law as the necessary means of God in bringing about conviction in the sinner. This book would also be especially valuable to those who have been recently convinced of the truth of Reformed theology. Often times when one is confronted with biblical doctrines such as predestination, election, and monergistic regeneration, they experience a brand of zeal commonly referred to as “the cage stage” (in which they are overcome with a strong urge to vehemently proclaim these grand truths to anyone and everyone with little tact or wisdom). This book, when read with discernment, reminds the reader of the responsibility of man within the framework of God’s sovereignty in salvation. We must remember that the Law is the pedagogical means in which God drives men to His Gospel and He employs men to preach this Law in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may give new life and grant repentance and faith in them. While God is sovereign in His electing grace, it is our responsibility to preach the Law and Gospel to all and rely on the effectual work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate those who are predestined for salvation. The authors do a masterful job of maintaining the balance (for a lack of a better word) of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility while refuting the claims of critics who say that the Puritan doctrine of preparation is antithetical to Reformation theology.

For more on this subject, visit Meet the Puritans.

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.