Notable & Newsworthy

Here are the stories and links for the day…

Get Donald MacLeod’s “The Person of Christ” (Contours of Christian Theology) for 60% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Last chance to enter to win books by Brian Croft, Joel Beeke, Mez McConnell, and Matthias Media at 20 Schemes

Enter to win a genuine leather ESV Study Bible from Crossway and 20 Schemes

Get Kevin Vanhoozer’s “Theological Interpretation of the New Testament” for FREE from Logos Bible Software

William T. Dennison’s biblical-theological catechism of eschatology in Genesis

David Murray on the dangers of too little sleep and 50 good reasons to sleep longer

Download D.A. Carson’s “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” for FREE

5 books every new Christian should read

Mark Jones on the nature and scope of the atonement amongst Calvinists and Arminians

The Covenant of Works in the 1677 London Baptist Confession of Faith

7 questions for discouraged Pastors to ask themselves

Former Christian publishing insider shares the realities of fluff, platforms, ghostwriting, and back-cover blurbs

Seminary student and mother of three drops some Baptist history knowledge in this Fresh Prince of Bel-Air parody

“Hope is a supernatural grace of God, whereby the believer, through Christ, expects and waits for all those good things of the promise, which at present he hath not received, or not fully.” (William Gurnall)

“We don’t drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort we don’t gravitate toward godliness but godlessness.” (D.A. Carson)

Please take some time and browse the rest of the pages on this site (located in the tabs at the top). You’ll find a variety of articles, FREE e-books, and book recommendations for your encouragement and equipping. Check out the Exegetical Theology page or the Historical Theology page first. Enjoy!

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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.

The Quest for Wisdom

THE QUEST FOR WISDOM

“The fear of the Lord is wisdom, because it sets a person in communion with God and sets him on the path to the fullness of knowledge that will dawn in Christ. Indeed, the fear of the Lord is granted to a sinful person only for the sake of Christ. God acts in mercy towards people in Old Testament times by reckoning for their benefit beforehand the grace that will be accomplished in Christ. Even in the Old Testament, godly people experienced beforehand some foretaste of the wisdom of God and the communion with God. The full realization of that communion awaited the coming of Christ. And of course we still await a yet fuller communion with God in the new heavens and the new earth.” (Vern Poythress)

For more on this subject, visit Frame & Poythress.

 

Recommended reading:

A Reader’s Review of “The Ascension”

My friends at Christian Focus have blessed me with another book to review. This time around we’ll be looking at “Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God” by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow. The book consists of three short chapters entitled “Ascended Priest”, “Ascended King”, and “Ascended Man” with an reflective and applicatory conclusion and an appendix featuring an “Ascension Hymn” (with verses that reflect the chapter titles).

The ascension of Jesus Christ is unfortunately one of the most underappreciated aspects of the gospel. It is often outshined by the majestic doctrines of the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection… but the exaltation of Christ, as the authors seek to draw out, is a supremely important and necessary element of redemption and a source of comfort for the Christian pilgrim in the present age.

There are three things about the introduction that are commendable: 1. It provokes the reader to think critically about the ascension of Christ; 2. It presents worship as a result of reflection upon the ascension of Christ; and 3. It points to the “glorious session” as a result of the ascension, where the enthroned Christ represents His people (with a view towards mission).

In chapter one, the authors rightly point out the ascension is “the fulfillment of all that sacrifice and priesthood represented in the Old Testament.” (p. 14) What follows is a survey of the types and shadows that point to Christ (Moses, the Priesthood, the Tabernacle, etc.) and His fulfillment of them as depicted in the book of Hebrews.

There is a nice balance of abstract theology and practical shepherding in this chapter. The reader is presented with weighty concepts such as the necessity of the ascension, but will also receive comfort by way of biblical assurance: “If Christ is not in God’s presence on our behalf then we are not in God’s presence… He is the complete sacrifice who has taken away sin for ever. He is the eternal priest whose ministry never ends. While He stands in heaven you are secure in God’s family” (pp. 22, 23)

The second chapter teases out the meaning of Christ’s enthronement… He is depicted as the sovereign King of the heavens and earth. Relying heavily on the book of Daniel and the writings of Luke, the authors share some fascinating insights:

1. The connection between Samuel (who anointed King David) and John the Baptist (who baptized King Jesus).

2. The connection between the enthronement Psalms (especially Ps. 2), the Davidic covenant, and the transfiguration of Christ.

3. The necessity of the cross as the preparation for the inauguration of Christ’s Kingdom in the ascension and the consummation upon His second advent.

4. The prophetic element of Daniel 7 in describing geopolitical developments over the next few centuries and the ascension of the Son of Man (Jesus, God the Son) into the presence of the Ancient of Days (God the Father).

5. The typological wilderness temptation failures of Adam and Israel realized in Jesus’ obedient response to His temptation.

6. The authority of Christ in the Great Commission and the extension of His reign “throughout the earth through the mission of His people” (p. 41).

7. The comforting truth of God’s sovereignty in the midst of a hostile mission field.

8. The relationship between the exaltation of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

9. The ascended Christ building His Church through the distribution of spiritual gifts. This section concludes by proposing that the true authority and Kingship of the ascended Jesus, which has been inaugurated (already), is the foundation for mission and gospel proclamation until the consummation of His Kingdom (not yet).

While most informed readers might anticipate a section on “Christ as Prophet”, the authors devote this last chapter to the humanity of Christ. Chester and Woodrow highlight the “scandalous” teachings of the incarnation of God and the exaltation of a man: “The scandal is not just that God has left heaven to be ‘enfleshed’ on earth, but that God will return to heaven in the flesh… Human flesh becomes a permanent fixture in heaven (a scandal to Greeks) and a permanent fixture for the Son of God (a scandal for Jews).” (p. 58) What follows is a brief survey of church history, discussing a number of heretical views on the person of Christ, and maintaining the importance of the full humanity of Jesus and His glorification with regard to redemption.

The authors then proceed to take a strange detour into the spacetime continuum and “relational” proximity. Rather than pontificating upon the finer points of quantum physics, the authors would have done well in heeding their own words: “The presence or absence of God always defies spatial definitions.” (p. 63) I understand what Chester and Woodrow are attempting to do here, but I believe this takes away from the overall point of the book and may confuse some readers. Despite the potential hindrance, there are still some statements in this section that deserve attention. For instance, the authors point out: “Space exists as a Trinitarian act between the divine persons, the Father creating through the Word and breathing life through the Spirit.” (p. 64)

Next, we have a series of short explanations of:

1. The necessity and security of the ascension.

2. The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (i.e. Christ’s presence) during the Reformation (with special attention to the views of Calvin).

3. Mystical Union with Christ in the heavenly realms.

4. Inaugural eschatology and the “already” and “not yet” nature of the inter-advental period.

5. The restoration of humanity from its fallen, sinful state.

The chapter closes with a focus on mission, and one point is especially interesting. Chester and Woodrow posit an “ascensional” ministry approach over-against the “incarnational” approach. This is commendable, since the church is not a replacement of Jesus with its own agenda, but rather an assembly of disciples under His authority called to participate in His redemptive mission.

The conclusion is an excellent piece of biblical theology (largely influenced by G.K. Beale’s work) filled with mountain-garden-temple imagery, condescension/ascension theology, and Ezekiel’s eschatology. The authors show that Jesus is the fulfillment of these types and shadows and draw out the implications of the believers’ union with Christ before closing the book with the consummation in the New Jerusalem–where there is no temple–because “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).

Overall, this little book (96 pages) packs a punch. It is concise, but the authors present some weighty truths with clarity and precision. While I didn’t care for the inclusion of theoretical physics and some of the stylistic choices the authors made, I would still recommend it due to the sound biblical-theological teaching. Due to the contemporary obfuscation of the doctrine of Christ’s ascension and exaltation, this is a much-needed and welcome book that will comfort and encourage believers, and inform them of the necessity and sufficiency of our Savior’s authoritative session-ministry.

 

More recommendations:

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. 

Reformation Essentials

REFORMATION ESSENTIALS

“According to Scripture, God declares a person righteous before that person actually begins to become righteous. Therefore, the declaration is not in response to any spiritual or moral advances within the individual, but is an imputation of the perfect righteousness that God immediately requires of everyone who is united to Christ by faith alone. When a person trusts Christ, that very moment he or she is clothed in his perfect holiness, so that even though the believer is still sinful, he or she is judged by God as blameless.” (Michael Horton)

For more on this subject, visit Modern Reformation.

 

Recommended reading:

Union with Christ, Justification, and Regeneration

UNION WITH CHRIST, JUSTIFICATION, AND REGENERATION

“The special work of the Spirit is to apply the benefits of Christ’s mediation to the elect. There is a strict correspondence between Christ’s work and the Spirit’s work. For this reason, regeneration must never be considered apart from Christ; positively stated, regeneration must always be understood in relation to union with Christ… The risen Savior first apprehends the elect and makes them alive by His Spirit operating as the Spirit of Christ, so they can receive from Christ all the benefits of the work He accomplished on their behalf, as their mediator. Faith is only possible because Christ, through the Spirit, has joined Himself to the sinner. In response, the sinner exercises faith toward Christ, as an effect of regeneration. With the union complete, the sinner receives from Christ everything that Christ merited, including justification, adoption, and sanctification.” (Joel Beeke)

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

Recommended reading:

We Are Not Saved by “Grace”

WE ARE NOT SAVED BY GRACE

“For all that we speak of grace, and however strongly we speak of it, we will remain prisoners of spiritual insecurity for as long as we imagine that we are independent islands. And rightly so: all spiritual blessings are to be found in Christ alone… If we simply speak of salvation by grace, people will imagine grace to be that force God gives to help us where we are at… grace can be thought of quite impersonally, as if being a believer is merely about believing promises and getting blessings… we are united to Christ, to know and love him personally from the heart, to know and love the Father as our Father, to be known and loved as children of God. It’s not quite that we get ‘grace’: we get Christ.” (Michael Reeves)

For more on this subject, visit reformation21.

 

Recommended reading:

Federal Union with Christ

FEDERAL UNION WITH CHRIST

“Adam had been established by God as a representative or federal head of the human race. He was to stand for us so that, if he continued in righteousness, we would also be considered as having continued in righteousness in him. But if he fell by transgressing God’s command, we would be considered as having sinned in him-and his judgment, death, would pass to us. Adam did sin, and that is what happened. Death passed upon the race. It is proof that God considered us to have been in Adam and to have fallen by his transgression.

By contrast, Jesus stood firm, not merely demonstrating a practical and perfect righteousness in His own life but also dying for those who would be united to Him by faith. Thus, those judged sinners because of Adam’s sin are now judged righteous because of Christ’s righteousness. Because He is justified, we are justified. Because He is raised, we are raised. Because He is exalted to heaven, we too are exalted to heaven. As Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, so also are we seated.” (James Montgomery Boice)

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

Recommended reading: