BOOK REVIEWS

Story of Redemption Bible

Since introduces the ESV, its popularity has been unparalleled. Several noteworthy publications have been launched, including the Gospel Transformation Bible, Reformation Study Bible, and the ESV Readers’ Bible.

In 2001, Crossway Books introduced the English Standard Version (ESV). After reading about the translation philosophy and the scholars involved in the project, I was convinced that this translation would serve as my primary preaching and teaching Bible. For nearly twenty years, I have enjoyed the ESV and recommended it to many people.

The newest ESV project the Story of Redemption Bible: A Journey through the Unfolding Promises of God. What makes this version of the English Standard version special is the emphasis upon biblical theology. This Bible is edited by Greg Gilbert and contains almost 900 notes of commentary. These notes help readers see and understand the metanarrative that explodes in the biblical text. Creation, fall, redemption, and consummation are the worldview pillars that help readers connect the dots of redemptive history.

The Story of Redemption Bible is a stunning book. The hardback edition is both stout and sturdy. But it is also beautiful. The publisher went to great lengths to make the font readable, which makes the biblical text stand out. The commentary by Gilbert is sprinkled throughout the text in a thoughtful way. What is especially appealing is that the commentary is always subordinate to the biblical text.

I commend the Story of Redemption Bible and trust that it will serve thousands and thousands of Christ-followers for many generations to come.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection

favorGreg Gilbert, Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 172 pp. $9.47

The prosperity gospel has been an influential force within the ranks of evangelicalism for some time. This God-dishonoring approach to the Christian life misinterprets Scripture and misrepresents the gospel. Tragically, many people are led astray by the idea that God’s gifts may be earned and that financial remuneration is at the center of God’s kingdom.

Greg Gilbert’s book, Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection takes a different approach, one that is steeped in Scripture and offers people an eternal hope.

Part One: The Favor of God and How to Get It

Part one lays the theological foundation. The author defines his terms clearly by describing the essence of favor which means that you please someone or bring them joy or gladness. Therefore, “to be favored by God,” writes Gilbert, “is to be pleasing to him, to bring him joy … This is not a question of whether you’ll live your best life now; it’s a matter of whether you’ll live at all.”

The author wrestles with the idea of “earned favor.” In other words, humans have a built-in propensity to earn what they receive. For example, a worker receives wages for his hard work. A student receives a diploma for diligent study.

At the core of this study is the reality that most people are unwilling to admit: They do not deserve the favor of God. “You deserve to be condemned, to die, and to spend eternity under God’s wrath …” Gilbert writes. When creatures fail to glorify the living God, they commit cosmic treason against the throne of heaven. Gilbert adds, “It is rebellion and insurrection against the throne and crown and authority of God.”

Simply put, God’s favor must be earned. Yet it is not earned in the way that most people imagine. God’s favor must be earned for us and the only Person qualified to carry this out is the Lord Jesus Christ. He perfectly fulfilled the law of God and thus earned his favor. But then he died. The author explains,

But the fact that Jesus died, the fact that the One who actually earned life submitted to death, tells us that something more was happening. And that something more is the whole glory and joy of the Christian gospel. When Jesus won the favor of God and all its rewards, he wasn’t doing it just for himself. He was doing it for others too. He was acting as a representative, a substitute, a champion.

Gilbert’s winsome presentation of penal substitutionary atonement is stunning, to say the least. This breathtaking portrayal of the atonement leads to an important discussion that concerns union with Christ, a doctrine that is underemphasized in many churches. Gilbert goes so far to say, “Union with Christ … is the most under-appreciated, underemphasized, and overlooked doctrine in all of Christian theology.” Gilbert does his part to put a proper biblical emphasis on this crucial doctrine.

Part Two: The Blessings of God’s Favor

Part two focuses on the blessings of God’s favor by alerting readers to four important topics, namely, the blessing of contentment, peace with God, new life, and fighting as favored sons and daughters in the kingdom. These blessings are obviously practical and multi-faceted. Gilbert does a good job linking these blessings to real-life examples. But more importantly, he shows where these blessings appear in the Bible.

Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection is perfect for new believers but will also benefit seasoned Christians as well. It wonderfully articulates the gospel and causes readers to rejoice in the blessings which are theirs in Christ!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS · Preaching

PREACH [Theology Meets Practice] – Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert (2012)

Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert love the church of Jesus Christ.  Whenever one of their books is released, it becomes immediately clear that a love for Christ’s church and the gospel are at the1433673177_l very core of each man.  For example, I give a copy of Greg Gilbert’s excellent work, What is the Gospel? to each baptismal candidate at the church I pastor.  It’s that good!  So when Dever and Gilbert combine their collective experience and wisdom in order to write a book on preaching, my attention is automatically piqued.

Of course the authors don’t disappoint.  Preach [Theology Meets Practice] is extremely informative and encouraging.  Part One covers basic theological territory that lays the groundwork for the remainder of the book.  The authors explore the important themes of propositional revelation, the power of God’s Word, and the centrality of expositional preaching.  The kind of preaching they rightly promote is defined as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.”  Finally, the section concludes with a discussion that discusses the purpose of preaching: “We preach with the goal of spurring believers on in their maturity in Christ and of awakening nonbelievers to their need for the Savior … we preach with two main aims, to edify and to evangelize.”

Part Two surveys the practice of preaching.  This highly practical section includes the nuts and bolts of the preaching task – preparation, structure, outlining, diagraming, and delivering the sermon.  Dever and Gilbert trade back and forth sharing their particular bent on a given matter which brings depth to the overall tone of the book.

Once again, Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert provide an invaluable service to the church.  Preach [Theology Meets Practice] is a terrific book for both beginning preachers and seasoned veterans.  Beginning preachers will be encouraged to focus on the fundamentals of preaching and gain a host of practical suggestions that will inform and enhance their ministries for years to come.  Experienced preachers will be refreshed and will receive new motivation for continuing a work that is of utmost value in God’s kingdom.

4 stars

BOOK REVIEWS · Discipleship · Evangelism

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? – Greg Gilbert (2010)

I coached high school tennis in the late 80’s.  One of my most vivid memories is my team’s disdain for fundamentals.  The first day of practice I told my players to “drop their rackets.”  Shocked and perplexed, they wondered what we could possibly accomplish without a tennis racket.  “The first week of practice, we will focus on fundamentals, footwork, teamwork, and conditioning,” I said. The groans were deafening!

I am convinced that fundamentals are key in any sport.  Fundamentals are critical in the business world.  And fundamentals are essential when considering biblical Christianity.

It seems to be fashionable in the church these days to not only neglect fundamentals but to arrogantly dismiss them.  I hear it all the time as people bemoan the ancient creeds and confessions.  I hear it when people react negatively to theological terminology.  And this reaction to the fundamentals of biblical Christianity has led to a steady erosion of the gospel.

For these reasons, Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel? is a vital book.  It is a return to the fundamentals, a return to the gospel message.  This is not a social gospel, a health and wealth gospel, or a gospel that promises mere “fire insurance.”  This is the gospel that makes demands: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:24). This is the gospel that makes  an astonishing claim: Jesus came to rescue sinners from hell (John 3:36).  Gilbert unpacks the gospel message by rehearsing the fourfold scheme popularized by Mark Dever: God, man, Christ, response.

The gospel begins with God.  This God is the creator.  He is holy and righteous and commands people to glorify him. 

Man is a sinner and is separated from God apart from grace.  He is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3) and is in desperate need of salvation.

Christ who is fully God and man came to rescue sinners from hell by standing in their place on the cross as a substitute, bearing the wrath of God, reconciling his people to God, and redeeming them from the slave market of sin.

Sinners must respond to the gospel.  They must repent and believe (which are two sides of the same coin).  Gilbert writes, “Repentance is not just an optional plug-in to the Christian life.  It is absolutely crucial to it, marking out those who have been saved by God from those who have not.”

What is the Gospel? is a very basic book.  But it is also a very important book.  We live in a world where few understand the core message of the gospel message.  Gilbert’s book cuts through the fog of health and wealth “gospel”, the non-lordship “gospel,” and the cultural transformation “gospel.”

Utilize this little book in discipleship for new believers and membership classes.  Give copies to unbelieving friends.  And re-read this great book and become refreshed by the reality of the gospel!

4.5 stars