REVIEW | Bible Study: A Student’s Guide, by Jon Nielson

9781596386372

BIBLE STUDY: A STUDENT’S GUIDE IS ON SALE AT WTSBOOKS.COM –
$6.00/copy (54%off) or $5.00/copy when you buy 5. Click here for more information.

My major in undergraduate school was “Youth Ministry”. Many of the books that I was assigned to read for class made me feel more like a junior high school student than a student in college. Maybe it was the fact that a majority of these textbooks were published in the late ‘90s, when clip art was mistakenly understood as both a cool and an essential visual aid? Sadly, I walked away from many of those books disappointed. Sure, there were certainly elements that could be positively received and applied. However, a majority of the content I was exposed to left me wanting more…and certain that “more” could be had. This desire for greater substance and clarity not only occurred in the books that served as my classroom texts, but also of the books that were written specifically for students as well.

In the years since my undergraduate days, I have still been hard-pressed to find a book, targeted at students, that was not primarily filled with “fluff” and a disproportionate amount of personal illustration (not to mention, clip art). That is, until now…

Bible Study: A Student’s Guide (P&R, 2013), by Jon Nielson, is a seriously practical book about Bible study for students who are serious about their faith. On a side, Jon presently serves as the college pastor at College Church, in Wheaton, Illinois. Before he became a pastor to college students, Jon served in both youth and sports ministry. Jon’s experience with students, along with his gift as both writer and teacher, and a sincere love for the Scriptures are unmistakable in this book.

As noted by the publisher, Bible Study: A Student’s Guide, “confirms that real, meaningful Bible study in not only possible for students, but important.” Students can read, study, interpret, and apply the Bible responsibly. And, I believe, when a student begins to do this regularly, their energy for personal study will be exponentially increased. So, how does Bible Study get a student moving in that direction? In order to set the student in motion, Neilson begins by addressing and explaining several core convictions about the Scriptures:

  • The Bible Is God Speaking
  • The Bible Is Powerful
  • The Bible Is Understandable
  • The Bible Is a Literary Work

From there, Nielson moves on to some key hermeneutical issues, including genre, the unity of the Bible’s story line, technique and approach, and he addresses several possible pitfalls along the way.

I can say, by far, that Bible Study: A Student’s Guide is the single best book (for students) that I have ever encountered, in terms of learning how to effectively study God’s Word. It communicates a high view of Scripture by clearly articulating, in terms a student can digest, the authority, inerrancy, and perspicuity of God’s Word. It takes an unashamed Christ-centered approach to all of Scripture. It handles the necessary discussion of biblical genre very well. Nielson, as well, provides a wonderful balance between a grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical hermeneutical approach. Even as one with a couple degrees in theology, I was energized as I read it because it was taking elements of Bible study that I hold dear and consider essential, and in turn instructing me on how I may articulate these things in terms that students can understand. Really, the remarkable thing about this book is that it would be an excellent primer for anyone, student-thru-adult, on responsible and intelligent Bible study.  Perhaps that’s why D.A. Carson noted, “If you are a high schooler, read this book carefully and thoughtfully, and then loan it to your parents.”

In sum, I have no question that, in terms of student ministry, this will be my “go-to” book to use, recommend, and give away on the topic of Bible study. It will be my starting point for training and setting a foundation for thoughtful and substantive Bible study in student ministry small groups. And, it will be a resource I consult often as a guide to explaining, in profoundly clear terms, the theological and methodological necessities of Christ-exalting Bible study.

Coming away from this text, students (and, perhaps, parents!) will no longer be stuck in the ambiguous world of “What does this passage mean to me…?”, and will now be energized by the ability to approach God’s Word asking and answering the more important question, “What does this passage mean?” From there, the heart-transforming truth of the Scriptures may be effectively applied.

I enthusiastically recommend this book!

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS:

224 Pages
Publisher: P and R Publishing Company
Publication Date: April 2013
ISBN 10: 1596386371
ISBN 13: 9781596386372

BUY NOW at WTSBOOKS.COM – $6.00 (54% 0ff) or $5.00 when you buy 5 or more copies.*

*Limited time offer. Subject to change without notice.

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Let Christ Be The Diamond

Yesterday, I was listening to Reformed Forum’s Proclaiming Christ podcast during my morning commute.  While discussing presuppositions for preaching, each panelist noted some of the resources they considered helpful in learning to prepare and preach Christ-centered sermons.  One of the panelists mentioned an excellent quote by Edward Reynolds, a Westminster Assembly divine and bishop of Norwich.  For those that labor in preaching and teaching, this one is worth reading over and over…    

220px-Edward_Reynolds“Preach ‘Christ Jesus the Lord;’ determine to know nothing among your people, but Christ crucified: let his name and grace, his spirit and love, triumph in the midst of all your sermons.  Let your great end be to glorify him in the hearts, to render him amiable and precious in the eyes of his people; to lead them to him as a sanctuary to protect them, a propitiation to reconcile them, a treasure to enrich them, a physician to heal them, an advocate to present them and their services unto God: as wisdom to counsel, as righteousness to justify, as sanctification to renew, as redemption to save, as an inexhausted fountain of pardon, grace, comfort, victory, glory.  Let Christ be the diamond to shine in the bosom of all your sermons.”[1]


[1] Edward Reynolds, The Whole Works of Edward Reynolds, vol. 5 (London: B. Holdsworth, 1826), pp. 326-27. Available via Google Books: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=AJCoZ443124C

Biblical Foundations Giveaway

Andreas Kostenberger (follow on Twitter) is hosting a giveaway of his recent volume Invitation to Biblical Interpretation at his blog, Biblical Foundations.  If you’re looking for a solid book on hermeneutics, this appears to be a sure bet!  I have not worked through this particular volume, but am well acquainted with Kostenberger’s scholarship and can confidently say that his work will prove to be a blessing to you and serve you well.  CLICK HERE to be redirected to the giveaway.  Be sure to bookmark the site as well!

Here is a brief description of the the book: 

Bible scholars Andreas Kostenberger (NT) and Richard Patterson (OT) provide a textbook utilizing the “hermeneutical triad” method. This approach to interpretation is based on giving due consideration to both the historical setting and the literary context, as well the theological message.

Working through the major genres of Scripture and showing how their method applies to each one, they provide interpretive examples to guide the student in proper exegesis. In addition to the examples, each chapter concludes with exercises and assignments. Also included is a helpful “Building a Biblical Studies Library” appendix along with a four-page summary chart, presentation slides, test bank, syllabus, and illustrations.

When you hear the word “gospel”, what do you think of?

Dr. Jonathan T. Pennington has recently released an impressively endorsed book entitled, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Baker Academic, 2012).  Tom Schreiner noted it as, “The best introductory book on the gospels.”  I have yet to pick up a copy for myself, but it is definitely high on my “wishlist”!

Alongside the book’s release, Dr. Pennington has launched a website: readingwisely.com.  It includes an overview of the book, a sample chapter, and some great video content.  Below is the first video to be released entitled, “What is the Gospel?”

REVIEW: Slaves, Women, and the Gender Debate, by Benjamin Reaoch

Cultures vary in times and places.  Certain practices that are culturally acceptable in one part of the world may not be in another.  Practices/behaviors that were, at one time, culturally acceptable in a particular culture may no longer be acceptable in that same culture as the years have passed or vice versa.  In light of a world comprised of ever-changing cultures, the question arises as to how we are to apply the pan-culturally authoritative and unchanging truth of God’s Word to the oft-changing cultural practices and expectations of our day.

In terms of biblical interpretation, one hermeneutical approach that has developed over that last 50 years which attempts to deal with reading and applying the Scriptures in a world of changing cultures, has come to be known as the “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” or the “trajectory hermeneutic”.  Those who advocate the use of this interpretative method believe that “there are indications in the Bible that move us beyond the specific instructions of the Bible and toward an ultimate ethic” (emphasis original).[1]  For example, such an approach seeks to answer the question of why slavery, while mentioned in the Scriptures, is never expressly condemned.  Taking the approach a step further, proponents seek to utilize a redemptive-movement hermeneutic to “go beyond” what the Bible proposes in terms of the role distinctions between men and women, thus abolishing any Scripturally prescribed distinctions (i.e., Egalitarianism).  Though many scholars/authors advocating such an approach do not arrive at the following conclusion, some are using a trajectory hermeneutic to go even further, thereby condoning the practice of homosexuality.

Does the Bible indicate the validity of the redemptive-movement/trajectory hermeneutic (RMH, moving forward)?  Should we move beyond the prescriptions of the Holy Scriptures toward an “ultimate ethic”?  The ultimate resulting question is, as with slavery, how do we reconcile certain prescriptive and/or restrictive areas of Scripture when it appears there are also elements present that would appear to point toward a fully liberating ethic?

In his new book, Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic (P & R, 2012), Benjamin Reaoch (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) engages the arguments of RMH proponents (most thoroughly, Kevin Giles and William Webb), and provides a soundly exegetical and hermeneutical complementarian engagement and response.  Reaoch states his thesis as follows:

The significant differences between the New Testament instructions to slaves and to women seriously undermine the conclusions made by the redemptive-movement hermeneutic.  The fact that the New Testament “points beyond” the institution of slavery does not indicate that it likewise points beyond God’s design for gender roles.[2]

After a helpful introduction, which serves as a very accessible primer to the issues at large, Reaoch handles his engagement in 6 chapters, along with helpful concluding chapter and a chapter which examines the continuing discussions within the RMH debate.  Beginning with a chapter entitled, “The Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic”, Reaoch surveys the surfacing and development of RMH through the writings of Stendahl, France, Longenecker, Thompson,  Webb, Giles, and Marshall.  Through brief profiles, he notes each author/scholars contributions to the RMH in terms of books, articles, and significant conclusions.  Reaoch then summarizes the complementarian responses offered by Grudem, Schreiner, and Yarbrough.  Utilizing these responses, he moves into what serves as an introduction to his study of slavery and women’s roles in particular.

Chapters 2 and 3, respectively, address slavery and women’s roles according to the Scriptures.  Reaoch includes a helpful section addressing the manner and place of slavery in the ancient world.  He then moves forward to engage the aforementioned scholars’ arguments and conclusions which he intersperses throughout his analysis, in which he structures by addressing the passages concerning each issue, the grounds for obedience in terms of slaves and women, and then the purposes for obedience.  Reaoch’s organization provides for a very accessible survey and understanding of the issues at hand in light of the biblical data.

Chapter 4, entitled “Comparing the Data” assessed the Scriptural data that was presented in chs. 2 & 3, but focuses mainly on the differences between the passages concerning slavery and women’s roles.  Ultimately, Reaoch draws the similarities from common purposes of obedience while the grounds for obedience show marked differences.

Chapter 5, “Heremenutical Considerations: Part 1”, critically engages William Webb’s work Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis.  Reaoch examines Webb’s idea of “theological analogy” and several aspects of Webb’s guiding criteria.  Chapter 6, “Hermeneutical Considerations: Part 2” continues to critique Webb’s work with particular attention given to the arguments that Webb gives to bind the slavery and women’s roles arguments together.

As Reaoch concludes, he summarizes the issues and avoids mere academia by demonstrating what is at stake in the debate as it relates to his role as a pastor, husband and father.  Reaoch notes, “This study has not been an abstract, academic endeavor for me.  As a pastor, I am zealous to teach and preach and lead in such a way that individuals are inspired and instructed to glorify God in every aspect of their lives, not least of which is the area of manhood and womanhood.

In sum, Reaoch provides a thorough and largely accessible summary, critique, interaction and response to the issues of trajectory hermeneutics from a complimentarian perspective.  His writing is fluid, and his organization is clear.  For those who have interacted with proponents of the redemptive-movement hermeneutic in general, or specifically, William Webb’s work in particular, this is a first-rate response that is both scholarly and pastoral.  I recommend it!

*A secure, digital copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: P and R Publishing Company
Author: Reaoch, Benjamin
ISBN-10: 1596384018 | ISBN-13: 9781596384019
Cover Type: Paperback
List Price: $25.00
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore$16.25 – 35% Off

[1] Benjamin Reaoch, Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2012), xvii.

[2] Ibid., xix.

Beale on Typology

One of the most controversial and potentially difficult issues within the realm of biblical interpretation is that of typology.  How are the people, places, events, and circumstances of the Old Testament text to be interpreted and understood insofar as their connection to subsequent people, places, events, and circumstances is concerned; especially as they relate to Christ and the church?

Greg Beale, in his forthcoming book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2012), provides a helpful definition for considering that which may be properly understood as having typological significance.  He defines biblical typology as:

The study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in meaning. (p. 14)

After defining biblical typology, he offers two helpful points of clarification regarding “escalation” and “retrospection”.

Beale notes, “By “escalation” is meant that the antitype (the NT correspondence) is heightened in some way in relation to the OT type.  For example, John 19:36 views the requirement of not breaking the bones of the Passover lamb in the OT epoch to point to a greater reality of the bones of Jesus not being broken at the crucifixion…”  Additionally, “…escalation would be the correspondence of God providing literal manna from heaven for physical sustenance and providing the manna of Christ from heaven for spiritual sustenance.”  Clarifying “retrospection”, Beale says, “By “retrospection” is meant the idea that it was after Christ’s resurrection and under the direction of the Spirit that the apostolic writers understood certain OT historical narratives about persons, events, or institutions to be indirect prophecies of Christ or the church.” [Please read the qualification Beale cites regarding the “retrospective” characteristic of biblical typology, noted in the “Comments” section.]

While some interpreters are extremely leery of deeming anything in Scripture a “type” that isn’t expressly stated as such, Beale’s definition and subsequent study promises to be handled with scholarly precision and care, and, undoubtedly, a reverence for both God and his Word.

  • WTSbooks.com has a sample chapter and audio lecture available, as well as some overall info on Beale’s forthcoming work.
  • Amazon.com has the book for a deeply discounted pre-order price of $9.67 (Reg. $17.99)
  • Baker Book House is offering the opportunity to win a copy of the book this week at their blog (Giveaway ends, Friday, August 17, 2012, at 6AM EST).  I’m hoping to win a copy myself, so I can continue the study above! 🙂

REVIEW: ISAIAH BY THE DAY by ALEC MOTYER

Sometimes you just have to lay your cards out on the table to begin with, and I’m going to do that now…Motyer’s Isaiah By The Day: A New Devotional Translation is fantastic!  Here we have a first-rate Old Testament scholar bringing together his gifts as a commentator, translator, and exegete into a Christ-centered devotional tool that applies the text responsibly and practically while guiding the reader through digestible portions God’s Word each day.

The book begins with a helpful introductory section which provides the reader with a general outline of Isaiah, allowing for a broad understanding of the author’s structure.  Four simple divisions allow for an easily remembered “map” of the book: Isaiah’s preface (Chs. 1-5), The Book of the King (Chs. 6-37), The Book of the Servant (Chs. 38-55), and The Book of the Conqueror (Chs. 56-66).  Additionally, Motyer (pronounced “Moh-teer”) is careful to explain his translation process and certain aspects of Isaiah’s style and structure to keep in mind while reading.   The introduction provides the most pertinent information for the reader giving them needed technical knowledge without being overbearing.  All in all, he aims to be consistent and faithful to the text while retaining the beauty of Isaiah’s Hebrew.

The picture to the right provides a glimpse of the layout of each day’s text.  The notes to the right are a distilled commentary that provides the reader with helpful background, linguistic, textual, and contextual remarks that do well in keeping from becoming over-technical or distracting from the text itself.  It’s as if Motyer is there along the way, as a teacher, heading off that which may be overly confusing and highlighting that which may be often overlooked.  Additionally, there is ample note taking space on each page, making it easy to mark the text and record thoughts, questions, and reactions without becoming overly cluttered.

One thing to mention is that the text does read a bit rigidly as compared to most modern translations. However, the raw nature seems to awaken the beauty and straight-forward nature of many portions of the text and add to the distinctiveness of this work.

Moving to the application portion of each day’s entry, Motyer has succeeded in including the text’s contemporary significance, connection to Christ, as well as its ecclesial, social/societal, and individual bearing.  While many devotionals aim to apply the text through simplistic, often cheesy, questions, Motyer has given the reader the opportunity to significantly understand and apply the text through well-thought, timely, pointed, and pastorally-natured questions.

Overall, I don’t believe you will find another devotional as distinct and substantial as Motyer’s.  I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Isaiah By The Day and be edified!  …Especially, if you’re one who has avoided, or been weary of, much of contemporary evangelicalism’s often shallow devotional literature…this one will be a breath of fresh air!  I recommend it very highly!!

*The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of the aforementioned title.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Watch as Alec Motyer discusses Isaiah By The Day:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/r9KbrelS7mM]

BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: Christian Focus
Author: Motyer, Alec
ISBN-10: 1845506545 | ISBN-13: 9781845506544
Binding: Hardcover
List Price: $22.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore: $15.08 – 34% Off 

REVIEW: THE BEGINNING AND END OF WISDOM by DOUGLAS SEAN O’DONNELL

Perhaps the most familiar genre of biblical literature to the average layperson is the epistle.  Given our Western propensity toward the practical and the immediate, the letters of the New Testament provide us with straightforward statements about what Christ has done and how we are to live in response; so it’s no wonder many of us initially flip to these sections of the Bible in our daily reading.  But how do we fare when it comes to the literature of the Hebrew Bible?  Apart from the familiar narratives that most have experienced, at the very least in their Sunday School days, the Old Testament still remains a mystery to many gospel-believing Christians.  And given the lack of familiarity and confidence in handling much of the Old Testament among many followers of Christ, it’s likely that a portion of that may be due to the fact that many pastors could use a refresher when it comes to rightly handling and preaching the Old Testament.

In light of this reality, I am thankful for the growing number of resources that aim to assist believers in understanding and developing a Christ-centered, gospel-focused, redemptive-historical hermeneutic for reading and interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures.  After all it was Paul who began his letter to the Romans indicating that “the gospel of God” was something God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son” (Romans 1:2-3, ESV).  Jesus, as well, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…interpreted to [the disciples on the Emmaus Road] in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV, emphasis mine).  Certainly “all the Scriptures” includes the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible, and Douglas Sean O’Donnell has provided us with a very helpful example of effective Christ-centered preaching from this portion of God’s Word in his, The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job (Crossway, 2011)(Talk about a Puritan-length title!)

The Beginning and End of Wisdom is a collection of a handful of O’Donnell’s sermons from the Wisdom genre as he seeks to initially instruct the reader/preacher through demonstration in practice.  I was thoroughly encouraged by the posture taken by O’Donnell as he approached his task.  Noting the primacy of Christ he states, “Life does not come through Bible literacy.  Life comes through Jesus.  And a right understanding of Scripture comes through knowledge of Jesus and trust in him.”  As O’Donnell approaches this genre of biblical literature he reminds the student of Scripture of the “demeanor” one must take, that is: “that God remain large and we remain small.”  O’Donnell displays, what I believe to be, a genuine reverence for Christ and his word, a serious approach to his task of interpretation, and a passion to see the gospel elevated and hearts awestruck by the God of the gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures.

I particularly enjoyed O’Donnell’s sermon in from the first chapter of Job (1:1-12).  With his aim set on the gospel, O’Donnell’s honesty allows the gospel to rest sweetly on the ears of the hearers of the text as he reminds us, “We come to a book (Job) that will teach us that God’s love for us is bigger and broader than sentimentality and sympathy and that his will for our lives is vaster and grander than our personal happiness or success.”  In light of Job’s life situation and response to the suffering from God’s providential hand, O’Donnell notes in Christocentric terms, “When Jesus walked the earth, he called everyone, as he still calls them, to put him and his kingdom above possessions, family, friends, and reputation, and to accept, if necessary, suffering, persecution, and the loss of home job, money, or even life.”  Thus, O’Donnell gets to Christ without rushing with hermeneutical irresponsibility toward a connection, preaching and teaching the text responsibly.

Before two appendices on “Preaching Hebrew Poetry” and “Book Summaries and Suggested Sermon Series”, O’Donnell moves from the finished product to show the readers the tools necessary to get there.  This is a bit of a different route to take as many would think to start with the materials and method before considering the finished product.  However, in his chapter entitled “How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?” O’Donnell gives careful hermeneutical consideration and instruction to that which his has just demonstrated in his sermons.  For the person who lacks acquaintance with the art of preaching Christ from the Old Testament, this order serves to effectively immerse the reader in the manner, style, and practice of preaching Christ from the wisdom books so that the dots will likely be more quickly and readily connected through, “Yeah-I-see-how-you-did-that…” moments.  The chapter on hermeneutics is incredibly helpful, especially in O’Donnell’s inclusion of charts that connect Wisdom Literature text with like texts from the New Testament.

Overall, with a reverence for the God of the Word, and a desire to see Christ exalted as the gospel is proclaimed, The Beginning and End of Wisdom is a excellent book to consider adding to your library as it relates to Christ-centered hermeneutics!  I recommend it!!

*The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of the aforementioned title.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

BOOK DETAILS

Read inside (PDFs):Sample Pages

Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Author: O’Donnell, Douglas
ISBN-10: 1433523345 | ISBN-13: 9781433523342
Binding: Paperback
List Price: $17.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore: $11.73 – 35% Off 

CLICK HERE to check out O’Donnell’s recent article in Themelios entitled, “The Earth Is Crammed with Heaven: Four Guideposts to Reading and Teaching the Song of Songs”

THE MINOR PROPHETS THRU “THE JESUS LENS”

It’s probably safe to say that Nahum may be the first book people don’t turn to in their daily reading of the Scriptures.  It’s also relatively safe to say, that for many Christians looking to study a book with their small group, they probably are not going to land on Obadiah.  Again, it’s probably safe to say, that for many Christians, the Minor Prophets–as a whole–don’t get much air time.  But Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, wasn’t leaving these 12 books out when he told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, ESV).  In all reality, Paul was referring first to the books of the Old Testament.

For many Christians, the Minor Prophets, in part, and the Old Testament, as a whole, can often feel like more of a mystery than a major source of practical, daily food for the soul; or, at most, a collection of stories filled with characters whose examples are to be imitated or avoided.  Is that really all there is to a majority of the Old Testament?  Is it largely just a collection moral victories, moral mishaps, striking judgment, difficult genealogy, and obscure prophecy?  If this is the experience you’ve had in reading (or trying to read) the Old Testament, and specifically, the Minor Prophets, don’t lose heart!  There is hope in learning how to see that these 12 small books are more than locusts, lament, and tellings of the terrifying day of the LORD.  Each of these books, when properly interpreted, point in some way to the ultimate redemptive work that God has accomplished in his Son, Jesus Christ!

Dr. Michael Williams, professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, has written the latest offering in Zondervan’s How to Read the Bible… series.  In Williams’ How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture the reader is introduced, in a wonderfully accessible way, to a redemptive-historical reading of the Scriptures.  Simply put, Williams guides readers in the way of reading the whole Bible with the view of God’s gospel work in Christ Jesus as the central thread of unity.  That is, the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, either point forward in hope to the redemptive work of Jesus, or they look back to the cross and the effect of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ on the Christian and the world.  Williams notes that the purpose of his writing is, “parallel to that of Christ for the disciples he joined up with on the road to Emmaus: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).”

As part of “The Jesus Lens Blog Tour”, sponsored by Zondervan, I’ve decided to focus on only a section of Williams’ work, as hinted at in the opening paragraphs of this post—The Minor Prophets.

The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are not minor because they are small in terms of their impact or importance.  Rather, they were deemed the “minor prophets”, by Augustine, to note their brevity in comparison to the “major prophets” (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel).  And though the Minor Prophets are often obscure in the minds of many readers of the Scriptures, Williams provides a helpful framework for approaching each book.

Williams divides his examination of each book into 4 sections: Background/Summary, The Jesus Lens, Contemporary Implications, and Hook Questions.

BACKGROUND/SUMMARY

The Background/Summary section gives an overall summary of the book citing a theme and memory verse.  These summaries are spoken in very plain language which will be a great aid to the person first encountering the meaning of each book, but will also act as an excellent resource for the student of any level who desires to summarize the overall message of the book in plain language.

THE JESUS LENS

This section guides the reader in the way of seeing how the work of Christ is either foresignified in the book or how the book looks back to his work of redemption.  Williams defines reading through “The Jesus Lens” as “reading it the way it was intended.  [The Jesus Lens] keeps our reading, understanding, teaching, and preaching properly focused on God’s grand redemptive program that centers on his own Son.”

CONTEMPORARY IMPLICATIONS

How does the text apply to the believer today?  After all, the Bible wasn’t necessarily written to us, but rather for us.  Because the Scriptures were written to specific people, in specific places, at specific times, for a specific purpose, bridging the gap to the lives of believers in the 21st century can often times be difficult.  Williams, though, is able to do so with brevity and always with the gospel work of Christ in view which is needed (especially in terms of Old Testament interpretation) and helpful!

HOOK QUESTIONS

Whether you’re using the book on your own, or in a group setting, these questions are designed to help the reader think deeply, intelligently, and practically about the overall point and purpose of the book in his or her daily life.  Williams does a good job of keeping the questions practical, but not shallow; text-focused, but not overtly technical.  This will certainly be a good tool for readers desiring to get the most out of this resource!

THE JESUS LENS IN FOCUS: JOEL

Rather than to engage all 12 of the Minor Prophets, for the purpose of this review, I thought I’d focus in on a chapter I found greatly encouraging and exemplary in terms of putting “The Jesus Lens” into practice; namely, the book of Joel.

Williams cites the theme of Joel as, “The day of the Lord is coming and brings judgment before restoration.”  Noting the drought and locust plague of Joel’s immediate context, Williams demonstrates how these supernatural disasters were pointers to the ultimate day of the Lord when his judgment would justly fall on all those who spurned his grace.  But how does all this relate to Christ?

Williams notes, “The apostle Peter quoted from Joel’s prophecy on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:17-21), indicating that Jesus’ death on the cross was our day of the Lord, when God’s judgment for our disobedience was experienced on our behalf by our sinless representative.”  Moreover, “Jesus experienced those dire consequences so that all who come to the Father through faith in him can be assured of life.”

Noting the contemporary significance of “the day of the Lord”, being that believers now live “between “days of the Lord”, Williams helps believers see how the gospel work of Christ was Christ’s substitutionary enduring of “the day of the Lord” on behalf of the elect. But, for those apart from Christ, “the day of the Lord” is still in the future.  For believers, then, the future, consummate “day of the Lord” does not need to be looked to in fear, because believers now dwell secure in Christ, for he has endured the wrath of that day in their place.

All in all, Williams gloriously focuses on Christ throughout his writing, ending his chapter on Joel noting that, “Jesus offers us his own righteousness to replace our blameworthiness, unshakeable joy to replace our circumstantially determined happiness, and justifiable confidence in him to replace our justifiable doubt in ourselves.”

FINAL THOUGHT

Paul noted in his introduction to the Romans that the gospel was something that God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son” (Romans 1:2-3).  In reading How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens, you won’t miss the gospel in the Minor Prophets.  Williams provides readers of all levels with fresh insight and helpful tools that they may begin to see the gospel of Christ in all the Scriptures.  I heartily recommend it!

*As a part of the Jesus Lens Blog Tour, the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

BOOK DETAILS

Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages

Publisher: Zondervan
Author: Williams, Michael
ISBN-10: 031033165X | ISBN-13: 9780310331650
Binding: Paperback
List Price: $18.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore$11.39 – 40% Off

LOOKING THRU “THE JESUS LENS” w/ MICHAEL WILLIAMS.

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Tonight (March 6, 2012), Zondervan is hosting a special LIVE discussion with author and professor, Dr. Michael Williams.  Dr. Williams is the author of the newly released, How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture.  The livestream begins at 8:00 PM (EST), and it’s FREE!  Check out the video preview below to see what “The Jesus Lens” is all about, and follow the links below to join the feed!

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vw-4B3WgvUE]

[LIVESTREAM DETAILS]

(HT)