Basics for Believers

D.A. Carson is one of the most well-known and well-respected NT scholars in the evangelical world. His scholarly reputation precedes him. So, when Carson produces a volume entitled Basics for Believers, people should pay attention, even if it was originally published in 1996 and now repackaged in 2018.Carson_BasicsforBelievers.indd

Basics for Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life is Carson’s foray into a basic study of Philippians with the angle of encouraging believers to return to the essentials of our Christian faith. This book is, to quote Carson from his Preface, “Originally these five chapters were prepared as four messages delivered during Holy Week 1994 at the ‘Word Alive’ conference in Skegness, England. (Chapters 2 and 3 were formerly a shorter single message.)”

What this means is that we are guided how the book of Philippians should apply to our lives as believers and in this case from Carson’s perspective.

The most magnificent aspect of this book is that Carson does not shy away from being frank and challenging believers. In the very first chapter, “Put the Gospel First,” he dares believers to make Christ, and thus the Gospel, the top priority in their lives. In the remaining four chapters Carson explains what this priority should look like with a precise exposition of Philippians 1.27 – 4.23.

There are a couple of areas in which Basics for Believers (theological) may be a little “deep” for new believers, however, it is well worth the effort. It would be ideal for a Bible study group of mature believers led by a qualified teacher to enhance and expand their understanding of the faith and the book of Philippians. If you want to get a good start on Philippians, this is a worthwhile addition to your library.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Baker Books for a fair and honest review.

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Spiritual Gifts

The area of Spiritual Gifts and how they are put into practice in the Christian life has been written about in a multitude of forms – books, articles, websites, etc. They have also been preached and taught ad infinitum with the primary goal to motivate the individual Christian to serve his Lord and Savior. The format of most information follows a familiar pattern: first, general information – what are spiritual gifts, what are the gifts and definition of the gifts; and second, practicality – how to serve utilizing one’s gift(s).Spiritual Gifts

Thomas R. Schreiner, professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, now adds to the ever-growing list with Spiritual Gifts: What They Are & Why They Matter. But don’t expect the “familiar pattern” outlined above. Schreiner devotes only half of the book to the details of Spiritual Gifts. Only four of eleven chapters examine the specifics of Spiritual Gifts (87 of 172 pages).

The typical arrangement is deviated from significantly. There’s one chapter on definitions, then two in which Schreiner defines ten truths about Spiritual Gifts. He concludes his discussion with a chapter on the generalities. Despite the unique arrangement, the basics of Spiritual Gifts are dealt with in a comprehensive and understandable manner.

The primary focus of the book (seven chapters) is to present a biblical argument for cessationism. His opinions are biblically supported and those who believe in cessationism will find a couple more arrows for their quiver. However, Schreiner does admit that his arguments are not the be all end all on the matter. And he concedes that this issue is not of the first order.

Principally Schreiner focuses on the gifts of prophecy (two chapters) and tongues (two chapters). Both gifts are defined and then reason is presented as to why they are not functioning in the church today. The concluding chapter is an argument for why he believes in cessationism.

This is a volume that should be read by every pastor and teacher not because it comprehensively explains Spiritual Gifts but rather because it presents a biblical view on a controversial subject. It is also highly recommended for every believer who is intent on serving their Lord and Savior.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by B&H Publishing Group for a fair and honest review.

40 Questions About Salvation

I would assume that most people reading this review are born-again believers – saved. There has been some salvation experience in the past. However, they may not be aware of the all the intricate, theological details that caused that experience to come about. 40 Questions About Salvation attempts to penetrate those details.4285 salvation cvr.indd

The book is another in the 40 Questions series produced by Kregel Publications. This is the eleventh in the series. Other volumes include such title as Church Membership and Discipline and Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This volume is written by Matthew Barrett, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The book is divided into five parts covering every aspect of salvation beginning with sin and all the way through to glorification. Each chapter concludes with “Reflection Questions” which are well-formed and should help the reader determine how well the material has been assimilated.

Barrett’s goal, of course, is to explain how the entire salvation process works. He achieves that goal well – from a highly Calvinistic perspective. Nevertheless, this is a solid read. Regardless of one’s soteriological beliefs, this is worth a careful study. All of Barrett’s explanations are thoroughly backed by Scripture with many passages exegeted in detail.

Every reader will enjoy “What Is Meant by Salvation?” (#6); “What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?” (#15); “What Is Saving Faith?” (#19); and Can We Lose Our Salvation?” (#’s 34 & 35). These would seem to be questions that everyone has irrespective of one’s soteriology.

40 Questions About Salvation is “meaty.” In his Preface: How to Read This Book, Barrett states, “This format is best suited for beginning students, churchgoers and pastors…” It may be a stretch to include beginning students and churchgoers. If you fall into those two categories, be prepared for some heavy theological lifting. But certainly, every pastor should have this book in his library.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Kregel Publications for a fair and honest review.

Expository Exultation

With the publication of Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship John Piper has completed his trilogy. The first two volumes include A Peculiar Glory and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.Expository Exultation

Expository Exultation is written in the style for which Piper has become well-known – lots of words. There are seven parts to the book which includes twenty-one chapters (309 pages of text not including the General Index and Scripture Index).

Piper has two goals in this volume. First is to defend the practice of preaching in corporate worship, i.e., preaching as an integral part of the worship experience. There is no doubt that he achieves that goal. The second is to define expository preaching and then explain how it should be accomplished. It is the accomplishment of this second goal that I feel he comes up short at least in the second part. Piper defines expository preaching over the course of two parts (4 & 5). And, although they are wordy, there is a definition to be gleaned. It is the “how-to” which is lacking.

The assessment then is this: If you desire to gain a philosophy of preaching (particularly expository), then this volume will certainly gain your interest. However, if you desire a detailed explanation of the ins-and-outs of putting an expository message together, this book will likely disappoint.

If you are a fan of Piper, Expository Exultation will not disenchant you. However, if you desire to sharpen your preaching skills, your expectations will not be met. In the end it’s a good read for preachers who have enough “how to preach” books on their shelves.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Crossway for a fair and honest review.

Best Bible Books

Books! Books! Books! Let’s face it, any dedicated Bible Student, regardless of the level of academia, has a love for books – especially those about, in and around the Bible. Scholars are expected to have a multitude. Pastors and students will have a desired collection. The question for them becomes: What are the best ones?Best Bible Books

Fortunately, there is a resource that answers that question. It is the latest edition of John Glynn’s Commentary and Reference Survey. This is the 11th edition and has been divided and re-titled to Best Bible Books: New Testament Resources. Glynn has remained the primary author with Michael H. Burer serving as the editor. However, there is much contribution from the New Testament faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary. The volume is published by Kregel Publications.

The very first chapter provides recommendations for New Testament Introduction, Survey and Theology. The most useful for pastors and students will be on New Testament Introduction and Survey. This is followed by a section on “Jesus and the Gospels” in which are included a myriad of subject areas.

The core of the book is comprised of recommended commentaries on every new Testament book. Each entry contains a short evaluation of that particular volume – a vital addition that greatly aids in one’s selection process. Each entry is labeled as Good, Better or Best. At the end of each book is a section entitled “Special Studies” that zeros in on particular issues.

Following the recommendations for Revelation is a section focusing on a variety of New Testament studies. Most useful here are proposals on “Scholarly One-Volume Commentaries” (a listing of ten) and “New Testament Background” (includes a host of subjects).

What you will not find in this new edition: Glynn’s classification of books by theological belief (be sure to read the Introduction for the thought process) and no computer stuff. The reasoning is that computer-related resources such as Bible software can change almost daily.

Most importantly, this volume is not exclusive to ivory tower Bible scholars. (They likely already know of these.)   If you are a pastor or a serious Bible student and have a desire to assemble a worthwhile library (there is a chapter on that subject), this is a volume you should purchase and consult before you purchase another book.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Kregel Publications for a fair and honest review.

The Bible and Archaeology

If we are honest, those of us who love to “dig into” the Bible, have at least a passing interest in archaeology. An archaeological find that supports a biblical statement or event is one of the those “Aha; I told you so moments.” On the other hand, there are few of us who completely comprehend how archaeology and the Bible work together. We plug through a variety of Bible and/or archaeological websites and magazines hoping to find a few nuggets of knowledge and information. The real dilemma is we do not know how the Bible and archaeology are in sync.The Bible & Archaeology

So, when a book entitled The Bible and Archaeology comes along, just the title should pique our interest. And this one does! For those who have a limited knowledge of archaeology and how it intersects with the Bible, this is the perfect book to begin to understand the association.

The book is written by Matthieu Richelle, a professor Old Testament at the Faculté Libre de Théologie Évangélique, Vaux-sur-Seine, France. It was originally published in French in 2011, translated into Portuguese in 2016 and has now been translated into English. It is now published by Hendrickson Publishers. It is concise, just 108 pages of text but contains 168 pages total. The additional material includes a recommended reading list for those who wish to explore more in depth, extensive end-notes which are valuable to those with some knowledge of archaeology and thirty-one figures depicting various archaeological discoveries relating to the Bible. These are fascinating. In short, it’s well put together for easy reading and reference.

Chapters one through three are the equivalent to a mini-course in Archaeology 101. These chapters tell us how archaeology works – the inner workings and the limits. Do not skip these chapters. They set the stage for Chapter four, “The Bible and Archaeology: What Kind of Relationship?” It’s here that Richelle gets to the matters that will interest Bible students. This chapter is a mini-course in Biblical Archaeology 101. Richelle deftly explains the complicated relationship that the Bible and the field of archaeology enjoy.

Richelle finishes the book with some practicality presenting a case study of the Kingdom of David and Solomon and “Archaeology and Writing in the Time of David and Solomon.” These final two chapters tie up the entire book quite succinctly, logically and practically.

The Bible and Archaeology is a must read for any Bible student. It puts archaeology and its relationship to the Bible in perspective.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Hendrickson Publishers for a fair and honest review.

The Vines Expository Bible

Another review, another “Study” Bible. Well, not exactly a “Study” Bible. (There’s a reason “Study” is in quotes.) This is not a study Bible in the sense that there are a multitude of informative notes at the bottom of every page.Vines Expository Bible

Rather, The Vines Expository Bible is a compilation of over sixty years of the ministry of Jerry Vines. Vines has spent that time as a pastor, teacher and preacher of the Word of God. And now, thankfully, he has placed his wealth of knowledge and years of experience into a working reference. Thus, in the sense of it being a “Study” Bible, it’s primarily aimed at preachers and teachers.

It would be voluminous to describe the various entries that are included. So, here’s just some that are useful. “Discerning the Meaning,” scattered throughout the text, examines the meaning of various pertinent words. For example, in Proverbs Vines discusses the meaning of “Instruction” or in Nehemiah the “Wall.”

In sections entitled “Applying the Message” Vines provides insight on how certain passages apply to today’s Christian and the church. These are quite prominent in the New Testament. Another collection of entries is “Living the Message.” These challenge the believer concerning how certain passages can be incorporated into his/her daily walk. And in one section labeled “Presenting the Message,” preachers and teachers are provided mini sermons complete with outlines and insights.

Structurally the Bible text is easy to read – 10.5 type. Additional entries are a bit smaller but still easy on the eyes. The translation is the NKJV. Each book has introductory information to include authorship, date and outline and themes. Back matter includes a highly useful subject matter index, a concordance and the usual maps.

For every preacher and teacher this is a mini course on how to exegete Scripture and then compile the information into a sermon or teaching lesson. Vines has shared a wealth of insights and in the process educated us.

The one final word on this Bible is practical. Every preacher and teacher of the Bible should have this available for reference and consultation. It will instruct, inspire and motivate.

Disclaimer: This Bible was provided to me by Thomas Nelson for a fair and honest review.