THIS BLOG BEGINS WITH TWO ASSUMPTIONS:
FIRST--Caring about your church or campus group or neighborhood Bible study means seeking the best literature to expose them to. Readers are leaders! Not just a slogan but a reality. As the bumper sticker from the early 70's in California put it: "Those who can read and don't are no better off than those who can't read." Helping God's people learn that reading good Christian books can lead to spiritual help, spiritual growth and more intimacy with God is a great ministry.
SECOND--After reading about the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, the next best thing is to read about the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Arguably the greatest outshining of spiritual light since the 1st century, the Reformation saw the mud of centuries of weak or false teaching scraped away and the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ could shine forth again with brilliance. ("Post tenebras lux" was the Reformation motto. It means "after darkness, light!".)
The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century saw the recovery of the Bible as the final authority in all matters of Christian faith and practice (over kings, and popes and councils and tradition). The Reformation saw the recovery of the finished work of Christ and Christ alone as the basis for true Christianity. Once this good news of Christ's finished work (the gospel) was recovered, it was seen to be the good news it truly was by a continent wracked by a millennium of human works, human wisdom, human declaration and despair. As Martin Luther put it so succinctly, "If ever a man was to be saved by religious devotion (and being a monk--"monkery" as he wryly put it) then I was going to be the best monk ever!" It was only logical. If the medieval church taught that men had to be righteous, perfectly so, to be acceptable to the thrice holy God, then Luther had better see to it that he was going to be perfect! And that was logically, spiritually and practically impossible. And in his frustration, Luther hated the God who demanded that he or anyone be righteous. And such anger and resentment leads to depression and melancholy when you quiet down.
But in teaching through Romans and Psalms as a theological professor, Luther was given grace to see that God both demands perfect righteousness from those who would be in His presence BUT that He also gives perfect righteousness as a free gift--the righteousness of the perfectly obedient 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ, given to repenting, believing sinners. As Paul puts it so succinctly in 2nd Corinthians 5:21--"God made Him who knew no sin (Jesus) to become sin (on the cross) that we (Paul and other believing sinners) might become the righteousness of God in Him." Wow! That would make a formerly despairing soul sing with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
We live in a day when the gospel has been obscured by many weak or false teachers. It has been estimated that over 90% of the sermons Americans hear are not gospel messages but moralistic, therapeutic deism. Get on the treadmill of working harder, doing better, etc. A treadmill is not good news if one has to stay on it the rest of one's life to earn God's favor. And that is all moralism offers--a brief soporific to the unthinking! [E.g. One can visit the church built on St. Simons Island, Georgia where John Wesley preached before His own conversion and sight of the biblical gospel. The current church leadership, having lost the gospel themselves, print up his original sermons from the 1730's and offer them as free hand-outs to visitors. Being unconverted himself, all Wesley had to offer were exhortations to try harder, do more, do better, be moral. Hardly good news.]
So as you put together a book table for your own Reformation celebration, let me suggest the following:
approach the pastor, elders or deacons about putting up a couple of hundred dollars for a Reformation booktable. Begin with a small selection of choice titles that will get read. Make them available at a discount, even if small. Ask the pastor to highlight the booktable and one or two titles to promote with the people. Then
pray that the Lord would work in the hearts of your people to buy the books and then read them. May the 26 good soldiers who make up our English alphabet be used by God to build up the people of God where you serve.
If you have seen either of the two Martin Luther
videos below, you might suggest to your pastor that they would make for a great Reformation evening viewing on the Saturday of Reformation weekend. Have a Reformation celebration rather than an anemic "harvest festival". Have a German themed meal, have the booktable and have the pastor or someone else who knows their history and theology to proctor the movie, setting the stage and leading a brief discussion afterward. But be careful, you might ignite an explosion of light!
SUGGESTIONS FOR A FIRST TIME BOOKTABLE:
Roland Bainton, HERE I STAND; Hendrickson--the best
biography of Luther, putting him in context and
showing why there had to be a Reformation or
God's church would perish. Named in a recent
survey of Christian historians as the best bio of
Luther. (NOTE: Every wrong condition Luther had
to face is still extent today. While the Roman
Catholic religion did away with indulgences after
the Reformation, they were recently restored.
Now you don't pay for them with money; you
work for them with sweat. Either way, you still
pay!). A gripping and accurate portrayal
Steven Lawson, THE HEROIC BOLDNESS OF MARTIN
LUTHER (Long Line of Godly Men Series);
Reformation Trust--Lawson, a bold and fiery
preacher like Luther, could not be boring if he
tried. Find out how God shaped the man who would
act as God's "ice breaker" to break up the frozen
landscape of medieval Christendom.
MARTIN LUTHER, VISION VIDEO--the original black
and white 1951 production done with the
cooperation of the best Luther and Reformation
scholars of the day. 50th anniversary edition.
"HERE I STAND" VIDEO--recent color biography filmed
on location in Germany.
The two videos complement each other
Michael Reeves, THE UNQUENCHABLE FLAME
(Discovering the Heart of the Reformation); B & H
Written with the reading layman in view, this is
a top notch, moving portrayal of the men and
issues the made the Reformation. Highly
recommended by Mark Dever!
Stephen Nichols, THE REFORMATION (How a Monk
and a Mallet Changed the World); Crossway--
Nichols is a theologian and historian and he writes
to put the cookies down where we can reach them.
Great intro to the Reformation.
Stephen Nichols, MARTIN LUTHER: A GUIDED TOUR
OF HIS LIFE AND THOUGHT; P & R--part of a series
meant to introduce the reader to some of the great
men and women of the Christian faith.
Ernst Kroker, MOTHER OF THE REFORMATION (The
Amazing Life and Story of Katherine Luther);
Concordia Publishing--the great woman behind the
Andrew Atherstone, THE REFORMATION (Faith &
Flames); Lion Publishing--a British historian who
can write like history like Iain Murray. Enough
Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Iain Murray, JOHN KNOX AND
THE REFORMATION; Banner of Truth--this small
paperback carries a punch beyond its side. Reading
about this godly and bold man puts fire in your
bones and in your heart!
Douglas Bond, THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN
KNOX (Long Line of Godly Men Series); Reformation
Trust--how in the world did a small, weak, frail
man ever become the hero we know of a John
Knox? What if you have a backbone like a sock
and then push a steel rod up that sock? Learn
how God in Christ became the steel backbone of
of the puny John Knox.
Burk Parson, ed.; JOHN CALVIN: HEART FOR
DEVOTION, DOCTRINE AND DOXOLOGY;
Reformation Trust--a who's who of pastors and
scholars show us more of the man whom God
created and raised us to be John Calvin. All your
favorite authors and speakers contributed with
an introduction by Iain Murray.
W. J. Grier, THE LIFE OF JOHN CALVIN; Banner of
Truth--another small paperback that carries a
punch. Calvin is often misunderstood and even
more often misrepresented. Grier scrapes off the
mud so that we can more accurately see the man.
Richard Stauffer, THE HUMANNESS OF JOHN CALVIN;
(The Reformer as a Husband, Father, Pastor and
Friend); Solid Ground Christian Books--if ever there
was a "game changer" is it this book. So many
critics, not knowing Calvin, have swallowed all the
negative criticisms whole. Stauffer, a Swiss pastor
and historian shows the read man and in the
process opens your eyes to the truth.
Terry Johnson, THE CASE FOR TRADITIONAL
PROTESTANTISM (The 'Solas' of the Reformation);
Banner of Truth--pastor/scholar brings us back to
the heart of the Reformation and gives the rallying
cry for a new Reformation.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS TOO !
Richard Newton, HEROES OF THE REFORMATION;
Solid Ground Christian Books--all the ones you
have heard of and some you may not have heard
about by a man who could write for children.
Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn, REFORMATION HEROES;
Reformation Heritage--great children's book to
introduce them to heroes worth emulating.
SUGGESTIONS FOR A MORE ADVANCED BOOKTABLE:
Timothy George, THE THEOLOGY OF THE REFORMERS;
B & H--a great standard work updated with a new
section on William Tyndale, the English Reformer
who gave us the English Bible. (95% of the King
James Bible is William Tyndale's work.)
Timothy George, READING SCRIPTURE WITH THE
REFORMERS; IVP--shows how the Reformers
handled the Scriptures, the final authority of faith
and practice for Christians.
W. Robert Godfrey, REFORMATION SKETCHES
(Insights into Luther, Calvin and the Confessions);
P & R--a great overview with good applications for
today for the thinking Christian.
W. Robert Godfrey, JOHN CALVIN: PILRIM AND
PASTOR; Crossway--ditto above!
Joel Beeke, ed.; CALVIN FOR TODAY; Reformation
Heritage--messages preached at the 500th
anniversary of Calvin's birth in Grand Rapids,
Michigan. Outstanding pastors and scholars
gathered to show the on-going relevance of John
Calvin's theology for today. Don't miss Michael
Haykin's chapter on Calvin and missions or Ligon
Duncan's on the re-emergence of Calvinism in the
past 30 years and why it happened. Motivating!
Gary Johnson and Fowler White, eds.; WHATEVER
HAPPENED TO THE REFORMATION; P & R--
a stellar collection of pastors and scholars speak to
the problems of the American church and how a
return to Reformation truths could help set things
Even if you are not the one to organize a Reformation booktable, why not purpose in your heart to read one or at most two books about the Reformation and the Reformed faith this Reformation season (end of October through early November)? Pray and ask God to open your eyes to the big issues and may he make each of us be faithful to do our past in our lifetime.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Visit my website, WWW.THELOGCOLLEGE.WORDPRESS.COM
for more devotional, educational and bookish items.
After our relationship with the Lord, the next most important component of our lives is our family. (And next would be our church.) This week's BLOG is about the best helps for a strong, biblical marriage, and family. At 65, I am old enough to remember when the resources for Christians regarding marriage and the family were next to nothing. Those who were believers in the late 60's and early 70's can remember when even books by Mormons appeared in Christian bookstores as they were thought to offer some help on marriage. I can still remember a book by a famous fundamentalist Baptist leader's wife on single men's purity that was as laughable as it was off the mark. Thankfully, such times of syncretism and heresy and lunacy are no longer necessary.
Since the early 70's, Christian authors and publishers have stepped in to the void to provide a wealth of really good biblical material on Christian marriage, male and female identity, child-rearing and the like. As our culture continues to implode from its sins, God's people have the opportunity to shine like lights in a dark place. No longer does the culture vaguely resemble the Protestant worldview. Pre-Christian paganism is again coming into vogue and only time will tell if we will totally sink into its godless morass. (But that is another day's study.)
Today I wanted to review some of the best material and expose you to what is available. These items would make a great booktable for a marriage conference or Sunday School class on marriage and the family.
Let me recommend the following:
BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND FATHERHOOD:
Mark Chanski; MANLY DOMINION; Calvary Press--
take the initiative and lead the way you are
Rick Philips, THE MASCULINE MANDATE (God's
Calling to Men); Reformation Trust--to quote
A. W. Tozer, God does not fill rabbits with His
Stuart Scott, THE EXEMPLARY HUSBAND; Focus
Christian Publishers--get off your duff and get
in the game.
Matthew Henry, BUILDING A GOD-CENTERED
FAMILY (A Father's Manual); Merchant
Adventurers--classic short Puritan study.
James Dobson, STRAIGHT TALK TO MEN; Tyndale--
classic study that teaches and encourages and
challenges. I have read it and taught it several
James Dobson, WHAT WIVES WISHED THEIR
HUSBANDS KNEW ABOUT WOMEN; Tyndale--
wives who have read this book really do wish
their husbands knew its contents!
Doreen Moore, GOOD CHRISTIANS, GOOD
HUSBANDS?; (Leaving a Legacy in Marriage &
Ministry); Christian Focus--examines the lives
and marriages of Sarah and Jonathan Edwards,
Molly and John Wesley, and Elizabeth and
George Whitefield). Pastors and missionaries,
prepare to be challenged!
Mark Chanski, WOMANLY DOMINION; Calvary Press
being a godly wife does not simply mean sitting
with your hands folded and wearing a slightly
Martha Peace, THE EXCELLENT WIFE; Focus
Christian Publishers--helped many a woman to
be the woman she was created to be.
Martha Peace, BECOMING A TITUS 2 WOMAN;
Focus Christian Publishers--ditto for older
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, LIES WOMEN BELIEVE (and
the truth that sets them free); Moody Press--
a great help for women in renewing their minds
by Scripture, not the fallen culture all around
them. Very helpful
RAISING YOUR CHILDREN UNTO THE LORD:
Tedd Tripp, SHEPHERDING A CHILD'S HEART;
Shepherd Press--profoundly helpful to many.
Paul Tripp, AGE OF OPPORTUNITY (Teen Years);
P & R--nurturing and raising young adults.
James Dobson, THE NEW DARE TO DISCIPLINE:
Tyndale--the bombshell on the playground of
the baby boom generation who had been taught
by Dr. Spock (not Star Trek's Spock, but the
best-selling pediatrician of the 50's) that spanking
was a bad thing. And look what happened to us!
Bruce Ray, WITHHOLD NOT CORRECTION; P & R--
clear and to the point study of the use of
various means of correction in raising our
CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE IN GENERAL:
Wayne Grudem and John Piper, BIBLICAL
FOUNDATIONS FOR MANHOOD AND
WOMANHOOD; Crossway--great study that
should be mastered by all church officers and
heads of homes.
Andreas Kostenberger and Timothy Jones, GOD,
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY (Rebuilding the Biblical
Foundations); Crossway--great recent study of
what both testament teach about God, marriage,
sex, family, children, etc.
Tim Keller, THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE (Facing the
Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom
of God); Penquin--helps post-modern folk look
at marriage with new eyes.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE; Banner
of Truth--classic study.
Winston Smith, MARRIAGE MATTERS (Extraordinary
Change Through Ordinary Moments); New
Growth Press/CCEF--unique book that shows
how marriage is lived out in "the miracle of
ordinary days" (to quote a great Hallmark movie).
William Goudge, BUILDING A CHRISTIAN HOME:
Reformation Heritage--a great Puritan classic.
There is no greater joy than being in a loving Christian family in a loving Christian church. Enough said.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Visit my website for more book related issues:
HELPS FOR LEADING FAMILY DEVOTIONS
I. GETTING STARTED IN FAMILY DEVOTIONS IN
A. YOU MUST BE A READER OF THE WORD OF GOD
1. Start with Geoff Thomas' excellent booklet,
READING THE BIBLE; Banner of Truth and
then read his THE SURE WORD OF GOD;
Reformation Heritage. You must understand
why you are to have confidence in God’s Word
as you are to persevere in regularly having
and leading in family devotions.
2. Add to your overall biblical knowledge with just
four books. Mark Dever has helped us all with
his overviews of the whole Bible: THE
MESSAGE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT (Promises
Made) and THE MESSAGE OF THE NEW
TESTAMENT (Promises Kept); both from
Crossway. Peter Jeffrey has given us an
excellent primer on the New Testament,
STEPPING STONES, Banner of Truth. And for
a great overview of the whole Bible,
R. C. Sproul’s WHAT'S IN THE BIBLE from
Word/Thomas Nelson is great.
3. It is important that you have a growing sense
of the theology of the Word of God. What does
the Bible actually teach?Read slowly and
prayerfully and have at your fingertips for
ready reference James Packer’s CONCISE
THEOLOGY; Tyndale House Publishers
B. HOW YOU CAN HELP YOUR FAMILY BETTER
UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY READ
1. A little bit of advance preparation in reading &
prayer beforehand makes for better family
2. Pray and ask God the Holy Spirit to help you
glean spiritual wisdom from His Word
3. You can adapt and fit what you learn from
commentaries to your family devotions
4. Look for Christ promised (O.T.), Christ present
(the Gospels), and Christ present with His
Church by His Spirit and yet personally coming
again (Acts to Revelation).
5. Mark His commands to obey, His promises to
claim, His warnings to heed and His overall
providential care to keep you and your family
in this wicked world and help you to glory
6. Keep your eyes out for Christ and the gospel
about Him. Note also your personal
responsibility to repent of each of your sins &
follow new paths of obedience. Remind your-
self daily that only the power of the indwelling
Holy Spirit can empower you to become God's
man or woman.
7. Close in prayer for the Holy Spirit to help you
apply what you learned--for Christ's sake!
II. SPECIFIC TOOLS TO HELP YOU LEARN YOUR BIBLE
A. STUDY BIBLES THAT HELP WITH THE BASICS
1. ESV STUDY BIBLE
2. REFORMATION STUDY BIBLE
3. ARCHEOLOGY STUDY BIBLE
4. HOLMAN CHRISTIAN STANDARD STUDY BIBLE
5. NASB STUDY BIBLE
B. OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
1. GENESIS--James Boice, GENESIS: AN
EXPOSITIONAL COMMENTARY; Baker and/or
Nancy Ganz, GENESIS (A Commentary for
Children); Shepherd Press
2. EXODUS--Matthew Henry, “Exodus”,
COMMENTARY ON THE WHOLE BIBLE;
Hendrickson and Nancy Ganz, EXODUS (A
Commentary for Children); Shepherd Press
3. LEVITICUS-- Allen Ross, HOLINESS TO THE
LORD; Kregel and Nancy Ganz, LEVITICUS (A
Commentary for Children); Shepherd Press
4. NUMBERS--James Philip, NUMBERS (Christian
Communicators Commentary); Word/Thomas
Nelson and Nancy Ganz, NUMBERS (A
Commentary for Children); Shepherd Press
5. DEUTERONOMY--Raymond Brown, THE MESSAGE
OF DEUTERONOMY; IVP and Nancy Ganz,
DEUTERONOMY (A Commentary for Children);
6. JOSHUA--Dale Ralph Davis, JOSHUA (No Falling
Words); Christian Focus
7. JUDGES--Dale Ralph Davis, JUDGES (Such a
Great Salvation); Christian Focus
8. RUTH--Sinclair Ferguson, A HEART FOR GOD;
Banner of Truth--the chapter on the book of Ruth
and God's faithfulness is worth the price of the
book all by itself!
9. I SAMUEL--Dale Ralph Davis, I SAMUEL (Looking
on the Heart); Christian Focus
10. II SAMUEL--Dale Ralph Davis, II SAMUEL (Out
of Every Adversity); Christian Focus
11. I KINGS--Dale Ralph Davis, I KINGS (The Wisdom
and the Folly); Christian Focus
12. II KINGS--Dale Ralph Davis, II KINGS (The
Sound and the Fury), Christian Focus
13. I CHRONICLES--Cyril Barber, I CHRONICLES
(God’s Faithfulness to the People of Judah);
14. II CHRONICLES--Cyril Barber, II CHRONICLES
(God’s Blessing Of His Faithful People); Christian
15. EZRA--Derek Kidner, EZRA-NEHEMIAH; IVP
16. NEHEMIAH--James Montgomery Boice,
NEHEMIAH (An Expositional Commentary); Baker
Books and/orJames Packer, A PASSION FOR
17. ESTHER--David Firth, ESTHER (The Bible Speaks
18. JOB--Gary Benfold, WHY LORD? (The Book of Job
for Today); Day One Publications and/or Bill
Cotton, JOB (Focus on the Bible Series); Christian
19. PSALMS--Steven Lawson, THE PSALMS (3
volumes); Broadman & Holman
20. PROVERBS--Ray Ortlund, Jr.; PROVERBS (Skill in
Living), [Preach the Word Series], Crossway
21. ECCLESIASTES--Sinclair Ferguson, THE PUNDIT'S
FOLLY (Ecclesiastes); Banner of Truth and/or
Philip Ryken, ECCLESIASTES: WHY LIFE
MATTERS (Preach the Word Series); Crossway
22. SONG OF SOLOMON--Richard Brooks, SONG OF
SONGS; Christian Focus
23. ISAIAH--John Calvin, ISAIAH (edited &
modernized by Packer & McGrath); Crossway
24. JEREMIAH & LAMENTATIONS--Philip Ryken,
JEREMIAH & LAMENTATIONS; [Preach the
Word Series]; Crossway
25. EZEKIEL--Peter Jeffrey, OPENING UP EZEKIEL’S
VISIONS; Day One Publications; and/or Iain
Duguid, EZEKIEL (NIV Application Commentary
26. DANIEL--Dale Ralph Davis, DANIEL (The Bible
Speaks Today); IVP and/or Sinclair Ferguson,
DANIEL (Christian Communicators Series);
27. THE MINOR PROPHETS--James Montgomery
Boice, THE MINOR PROPHETS (2 vols.);
Kregel and/or Sinclair Ferguson, THE MINOR
PROPHETS [2 vols.] (Preach the Word Series);
B. NEW TESTAMENT BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
1. MATTHEW--J.C. Ryle, EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON
MATTHEW, Banner of Truth (Crossway has an
abridged and updated version of Ryle on each of
the four gospels edited by J. I. Packer and Alistair
2. MARK--J.C. Ryle, EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON
MARK, Banner of Truth/Crossway
3. LUKE--J.C. Ryle, EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON
LUKE (2 Vol.), Banner of Truth/Crossway
4. JOHN--J.C. Ryle, EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON
JOHN (3 Vol.), Banner of Truth/Crossway
5. ACTS--Derek Thomas, ACTS (Reformed Expository
Series); P & R and/or Kent Hughes, ACTS (The
Church Afire) [Preach the Word Series]; Crossway
6. ROMANS--R. C. Sproul, ROMANS; Christian Focus;
or Ray Ortland, Jr., A PASSION FOR GOD;
7. I & II CORINTHIANS--Richard Pratt, 1 & 2ND
CORINTHIANS (Holman N. T. Commentary);
Broadman & Holman
8. GALATIANS--Philip Ryken, GALATIANS (Reformed
Expository Series); P & R
9. EPHESIANS--Peter Jeffrey, OPENING UP
EPHESIANS; Day One Publications and/or
Sinclair Ferguson, LET’S STUDY EPHESIANS;
Banner of Truth
11. PHILIPPIANS--Sinclair Ferguson, LET'S STUDY
PHILIPPIANS, Banner of Truth and/or
James Montgomery Boice, PHILIPPIANS: AN
EXPOSITIONAL COMMENTARY; Baker
12. COLOSSIANS--Kent Hughes, COLOSSIANS &
PHILEMON (Preach the Word Series); Crossway
13. I & II THESSALONIANS--Andrew W. Young, LET'S
STUDY THESSALONIANS and/or David Jackman,
THE AUTHENTIC CHURCH (What Are Our
Priorities Before Christ Comes Again?); Christian
14. I TIMOTHY, II TIMOTHY, and TITUS--John
MacArthur, Jr.; 1ST TIMOTHY, 2ND TIMOTHY;
and TITUS; Moody Press and/or John Calvin, THE
PASTORAL EPISTLES (abridged and modernized);
15. PHILEMON--Kent Hughes, COLOSSIANS &
PHILEMON (Preach the Word Series); Crossway
16. HEBREWS--Stuart Olyott, I WISH SOMEONE
WOULD EXPLAIN HEBREWS TO ME!; Banner of
Truth or Hywel Jones, LET’S STUDY HEBREWS;
Banner of Truth
17. JAMES--Alec Motyer, THE MESSAGE OF JAMES
(The Bible Speaks Today); IVP
18. I & II PETER--W. H. Griffith Thomas, THE
APOSTLE PETER (Outline Studies of His Life &
19. I, II & III JOHN--Ian Hamilton, LET’S STUDY THE
LETTERS OF JOHN; Banner of Truth
20. JUDE--Mark Johnston, LET'S STUDY 2nd PETER
AND JUDE; Banner of Truth
20. REVELATION--Richard Bewes, THE LAMB WINS!
(Revelation); Christian Focus and/or Derek
Thomas, LET'S STUDY REVELATION; Banner of
III. CAN I GET THESE BOOKS INEXPENSIVELY ?
--all these books are can be found at a good discount
at CUMBERLAND VALLEY BIBLE BOOK SERVICE
(1-800-656-0231) or CVBBS.COM
May you be faithful to teach you family the things of God and see them in God's timing come to saving faith and fellowship in the things of God.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
for more information about books and such!
For two millennia, Christians have had the great blessing of having Christian books available to them.
Early books were copied by hand and very expensive. Few could afford them and few had access to them.
Most people were blessed to have access to a Bible
But this situation was greatly improved after Johannes Guttenberg's invention of the printing press with moveable type just prior to the Reformation of the 16th century. Books and Bibles became available in great numbers, universal literacy became the right thing to do, and the printing press became the agent of change in the western hemisphere. The Protestant Reformation had legs and ran across Europe! Bibles
were now everywhere. Change began to happen.
Today, in an age and country like the United States where so many books are back in print by classic authors or coming into print by reliable authors, where is a person to start? What are the best books on the basic subjects of the Christian life? What's more, since books last a long time and can be stored on a shelf for later re-reading, a personal library or family library of the best books is not a luxury but a necessity for the thinking, growing Christian. I have complied and reshuffled the following list over the past twenty years. Perhaps you have a favorite or two with which you would replace some of my nominees. Here's where I suggest you start to build your personal and family library.
A BASIC LIBRARY OF A GROWING CHRISTIAN
When God puts new life in a person, they are “born again” and begin to live for God and His ways and to
please Him. They want to understand the One who bought them and set them aside for God’s special use.
They want their thoughts and attitudes, words and actions, to reflect the character of the God who is “holy, holy, holy”.
[The following books are meant to be read in the order they are listed for maximum impact.]
FIRST STEPS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE:
1. Peter Jeffery, FROM RELIGION TO CHRIST; Solid
Ground Christian Books--John 3 and the "new birth"
and the need of religious but lost Nicodemus to be
2. Peter Jeffery, BELIEVERS NEED THE GOSPEL:
Calvary Press--shows why everyone, believer or
unbeliever, needs to understand the gospel of
Christ and live by faith in Him (and it)
3. Charles Spurgeon, ALL OF GRACE; Moody Classics--
truly classic study of how NOT to save yourself but
to look to Christ alone.
4. Charles Spurgeon, AROUND THE WICKET GATE;
Christian Focus--if your standing at the door of
Christ (or already entered into salvation through
Him), this short book is truely worth reading.
5. Charles Spurgeon, ADVICE FOR SEEKERS; Christian
Focus--classic spiritual counsel of how to look away
from yourself and look to Christ alone for salvation.
6. John Stott, BASIC CHRISTIANITY; IVP--short, clear,
biblical. a 20th century classic.
THE CHARACTER OF OUR GREAT GOD:
1. R. C. Sproul, THE HOLINESS OF GOD; Tyndale--the
basic attribute of God from which all the others flow
2. Arthur Pink, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD; Banner of
Truth edition--classic study in the most responsible
3. Sinclair Ferguson, A HEART FOR GOD; Banner of
Truth--who is God, what is He like and what does
it mean to have a heart for Him?
4. Michael Reeves, DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY; IVP--
contagious in its enthusiasm; helpful in its clarity.
5. James White, THE FORGOTTEN TRINITY; Bethany
House--solid, clear, motivating study of why all true
Christians are Trinitarian.
MAN--AS GOD MADE HIM, SIN LEFT HIM, GOD
REMAKES HIM, AS HE WILL BE IN GLORY:
1. Brian Cosby, REBELS RESCUED (A Student's Guide
to Reformed Theology); Christian Focus--written
for students of Christianity of all ages.
2. J. Gresham Machen, THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF
MAN; Banner of Truth--theology made clear
3. Ian Campbell, THE DOCTRINE OF SIN--Christian
Focus--a great modern study of the most awful
thing in the world..and how it has infected and
4. John Piper, FINALLY ALIVE; Christian Focus--a great
study of the "new birth", the supernatural work of
God which transforms a person and sets them on
the road to heaven.
5. Kris Lundgaard, THE ENEMY WITHIN; P & R--a
modern, up to date version of John Owen's
INDWELLING SIN and TEMPTATION
6. Wayne Mack, FIGHT TO THE DEATH; P &R--putting
sin to death is literally "a fight to the death".
* EXTRA CREDIT--Thomas Boston, HUMAN NATURE
IN ITS FOUR-FOLD STATE; Banner of Truth--classic
study of what happened to humanity and what God
has done about it for time and eternity. A big book
worth the effort to master!
JESUS CHRIST: WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE
ACCOMPLISHED IN LIFE AND DEATH
1. Donald MacLeod, THE PERSON OF CHRIST; IVP--a
great and important study of the God-man and
some of what He is. Mind-stretching in a good way.
2. D. A. Carson, SCANDALOUS (The Cross and
Resurrection of Christ); Crossway--everything you
needed to know and more about why in the 1st
century of the 21st century, sinful humans are
scandalized by the reality of the cross and the
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3. John Benton, GOD’S RICHES (Workbook on the
Doctrines of Grace); Banner of Truth
3. Kris Lundgaard, THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
(Reflections on Christ That Change Us); P & R
4. Tom Wells, A PRICE FOR A PEOPLE; Banner of Truth
the only book I know for laymen on DEFINITE
(or LIMITED) ATONEMENT. And one of the best on
the subject. Christ got what He paid for!
5. James Packer and Mark Dever, IN MY PLACE
CONDEMNED HE STOOD; Crossway--truths that
will illuminate your mind and make your heart sing!
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT AND HIS HOLY WORD:
1. Geoff Thomas, THE HOLY SPIRIT; Reformation
Heritage--great introductory study that is clear and
2. Geoff Thomas, THE SURE WORD OF GOD;
3. Octavius Winslow, THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT;
Banner of Truth--warms you heart as it fills your
4. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, AUTHORITY (of Christ, the
Scriptures, the Holy Spirit); Banner of Truth--why
your pastor and your church must have the
authority of the Holy Spirit to count for God!
5. James Packer, ‘FUNDAMENTALISM’ AND THE
WORD OF GOD; Eerdmans--classic study on the
Bible as the sure and certain, inerrant and infallible
and sufficient Word of God written.
SALVATION: NEW BIRTH, CONVERSION,
1. Robert Peterson, SALVATION ACCOMPLISHED BY
THE SON; Crossway--salvation is by grace alone,
received by faith alone because it is by Christ alone
(and this book shows why this is all true).
2. Thomas Watson, THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE;
Banner of Truth--what it is and what it is NOT
3. Sinclair Ferguson, THE GRACE OF REPENTANCE;
Crossway--short, but not sweet; to the point but
strangely encouraging. Must be the Holy Spirit in
4. Jerry Bridges, THE GOSPEL FOR REAL LIFE;
NavPress--should be mandatory for every pastor,
Bible teacher and campus worker to master. It's
all there in a highly digestible format.
5. James White, THE GOD WHO JUSTIFIES; Bethany
Why it matters everyday that "God made Him who
knew no sin to become sin that we (believing
sinners) might become the righteousness of God in
Him." [2nd Corinthians 5:21]
6. Sinclair Ferguson, CHILDREN OF THE LIVING GOD;
Banner of Truth--what does it mean to become
a child of God, adopted into His family as a son or
daughter? Read it here and then kneel and adore!
SANCTIFICATION: LIVING AND GROWING UP IN HOLY
1. Jerry Bridges, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS;
NavPress--classic study for laymen (and humble
scholars) on the classic Reformed understanding
of sanctification (holiness).
2. Kevin DeYoung, THE HOLE IN OUR HOLINESS;
Crossway--updating of older, classic treatments
that is fresh for the 21st century.
3. Jerry Bridges, TRUSTING GOD; NavPress--the 1st
book written in English in the 20th century on the
biblical doctrine of the providence of God ("the hand
of God in the glove of circumstances") and still one
of the best. Master this book if you value your
testimony and your sanity!!
4. Jerry Bridges, THE BOOKENDS OF THE CHRISTIAN
LIFE; NavPress--understanding the imputed
righteousness of Christ and the indwelling power
of the Holy Spirit will keep you out of the ditch of
despair (I will never measure up!) and legalism
5. Sinclair Ferguson, GROW IN GRACE; Banner of
Truth--how to grow in grace and how NOT to grow
6. J. C. Ryle, HOLINESS (Its Nature, Hindrances,
Difficulties and Roots); Charles Nolan--THE CLASSIC
STUDY OF THE 19TH CENTURY that still bears
careful rereading. Recommended by Martyn Lloyd-
Jones, James Packer and a host of other eminent
7. Don Whitney, HOW CAN I BE SURE I AM A
CHRISTIAN?; NavPress--what is "assurance of
salvation" and what can cause us to wonder?
8. Don Whitney, SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES OF THE
CHRISTIAN LIFE; NavPress--we don't lay in a
hammock or watch TV on the sofa and become
men of God. That is our role to play in cooperating
with God in our growth in Christ?
9. Douglas Kelly, IF GOD ALREADY KNOWS, WHY
PRAY?; Christian Focus--heart-warming and
motivational book on prayer.
10. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION (It's
Causes and Cures); Eerdmans--a profoundly
11. Sinclair Ferguson, DESERTED BY GOD?; Banner of
Truth--sometimes Christians "feel" deserted. What
in the world is going on? Pay close attention to
12. John Bunyan, THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS;
Crossway (modern English) or Banner of Truth
(older English). THE CLASSIC STUDY of how
the Christian life is a journey and how to make it
to the end.
ETHICS: HOW THE FATHER WANTS HIS CHILDREN
TO LIVE IN HIS KINGDOM:
1. Philip Ryken, WRITTEN IN STONE; P & R--a great
book on the Ten Commandments, their nature,
how to understand and apply them. Must reading!
2. Brian Edwards, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR
TODAY; Day One Publications--very good at show-
ing how God's Moral Law applies today.
3. Samuel Bolton, THE TRUE BOUNDS OF CHRISTIAN
FREEDOM; Banner of Truth--a brilliant and clear
small book on how Christians are no longer under
the Law as a covenant BUT they are under the Law
as their moral duty.
4. Walter Chantry, CALL THE SABBATH A DELIGHT;
Banner of Truth--excellent chapter on how NOT
to be legalistic on one's application of the Lord's
5. Joseph Pipa, THE LORD’S DAY; Christian Focus--
very good overall study
6. Various Contributors; LOVE RULES; Banner of
Truth--shows how love and law are not opposites
but best friends. "The Law is loves eyes; Love is
the Law's heart."
7. Kevin DeYoung, JUST DO SOMETHING (A Liberating
Approach to God's Will); Crossway--avoiding the
pagan notion of hunting the elusive snipe of God's
will and learning the biblical approach.
8. Matt Redmund, GOD OF THE MUNDANE (Ordinary
Life for Ordinary People); Kalos Press--should be
prayerfully read and digested by every Christian.
Especially in this day when every Christian is feeling
guilt for not being "radical", extra-ordinary, and
extremely missional! Biblical reality at its best!
9. Gene Veith, GOD AT WORK; Crossway--we spend
a third of our life at work so how is a Christian
to view their work? Veith leads us to Martin Luther
who recovered the biblical teaching on vocation or
calling. As they say at the restaurants, "Enjoy!".
GOD’S CHURCH: ITS MEMBERS, ORDINANCES AND MINISTRIES:
1. Mark Dever, THE CHURCH (The Gospel Made
Visible); B & H Academic-- (Baptist)
Edward Clowney, THE CHURCH; IVP--(Presbyterian)
2. Mark Dever, NINE MARKS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH;
Crossway--biblical basics of a biblical church
3. Mark Dever, THE DELIBERATE CHURCH; Crossway
What is your church aiming to be, by the grace of
4. Jerry Bridges, TRUE COMMUNITY; NavPress--what
is true fellowship and how to get it.
5. Robert Godfrey, PLEASING GOD IN OUR WORSHIP;
Crossway--worship is giving God His due; not
razzmatazz and a dog & pony show.
6. Will Metzger, TELL THE TRUTH; IVP--true
7. John MacArthur, ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL;
Crossway--when a church loses confidence in the
appointed means of grace (the gospel and the Bible
preached in the power of the Spirt; the sacraments
faithfully administered), then Pandora's Box is
opened. MacArthur sadly retells a generation who
will not listen what is going on around them.
8. Thabiti Anyabwili and Ligon Duncn, BAPTISM AND
THE LORD’S SUPPER; 9MARKS/Crossway
9. Thabiti Anyabwili, MARKS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH
MEMBER; Crossway--being a church member is
more than having a cross necklace and a pulse.
This may be the best introductory study on this.
10. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, REVIVAL; Crossway--wear
your seat belt and planned to be thrilled,
convicted, moved to pray and repent.
11. Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert, THE GOSPEL AND
PERSONAL EVANGELISM; Crossway--ought to
be required reading by all pastors, elders and
12. Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, WHAT IS THE
MISSION OF THE CHURCH ? (Making Sense of
Social Justice, Shalom, & the Great Commission);
Crossway--very helpful to avoid contemporary
pitfalls on what is the church "supposed" to be
ETERNITY: DEATH, JUDGMENT, HEAVEN & HELL, and
the RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST
1. Ted Donnelly, THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF HEAVEN
AND HELL; Banner of Truth--the most sobering and
exhilarating book you can ever read!
2. Bruce Milne, THE MESSAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL;
IVP--faithful study of the Bible's and especially our
Lord's teaching on the afterlife.
3. Sinclair Ferguson and Scott Oliphint, IF I SHOULD
DIE BEFORE I WAKE; Christian Focus--how to face
4. R. C. Sproul, THE LAST DAYS ACCORDING TO
JESUS; Baker--what did our Lord teach about His
5. Sam Waldron, THE END TIMES MADE SIMPLE; Solid
Ground Christian Books
6. Sam Waldron, THE END TIMES MADE EVEN MORE
SIMPLE; Solid Ground Christian Books
CHURCH HISTORY: THE HISTORY OF CHRIST AND HIS
BUILDING OF HIS CHURCH ON
1. S. M. Houghton, SKETCHES FROM CHURCH
HISTORY; Banner of Truth--one history book that
will not bore you to death but open your eyes and
move your heart. How did we get where we are?
[And done with great pictures and photos.]
2. John Hannah, OUR LEGACY; NavPress--historical
theology OR how the church of Christ has had to
wrestle with the Bible and its teachings over the
centuries to come to greater clarity on the Bible
and its message.
May the Lord use your prayerful, thoughtful study of these books to ground you in the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) and make you into a man or woman of God who glorifies Him over the course of your life.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Visit me at my website for more reviews and book information at
A COURSE OF READING TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE
(A Baker’s Dozen of Books to Digest, in Order, Each
Year for Three Years to Grow Your Christian Life,
And Probably Change It)
READINGS FOR THE FIRST YEAR:
1. R. C. Sproul, THE HOLINESS OF GOD; Tyndale
(Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, depends
upon the kind of Being that God is. This is a very
important place to start. All of God's attributes are
"holy" attributes. Read this and be convinced.)
2. James Packer, "FUNDAMENTALISM" AND THE
WORD OF GOD; Eerdmans (This is the book that
first put us in Jim Packer's debt. A classic.)
3. Arthur Pink, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD; Banner of
Truth edition (Sober, biblical, faithful exposition of
what the Word of God has to say about who is
in absolute control.)
4. James Packer, 18 WORDS (The Most Important
Words You Will Ever Know); Christian Focus
(Originally published by IVP as GOD'S WORDS,
Packer wrote this in the early 80's in answer to
the growing interest in biblical theology and giant
word studies resources (Rudolf Kittel and Colin
Brown's works come to mind here). Packer shows
how to do word studies by studying 18 of the most
important biblical words. a gem to be referred to
over and over again.)
5. Jerry Bridges, THE GOSPEL FOR REAL LIFE;
NavPress (A classic study that I once said should
be mandatory reading and preaching for faithful
ministers and teachers of God's Word. Bridges is
the best explainer of classic Protestant and
Reformed theology for laymen who is alive today.
Pastor, if you cannot explain these truths as clearly
and well as Bridges, then use his stuff!)
6. James Packer, KNOWING GOD; IVP (Packer is here
because this book is a classic. I have read it many
times and it grows as I grow. One of the few books
of the 20th century that deserves to be a classic.)
7. J. C. Ryle, HOLINESS; Charles Nolan
Publishers/Moody Press (One of the great men of
the 19th century, Ryle was clear, warm, biblical,
Reformed, pastoral and straight-forward. No froth
or flowery language with Ryle. Imagine sitting with
a man in your living room who is learning toward
you to speak to you and has tears in his eyes. Man
to man. That is J. C. Ryle and this book is a classic.
8. Jerry Bridges, TRUSTING GOD; NavPress (One of
the most important books you can ever read. To
guard your testimony and your sanity, master this
book. It was the first book in English in the 20th
century on the doctrine of God's providence. God
is absolutely sovereign, totally loving, fully
omniscient and holy, holy, holy. Everything and
every person is under His sovereign, loving, wise
and holy will. If you value your testimony and your
sanity, master this book!
9. James Packer, KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT;
Baker (Takes you through the Bible to show you
what it teaches on the Holy Spirit, how different
branches of the churches have understood about
the Holy Spirit and directs you in walking in the
10. Fred Sanders, THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD (How
The Trinity Changes Everything); Crossway
(Fasten your seatbelt. This book will rock your
world and show you why you are a Trinitarian
and why all true Christians must be robust
Michael Reeves, DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY;
IVP (2 count as 1) (Just as good and important
as Sanders. Perhaps a bit easier to read but not
lightweight. Prepare to be thrilled, expanded and
on your knees worshipping after reading these
11. James White, THE POTTER’S FREEDOM; Calvary
Press (Is the doctrine of God's sovereign election
unto salvation biblical? Is God being fair? How
should we understand and enjoy this biblical
12. Iain Murray, THE FORGOTTEN SPURGEON; Banner
of Truth (On everyone's short list of great
preachers is the 19th century giant, Charles
Spurgeon. Who was he? What did he believe?
What did he preach? Believe it or not, Charles
Spurgeon was forgotten in 1960 when Iain
Murray first published this book. Thanks to Mr.
Murray's work and theirs, the man who said he
and his theology would be "eaten by dogs for the
next 50 years" but would prevail is seen in all his
grace given greatness.
Iain Murray, SPURGEON VS. HYPER-CALVINISM;
Banner of Truth (2 books count as 1) (Whenever
biblical "Calvinism" is alive, around the fringes
comes "hyper-Calvinism" and Arminianism.
Spurgeon, the biblical "Calvinist" had to deal with
both. This volume shows how he combatted
13. Iain Murray, MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (The First
Forty Years, 1899-1939); Banner of Truth (An
enthralling read and a must for every man
seeking to be a biblical minister of the gospel.
Read how a young medical doctor comes to
salvation, is later called to the ministry, struggles
over leaving his medical practice, goes to a place
where their is no sociological reason why the
ministry should succeed except that God honors
the gospel of His Son. The chapter on revival
alone will make you weep. Read it with your
men to learn how to order your ministry and
READINGS FOR THE SECOND YEAR:
1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, AUTHORITY (of Christ, the
Bible, the Holy Spirit); Banner of Truth (Each
chapter is judicious and biblical but the last chapter
is unique in evangelical literature. He shows how
the presence and authority of the Holy Spirit make
a preacher and a church powerful and useful. If
converting power, life-transforming power is absent
from the pulpit and the church, what is the
remedy? One would think it was the return of the
Holy Spirit! Well, evangelicals have not learned to
see the obvious. So they resort to robes and
vestments, razzmatazz, business techniques,
degrees and diplomas [the D.Min.-ization of the
pastorate!), etc. Convicting and illuminating.)
John MacArthur, ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL;
Crossway (2 count as 1) (In a sense, MacArthur
updates Lloyd-Jones and shows how evangelicals
have lost confidence in the gospel (Romans 1:16-
17) and are trying every trick and shenanigan to
gain a hearing. It would be funny if it were not so
2. Horatius Bonar , WORDS TO WINNERS OF SOULS:
P & R (19th century Scottish ministers were led to
take personal inventories of their lives and
ministries by leading pastor, Horatius Bonar.
Painful but necessary soul surgery!)
Charles Spurgeon, THE SOUL-WINNER; Whitaker
House (Another book which seeks to help ministers
understand how to be more fruitful in their
preaching and personal work. A classic!)
(3 count as 1) Mark Dever, THE GOSPEL AND
PERSONAL EVANGELISM; Crossway (It does us
good to be reminded for a whole month of the
place and priority of evangelism and world missions.
The "Great Commission" of Matthew 28:18-20
has never been revoked. These books help us to
be more biblical in how we go about fulfilling that
3. Sinclair Ferguson, DESERTED BY GOD?; Banner of
Truth (Sometimes, some Christians feel deserted
by God. What is going on? What is happening?
What is the remedy? Here are the answers.)
Sinclair Ferguson, GROW IN GRACE; Banner of
Truth (Christian are to grow, not remain stagnant
and still less still born. How are we to grow in grace?
How can our growth be sporadic or haphazard?
What is the right way to grow?)
Sinclair Ferguson, A HEART FOR GOD; Banner of
Truth (What does it mean to be a man or woman
after God's own heart? Enlightening and
encouraging chapters. The Chapter on Ruth and
God's faithfulness to His people is alone worth the
price of the book.)
(3 books count as 1)
4. James Packer & Mark Dever, IN MY PLACE
CONDEMNED HE STOOD; Crossway (Classic articles
on the work of Christ that have stood the test of
time. The bibliography by Ligon Duncan at the end
is superb. Should be read by every Christian
annually and every preacher quarterly!)
5. Thomas Watson, THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE;
Banner of Truth (Martin Luther said that when we
get to heaven, we shall have to repent of our
repentances! A bit of an exaggeration but the
point is well taken. Watson, the clearest of the
Puritans, shows us what repentance is, is not and
uncovers some of its counterfeits. Should be
mastered by all pastors and elders.
(3 books count as 1)
Sinclair Ferguson, THE GRACE OF REPENTANCE;
Crossway (A gracious booklet about the grace of
repentance. A good complement to Watson.)
6. S. M. Houghton, SKETCHES FROM CHURCH
HISTORY; Banner of Truth (The best place to begin
a study of church history that is fascinating,
inspiring, clarifying and has lots of helpful pictures!
Even people who do not like history will like this
7. John Hannah, OUR LEGACY; NavPress (a study of
how the church has come over time to struggle to
undertand, clarify and quantify the doctrines of the
Bible. Edifying and encouraging. )
8. Kris Lundgaard, THE ENEMY WITHIN; P & R (2
books count as 1) (Looks at remaining sin in
Kris Lundgaard, THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS;
P & R (Kris Lundgaard has the ability to read and
digest and regurgitate John Owen's massive
insights into the language of the 21st century.
What a treat!)
9. Iain Murray, THE OLD EVANGELICALISM; Banner
of Truth (The truths that once were believed and
practiced and preached among all evangelicals. A
good thermometer to take one's spiritual
10. John Bunyan, THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS;
various editions (While spending 12 years in
prison for preaching the gospel, Bunyan wrote
this classic study of the Christian life from the
vantage point of a spiritual journey. Spurgeon
read it or had it read to him over 100 times. Wise
men take note!
11. Sinclair Ferguson, DISCOVERING THE WILL OF
GOD; Banner of Truth (Faithful, biblical, wise
counsel on a hotly debated subject.)
Kevin DeYoung, JUST DO SOMETHING (A
Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will);
Crossway (Wisdom from a leading
pastor/theologian of the 21st century)
Bruce Waltke, FINDING THE WILL OF GOD (A
Pagan Notion?): Eerdmans (Shows the pagan
origins of the notion that Christians are to seek
out a hidden will of God which must be divined
in some extraordinary way.
(3 count as 1)
12. Iain Murray, EVANGELICALISM DIVIDED (A
Record of Critical Change in the Years 1950-
2000); Banner of Truth (Painful but necessary
exposure of what happened in Britain and America
when evangelical leaders confused who was a
Christian (by including liberals and Catholics in
evangelistic outreach ) and what was conversion
(by having to walk an aisle). Sad but necessary
history to learn and do better.
13. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION (It's
Causes and Cures); Eerdmans (the best material
for a Christian to read and reread as life attacks
and the way ahead becomes difficult. Another
20th century classic. Should be mastered by every
pastor, elder, campus worker and head of a
household. It's that important!)
READINGS FOR THE THIRD YEAR:
1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, REVIVAL; Crossway (A classic
study of revival in the Bible and church history.)
Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge, A GOD-SIZED
VISION (Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir);
Zondervan (Updates and expands Lloyd-Jones)
(2 books count as 1)
2. Iain Murray, PENTECOST--TODAY?; Banner of
Truth/Founders Press (A most important study
of the biblical foundation of true revival. What it is
and what it is not. Needs to be mastered by
pastors and elders and heads of households. This
is a most important book on a controversial
3. Iain Murray, REVIVALS AND REVIVALISM (The
Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism,
1758-1858); Banner of Truth (Protestant theology
historically understood revivals as a sovereign work
of God, sent at His command. Beginning in the
early 1800's, evangelists began to teach another
kind of revival that men could work up if they
would. It has become the standard, if totally wrong,
understanding entertained by evangelicals today.)
4. Octavius Winslow, PERSONAL DECLENSION AND
REVIVAL OF RELIGION IN THE SOUL and THE HOLY
SPIRIT; Banner of Truth (Even if one does not live
to see a true God-sent revival, these two books
explain the path of spiritual renewal of the
individual. To be read prayerfully.)
5. Noel Weeks, THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE;
Banner of Truth (With great reverence and care,
Australian Old Testament scholar shows us how
to handle God's Word, particularly when it comes
to the question: "Is God's Word sufficient for the
times?" This book made me stop and worship
the God who inspired the Bible.)
6. Thomas Brooks, PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST
SATAN’S DEVICES; Banner of Truth (Believers
who are unprepared for spiritual warfare are both
naive and grossly untaught. And they are easy
pickings for the Evil One. Neglect this book at your
7. Jerry Bridges, THE GREAT EXCHANGE; NavPress
(Combing through the New Testament, Bridges
shows the repeated biblical theme: my sin for His
righteousness. This study is most edifying and
foundational. If one doesn't get this understanding
down pat, the Christian life will be diminished.
Jerry Bridges, THE BOOKENDS OF THE CHRISTIAN
LIFE; Crossway (Bridges writes a short book to
keep Christians from missing the point--the great
exchange of my sin for His righteousness. Puts
the cookies down where all of God's sheep can
reach them. Should be given to each new church
8. R. C. Sproul, FAITH ALONE (The Evangelical
Doctrine of Justification); Baker
R. C. Sproul, GETTING THE GOSPEL RIGHT; Baker
(These two books build upon the foundation already
laid by Jerry Bridges in the two books previously.
Sproul shows how this doctrine of the "great
exchange" (known as "justification by faith alone in
Christ alone") was the foundation of the Protestant
Reformation of the 16th century and in danger
from 20th and 21st century evangelicals who are
losing this precious truth.
(2 books count as 1)
9. Don Whitney, SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES OF THE
CHRISTIAN LIFE; NavPress
Don Whitney, SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES WITHIN
THE CHURCH; Moody Press
(Former pastor and now professor Christian
spirituality, Whitney is the sure guide to the
personal disciplines required by the Word of God
(and one of his own addition!). He also shows
clearly that Christians are to be faithful churchmen
and what that means.
(2 books count as 1)
10. Roland Bainton, HERE I STAND (The Life of Martin
Luther); Hendricksen (The classic study of the life
and times of Martin Luther that shows why this
faithful Catholic monk stood upon the Scriptures
to regain the gospel of Christ for the church of
Christ. All of the abuses of the 16th century
Roman Catholic Church are with us today except
that indulgences are not bought but worked for.
Sobering reality and joyful thanksgiving for God's
work of reformation and revival of His Son's gospel
and the truths of the true church.)
11. Mark Dever, THE CHURCH (The Gospel Made
Visible); Broadman & Holman Academic
Fred Malone, THE BAPTISM OF DISCIPLES ALONE;
Founders’ Press (Two covenantal Baptist
theologians express their understanding of the
doctrine of credo-baptism (Believer's Baptism)
and its implications for the local church.
Edmund Clowney, THE CHURCH; IVP
Gregg Strawbridge, THE CASE FOR COVENANTAL
INFANT BAPTISM; P & R
(Paedo-baptist or those who practice baptizing
infants make their case and show its implications
for the church.)
(2 books count as 1)
12. Carl Trueman, THE CREEDAL IMPERATIVE;
Crossway (Everyone has a creed, recognized or
unrecognized. Trueman shows clearly that
creeds and confessions are biblical, necessary,
helpful and lead to doctrinal faithfulness and
joyful worship. The 1st chapter on today's
cultural climate and how it impacts new believers
and their inability to see the importance of creeds
and confessions is worth the price of the book.)
13. Edward Donnelly, THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF
HEAVEN & HELL; Banner of Truth
Bruce Milne, THE DOCTRINE OF HEAVEN AND
HELL (The Bible Speaks Today); IVP
(The most sobering truths in the world and the
most exhilarating truths in the world are dealt
with by these two faithful preacher/scholars.)
(Two books count as one.)
A man or woman, elder or layman, adult or teen who prayerfully read and digested these books would be transformed. Take my challenge and be transformed by the renewing of your mind and heart (Romans 12:1-2) !
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Come visit my website for other resources at:
Christianity, of all the world's religions, is historically rooted and based. God entered into the world He created and has acted in providence and through revelation by the prophets, the apostles and especially His Son, Jesus Christ. ("He suffered under Pontius Pilate" roots our faith in a certain part of the world in a certain time in history in a certain culture). [The other world religions are not dependent upon history and especially not the history of their founder because their founders are not that important. What is important is the good works of the person seeking to be saved (or whatever) by that religion.]
The devil, through the instrumentality of his assistants (lost human beings speaking out of their lostness), has repeatedly attacked God and His plan of salvation for lost sinners by attacking God's Word. One time the attack is "It's not true!". [Errors are alleged and supposed contradictions pointed out. Secular knowledge is put forward as inerrant and when the Bible contradicts that secular information, the Bible is said to be in error.]
Another time the attack is "It's not sufficient!" (we need psychology, anthropology, sociology, economic or whatever to buttress this less than adequate revelation from God).
Prior to my conversion in 1969, I had taken a religion class to meet a requirement for graduation from my Liberal Arts degree at a midwestern college.
I took the class on the Old Testament. Sitting there as a non-Christian in class each day, I listened to the professors from prestigious universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Chicago, et al.) tell us that the Old Testament was full of pious myths, legends, cultural stories, and the fertile imaginations of ancient Hebrews who extrapolated from their religious experiences to ideas about God. Layer upon layer was added by succeeding generations of editors (J, E, P, D) who gave us the final product--our Old Testament.
Our job was to pull the kernels of truth out of the mountain of chaff which was the existing Old Testament text. I can remember thinking to myself--"If these men don't really believe these things, that's fine, then why don't they go and get a real job instead of spending their lives debunking the Bible?" Who would give their lives to debunking IBM or Microsoft or General Mills? What's more, my philosophy and literature classes showed me that no man had the answers of life. No one was worthy of my allegiance. No man could tell me why I was born, what my purpose in life was nor where I would end up at death. Many men told the rest of us how to live, but their lives betrayed their teachings. One writer died of syphilis at 29. Another went mad at 35. Another drank himself to death. Another was addicted to laudanum (opium laced with alcohol). Other were womanizers. Some were outright perverts. Still others had no clue as to the meaning of life and gave up looking for it.
Not only did God spare me from believing the propaganda of these professors, He saved me at the end of that semester! I was no longer among the mass of people who were in the fast lane on the freeway to hell without a clue as to their destiny. I was a new creation in Christ, with a spiritual nature and indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. No longer was I the blind man of 1st Corinthians 2:14 ("The natural man does not accept the things of the spirit of God for they are are foolishness him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually appraised."). In rereading and studying for the final exam, I was given confidence that the Bible was the Word of God written. The inward witness of the Holy Spirt over and over again enabled me to put out the fiery darts of open attack and innuendo thrown against God's Word. Books such as James Packer's 'FUNDAMENTALISM' AND THE WORD OF GOD, Josh McDowell's EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, Gleason Archer's A SURVEY OF OLD TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION and books and articles by Benjamin B. Warfield gave me confidence to stand and withstand attacks upon God's Word.
After all, I was basing my eternal destiny upon the written Word of God. What the Bible contained about God, His creation of the world, mankind's fall into sin, God's subsequent pronouncement of wrath upon unrepentant, unbelieving mankind, the promise of a Deliverer, the 'seed of the woman', the calling of a man to begin the Jewish people out of whom would come the Messiah; the coming of Jesus in fulfillment of the prophet's words about God's suffering servant. If this book was not true and trustworthy, I was hopeless. And without guidance.
A decade later, after student ministry, I was in seminary majoring in theology and church history. I took a church history course examining the then recent work of Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, BIBLICAL AUTHORITY. In this book they tried to sell the thesis that the idea of an inerrant Bible was NOT the classic position of evangelical Christians but was a recent invention. The villains in their revisionist historiography were Benjamin B. Warfield and Archibald A. Hodge, two professors at Old Princeton Seminary who had penned an article on Inerrancy for the PRINCETON REVIEW. Rogers and McKim wrote a book of several hundred pages and filled with copious footnotes. They combed the pages of church history and found out the "real story" behind what Christians have supposedly believed about the Bible. And their conclusion was that Christians had always believed the Bible had errors but got over it and did not regard it as a big deal. Just stick to the story line about Jesus and sit loose to the embarrassing details of history, science, etc.
My course was structured for students to take the various chapters of the book, look up all the quotations and citations in the book and check them for accuracy. There were less students than chapters so I took two: the chapter on the Puritans and the chapter on Old Princeton and Charles Hodge. I was shocked to discover that 75-85% of the quotes were inaccurate. Sometime the authors conflated one source quoting another source and pushing the two together to make them say what they individually did not. Other times they took a sentence out of the middle of a paragraph
that went against their thesis but they cherry-picked a sentence that was useful to them. Other times they flat out changed or mangled a quotation. I was shocked that professing Christian scholars would do such a thing. So were my classmates whose finding revealed the same gross errors Our professor told us that the two authors were attached to a seminary which had changed its stance on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. They were seeking to re-write history to make their seminary seem to stand in a good place rather than being out of step with historic Christianity. Welcome to academia!
In the past twenty five years, other scholars who wanted to be known as evangelicals and even Reformed evangelicals have changed their positions and sought to attack the historic position of Christians on the Scriptures.
One recent avenue of attack has been the idea that the Old Testament is not that reliable because it was written long ago by men who borrowed from their surrounding pagan neighbors key elements of Israel's religion. The Bible reflects the worldview of ancient paganism as much as it does any revelation from God.
Answers to the recent skeptics among the evangelical flock have come from reliable evangelical and Reformed scholars who have done their biblical and scholarly homework. I highly recommend the following books as I show their Table of Contents:
John Currid, AGAINST THE GODS (The Polemical
Theology of the Old Testament); Crossway. 2013
Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, Currid gives us great help in showing how the Old Testament is confronting the false religions and gods of the pagan nations surrounding Israel. "Polemical theology" from the sub-title means theology which is aimed at refuting error and heresy and establishing the truth. Chapters titles help us to see where he is going.
1. A Brief History of Ancient Near Eastern Studies
2. The Nature of Polemical Thought and Writing
3. Genesis 1 and Other Ancient Near Eastern
4. Ancient Near Eastern Flood Accounts and the
Noahic Deluge of Genesis 6-9
5. Joseph, the Tale of Two Brothers, and the
"Spurned Seductress" Motif
6. The Birth of the Deliverer
7. The Flights of Sinuhe and Moses
8. Who is "I Am That I Am"? (Exodus 3 and the
Egyptian Book of the Heavenly Cow)
9. The Rod of Moses
10. The Parting of the Waters of the Red Sea
11. Canaanite Motifs
Every preacher who faithfully preaches from the Old Testament and wants to faithfully understand and preach the text must study this book. But there's more good writing yet to consider.
James Hoffmeier and Dennis Magary, eds.; DO
HISTORICAL MATTERS MATTER TO FAITH? (A
Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern
Approaches to Scripture); Crossway; 2012
Hoffmeier and Magary are professors of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago. They have enlisted 22 Old Testament and New Testament scholars to show the abiding historical veracity of the Word of God. Let me show you the table of contents and you will see its value.
PART 1--BIBLICAL, SYSTEMATIC & HISTORICAL THEOLOGY
1. Thomas McCall--Religious Epistemology, Theological
Interpretation of Scripture and Critical Biblical
Scholarship--A Theologian's Reflections
2. Graham Cole--The Peril of "Historyless" Systematic
3. Mark Thompson--The Divine Investments in Truth:
Toward a Theological Account of Biblical Inerrancy
4. James Hoffmeier--"These Things Happened"--Why
A Historical Exodus is Essential for Theology
5. Michael Haykin--Fundamentum et Columnam Fidei
Nostrae--Ireneus on the Perfect and Saving Nature
of the Scriptures
PART 2--THE OLD TESTAMENT AND ISSUES OF
HISTORY, AUTHENTICITY AND AUTHORITY
6. Richard Averbeck--Pentateuchal Criticism and the
7. Robert Chisholm--Old Testament Source Criticism--
Some Methodological Miscues
8. Robert Bergen--Word Distribution as an Indictor of
Authorial Intention (A Study of Genesis 1:1--2:3)
9. John Hilber--The Culture of Prophecy and Writing in
the Ancient Near East
10. Richard Schultz--Isaiah, Isaiahs and Current
11. Alan Millard--Daniel in Babylon: An Accurate
12. Willem VanGemeren and Jason Stanghelle--A
Critical, Realistic Reading of the Psalm Titles:
Authenticity, Inspiration and Evangelicals
13. Jens Bruun Kofoed--The Old Testament as
PART 3--THE NEW TESTAMENT AND ISSUES OF
HISTORY, AUTHENTICITY AND AUTHORITY
14. Robert Yarbrough--God's Word in Human Words--
Form Critical Reflections
15. Craig Blomberg--A Constructive Traditional
Response to New Testament Criticism
16. Darrell Bock--Precision and Accuracy: Making
Distinctions in the Cultural Context That Give
Pause in Pitting the Gospels Against Each Other
17. Eckhard Schnabel--Paul, Timothy, and Titus: The
Assumption of a Pseudonymous Author and of
Pseudonymous Recipients in the Light of Literary,
Theological and Historical Evidence
18. Thomas Davis--Saint Paul on Cyprus: The
Transformation of an Apostle
PART 4--THE OLD TESTAMENT AND ARCHEOLOGY
19. John Monson--Enter Joshue: The "Mother of
Current Debates" in Biblical Archeology
20. Richard Hess--Yahweh's "Wife" and Belief in One
God in the Old Testament
21. Michael Hasel--New Excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa
and the Early History of Judah
22. Steven Ortiz--The Archeology of David and
Solomon: Method or Madness?
Crossway Books has already given us an excellent refutation of some recent attacks upon the full inspiration and authority of Scripture in 2008 with
Greg Beale, THE EROSION OF INERRANCY IN
EVANGELICALISM: Responses to New Challenges
to Biblical Authority; Crossway
Thank you Crossway and thank you CVBBS for making such important and helpful books available to those of us whose calling is to study, teach and preach the Word of God. May we be faithful in our lifetimes.
Your Book Servant,
Visit my website for other reviews, articles and helpful information to pastors, teachers, elders and reading laymen:
America was born out of a war of rebellion and our nature as a people has not changed. While the early American colonists thought they had sufficient reasons to rebel, human beings are "rebels without a cause" when it comes to rebelling against God. And even after they are saved by the amazing grace of God, American still have a problem being under authority--even Christ's authority in the church. Our rebellion is couched in various quasi-religious ways, but it boils down to a refusal to submit to God-ordained reality and how it should function.
Today we will examine several books dealing with the doctrine of the church and several of its aspects.
(For the sake of brevity, we will not examine the God-given signs and seals of baptism and the Lord's Supper. We will save them for another time). Buy one or more of the following books and please God by reading them, putting them into practice and be a working part of God's church.
THE CHURCH IN GENERAL:
William Webster, THE CHURCH OF ROME AT THE
BAR OF HISTORY; Banner of Truth
Richard Phillips, Phillip Ryken and Mark Dever, THE
CHURCH (One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic);
P & R
Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, THE DELIBERATE
CHURCH; Crossway and 9 Marks
Mark Dever, 9 MARKS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH;
Crossway and 9 Marks
Edmund Clowney, THE CHURCH; IVP
Gregg Allison, SOJOURNERS AND STRANGERS (The
Doctrine of the Church); Crossway
Michael Milton, FINDING A VISION FOR YOUR
CHURCH (Assembly Required); P & R
LIVING IN THE CHURCH AS A CHRISTIAN:
Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, WHAT IS THE
MISSION OF THE CHURCH?; Crossway
Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, WHY WE LOVE THE
CHURCH (In praise of institutions and
organized religion); Moody Press
John Crotts, LOVING THE CHURCH; Shepherd Press
Joshua Harris, WHY CHURCH MATTERS; Multnomah
Earl Blackburn, JESUS LOVES THE CHURCH AND
SO SHOULD YOU; Solid Ground Christian Books
J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, WOMEN'S
MATTERS IN THE LOCAL CHURCH; Crossway
Ray Penning, CHURCH & CAESAR (A Legal Primer
for Church Office Holders)
Steve Martin, ed.; BIBLICAL SHEPHERDING OF
GOD'S SHEEP (The Use and Abuse of Authority
in Christ's Church); Day One Publications
Don Whitney, SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES WITHIN
THE CHURCH; Moody Press
Joel Beeke, THE FAMILY AT CHURCH; Reformation
Sheila Stephen, PREPARING FOR CHURCH; Day
Thom Rainer, I AM A CHURCH MEMBER; B & H
Thabiti Anyabwile, THE LIFE OF GOD IN THE SOUL
OF THE CHURCH; Christian Focus
Wayne Mack, TO BE OR NOT TO BE..A CHURCH
MEMBER; Calvary Press
Jonathan Leeman, THE CHURCH AND THE
SURPRISING OFFENSE OF GOD'S LOVE
(Rediscovering the Doctrines of Church
Membership and Discipline); Crossway
Jonathan Leeman, CHURCH MEMBERSHIP; Crossway
and 9 Marks
Jonathan Leeman, CHURCH DISCIPLINE; Crossway
and 9 Marks
John Angell James, CHURCH MEMBERS GUIDE; Solid
Ground Christian Books--19th century classic
Edward Hiscox, PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES FOR
BAPTIST CHURCHES; Kregel--another older
John L. Dagg, MANUAL OF CHURCH ORDER (Baptist);
Guy Waters, HOW JESUS RUNS THE CHURCH; P & R
WHO RUNS THE CHURCH (4 views on Church
May the Lord make you and I better Christians and therefore bring more glory to Him as we come more and more to understand the Bible's teaching on the church and our place in it.
Your Book Servant,
Visit my website: www.thelogcollege.wordpress.com
John's Gospel has long been a favorite of Christ's people. It was written by "the disciple whom Jesus loved", a cousin in His humanity and especially close
to our Lord. John's gospel, more than the other three, pulls back the curtain on the eternal inter-relationships between the three members of the Holy Trinity. John's quotes our Lord speaking especially of His relationship with His Father and how the coming Holy Spirit would be His personal agent, representing and replicating Him.
John's Gospel is also appreciated for its clarity and straight-forward presentation of the truth of Christ's divinity. I can remember as a new Christian in 1969 reading John's gospel over and over again. It was full of our Lord's promises to His people (cf. P. B. Power's THE 'I WILLS' OF CHRIST below). But it is also full of His teaching and that of John as to the deity of our Lord. God had become flesh and the disciples beheld His glory. Christian faith is not in a great man but in God the Son, the Second member of the Holy Trinity.
Below I have listed good places to look for help in studying and perhaps speaking John's gospel. I have broken down the resources into three categories.
A=no prior knowledge of John's gospel or of the biblical
language are needed. Accessible to the layman.
Paints with a broad brush. Does not usually get into
the details of exegesis but gives a singular meaning.
Good for personal devotions and family worship.
B=some knowledge of biblical languages might be
needed. Requires more than a passing knowledge
of what is going on in John's gospel. May give more
than one exegetical option. Appropriate for S. S.
teachers, small group leaders, campus workers,
neighborhood Bible Study leaders, etc.
C=expects you to know some of the original languages
and how they work. Gives various exegetical options
and the authors own measured option. Appropriate
for pastors, seminarians, serious students of John's
A. J. C. Ryle, EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON JOHN (3
Volumes in paperback; or 1 volume hardback.);
Banner of Truth--vintage Ryle. First written for
laymen who had no local church to attend and
needed some of the meat of the Word of personal
or family worship.
A. J. C. Ryle, JOHN (Crossway Classic Commentary);
Crossway--abridged and modernized by Packer
A. John Calvin, JOHN; Crossway--edited and updated
by McGrath and Packer. Considered one of
A. Leon Morris, REFLECTIONS ON THE GOSPEL OF
JOHN; Hendrickson; originally published by Baker
as EXPOSITORY REFLECTIONS ON THE GOSPEL
OF JOHN. Professor Morris used his retirement
years to give his mature reflections upon this
book of the Bible upon which he has already given
the churches an outstanding commentary (see
A. Colin Kruse, JOHN (Tyndale New Testament
Commentary); IVP Academic--has also done the
excellent companion volume on John's epistles
for the series. Good place for the beginning
student to begin.
A. Arthur W. Pink, EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF
JOHN; Zondervan--stimulates thought and
A. Bruce Milne, THE MESSAGE OF JOHN (The Bible
Speaks Today Series); IVP--most helpful
exposition by the former professor at Spurgeon's
College and former pastor of 1st Baptist Church
of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. A good theologian
and good expositor.
A. R. C. Sproul, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (St. Andrews
Expositional Commentary); Reformation Trust--
Sproul and the gospel of John--a winning
B. Gary Burge, JOHN (NIV Application Commentary
Series); Zondervan--good exegesis with thought
provoking attempts at application. He will not
reinforce your already existing prejudices in his
'bridging to today' applications.
B. F. F. Bruce, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, Eerdmans--
solid gold, especially for the beginning teacher.
B. Andreas Kostenberger, JOHN (Baker Exegetical
Commentary); Baker--just about everything one
could ask for about John ins found here and his
companion volumes (see below).
B. D.A. Carson, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (Pillar New
Testament Commentaries); Eerdmans--One of
his best, reflecting his earlier doctoral work on
C. J. Ramsey Michaels, JOHN (New International
Commentary on the New Testament); Eerdmans-
a student and teacher of John's gospel for
decades, Professor Michaels brings years of his
lecturing, thinking and writing to this massive
study of John.
C. Herman Ridderbos, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN;
Eerdmans--theological exegesis at its best.
C. Leon Morris, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN;
Eerdmans--perhaps Morris' best.
C. Craig Keener, A COMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL
OF JOHN (2 vol.); Hendrickson--Keener gives the
serious scholar great help in knowing John.
INTRODUCTIONS TO JOHN AND HIS GOSPEL:
A. Robert Reymond, JOHN, BELOVED DISCIPLE (A
Survey of His Theology); Christian Focus/Mentor--
Professor Reymond gives us his mature reflections
on John and his gospel.
A. Robert Peterson, GETTING TO KNOW JOHN'S
GOSPEL; P & R--not a commentary but an
introduction to the various themes of John's
gospel. Quite helpful.
B. Craig Blomberg, THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY
OF JOHN'S GOSPEL; IVP--Professor Blomberg
defends the historical trustworthiness of John's
gospel against its critics, ancient and modern.
B. Andreas Kostenberger, INTRODUCING JOHN;
Baker--the best place to begin for one wanting to
seriously study and understand John and his
B. Andreas Kostenberger, A THEOLOGY OF JOHN'S
GOSPEL AND LETTERS; Baker--a leading expert
on all things "John", this evangelical Baptist
scholar has put the church in his debt with so
many good things on John.
B. Andreas Kostenberger and Scott Swain: FATHER,
SON AND HOLY SPIRIT (The Trinity in John's
Gospel); [New Studies in Biblical Theology]; IVP
Academic--it is important for the Christian
communicator to get his theology from the Word
of God. The Trinity is a biblical concept though
not a biblical word.
HOMILETIC HELPS ON JOHN'S GOSPEL:
A. James Montgomery Boice, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
(5 volumes); Baker--one of Dr. Boice's best. He
did his Ph.D. work on John's gospel at the
University of Basel and yet preached John's
gospel for several years to his people at 10th
Presbyterian in Philadelphia.
A. R. Kent Hughes, JOHN (Preaching the Word
Series); Crossway--Hughes show how to preach
the text in this culture with effect.
A. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, THE PATH TO TRUE
HAPPINESS (John 2); Baker--classic expositions
A. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, THE ASSURANCE OF
SALVATION (Studies in Jesus' Prayer for His own-
John 17); Crossway--a modern Puritan and the
greatest preacher in the English language in the
20th century gives a rich and moving treatment
to our Lord's intercession for His first century
disciples and his disciples down through the
B. P. B. Power, THE "I WILL'S" OF CHRIST; Banner
of Truth--a rich meditation upon our Lord's
promises to His people of what He, Himself, will
be to them.
A. Charles Ross, THE INNER SANCTUARY (John 13-
17); Banner of Truth--warm devotional
treatment of passages rightly well-worn in
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace to read, study and speak of John's gospel with clarity, spirituality and faith.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
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This generation likes to speak about "the story" or "the meta-narrative", which is a fancy word for "big story". It is not a generation that like to speak of facts or objective reality or absolute truth or propositional revelation. Having given up hope of constructing a way of understanding the world beginning with mankind's collective wisdom, many no longer believe there is any rhyme or reason for why the world is the way it is or what we are to do in relation to it. That is not the Bible's portrayal of the way things are, how they got that way and what are we to do in response to it.
Christian thinkers have long sought to help God's people understand the "big picture" which God is painting in the Bible. In coming to understand the "big picture", we can come to understand where we as individuals fit in--how our photo gets into the bigger picture that God is creating.
There are two ways of tracing the outline of this so-called "big picture" of God. One is to trace what God is doing in the progressive revelation in the Bible--what theologians call "biblical theology"--the unfolding plan of salvation revealed in the progressive stages of the Bible's narrative. A second way to understand the "big picture" is to look at the whole of what God has revealed in the Bible and put it into logical and discrete categories--like a gardener or botanist takes wild flowers and herbs and puts them into a botanical garden. Theologians call this organized way of showing God's truth "systematic theology". "Biblical theology" and "systematic theology" are complementary ways of showing what God has revealed in the Bible.
This week I shall be highlighting the various "systematic theology" works which are available and try to show you how you might use them. Next week I hope to show you some good "biblical theology" works and how you might use them.
SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY FOR CHILDREN & TEENS
Bruce Ware, BIG TRUTHS FOR YOUNG HEARTS:
Crossway--the whole gamut of systematic
theology for children aged 6-14.
INTRODUCTORY SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY FOR ADULTS:
Sinclair Ferguson, THE CHRISTIAN LIFE: A DOCTRINAL
INTRODUCTION; Banner of Truth--getting started
in the basics of the faith by a great
Bruce Milne, KNOW THE TRUTH; IVP--takes the reader
and unfolds the basic truths of Protestant,
Reformed Christianity; approving forward by James
Packer. Nicely laid out and communicated.
James Packer, CONCISE THEOLOGY; Tyndale--an
outstanding, compressed guide to basic theology.
Do not let its simplicity fool you. "Packer by name,
packer by trade". There is a wealth of good things
here. Each pastors and teacher needs to have a
copy of this handy to check oneself.
James Packer, 18 WORDS; Christian Focus--a most
helpful overview of eighteen key words in the Bible
and their profound meanings. Should also be kept
close at hand for preachers and teachers to check
James M. Boice, FOUNDATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN
FAITH; IVP--originally sermons to his Philadelphia
congregation, Boice was able to be clear, biblical,
historically accurate and always with a telling
illustration. One seminary graduate told me that
he could not piece together what he learned in
seminary until by God's providence, he read this
book. Then all things came together for him.
R. C. Sproul, ESSENTIALS TRUTHS OF THE CHRISTIAN
FAITH; Tyndale--clear, biblical, warm and expressed
in the warm clarity that is R. C. Sproul's teaching
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, GREAT DOCTRINES OF THE
BIBLE; Crossway--originally in three volumes, this
is a masterful overview of God's revealed truths
for today's Christians.
John Dagg, MANUAL OF THEOLOGY; Founders Press--
the first writing systematic theologian among
19th century Baptists in the South, Dagg's
theology is Calvinistic, clear and warm.
Archibald Alexander, BRIEF COMPENDIUM OF BIBLE
TRUTH; Solid Ground Christian Books--a warm,
clear and straight-forward work by the first
President of Princeton Theological Seminary. As a
pastor after the Revolutionary War, he preached
with power and preached in times of revival. A holy
man with unique gifts.
Louis Berkhof, SUMMARY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE;
Banner of Truth--a shortened and simplified version
of his much longer and more comprehensive work.
Charles Hodge, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; Baker
(Abridged in 1 volume)--still a very good primer
as it stands--Hodge was one of America's greatest
theologians, teaching for over 50 years at Old
Princeton, when it was the bastion of evangelical
Archibald Alexander Hodge, EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY;
Banner of Truth--Friday evening lectures on
theology by the son of the great Charles Hodge.
The great Benjamin B. Warfield deeply admired the
younger Hodge's ability to take deep theology and
make it understandable to the man in the street.
Archibald Alexander Hodge, OUTLINES OF THEOLOGY;
Banner of Truth--going deeper than the volume
above, Hodge went over the whole corpus of
theology in the question and answer format.
Charles Spurgeon used Hodge's work as a textbook
at his PASTOR'S COLLEGE (only adding material on
baptism to reflect his own views on that matter).
MORE ADVANCED SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY WORKS:
James P. Boyce, ABSTRACT OF SYSTEMATIC
THEOLOGY; Founders Press--having studied under
Hodge at Old Princeton, Boyce went on to be one
of the bulwarks of The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Louisville.
Louis Berhof, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; Eerdmans--for
many years the classic Reformed systematic
theology for the mid-20th century. Berhof is
especially helpful with his history of the doctrine
section which puts the development of doctrine in
a clear light.
Gerald Bray, GOD IS LOVE; Crossway--leading
evangelical and Anglican theologian gives us his
understanding of how and what God has revealed
Himself to humanity and especially believers.
Robert L. Reymond, A NEW SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY;
Thomas Nelson--long time professor at Covenant
Seminary gives us the fruit of a lifetime of teaching
what God reveals of "the big picture".
Wayne Grudem, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; Zondervan--
leading Calvinistic and Baptistic theologian gives
an overview of each branch of theology, comparing
his views with competing views. Well-organized.
Lacks a helpful understanding of the Holy Spirit.
Robert Culver, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; Christian
Focus--leading evangelical theologian who has
taught at several seminaries write a very clear
"evangelical" systematic theology in the older
style. High marks from various evangelical
Robert L. Dabney, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; Banner
of Truth--19th century Southern Presbyterian
theological giant, chaplain for General Stonewall
Jackson and such a good teacher that Princeton
tried to recruit him but he would not leave his
beloved South. Even neo-orthodox theologian Karl
Barth discovered that with Dabney there was more
Bible and less philosophy than with many other
Michael Horton, THE CHRISTIAN FAITH; Zondervan
a contemporary Reformed theologian covers the
various aspects of divine revelation in a
James Ussher, BODY OF DIVINITY; Solid Ground
Christian Books--classic Puritan systematic theology
which has stood the test of time.
MULTI-VOLUME SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY WORKS:
Charles Hodge, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; Eerdmans;
3 volumes--a standard systematic theology;
written in the 1870's and still relevant because
God's Word is always relevant. (Until Hodge wrote
his massive work, Turretin's volumes in Latin were
the prescribed textbooks at Old Princeton.
William G. T. Shedd, DOGMATIC THEOLOGY; P & R--
three volumes in one giant sized volume, Shedd
rivaled Hodge in the 19th century. Still very useful.
(Quotations in Greek and Latin and German have
been translated in English.)
John Calvin, THE INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN
RELIGION; Westminster/John Knox Press--2
volumes--one of the greatest works in the history
of man or in the history of God's people. More
devotional than many people realize.
Francis Turretin, INSTITUTES OF ELENCTIC
THEOLOGY; P & R--[3 volumes] following in the
steps of John Calvin in Geneva, Turretin wrote
what has been a much used and highly praised
Herman Bavinck, REFORMED DOGMATICS (4
volumes); Baker--by the greatest of the Dutch
theologians of the past two hundred years. (Also
available in a one volume abridged edition.)
Douglas Kelley, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY (1 of 3
projected volumes is in print); Christian Focus
by one of the greatest theologians in the
contemporary Presbyterian Church. A noted
patristics scholar, this promises to be a much used
textbook written by a professor with a pastor's
heart, preaching every Lord's Day in a small church
in the country.
Begin with the simpler volumes and work your way into the more comprehensive and demanding volumes. As you come to more and more understand what God has done and is doing, you can better see your photo in God's big picture, and your story in His story.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Visit me at my personal blog:
For many years, I have observed that just as my body craves certain things at certain times (water or sports drink after a workout; lean meat and a salad for a satisfying dinner; fresh fruit for sweet refreshment; dark chocolate for a little splurge, etc, so in a similar way, my spiritual health requires that I recognize my soul's spiritual needs and feed my soul what is appropriate.
Let me give you an illustration. Perhaps you are a no-nonsence kind of person who likes facts and objective data. Reading books about theology and church history might be your greatest interest. But if you are also assessing your spiritual condition rightly, you also should recognize that an unbalanced spiritual diet of "outside of me", objective truths must be balanced with "inside of me", subjective application of truth. Or to put it another way, a head full of data can fool me into thinking I understand a spiritual reality when I may only be understanding the idea of the spiritual reality. Perhaps I am not experiencing the power of that spiritual reality at all.
So a balanced spiritual diet of objective truths (outside of me) and subjective application of truths (experiencing the power of truth within me), may require reading different materials at different times.
Or we may have to learn to read differently, seeking to apply truths to ourselves when the author and volume in question do not. For example, when reading about the Protestant Reformation and the rediscovery of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, the author retelling the story may not stop and ask me, the reader: "Are you understanding and applying this truth to your own heart?" "Are you trusting in the finished work of Christ as your righteousness and the full atonement for your sins?" "Is God the Holy Spirit bearing witness to your soul that you are a child of God, accepted in the Beloved and His righteousness alone?"
To capitalize on the balance of objective truths and subjective experience of the truths, let me recommend pairs of books for you to read, ponder, pray over, come to understand and apply to your own soul.
THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION:
James R. White, THE GOD WHO JUSTIFIES;
Bethany--A good, no frills examination of what
the Bibles teaches on the believing sinner's sins
being counted to Christ and Christ's
righteousness being counted to the believing
Jerry Bridges, THE GREAT EXCHANGE; Crossway--
a parallel study with more emphasis upon one's
own experience of this most important truth.
THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE (The Hand of God in the Glove of Circumstances)
Paul Helm, THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD; IVP--works
through the issues one by one
Jerry Bridges, TRUSTING GOD--EVEN WHEN LIFE
HURTS; NavPress--even when your wife is dying
of cancer, you lose your job, the lab's test comes
back positive, the squad car pulls up with your
child in the back seat, etc.
THE DOCTRINE OF SANCTIFICATION (growing as a Christian in Christ-like holiness):
A. W. Pink, THE DOCTRINE OF SANCTIFICATION;
Jerry Bridges, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS;
NavPress--classic study by a man who practices
what he preaches and teaches.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:
Sinclair Ferguson, THE HOLY SPIRIT: IVP--a classic
by one of our best modern theologians.
Octavius Winslow, THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT;
Banner of Truth--a classic study of the Holy Spirit
in the believer's life.
Now that I have spurred your thinking a bit, what books have you discovered make a good pair for imparting great truths and making them come alive in your life? Email and let me know what you have found.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Join me also at my website,
INTERPRETATION OF PROVIDENCE IN HISTORY
I. EXAMPLES TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING ON PROVIDENCE & HISTORY
A. EXAMPLE # 1--TWO MEN, TWO VIEWS OF REALITY
--I Kings 18:17-18
1. King Ahab's, a rich and powerful man of the
world, interprets reality in his lifetime
a. Elijah had interrupted the peace and
happiness of the land by praying down God's
judgement in the form of a drought.
b. This 'sour chuch goer', Elijah, spoils life.
c. Israel was his kingdom to dispose of as he
2. Elijah's, the man of God, interprets reality in
a. Ahab's idolatry was the cause of ruin to the
land of Israel
b. It is the reckless sinner who ruins the world
by bringing God's curse upon a land.
c. Israel was God's Kingdom, Ahab was an
apostate ruler and a thorn in Israel's flesh.
3. Two men interpret the same data but interpret
it very differently
a. Israel was in the midst of a major drought,
ruining its economy and making life hard.
b. The people were confused and lacked
direction. Two powerful men had spoken out.
c. Which, if either, was right?
B. EXAMPLE # 2--DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS OF
1. Acts 22:22--"Rid the earth of him. He's not fit
to live!" is the analysis of religious men who
are unconverted (e.g. I Tim. 3:1-5) and who
glory in their own righteousness and shun the
righteousness that God gives in Christ (cf. Isaiah
66:1-2, 5 & Phil. 3:3, 9)
2. Hebrews 11:38a--God's interpretation was that
the martyrs were "men of whom the world was
3. Whose interpretation of reality ultimately
counts? Whose interpretation of events, men's
actions, and your life really counts?
II. LESSONS TO LEARN ABOUT INTERPRETING
PROVIDENCE IN HISTORY
A. A MAN'S THEOLOGY ALWAYS DETERMINES HIS
VIEW OF PROVIDENCE (If you were to ask the
question: "What is fundamentally wrong with our
nation? ", you would get various answers.)
1. Ecumenical spokesmen--"You need to lay aside
your doctrinal differences and 'heal the wounded
Body of Christ' before Christianity will again be a
force in the land.
2. Charismatic/Pentecostal spokesmen--
"Christianity will not be a force in the land again
as long as Christians will not seek the
charismatic and pentecostal gifts."
3. Liberal spokesmen--"Christianity will not be a
force in the land as long as narrow, obscurantist
fundamentalists and old-fashioned confessional
Christians are active. We must adapt to the
4. Confessional Evangelical and Reformed
spokesmen--"God's judgement is on our land
for our unfaithfulness to Christ, to His Bible, to
the gospel and its theology."
B. THE WAY A MAN INTERPRETS PROVIDENCE PROVES
1. I Chronicles 12:32
2. Esther 1:13-28, esp. vv. 13-14 and Esther
3. Daniel 3:16-18 and Daniel 9:1-3
4. Acts 2:22-24 and 4:23-28
5. Acts 27:9-44--God's sovereignty & human
responsibility in a providential view of history
III. WHAT WE NEED TO RECAPTURE TO PROPERLY
1ST--THE CONCEPT OF A 'MODEL AGE' OR 'GOLDEN
ERA' IS VALID
1. In a limited sense, there are 'model ages' or
'golden eras' in church history.
2. There are times when God is wonderfully and
powerfully at work in sending reformation
revival and powerful preachers of great
3. Other times show that God can give good and
orthodox preachers to the churches but
withhold a great outpouring of His Spirit on the
preacher or his usefulness. Ultimately, God
determines the 'usefulness' and 'significance'
of every man's ministry.
4. If we do not believe in times when God's grace
is poured out in reformaton and revival and
powerful preaching, then how can we desire it
and pray for it?
5. Times that most approximate the theology and
spiritual power of the New Testament are those
times most blessed of God.
a. the Reformation of the 16th century
b. the Puritan Era of the 17th century
c. the Great Awakening of the 18th century
d. the 2nd Great Awakening and the modern
missionary movement of the 19th century
2ND--THE BIBLICAL IDEA THAT GOD MUST BE
GLORIFIED IN THE EARTH
1. All professing Christians say that God should be
glorified. It is axiomatic.
2. But it is not common to find professing
Christians who believe that God is worthy to be
glorified now, in each person's lifetimes, through
each person's life by his holy obedience, faith-
fulness to God and His Word, and self-denying,
3. Most professing Christians today would say that
such lives are only for 'super Christians', the kind
who should become pastors and missionaries.
4. Examples of the issues at hand:
a. the Scottish Covenanters of the 17th
century--they would rather die that disobey
Q--"Why are you prepared to suffer such
'unnecesary' trials? I shall go to heaven
too as a Christian but I am not going to
suffer for such matters of conscience. So
what will you get that I won't? You will
only get heaven too."
A--"But yes, we will have more than you.
For we shall have God glorified on earth."
b. Puritan pastor John Preston to a persecutor
asking why he was such a precise man about
his Christian life and doctrine--"That is
because I serve a precise God."
c. Robert Murray M'Cheyne--"My people's
greatest need is...my personal holiness. A
holy minister is an awesome weapon in the
hands of Almighty God."
5. Today, most professing Christians are careless
and haphazard about their daily walk, their
marriage and family, their worship of God, and
their witness for Christ. It has been like that at
other times too--Paul admonished and warned
the Ephesians-- 4:1 and 5:1-15
6. What is lost by the masses of professing
Christians who do not live their lives purpose-
fully to be holy and careful and consistent is that
God is not being glorified on the earth.
7. And that is of incalcuable loss! Everywhere the
Bible teaches that God's greatest motivation is
for His own glory. It would be sin for God to be
whatever is 2nd.
8. cf. Psalm 115:1; Isaiah 42:8; 43:7 and 48:11;
9. Carelessness of walk, worship, and witness not
only forfeits God's richest blessings but robs Him
of His declared and demonstrated glory on earth.
10. Universal obedience to God's written Word
becomes more essential that life itself.
3RD--THE BIBLICAL PORTRAYAL OF THE CHURCH'S
HEALTH LIKE THE RISING & FALLING OF A
WAVE (Periodically Rising To New Spiritual
Heights and Then Falling to Spiritual Lows)
1. Scripture teaches that times of revival will be
followed by decline of varying degrees both on
a Church and a personal level. We must always
battle "spiritual entropy".
2. Psalm 44
3. Isaiah 63:7--64:12
4. Biblical and historical examples
a. there was a revival under young King Josiah
and people's lives and Israel's national life was
changed. But spiritual decline set in again.
b. 400 years of silence between Malachi's
prophecies and the coming of John the
c. the outpouring of grace & spiritual light at
our Lord's 1st coming and the preaching
of the apostles
d. the sputtering of darkness and light during
the first 500 years of the Church as it
battled persecution, heresy and the cultural
collapse of the Roman Empire
e. the flickering of light in the great darkness of
the "Dark Ages" from 500-1000 and the
gradual appearance of light during the
Medieval & Renaissance period (1000-1500).
f. the great burst of light at the Protestant
Reformation of the 16th century beginning
with Martin Luther in 1517 and running
through the Puritan period of 1689.
g. things declined spiritually again until the
great burst of light at the Great Awakening
under Whitefield, Wesley and Edwards and
the later 2nd Great Awakening.
3. Not matter how low the fortunes of Christ's
church may fall, God is able to revive it again,
even in a very short time in answer to believing
prayer. The wave that falls to its trough (lowest
point) is destined to rise up again to another
peak. We must keep this in mind if we are not
to fall into despair in such a day as this.
[POST TENEBRAS LUX]
4. God's question put to ancient Israel--Isaiah
66:8--"Can a nation be born in a day?"
4TH--THIS DISTINCTIVE CONCEPT OF THE CHURCH'S
HISTORY WAS RECAPTURED AT THE TIME OF
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
1. The Reformers and biblical Protestantism helped
us to recapture the Scriptures and the
doctrines they teach but they also helped
recover the view of history found in Scripture.
2. Watershed writings of Protestantism that shaped
the Church's understanding of history:
Martin Luther, THE FREEDOM OF THE
CHRISTIAN MAN, A LETTER TO THE CHRISTIAN
NOBILITY, THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY OF THE
CHURCH; John Calvin's INSTITUTES OF THE
CHRISTIAN RELIGION; and John Foxe's ACTS
AND MONUMENTS (popularly called FOXE'S
BOOK OF MARTYRS)
3. The Reformers saw God's providence worked out
in 3 distinct eras of church history:
a. the early church--(0-500) rise, battles and
b. the medieval church--(500-1500) millennium
of confusion, superstition, and darkness
c. the modern church--(1500-today) rise,
battles, decline, rise, battles, decline, etc.
4. If we do not let the theology of the Bible describe
what is spiritual health and what is spiritual
disease, then we will be unable to diagnose our
own spiritual health nor the times in which we
are living. That which most closely conforms
with Scripture is best!
5. Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that God's Word
alone is the final interpreter of reality. Only God's
Word can reveal to us the good guys & bad guys,
health & decline in history.
6. When in history we see serious departure from
N. T. teaching and practice, then we know we
are seeing God's wrath & curse (upon a person,
family, culture or civilization)
7. When in history we see the close adherence to
N.T. teaching and practice, then we may be
certain that we see the approval of God in His
providence (and grace).
8. Such biblical thinking drove the Reformers and
subsequent Protestants to the conviction that
the Middle Ages was a great departure from God,
and oppositely, that the Reformaton, by God's
grace, was a glorious returning to God.
9. Modern historians and sadly too many evangelical
leaders believe in "unbiased history". To assign
value judgements and labels is to be biased. To
treat everything and everyone as gray has left
church history without heroes and villains, and
secular history as a big ?
10. But if the religion which the N.T. presents is the
religion of a man and a movement, then it is
justifiable to regard them as the work of God
and opponents as the enemies of God.
11. A corollary to this is that peoples and nations
which embrace biblical and Reformation teaching
are under the blessing of God, and oppositely,
His displeasure follows nations which turn from
those teaching. (E.g. the history of various
a. Proverbs 14:34
b. Romans 1:18-32
c. the theology of the Reformation was
rejected about the time of WW I
d. the ethics and morality of the Reformation
was rejected about the time of WW II
e. the total rejection of Reformation/Protestant
beliefs & behavior came with the "New
Morality", the "permissive society" and the
"counter culture" of the 1960's
f. the current status of evangelical religion
comes perilously close to regarding every-
thing calling itself "Christian" to be equally
valid and good, whether cult or Catholic.
IV. APPLYING WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED ABOUT
PROVIDENCE AND HISTORY
1. How we interpret providence determines how
we evaluate history, especially church history.
And that determines the way we look at the
great figures of church history and those who
right and speak about them.
2. "History" is the study of events that unfold in
this world when looked at from the limited
vantage point of mankind. It is human
knowledge, scholarship and interpretation
3. "Providence" looks at the same data from a
theological point of view. It is just history
as God has ordained it and watches over it. It
is history viewed through the Bible lens.
4. Someone writing or speaking about history or
the significance of cultural events may be
knowledgeable about certain details but not be
competent to interpret God's providence.
a. Pagan scholar Celsus attributed the fall of
the Roman Empire to the abandonment of
paganism and the rise of Christianity!
b. He was decisively answered by Augustine's
THE CITY OF GOD who puts forth the
opposite interpretation of reality (for us,
"history") from providence's point of view.
c. Edward Gibbon's, THE DECLINE AND FALL
OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, picks up the ancient
pagan logic of Celsus in his famous 18th
century attack on Christianity.
5. It is the duty of Christ's Church to explain
history. The Lord Jesus Himself rebuked the
Jewish leaders for their sin of failing to discern
the providence of God in their day:
a. Matthew 16:3--"You hypocrites, you can
discern the weather but you cannot
discern the signs of the times."
b. People's lives & events have a meaning
which we ignore only to our loss or our peril.
c. True, there are a vast arreas of providence
which we are not qualified to interpret.
d. But that does not excuse us for the failure
to interpret men & movements of history.
(This material was adapted from Maurice Roberts'
excellent devotional essay, "The Interpretation of
Providence in History" originally published in THE
THOUGHT OF GOD; Banner of Truth; pp. 30-47)
See his two other excellent series of devotional essays,
THE CHRISTIAN'S HIGH CALLING and GREAT GOD OF WONDERS, also published by the Banner of Truth. They are appropriate not only for personal devotions but also for devotionals among couples, for Elders Meetings and Deacons Meetings.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
When the history of this past thirty years is written, one thing observant Christians will have to do is to give thanks to God for the effulgence (i.e. overflowing, outbursting, outshining, overwhelming display) of great Christian books that are available. A happy confluence of Christian book buyers, available money to buy books, publishers that are willing and eager to publish Reformed literature, and a host of excellent authors has made this past three decades a boom time of Reformed publishing.And all of this is fueled by readers, laymen and pastors, who WANT to read Reformed literature. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Now let's look at some of the great new (and newly republished) books that are available and beg to be read.
BANNER OF TRUTH REPUBS:
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, KNOWING THE TIMES (Addresses Delivered in Various Occasions 1942-1977)
[First published in 1989 and again in 2001. we praise God that such a volume full of wisdom and vision is again available!] Here are the chapter titles:
1. The Presentation of the Gospel
2. Religion Today and Tomorrow
3. John Calvin
4. Maintaining the Evangelical Faith Today
5. A Policy Appropriate to Biblical Faith
6. Conversions: Psychological and Spiritual
7. Remembering the Reformation
8. How Can We See A Return to the Bible?
9. The Basis of Christian Unity
10. 'Consider Your Ways': The Outline of a New
11. The Weapons of our Warfare
12. Westminster Chapel (1865-1965)
13. Evangelical Unity: An Appeal
14. What is Preaching?
15. How to Safeguard the Future
16. What is an Evangelical?
17. A Protestant Evangelical College
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the great tool in God's toolbox for the reintroduction of the Reformed faith in the British isles in the 20th century. He was the greatest preacher in the English language in the 20th century according to the most astute observers (from conservative Dr. Wilbur Smith to neo-orthodox Emil Brunner). He was a man of vision and broad perspective. After reading his biography first (newly condensed by Iain Murray into one helpful paperback volume, LIFE OF MARTYN LLOYD-JONES), then read this volume prayerfully.
J. C. Ryle, OLD PATHS (Being Plain Statements on Some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity) [below are the chapter titles]
2. Our Souls
3. Few Saved
4. Our Hope
5. Alive or Dead?
6. Our Sins
9. The Cross of Christ
10. The Holy Ghost
11. Having the Spirit
13. The Heart
14. Christ's Invitation
17. Christ's Power to Save
Ryle was to the written word what his contemporary, Charles Spurgeon, was to the preached word. Ryle's chapters are really tracts compiled into one coherent book. Each just about stands alone. I can remember reading ALIVE OF DEAD? as a young minister and learning to to plead with souls in the manner Ryle did.
NEWLY PUBLISHED BY THE BANNER OF TRUTH
Garry Williams, SILENT WITNESSES (Lessons on Theology, Life and the Church from Christians of the Past) Having just read this important books, I find it an important read to inform, humble, enlarge, challenge and comfort God's people, especially pastors, teachers, elders and seminary students. Dr. Garry Wliiams is head of the John Owen Center at London Theological Seminary and Visiting Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. I have read few books like it. Here are the chapter titles:
ON THE ESSENTIALS:
1. Prizing the Bible--William Tyndale
2. Who is Jesus?--The Council of Chalcedon
3. The Cross and Its Caricatures--John Owen
4. The Infinite Love of the Dying Christ--Jonathan
5. The Grace of God--Augustine of Hippo
6. Justified Before God's Throne--John Calvin
ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE:
7. Loving God with All Your Heart--The Puritan
8. Trusting God in Trials--John Calvin
9. Identity and Loss on the Edge of the World--
10. Working for Christ--John Laing
PRIMARILY FOR PASTORS AND ELDERS:
11. Priorities for the Church--John Calvin
12. Preaching the God-Man--Chalcedon Revisited
13. Preaching the Word--Martin Luther
14. Feasting with the Lord--Nicholas Ridley
15. Making the Case for Christian History
Iain Hamilton, THE FAITH-SHAPED LIFE; here is another new book from the Banner of Truth. The subject is the role that faith is to play in our Christian lives from beginning right on through the end. A fresh and refreshing reminder of a subject we think we know but little apply.
NEW FROM P & R PUBLISHERS:
Dennis Johnson, PHILIPPIANS (Reformed Expository Commentary)--one of the two best sets of expository commentaries available. Professor Johnson was a professor of New Testament who became a Professor of Preaching at Westminster Seminary California. Here is one of our favorite New Testament books by one of our best scholars and preachers. What a happy providence!
NEW FROM CROSSWAY:
David Allen, 1-3 JOHN (Fellowship with God's Family)
[Preaching the Word Series] this is the other of the two best series of expository sermons/commentaries.
Unlike exegetical commentaries which seek exact meanings and available exegetical options, this series shows how one might actually preach the text once one ascertained the meaning of the text. This is a very good resource.
James Packer, TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY (Vital Things We Need to Know); one of God's best gift to the churches the past 60 years has been Jim Packer. His theology (with the exception for his blind-spot on Roman Catholics) has been the protein that has fueled many an evangelical's heart. Adding to KNOWING GOD, CONCISE THEOLOGY, KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT and other great titles is his newest. The chapter titles are as follows:
1. Taking Faith Seriously
2. Taking Doctrine Seriously
3. Taking Christian Unity Seriously
4. Taking Repentance Seriously
5. Taking the Church Seriously
6. Taking the Holy Spirit Seriously
7. Taking Baptism Seriously
8. Taking the Lord's Supper Seriously
Believers across denominational lines can savor the wisdom and biblical application from this senior saint.
It would make a good small group or Sunday School study!
Church librarians, these would each be a prudent buy for your church library.
May the Lord prosper your soul and your life for Him as you read and prayerfully digest these books.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Visit me at my website:
Few Christians have had the impact that C. S. Lewis has had on Christians and non-Christans alike since World War II (1939-1945). Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and educated in England, Lewis became a tutor and lecturer at Oxford University. Later in his life he became full professor at Cambridge University. He served in the British army in World War I and was wounded by shrapnel. He was already an atheist and the war did not change his views of God or man or himself.
But "the hound of heaven" was after him and he would be converted in the early 1930's and solidify his faith over the next decade. How was C. S. Lewis useful in God's plan for the 20th century. From his war time "broadcast talks" given on the radio in Britain during the war (which became MERE CHRISTIANITY in print) to his books of Christians apologetics (THE PROBLEM OF PAIN; MIRACLES; THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS; THE GREAT DIVORCE) to his books of science fiction (OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET; PERELANDRA; THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH) to his fantasy books for children and discerning adults (THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA) to his cultural analyses (THE PILGRIM'S REGRESS; THE ABOLITION OF MAN; THE WEIGHT OF GLORY), Lewis was a great gift to the 20th century church (and still is to the 21st century church).
Now Professor Alistair McGrath has written what is the most complete biography of Lewis, using all the biographies which have been written but also the complete letters of Lewis and some other sources which have been newly discovered. McGrath's C. S. LEWIS: A LIFE (Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet); Tyndale House will show readers that Lewis was indeed a rebel and a sinner and some of his sins are on display. Lewis had struggles at home when his mother died when he was eight and his father, though well-intentioned, sent him off to boarding school for what proved to be Lewis's lifelong resentment. How did Lewis relate to his father? How did Lewis get along with his peers at Oxford? What was his path to conversion? How did he develop as a Christian? What was the deal with his strange marriage to the American woman romanticized in THE SHADOWLANDS movie? How did he handle his fame and fortune? Why was he never accepted at Oxford? What was his relationship with J. R. R. Tolkien and how did they profit each other? How did Lewis put up with his alcoholic brother, Warnie? All these and many other questions are answered in the book.
For years to come, this will be the definitive biography of Lewis which covers all the basics and enough other material to keep Lewis fans happy for decades.
But there are other materials on Lewis that are extremely profitable too and CVBBS carries them too
(besides the titles mentioned above).
Andrew Wheeler, C. S. LEWIS: CLARITY AND CONFUSION; Day One Publications--Lewis had his theological weaknesses and areas where he was just wrong. Wheeler shows what these weaknesses were and how wise readers will enjoy Lewis' "meat" but spit out his "bones".
Ronald Bresland, TRAVEL WITH C. S. LEWIS; Day One Publications--this excellent series takes great and good Christians and helps us to put them in their proper geographical and cultural context by taking us to the places where they lived, taught, preached, grew up, etc. If you ever visit the United Kingdom, this series would be invaluable to gain good out of visiting the places where God saved and used a man.
May the Lord continue to use the literary and spiritual gifts of C. S. Lewis to his honor and glory in the lives of His people and those not yet His people.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Visit me also at my website:
Being a pastor is a lifelong pursuit of an impossible goal--to be an under-shepherd like the great Shepherd of the Sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the sanctification of the believer is a lifelong growth in grace toward a goal not fully attainable in this life, so the maturation of a pastor is a lifelong growth in the graces of pastoring.
Think of all the areas that a pastor must grow in during his lifetime (in no particular order): (1) personal sanctification; (2) knowledge of the Word of God; (3) systematic theology; (4) biblical theology; (5) apologetics; (6) church history from the apostles to today; (7) American church history (and the unique cultural milieu American Christians grow up in); (8) expository preaching; (9) evangelistic preaching; (10) pastoral counseling; (11) keeping up one’s knowledge (or gaining it in the first place) of Greek and Hebrew; (12) intimacy with God through prayer; (13) leading in public worship; (14) biblical exegesis; (15) Christian marriage and family......to name but a few! Being a pastor is like drinking from a fire hose--for a lifetime! (That may explain why I look the way that I do--but that’s another story!)
Here are some titles I can heartily recommend that helped me, encouraged me, opened my eyes, challenged me, stretched me, and kept me in the gospel ministry.
Iain H. Murray, DAVID MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (The First Forty Years) [1899-1939]; Banner of Truth
This book is my all-time favorite study of what it means to be a pastor and gospel preacher. When I was younger, I read it twelve years in a row! Why? Because just as he was a green rookie starting out in the pastorate in Wales in the late 1920’s, so I was a rookie minister pastoring in Atlanta in the early 1980’s. What was a call to preach the gospel and shepherd the flock of God? What did it mean to preach? What is the source of a preacher’s authority? How can I lead my men to grow? How should I view the people? How come I am taking my church in this direction when all the other churches around me are going in a different direction? What might a local revival look like should God be gracious and bring one? Why is my preaching so different from the other pastors who are instead popular? Why do so many people in today’s churches seem to be tares and not genuine wheat? How should I preach to them? How can I make truth come alive? How can I emphasize both evangelism and doctrine? How can I use church history to help my people grow? Prepare to be humbled, thrilled and moved to pray!
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, AUTHORITY; Banner of Truth
I read this volume after reading about MLJ’s life by Iain Murray. MLJ gave these lectures at a Christian leaders conference in the 1950’s and they are directly on target still today. I was coming out of broad evangelicalism and into the Reformed understanding of the Scriptures and the Christian life and ministry and wondered what Calvinist was there who knew God and was used of God in a big way. (Note my need to see something “big”. Evangelicalism does not encourage us to find God in the small, mundane things.) I was astounded and humbled by what I read. MLJ shows the authority of the risen and ascended Christ, God the Son and the authority of His Word, the Scriptures. It was a good retelling of truth I had already assimilated. BUT I was unprepared for the 3rd chapter--the authority of the Holy Spirit. MLJ chronicles how the Holy Spirit gives life and joy and power and authority to Christian preachers and churches. What should we do if the preacher lacks these and the church lacks these things? MLJ then shows the tragic-comic (a carefully chosen phrase) things evangelicals have done to recapture what is missing from the pulpits and the churches. God arrested me and my pursuit of the “authority” of the Ph.D. or D. Min. (David Wells has called the past thirty years the “D-Min-ization” of the pastorate as preachers have become “D-Min. possessed”,) I was moved to repentance over my desire to have the authority of a Ph.D. or a D.Min. or some accolade of man that would confer credibility to me. It was my own unbelief and fear of man/man pleasing that led me to so grieve the Holy Spirit. (While one needs a Ph.D. as a union card to teach in a seminary, it is not required by Scripture or sanctified common sense for pastors of local churches. We are life long learners at the knee of Jesus.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, THE PLIGHT OF MAN AND THE
POWER OF GOD; Eerdmans (with a new forward
by Mark Dever); Eerdmans.
In some of the darkest days for Britain in World War II, MLJ was speaking in Scotland to a group of seminary students and ministers at New College, Edinburgh. And he was at his best in assessing the war time situation, opening up the Scriptures in Romans 1 (and other places) to show the coming wrath of God and the importance of God sending preachers to preach the gospel as the only remedy for the wrath to come. Even if you have been in the pastorate for some time, this book can function like “blowing the bugle charge at the Old Soldiers Home”. It re-awakens a man to our holy calling.
Thomas Ascol, ed.; DEAR TIMOTHY (Letters On
Pastoral Ministry); Founders Ministry
It’s hard to believe this most useful tool is now almost a decade old. Many have not heard of it nor used it but it has many helps for teachable pastors. The chapter titles and authors will alert the reader to the good things to follow:
1. Tom Ascol, Establish Priorities
2. Conrad Mbewe, Watch Your Life
3. Tedd Tripp, Love Your Family
4. Ted Christmas, Love Your Flock
5. Andy David, Memorize Scripture
6. Martin Holdt, Pray Always
7. C. J. Mahaney, Cultivate Humility
8. Bill Ascol, Be Courageous
9. Mark Dever, Do the Word of an Evangelist
10. Fred Malone, Do Personal Work
11. Raymond Perron, Watch Your Doctrine
12. J. Ligon Duncan, Keep Studying
13. Joel Beeke, Learn From The Puritans, Part 1
14. Joel Beeke, Learn From the Puritans, Part 2
15. Roger Ellsworth, Preach the Word
16. Terry Johnson, Worship in Spirit and Truth
17. Steve Martin, Train Other Men (every chapter
can’t be great !)
18. Phil Newton, Care for the Nations
19. Ray Ortlund, Jr., Don’t Neglect Revival
20. Geoff Thomas, Find a Place to Settle
Some of these names you recognize right off and want to read their contribution. Others (whose biographies are included) you will want to get to know too. There is a lifetime of pastoral wisdom included between these covers.
SOME FURTHER BOOKS TO READ AND DIGEST OVER THE FIRST DECADE OP YOUR MINISTRY...
1. Derek Tidball, MINISTRY BY THE BOOK (New
Testament Patterns for Pastoral Leadership); IVP
Dr. Tidball takes us by the hand and proposes plausible life-settings behind each of the New Testament books. It is in this kind of world that we must minister, preach, counsel, and live out our lives as faithful ministers of the New Covenant. A thought-provoking read.
2. John MacArthur, Jr. and the Masters Seminary
Faculty; PASTORAL MINISTRY (How to Shepherd
Biblically); Thomas Nelson
Dr. MacArthur pastors a large church and leads a seminary. Here he and the faculty of the seminary share their lifetime of learning with the discerning pastoral student.
CLASSIC STUDIES WHOSE STATUS GROWS, NOT DIMINISHES, OVER TIME:
1. Martin Bucer, CONCERNING THE TRUE CARE OF
SOULS; Banner of Truth--16th century classic
2. Charles Spurgeon, LECTURES TO MY STUDENTS;
Banner of Truth--19th century classic from “the
Prince of Preachers”.
3. Charles Spurgeon, AN ALL-AROUND MINISTRY;
Banner of Truth--ditto
4. Charles Bridges, THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY; Banner
of Truth--a 19th century classic that deserves a
greater popularity. Perhaps the sub-title, “And The
Causes of Its Inefficiency” have intimated some.
But it is full of truly great things in a convicting
and enlarging sort of way!
5. James Garretson, ed.; PRINCETON AND THE WORK
OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY; Banner of Truth
Old Princeton wanted men to become preachers
and pastors. Let this volume take you back to the
Golden Era of 19th century Princeton.
A minister of the gospel could not spend $100-125 in a better way. There is a lifetime of good things here for the man of God.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Come visit me also at my website,
The fallen angel, Satan, called "the devil", "the accuser", "the serpent of old", "the evil one" and other names in God's holy Word does not take the summer off. I say this not to be cute or clever but to be deadly honest. The view we Christians have of reality looks too much like the worldview of our American culture..with church added. Ease and comfort, ready attainment of our goals, steady progress and eventual accomplishment are the expectations we all live with and live for. And a couple of weeks of being irresponsible!
As finite creatures, we become tired and need food, water, and rest to proceed in life. Students need a summer break from their tedious studies. Workers in the factory or the mill need a break from their tedious labors. Soldiers need "R & R" (rest and recovery) from their labors. It just "seems American" to think that when we go away on vacation or head into the summer, the devil, the nemesis of every believer, is taking the summer off too. After all, it would be un-American for him to bear down on us all the time with his nefarious schemes, evil intent and despoiling ways.
Such is the false thinking and dangerously naive mental state too many of us have when it comes to our approach to spiritual warfare each summer. In World War II, the Allied armies (American, British, Canadian, Free French, et al) invaded Normandy in June of 1944 and began to sweep successfully towards Paris. Things went so well, despite the carnage in the hedgerows in Normandy, that the motto soon became, "Berlin by Christmas". It was not to be. The soldiers and their leaders became complacent. They relaxed a bit. When suddenly the worst battle in the whole European theater of war was launched by the Nazis--"the Battle of the Bulge". The Nazi army took advantage of the relaxed attitudes, and the expectation of relaxation in the Christmas season and counter-attacked. Before the Nazis were finally pushed back, more than 65,000 Allied troops had died.
The lesson we can learn from this is that perpetual vigilance is the price of spiritual health and survival. We can thank our God that He stands supreme over the affairs of men and the devil. We are never allowed to feel the Evil Ones full wrath. Our God sees to it that no one and nothing can separate us from the love of God is Christ Jesus. But like other areas of Christian growth in Christ-likeness (sanctification), God expects His people to cooperate with Him in this great work.
The books we will be highlighting today are meant to be digested and put into action. The Word of God says: "Why Word had I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). Today we often fall into something very different. "Thy Word have I put on my hard drive that I might have ready notes."
The historical Reformed and Puritan view of spiritual warfare looks nothing like the crazy patchwork of contemporary evangelicalism's view of how to deal with the enemy of our souls. For four decades, charismatics and Pentecostals have been saying, "When in doubt, cast it out". But the "pie demon" did not make me eat that extra piece of pie. The "lying demon" did not make me cheat on my taxes. The "lust demon" did not make me double click on the pop up porn that came on my computer. Just as their is the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So there is a lesser, unholy trinity of the world, the flesh and the devil.
The Reformed and Puritan view of spiritual warfare taught believers to use discernment as to which enemy they were fighting and to use the biblically prescribed methods for dealing with them.
Let me suggest that you digest the material in these excellent books then put them into practice.
Thomas Brooks, PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN'S DEVICES (Puritan Paperback); Banner of Truth--the classic study that you should visit and master and then revisit periodically over your life.
Robert Spinney, PEEKING INTO THE DEVIL'S PLAYBOOK; Tulip Books--a shortened and modernized version of Brooks', PRECIOUS REMEDIES.
William Gurnall, THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOUR; Banner of Truth hardback--another classic.
This tonic for your soul closely examines Paul's teaching in Ephesians 6:10-20, the longest passage in the epistles dealing with how to combat the devil and win.
William Gurnall, THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOR (modernized and simplified); 3 volumes;
Banner of Truth; paperback
William Gurnall, THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOR (Daily Readings in Spiritual Warfare); Moody Press--excerpts from Gurnall are made into a daily devotional reader.
William Spurstowe, THE WILES OF SATAN; Soli Deo Gloria-- a very helpful examination of how the evil one seeks to deceive the believer. Paul could say about the devil, "We are not unaware of his schemes" but we too often must say instead--"Well, I am not aware of hardly any of his schemes"!
Fredercik Leahy, SATAN CAST OUT; Banner of Truth
a sane and biblical treatment of allen angels (demons) and their work in the world today. Not to be confused with the sensationalistic teaching of the charismatic and Pentecostal movements.
Stanley Gale, WHAT IS SPIRITUAL WARFARE?;
P & R--this booklet is a good place to start your study.
May the Lord give you your best summer yet with the least "down time" in the spiritual hospital recovering from spiritual attack that you proved not to be ready for.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Visit me at my website