Matthew Henry - Bitesize biographies
Philip H Eveson
Evangelical Press, 2012
£5.99 / 9780852347997 / PB
This biography covers, in chronological order, the main aspects of Matthew Henrys life, as well as providing a helpful introduction to his times (for example, information on the Act of Uniformity) and detail about his parents. We have interesting aspects of his upbringing; learning biblical Hebrew at age 7; memorising sermons; he and his sisters having a prayer meeting on Saturday afternoons which he led. Later we read of his ordination into the Presbyterian ministry, the death of his first wife after 2 years of marriage and the burying of 3 children in infancy, with his reaction to this; and there are summaries of some sermons. There is a concluding chapter outlining his chief beliefs and the legacy he has left. The book is mainly straightforward narrative, fluently written and integrating third-person narrative with extracts from letters and diaries, both Matthews and others, and so written that lessons from his life and service for the Lord are conveyed. One lesson is his desire and endeavour to avoid being proud. Another is what seems to have been a strong belief of the time: that all life is lived under the eye of God. Christianity is to be taken seriously and believers need to recognize the hand of God in their life and submit gladly to His providence. The writer makes clear his support for most of Matthews and his parents convictions, which many non-conformists would share (though not all), such as infant baptism and the ministerial position. This is a biography of 120 pages. It therefore is necessarily a summary and probably most useful to younger believers and those who wish to build a library of shorter biographies. A fuller one is often found in editions of his commentary.
Ezekiel - The Priestly Prophet
Precious Seed, 2012
£3.95 / 9781871642483 / PB
To cover the 48 substantial chapters of Ezekiel in 64 pages is an ambitious undertaking, but Precious Seed have done a real service in reissuing this slim paperback. Originally published in 1971, Fred Cundicks incisive outline of what he justly describes as one of the neglected books of Holy Scripture will enable believers to get a handle on a daunting but rewarding prophecy. Focusing on key chapters (1, 8-9, 25-39, 40-48), the author provides a guided tour of the prophets background, the implications of his initial vision of the divine glory, his exposure of Judahs failure and discipline, and his insistence upon the nations guaranteed future. Unlike the better-known Isaiah, Ezekiel lets us into the secret of his inner feelings, and his book demonstrates that divine grace can support a saint burdened about spiritual conditions (p 7). High spots are chapters 34, with its analysis of true shepherding (compulsory reading for all assembly elders), and 36-37, with their gripping foreview of Israels glorious restoration. The writer finds useful spiritual applications in the final nine chapters without abandoning the principles of literal interpretation: the only way to do justice to this section is to acknowledge that there will be a real temple on the millennial earth. Students seeking greater detail will want to invest in C L Feinbergs recently reprinted exposition, and the more technical analysis by Ralph H Alexander included in volume 6 of the valuable Expositors Bible Commentary, but if you have been avoiding Ezekiel for years this is the very book to introduce its literary variety, its prophetic excitement, and its spiritual challenge.
Be Equipped - Deuteronomy
David Cook, 2011
£7.99 / 9781564767042 / PB
This excellent popular study of Deuteronomy first appeared in 1999 and is now reprinted with the addition of a not-too-helpful foreword by an American pastor, and study notes after each chapter. The author is noted for his ability to make even the toughest parts of scripture plain and relevant without compromising accuracy of doctrine or reverence of expression. These skills he brings to bear on the book that uniquely prepares Israel for its entrance into the land by repeating the law, rehearsing the nations past, and revealing its future (including both captivity and restoration). Deuteronomy is packed with good things. Be Equipped opens up the meaning of Mosess words in their context while at the same time drawing out many practical spiritual applications for the believer today. Warren Wiersbes style is pithy and pointed: Its when we forget our high calling that we descend into low living (p 29); True biblical separation is contact without contamination (p 61); Its much easier . . . to hang scripture texts on the walls of our houses than to hide Gods Word in our hearts (p 90). A pleasing typeface and good production values make this paperback a thoroughly worthwhile investment.
Gunning For God
John C Lennox
£9.99 / 9780745953229 / PB
His recorded debates with Richard Dawkins (described as the Oxford Professor of Atheism) have made John Lennox a celebrity in the field of Christian apologetics. In this book he systematically and at times very amusingly exposes the superficiality, irrationality, and startling ignorance of many of the arguments put up by the noisy band of New Atheists. Listening to their propaganda, one is reminded of the notes in the public speakers script: argument weak shout! Stooping neither to shouts nor abuse Professor Lennox writes with courtesy and charm, but this by no means blunts the edge of his critique. His chapters address key questions: Is religion poisonous? Can we be good without God? Is the God of the Bible a despot? Is the atonement morally repellent? Are miracles pure fantasy? The fitting climax is an examination of the Lords resurrection. Those who have been disturbed by Dawkins and his clan may find Lennox a refreshing riposte. But be warned this is not a book for light reading, nor is it meant to be. Further, an important point to note is that Professor Lennox seems wedded to the big bang theory of creation. Although Gunning for God avoids any real exegesis of Genesis 1, readers ought to be aware that the author has recently published his view of the biblical creation account in a book entitled Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning according to Genesis and Science (2011). This offers a detailed refutation of what I would call the straight-forward face-value reading of Genesis 1. Lennoxs arguments are well summarised and ably rebutted in a review in Answers Research Journal 5 (accessible at www.answersingenesis.org/contents/379/arj/v5/review_John_Lennox.pdf). We may be grateful for Professor Lennoxs defence of the faith without agreeing with every detail of his doctrinal position.
H A Ironside
Loizeaux, reprinted 1997
This is a conservative, easy to read, verse by verse exposition of the letter to the Colossians. Although non-technical, it does address some manuscript issues, and gives helpful alternative renderings of the original text. The book refers throughout to the Gnosticism that Paul was countering when writing to the Colossians. Since many of these Gnostic errors have re-emerged in modern day cults, though first published in 1929, this reliable, non-flamboyant commentary remains useful for Christians today. Ironside is dispensational, distinguishing between Israel and the church, and believing in the rapture and a future millennial kingdom. He has an exceptionally high regard for the Lord Jesus (the best answer to any false cult) and is clear about election, eternal security, the imagery of water baptism, the mechanics of salvation, and the fact that the Law of Moses is not the Christians rule of life. He writes very much like an assembly writer. He cites J N Darby, leans on typical tabernacle teaching, and warns about the dangers of seminary training, acknowledging that many ministers in churches are unconverted. He can see no biblical basis for denominations and recognises that men and women have different roles to play within a local assembly. In relation to carnal asceticism, he gives a didactic explanation of the flesh (that evil principle which is retained within every believer at conversion), acknowledging that it is impossible to improve it. This books straightforward prose and use of helpful anecdotes and practical applications make it a good introduction to the Colossian epistle.
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels
J C Ryle
7 volumes, 1856 and many reprints
We want more reverent study of the scriptures and more clear knowledge of Christ, as a living person, a living priest, a living friend, a living advocate at the right hand of God, and a living Saviour soon to come again. So wrote JC Ryle about this work, which took 16 years to complete. Why has it proved so popular? There are several reasons. It is written in a straightforward, readable way. It goes through the Gospels systematically and, in the case of John, very thoroughly. Indeed, in the case of Luke and John it is 2 books in one: the text is divided into sections of approximately 6 30 verses and between 2 and 5 main points are made, with each being developed in 2 4 paragraphs; then we have a section which looks closely at the meaning of the text. There are also explanatory notes: comments on particular words and phrases, including differing interpretations. On Johns comment, I knew Him not (John 1.33), Ryle lists 4 interpretations with the names of writers holding them (Luther, Calvin, Scott, Poole), and concludes with his own wise judgement. Though more technical, this section is still heart-warming as well as mind-enlightening. Ryle was an Anglican clergyman, so there are some points most BM readers would not accept for example, Sabbath observance and the church in the Old Testament but these volumes are very profitable.
The Believers Payday: Why Standing Before Christ Should Be Our Greatest Moment
AMG Publishing, 2010
Paul Benware has written several helpful books. His Understanding End Times Prophecy remains, in my opinion, one of the best overviews of future events. The Believers Payday is no different. With over 200 pages dedicated to the judgment seat of Christ, the book is focused on a subject that ought to motivate every believer to personal holiness and earnest Christian living (the term payday is taken from Col 3.24 where reward translates a term meaning to repay). With its emphasis on a two world view (living in this world with a clear eye on the world to come, p 3), the material is solemn (outlining why and how our service will be assessed by the Lord) and challenging (the eighth chapter is devoted to the various crowns in the New Testament that comprise the future reward of believers). The author has also organised his material in an accessible manner. Each chapter commences with a practical example which illustrates an overriding principle. Various anecdotes are also included. For example, the righteous nature of our future assessment as servants of the Lord is outlined in the differences between Dr William Wonderful (an imaginary pastor of a mega-church in New York who may be expected to be amply rewarded at the judgment seat) and one of his congregation (Harriet Homemaker), a comparatively unknown believer who may well have carried out her stewardship responsibilities more faithfully than Dr Wonderful. Most of all, the book is scriptural. It handles a sensitive subject in a biblically balanced manner, and outlines the possibility of suffering loss (1 Cor 3.15) but remaining eternally secure in Christ (the short appendix on the security of the believer is worth the purchase price alone).