The best new study Bible I know of this year is the Gospel Transformation Bible, ed. Bryan Chapell (Crossway). This study Bible has two main goals in its notes and introductions: 1) to demonstrate the unity of the biblical storyline in pointing to Jesus and His gospel of grace; and 2) to point to grace-centered application. The centrality of grace does not mean ignoring biblical commands or calls to holiness, but as the introduction states, “Only the grace of God ultimately displayed in the provision of Christ for sinners can stimulate such loving obedience.” The book introductions and notes are substantive and helpful.
The only other study Bible I found this year is the Anselm Academic Study Bible (Anselm Academic), which is a Catholic study Bible from a critical perspective. It has scholarly depth and a lot of information, but is skeptical concerning historicity and is burdened by political correctness. Beyond these, there continue to be various niche-market Bibles of various sorts catering to specific audiences, but not intended to have much value with regard to study helps.
The weirdest new “Bible” is A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), edited by Hal Taussig. It is the product of the new fascination with extra-biblical texts. This volume adds to the traditional NT canon several extrabiblical texts, for which newly discovered is a misleading descriptor. This project seeks to add new books to the canon after calling a new church council consisting of 19 people all from the United States! The press release says these “religious leaders and scholars” gathered “from across the country, including Atlanta, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.”
Lee Martin McDonald’s Formation of the Bible: The Story of the Church’s Canon (Hendrickson) provides clear, reasonable guidance on the basic issues of how we got the Bible, disputing some of the recent conspiracy theories.
Hendrickson also has brought to North America two collections of J.I. Packer essays, which previously had been available in the United Kingdom. Engaging the Written Word of God contains essays in three broad categories: “God’s Inerrant Word,” “Interpreting the Word” and “Preaching the Word.” Revelations of the Cross gathers essays broadly around the themes of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Packer is always worth reading and especially by preachers.
George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam have edited a good new translation in 1 Enoch: The Hermeneia Translation (Fortress Press). 1 Enoch is helpful in seeing how the OT was interpreted in Jewish circles prior to the birth of Jesus.
Thomas Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker) is an excellent resource. Schreiner, already having written excellent books on New Testament theology and Pauline theology, has now given us a summary of the whole of Scripture. He works book by book, examining each book as it fits within the grand narrative of Scripture. This will be a great help for preachers in keeping the big picture of the biblical story in view as we preach.
Three new books deal with the valuable topic of how the OT points to Christ. The Scriptures Testify About Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament, ed. D.A. Carson (Crossway) provides several examples of OT expositions, which demonstrate how each text points to Christ. The strength of this volume is in giving examples of good expositions and not simply theory. Iain Duguid’s Is Jesus in the Old Testament? (P&R) is a very helpful, brief booklet on the Christocentric nature of the OT, noting poor ways of seeing connection to Christ and demonstrating a proper approach rooted in the example of Jesus and the apostles. Duguid is a great place to start. David Murray’s Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson) is longer but also very readable. It will be useful for laypeople.
J.P. Versteeg’s Adam in the New Testament: Mere Teaching Model or First Historical Man (2d. ed., P&R) is important on this recently controversial topic. This is a translation by Richard Gaffin with a 17-page introduction by Gaffin. Versteeg provides strong argument for the necessity of a historical Adam.
Tremper Longman’s Old Testament Commentary Survey has been a very useful tool, so it is great to have it in an updated 5th edition (Baker). Anyone buying commentaries ought to get this book as Longman gives assessment of the major commentaries with a particular interest in evangelical commentaries, which pay attention to the theology of the books in question. However, he does not comment on some of the most valuable preaching commentaries (e.g. Dale Ralph Davies volumes from Christian Focus and Kent Hughes’ Preaching the Word Series).
Lectures in Old Testament Theology by Dennis F. Kinlaw (with John N. Oswalt; Warner Press) has been out for a couple of years, but I just discovered it. The life of the original lecture setting is apparent as Kinlaw expounds the OT with insight and vigor. The book is moving, engaging, illustrative and informed. More technical is Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt’s An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, 2nd edition (WJK). The primary addition to the new edition is a chapter on the literary art of narrative and poetry in the OT. If you were convinced by Brueggemann’s approach, you will like this new edition. I am not convinced, and thus, find it less useful for preaching. Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem (IVP) edited by Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evans and Paul Copan provides a broad, helpful survey of this challenging issue.
Mark S. Gignilliat’s A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism: From Benedict Spinoza to Brevard Childs (Zondervan) is very good. It is helpful for seeing the streams of thought that continue to shape what you read in commentaries today.
OT Book by Book
The Decalogue Through the Centuries: From the Hebrew Scriptures to Benedict XVI (eds., Jeffrey Greenman and Timothy Larsen; WJK) is a fascinating study of how the Ten Commandments have been interpreted and applied in the rest of the OT, the NT, and by key church leaders through the history of the church. Because many sermon series focus on this text, this book will provide helpful supplementary reading.
Genesis: The Beginning of God’s Plan of Salvation (Christian Focus) by Richard Belcher Jr. is a helpful, concise commentary. The footnotes show this is a well-informed work, and he does a good job of keeping the overall flow of the story in view, which will be helpful in sermon preparation. For Genesis 37—50 Iain Duguid and Matthew Harmon’s Living in the Light of Inextinguishable Hope: The Gospel According to Joseph (P&R) will be helpful. The book contains expositional sermons on these chapters which seek to apply the text with an eye to how they also point to Christ.
Volume 2 of the revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan) contains Numbers—Ruth. The Numbers commentary is an updating of Ronald Allen’s work in the previous edition. The other four books received new treatment: Deuteronomy—Michael Grisanti; Joshua—H. Dallaire; Judges—M. Boda; Ruth—G. Schwab. In one volume, pastors can get a substantial treatment of each of these books from a conservative, evangelical viewpoint. Necessarily, these commentaries are not as full as others, but they will be helpful for preaching.
Interpreting Deuteronomy: Issues and Approaches (IVP), edited by David Firth and Philip Johnston is an up-to-date, competent survey of interpretive issues written more for an academic setting. Daniel Block’s The Gospel According to Moses: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Book of Deuteronomy (Wipf & Stock) gathers previously published essays with some new ones representing his work on this key book for the past decade.
Serge Frolov’s Judges (Forms of OT Literature; Eerdmans) is engagingly written, but very technical and sometimes speculative, making it less helpful for preaching. Far more useful is Barry Webb’s The Book of Judges (NICOT; Eerdmans) which is marked by common sense and chock full of sound, helpful comments and applications. The preface is a great statement on warm rather than cold, sterile writing and his discussion of Judges as Christian Scripture is superbly helpful.
Robert Chisholm Jr.’s 1 & 2 Samuel is one of the first volumes in the new Teach the Text Commentary (Baker). I am not particularly taken with the format of the series (see also Romans by Pate below). The inclusion of ideas for illustrations from literature, history, culture/media etc., is nice. However, overall it comes across as too bite-sized. Chisholm does a good job within the format, though it is not very Christological. I can see this only as a supplement. Phil Moore’s Straight to the Heart of 1 & 2 Samuel: 60 Bite-sized Insights (Monarch) is expository, brief, but helpful. Moore draws good application, not just moralizing, and sees these stories pointing forward to Christ. Most substantial is Richard Phillips’s 1 Samuel (Reformed Expository Commentary; P&R). Phillips provides good expository sermons with pastoral application—examplary, broadly theological, and Christological application.
Ralph Klein’s 2 Chronicles (Hermeneia; Fortress), in keeping with the series, is critical and focused on details. Though this is probably now the standard technical commentary, it is more skeptical than I think will be helpful for preaching. It can be used for pursuing some details but is pretty expensive for that limited use.
Samuel Wells and George Sumner’s Esther & Daniel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible; Baker) provides some stimulating thoughts for application with its focus on theology, but needs the control of closer attention to the text. The book is more skeptical of historicity than necessary. Sumner’s attention to mission in Daniel can be helpful.
Steven Chase’s Job (Belief; WJK) denies original sin, posits a sharp disjunction between Hebrew Bible and Christian Scripture, and misunderstands innocent suffering. I do not see a use for this volume in preaching. C.L. Seow’s Job 1—21: Interpretation and Commentary is the inaugural volume of the new Illuminations Commentary Series (Eerdmans). The series seeks to be of use to preachers as well as technical scholars (as do most series), but it quickly becomes evident that this volume really will be of most use to those doing quite technical study. There is helpful material (e.g. the freedom of God as discussed under “Theology” in the introduction), but this will not be a primary source for preaching help.
Rolf Jacobson and Karl Jacobson’s Invitation to the Psalms: A Reader’s Guide for Discovery and Engagement (Baker) is one of the better introductions to the Psalms precisely because it is not a dry rehearsal of forms for academic perusal. Rather, they get that the Psalms are to be read, prayed and sung, and they write in order to aid people in experiencing the Psalms for themselves. Gordon Wenham, following his very useful Psalms as Torah last year, has given us another gem in The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms (Crossway). The Psalter Reclaimed is more accessible than Psalms as Torah and is a book anyone working on the Psalms should get. He makes a convincing case that the psalms likely were memorized as a summary of the OT and used in song and prayer. Thus, it makes sense that the psalms are the most-quoted OT book in the New Testament. This is a must-have. L. William Countryman’s Conversations with Scripture: The Psalms (Morehouse Publishing) spends too much space apologizing for the psalms to be of much help. Rhett Dodson has produced two helpful, brief expositions of Psalms, This Brief Journey: Loving and Living the Psalms of Ascents (Ps. 120—127) and To Be a Pilgrim: Further Reflections on the Psalms of Ascents (Ps. 128—34; Day One). These are helpful sermonic examples.
Hetty Lalleman’s Jeremiah and Lamentations (Tyndale OT Commentary Series; IVP) carries on the tradition of this series well, providing solid, faithful, engaging exposition in brief compass. The New Studies on Biblical Theology Series has become a favorite of mine and the new volume by Andrew Shead, A Mouth Full of Fire: The Word of God in the Words of Jeremiah (IVP), does not disappoint. This is a very significant book for the study of Jeremiah specifically, as well as for its contributions to biblical theology and the doctrine of Scripture. The introduction provides a very helpful survey of the important topic of theological interpretation. That in itself makes this a useful book for preachers.
Sidney Greidanus Preaching Christ from Daniel (Foundations for Expository Sermons; Eerdmans) is excellent! In line with Greidanus’ other Preaching Christ from… books, this one is really excellent for preachers because he deals with background, setting, literary flow, theological issues and a variety of ways each text points to Christ. The first of the book outlines the approach, then Greidanus walks through the book section by section. This is a must-have when preaching through Daniel. Sean Michael Lucas’ Daniel: Trusting the True Hero (Christian Focus) is a helpful, brief example of Christ-centered expositions of key texts in the book, contextualized and applied.
Peter Adam’s The Message of Malachi (The Bible Speaks Today; IVP) is excellent. One would expect an expositional commentary by the author of Speaking God’s Words would be a real treat, and this volume does not disappoint. This will be one of the main books I will look to for preaching Malachi.
Those working with the Greek text will want to be aware of the new 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland text. The major revision in this edition is in the critical apparatus in the general epistles, so it will not be absolutely necessary to buy the new edition. Douglas Huffman’s The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek: Grammar, Syntax and Diagramming (Kregel) is very useful as a refresher and handy (pocket-sized) reference. It is a brief, helpful summary of Greek grammar and syntax for those who’ve had a year of study. More involved is Murray Harris’s Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis (Zondervan). This is an expansion of Harris’ classic treatment of prepositions in an appendix to Colin Brown’s NIDNTT and will be extremely useful for working with Greek.
Many preachers find themselves wanting to refresh their Greek but overwhelmed by more technical tools. Devotions on the Greek New Testament, edited by Duvall and Verbrugge (Zondervan) will be a very valuable resource. It provides helpful meditations showing the usefulness of Greek, which can inspire you to continue to labor in the original languages.
Donald Hagner’s massive The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Baker) stresses the importance of history and focuses on theology. Hagner explicitly says he writes as a believer for believers and provides a good defense of historical-critical method when done well (i.e. without presuppositions inimical to the faith). Hagner is moderately critical, but argues for overall historicity and the possibility of understanding authorial intent and doing positive theology. The well-received NT survey, Encountering the New Testament, by Walter Elwell and Robert Yarbrough, has been revised for a third edition with updated bibliographies and some further information.
The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford) edited by C.E. Hill and Michael Kruger, though expensive, is now the most up-to-date book on the state of our earliest NT manuscripts. Warren Carter’s Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament World (Baker) is helpful way of entering into NT background, but unfortunately is more skeptical about dating and authorship.
Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence (WJK) by Craig Evans provides solid, helpful coverage of what archaeology tells us about life in Jesus’ world written for non-specialists. Jesus Tried and True: Why the Four Canonical Gospels Provide the Best Picture of Jesus (Wipf & Stock) by Drake Williams III contains very helpful guidance on the reliability of the gospels and the problems with other gospels, which have been made much of lately. This book is readable, succinct and quite useful. Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies (IVP) edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph Modica is a helpful introduction and evaluation of this hot topic in NT studies. The question in view is, “To what extent are NT documents explicitly critiquing Rome?” The book gives a helpful taxonomy of views and is balanced in its appraisal.
Perhaps of most use for preachers in this section, Preaching the New Testament (IVP) edited by Ian Paul and David Wenham, gathers essays by leading scholars who are also experienced preachers examining the NT section by section, discussing how we should preach each section. D.A. Carson’s chapter on preaching the gospels is especially good.
Jonathan Pennington’s Reading the Gospels Wisely (Baker) is a stimulating and very helpful theological introduction to the gospels. This would be quite useful for a pastor getting ready to preach through the gospels. Michael F. Bird’s Jesus Is the Christ: The Messianic Testimony of the Gospels (IVP) argues that the primary feature of the gospels is their portrait of Jesus as Messiah. He then provides a reading of each gospel from that angle and suggests ways the messiahship of Jesus shapes theology. C.E. Hill’s significant book Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy (Oxford) is now out in paperback. This is a significant, well-written investigation of how we came to have the four canonical gospels, and it exposes the error of the conspiracy theory approach now in vogue (e.g. Dan Brown, B. Ehrman, E. Pagels).
R.C. Sproul’s Matthew (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary Series; Crossway) contains fairly brief sermons, passage by passage through the book, which are theological with application. Michael Card’s Matthew: The Gospel of Identity (IVP) in his Biblical Imagination Series is a nice supplement to standard commentaries.
P.W. Smuts, in Mark by the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels (P&R) argues we should read the gospels downward (into details of the text), sideways (comparison with other synoptics), backward (OT connections) and forward (connections to the rest of the NT and applying to today). This is done not in a technical way but in a very readable fashion, just right for sermon prep. Hans Bayer’s A Theology of Mark: The Dynamic between Christology and Authentic Discipleship (P&R) is a really good, accessible book. Bayer provides a close reading of the text and its flow of thought. He gives attention to genre and provides pointed, substantial discussion of the theology and application of the text with valuable material on discipleship.
John Carroll’s Luke: A Commentary (The New Testament Library; WJK) is well-written, theologically and literally oriented, though it does not affirm historicity. It will be helpful for preaching.
Thanks to the ongoing work of the Ancient Christian Texts Series, we have volume one of a new edition of Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John (trans. by David Maxwell, ed. by Joel Elowsky; IVP). Engaging with patristic commentary in general, and this one in particular, is challenging and helpful for modern preachers as we see the Christological focus of such a commentary. We would do well to learn from one of whom it is said, “the chief feature of [his] brilliance” was “a breathtaking mastery of the contents of the Bible.”
Phil Moore’s Straight to the Heart of John: 60 Bite-sized Insights (Monarch) contains substantive devotional comments section by section through the book, which will be useful for thoughts on application and illustration.
Craig Keener calls Acts: An Exegetical Commentary Volume I: Introduction and 1:1—2:47 (Baker)—the first of four volumes on Acts!—his most significant academic work (630+ pages of introduction). Keener is masterful and thorough, making this an essential reference tool, though its size and price will restrict its usefulness in preaching. Eckhard Schnabel’s Acts (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Zondervan) will be of great help for preaching. It is up to date, informed, readable, has good “Theology in Application” sections after each section of text and provides substantive engagement with the text (Greek text is cited, but can be used by those who don’t know Greek). This is a must-have. Andy Chambers’ Exemplary Life: A Theology of Church Life in Acts (B&H) is a fine supplemental text. It provides a technical survey of rhetorical and narrative studies, arguing that the summary statements throughout the book are intended to give a portrait of proper church life and Christian living.
John Harvey’s Interpreting the Pauline Letters (Handbooks for NT Exegesis; Kregel) provides a competent, conservative, thorough overview of key interpretive issues, though the commentary list is dated. Lars Kierspel Charts on the Life, Letters and Theology of Paul (Kregel Charts of the Bible; Kregel) is helpful in a number of ways. Though designed primarily for the classroom, it is helpful also in getting an overview of a letter, planning sermon series, etc. Frank Matera’s God’s Saving Grace: A Pauline Theology (Eerdmans) is an engagingly written, helpful overview from a Catholic perspective. Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours (IVP), edited by Robert Plummer and John Mark Terry, is a very helpful collection of essays examining Paul’s mission and message and how these should shape our efforts today.
C. Marvin Pate’s Romans (Baker) is another volume in the new Teach the Text Commentary (see comments above on Chisholm’s 1&2 Samuel). The series aims to provide sound exegetical help to preachers without getting bogged down in less significant technical issues. Thus, each section is kept brief with key exegetical insights noted along with relevant background information and ideas for illustrations from classic literature, movies, stories, etc. The goal is laudable, but in the end this cannot supplant standard commentaries. The book looks like a college textbook. It is OK to expect a bit more from preachers.
Raymond Collins’ Second Corinthians (Paideia; Baker) is fine but cannot supplant the standards (e.g. Garland, Harris, Hafemann) to which it does not add substantially. Terry Johnson’s Galatians (Mentor Expository Commentary; Christian Focus) is one of the first volumes in this new series (along with Kelly on Revelation, below) which contains expository sermons through a book. Johnson provides sound, faithful exposition from a Reformation perspective, and thus will be helpful in sermon preparation.
The prominent NT scholar, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, has collected several of his previously published essays into the new volume Keys to Galatians: Collected Essays (Liturgical Press). At the end of each essay, he has added new postscripts, in which he engages with new information or critiques. This will be of much interest to the specialist and helpful though not necessary for regular preaching.
Dennis Johnson’s Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary; P&R) is another helpful contribution to this useful series, providing good expository sermons passage by passage through the book. David Pao’s Colossians and Philemon (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) is engaging with good theology sections. The format of this series continues to be quite helpful. Gary S. Shogren’s 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) is readable with balanced interaction with the text and the literature, though the theology and application sections are not as good as in other volumes in the series.
1&2 Timothy and Titus (B&H) by David Platt, Danny Akin and Tony Merida, the first volume in the new Christ-Centered Exposition Series, contains expositional sermons passage by passage through these letters. The series is aimed at preachers giving sound exposition with illustration and application keeping at the forefront the Christ-centered, mission-driven focus of Scripture—very helpful for preaching.
Charts on the Book of Hebrews (Kregel Charts of the Bible; Kregel) by Herbert Bateman IV, is very helpful, bringing a lot of useful information together in a handy format from authorship, for use of the OT, background and theological themes. I am not always impressed with chart books, but this will become a standard reference tool thatwill be good to have at hand.
John Painter and David DeSilva’s James and Jude (Paideia Commentaries on the NT; Baker) can be skipped. Painter on James is fine, though brief, skeptical in places, unconvincing in several places. More could be hoped for in the theology sections. DeSilva on Jude is helpful, but fails to address some key issues. Chris Vlachos’ James (Exegetical Guide to the Greek NT; B&H) is a very helpful guide to interpreting the Greek text and useful for giving close attention to the text. Vlachos also gives helpful bibliographies and homiletical outlines for each section.
Two new volumes in the Concordia Commentary Series are very good. Bruce G. Schuchard’s 1—3 John (Concordia) is a substantive, exegetical commentary, well-researched and thought-out, with good theological exposition. Curtis Giese’s 2 Peter and Jude (Concordia) provides solid, helpful exegesis, sprinkled with quotes from key leaders in the history of the church (e.g., Bede and Luther). Both commentaries give close exegetical detail along with theological application, so they will be very helpful in sermon preparation.
Mark Brighton’s Revelation (Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary; Concordia) seems to be the inaugural volume in this promising new series, which seeks to draw from the key reformers and their heirs (including, for example, Wesley). It is a verse-by-verse commentary with quotes interspersed. The introduction makes good use of substantive quotes, but in the body of the commentary I did not find a lot of material from the Reformers. It is brief, engaging and helpful. Paige Patterson’s Revelation (New American Commentary; B&H) is dispensational premillennial, pretribulational and seems to draw primarily from older sources. Stephen Smalley’s substantive work The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse (IVP) is now in paperback. Most directly helpful for preaching is Douglas Kelly’s Revelation (Mentor Expository Commentary; Christian Focus). Kelly provides substantive, expository messages through the book from an amillenial perspective.
Eugene Lemcio’s Navigating Revelation, Charts for the Voyage: A Pedagogical Aid (Wipf & Stock) focuses almost exclusively on verbal connections between chapters in Revelation and connections with OT books, and is thus more narrow in scope than the Kregel Charts Series. It is helpful in considering OT background of prophecies/visions. Revelation and the Politics of Apocalyptic Interpretation (Baylor), edited by Richard Hays and Stefan Alkier, is a stimulating collection of essays probing theological interpretation of Revelation, which can be helpful when preparing to begin a series. Gregory Stevenson’s A Slaughtered Lamb: Revelation and the Apocalyptic Response to Evil and Suffering (Abilene Christian University Press) is very useful. The suffering of God’s people is a major issue in this book, and Stevenson helpfully expounds this theme sensibly interacting with contemporary discussions and critiques of Revelation. The first half would be very beneficial for understanding the book as a whole and the last half comments chapter by chapter on Rev. Elaine Pagels’ Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation (Penguin); Pagels nicely draws together history and background to elucidate this often confusing book. This volume reads well, but Pagels suggests more certainty than exists on some interpretive issues and less certainty than warranted on various biblical claims.
Church History & Theology
Robert Louis Wilken’s The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (Yale) is a really good history of the first millennium of Christian history and probably a must-have. Calvin’s Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments and New Possibilities (WJK), edited by Todd Billings and John Hesselink, provides a helpful survey of Calvin’s thought in its context, its reception through the years and its potential for today. Jarrett Carty has edited a useful volume, Divine Kingdom, Holy Order: The Political Writings of Martin Luther (Concordia), which seeks to correct some of the misreadings of Luther’s political views. The third volume of A Noble Company: Biographical Essays on Notable Particular-Regular Baptists in America (ed. Terry Wolever; Particular Baptist Press) has appeared. For Baptist preachers, this collection of essays on lesser known faithful pastors from the past can be quite inspiring. Hendrickson has released a paperback version of its Sermons of George Whitefield. Whitefield’s sermons, even in written form, retain much of their power, making them very useful for reading today.
Ronald Heine has produced Classical Christian Doctrine: Introducing the Essentials of the Ancient Faith (Baker). Heine has been doing us a great service with his books on how the early church fathers contribute to us today. Previously in this column, I commended his book, Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church. This book now shows how the core of Christian doctrine can be found in the writings of the early church leaders. This is helpful in many ways, including his demonstration of the role of Scripture and its acceptance (which debunks the fad of suggesting the cannon was fluid until very late).
Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Zondervan) is an abridgement of his earlier The Christian Faith. This is a solid explanation from a Reformed, Presbyterian view, but probably pastors should have the fuller treatments of systematic theology rather than the abridgements.
Christopher Morgan and Robert A. Peterson have continued their helpful Theology in Community Series with The Kingdom of God (Crossway), which provides helpful analysis of this key issue covering the biblical data, historical considerations and some specific applications.
Brian Vickers’ Justification by Grace Through Faith: Finding Freedom from Legalism, Lawlessness, Pride and Despair (P&R) is an excellent, pastoral treatment of this crucial doctrine, which I warmly commend to all pastors. This is a great example not only of doing theology well, but also of applying it well.
D.A. Carson’s Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Crossway) is a helpful, brief theological piece on the different ways “Son of God” is used in the NT in reference to Jesus. This is helpful for exegesis in numerous passages, for seeing how the OT and NT connect and for engaging the Muslim world. Bruce Ware’s The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ (Crossway) is a helpful, readable, study of Christ’s humanity and why it matters. It is exegetical, theological and practical.
Gregg Allison’s Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Crossway) is a significant, substantive work on ecclesiology. Allison writes from a Baptist perspective, affirms multi-site churches and close communion. The work is informed, readable and robust. Those Who Must Give Account: A Study of Church Membership and Church Discipline (B&H), edited by John Hammett and Benjamin Merkle is very helpful. Written from a Baptist perspective, it will be helpful to a broad range of pastors and church leaders. Wipf & Stock also has published two new works from the significant Baptist discussions in the United Kingdom: Anthony Cross Recovering the Evangelical Sacrament: Baptisma Semper Reformandum and Brandon Jones Waters of Promise: Finding Meaning in Believer Baptism.
Kelly Kapic and Wesley Vander Lugt’s Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition (IVP) is a very helpful guide to key terms, people and movements in the broadly Reformed tradition.
Carl Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative (Crossway) is a very helpful study of the value and importance of creeds or confessions of faith in church life. His first chapter on cultural currents, which mitigate against confessional standards, is well worth reading on its own.
Jason Hood’s Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern (IVP) investigates the theme of imitation in the Scripture, showing its importance in the Christian life. Hood shows how this is rooted in the gospel, not moralism. This is a really useful book for preaching, discipleship and the doctrine of sanctification. Hitting discipleship from another angle, On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis (Moody) by Louis Markos is a very engaging discussion of the importance of stories and their role in the formation of virtue.
Ken Hemphill and Auxano Press have begun producing brief biblical and doctrinal studies for Bible study classes. So far they have a doctrinal overview (Core Convictions, Hemphill), an OT Survey (God’s Redemption Story, Hemphhill), a NT survey (The King and His Community, Kie Bowman), a study of the church (Connected Community, Hemphill), and a study of prayer (Pray Like It Matters, Steve Gaines).
Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Zondervan), edited by Khaldoun Sweis and Chad Meister is a helpful reference work giving access to what key leaders have said on various topics in apologetics.
Derek Cooper’s Christianity & World Religions: An Introduction to the World’s Major Faiths (P&R) gives a helpful summary of world religions with an eye to how the Christian gospel addresses them. However, I find the positive portrayal of inclusivism problematic.
Top 7 Picks
Gordon Wenham: The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms (Crossway).
Pater Adam: The Message of Malachi (IVP)
Eckhard Schnabel: Acts (Zondervan)
Andrew Shead: A Mouth Full of Fire: The Word of God in the Words of Jeremiah (IVP),
Thomas Schreiner: The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker)
Sidney Greidanus: Preaching Christ from Daniel (Eerdmans)
Barry Webb: The Book of Judges (Eerdmans)