Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Review: The Message of The General Epistles

The Message of the General Epistles: Wisdom from James, Peter, John, and Jude. Brandon D. Crowe. 2015. P&R Publishing. 240 pages.

I enjoyed reading The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption. And I enjoyed taking my time doing so. By taking my time, I was able to absorb its message better.

Crowe's book focuses on the general epistles of the New Testament: 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, and James. Two chapters focus on 1 Peter. Two chapters focus on 2 Peter. One chapter focuses on Jude. Two chapters focus on John's epistles. One chapter focuses on James.

I'll be honest. My two favorite chapters are "This Is Love: Salvation in John's Letters" and "That You May Know: Schisms and Assurance in John's Letters." I adore 1 John. It happened to be the first book I read the MacArthur way--30 days in a row!

The topics covered in The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption are essential and relevant. Crowe has selected key themes from each epistle to focus on. He examines verse-by-verse--or so it seems--the verses that cover that topic or theme. One gets a good impression of what the book is about and why your understanding of it matters. I would definitely recommend this one. It isn't quite a commentary; I find it a bit more reader-friendly than a commentary.

Election is an eminently practical doctrine that should cause us to look outside ourselves to the priority of God's action in salvation--action that God took even before we were born! God's election is not based on anything good we have done or will do, but is solely because of God's good pleasure. And the good news is that we are chosen in Christ, the Beloved Son, and through faith in him we are granted the privilege of becoming beloved children of God (cf. Ephesians 1:4-6)
This brings us to a very practical question: how do we know whether we are elect? One way is by asking whether we love the things God loves. Do we love Jesus? Do we look to him in faith as our only hope of salvation? Do we seek to honor him and follow his commandments? Do we mourn over and repent of our sins? These are some indications of election. There is no love more precious, no word more reassuring, than to know that God has purposed to choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world--even if the world itself thinks we are no better than scalawags. We may be exiles, but we are elect exiles.
Our conversations about the teachings of the Bible should be seasoned with equal parts truth and gentleness. The stereotype for many is that Christians are bigoted and intolerant. Yet Christians should be the most courteous and respectful in discussions, even when we disagree with the views of others. We should never call names, label others unfairly, or use incendiary language just because we encounter people who may disagree with biblical teaching. Instead, we should be humble and respectful to all, even those who may firmly hold different views on hot-button issues. Let us speak the truth, but always with love and respect. 
Our only hope for escaping the wrath of God is to trust in Christ as our substitute who bore the penalty of our sin and grants us his righteous status before God. But we dare not call him "Lord, Lord" and despise his Word to us (Luke 6:46).
Eternal life is not something that is dispensed in passing as if from a drive-through window, irrespective of one's ongoing relationship with Jesus. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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