Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Review: Walking With Jesus Through His Word

Walking With Jesus Through His Word. Dennis E. Johnson. 2015. P&R. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

THE CHRISTIAN IS ALWAYS pleased and delighted when he can see Christ in the Scriptures. If he can but detect the footstep of his lord, and discover that the sacred writers are making some reference to him, however indistinct or dark he will rejoice there at: for all the Scriptures are nothing except as we find Christ in them. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "A Wise Desire"

I love the premise of Dennis Johnson's Walking With Jesus Through His Word. The premise is simple: Christ can be found in all of Scripture--not just the New Testament. Believers can benefit greatly by understanding HOW Christ can be found in each and every book of the Bible. Sometimes, Johnson argues, Christ can clearly be seen. For example, when New Testament writers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly connect Old Testament passages with Jesus Christ the Savior. He can be seen as the Seed, the Branch, the Passover Lamb, the Son of David, etc. Other times Christ's presence is more subtle and takes a little effort. For example, he can be seen in the covenants, with a covenantal understanding of the Bible. He can be seen in the roles of priest, prophet, and king. Johnson guides his readers into a proper understanding of how to read the Bible. He covers all types and genres of the Bible. One of the things I appreciate most about Walking With Jesus Through His Word is how natural it is, how he believes that believers should learn how to read the bible by reading the bible. In other words, he argues that the New Testament writers show us how to read the Bible, how to approach it, how to interpret it. Also by letting bible texts shed light on other bible texts.

Walking With Jesus Through His Word is divided into six parts: "Beginning the Journey," "You are Here," "Reading the Road Signs," "Getting the Lay of the Land," Recognizing the Landmarks," and "Are We There Yet?"
We want to learn a sound method of interpreting God's written Word that honors its origin and its authors (given by God through human authors controlled by his Spirit), its unity (revealing consistent truth and a single redemptive plan), its variety (constituted of many books given over many centuries), and its purpose (to lead to God's glory and our salvation). 
We want to travel across the landscape of the Bible--with all its variety of times and places and people and types of literature--noticing the scenery along the way as we always keep our destination in view.
Walking With Jesus is somewhat unique in that it is a way to teach a method of how to read the Bible. (At the end of each chapter--or almost each chapter--Johnson allows readers to put in practice what they've learned.) Other books tend to share their own conclusions, but, don't walk you step by step through the process. For example, Jesus Unmasked by Todd Friel does a great job with chapters like "The Scarlet Thread," "Jesus is the Ark," "Jesus is the Rock," "Jesus is the Bronze Serpent," "Jesus is the Tabernacle," "Jesus is the Sabbath," "Jesus is the New Covenant," etc. And I love Michael James Williams' How To Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens. Williams' book shows readers book by book--all 66--how Jesus can be found within any given book.

There are many, many steps. But I'll share the first step with you now.
So here is the first key to our seeing Christ in the entire Bible. We need him to open our minds, to ignite our hearts, to take away the foolishness and sluggishness and unbelief and low expectations with which we approach his holy written Word. Since we need Jesus to do this for us, one indispensable key to walking with Jesus through the pages of Scripture is simply this: Pray! Face the sobering fact that, left to yourself, you will not "get" what God designs to show you of his Son in his Word by your own research and analysis and ingenuity. Pray that as you read the Word, his Spirit will remove the veil of misunderstanding that keeps you from seeing Jesus' ever-increasing glory. 
Who would benefit from reading Walking With Jesus Through His Word?
  • Those who want to connect the dots and grasp the big picture of what the Bible is all about. 
  • Those readers who want a refresher course on covenant theology.
  • Those who love Christ and want to see him glorified.
  • Those readers interested in learning to study the Bible for themselves instead of being reliant on study Bibles.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible