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Phillips: Zechariah – Reformed Expository Commentary February 12, 2009

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Reformed Expository Commentary, Richard Phillips, Zechariah.
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I have now read three of the volumes in the Reformed Expository Commentary each by a different author. This one on Zechariah is the first on an Old Testament book. Like the others the content was enlightening, while not being too scholarly.  In The first chapter Phillips explains his four fold approach in writing the book; examining Zechariah historically, Christologically, doctrinally and practically. I found this approach to be extremely helpful in coming to a better understanding of the book as it really draws out all aspects of the text. I must admit that after reading through Zechariah in preparation, my interest grew as I didn’t understand much of what I had read.

Reading this book really opened up Zechariah for me. I found it very helpful how Phillips give brief descriptions of the common meaning of elements of the visions (ex. horsemen = wealth and power). This information will be a good reference tool in reading any OT prophecy. He draws out the themes of repentance and sacrifice as well as God’s omniscience and sovereignty. He applies these themes doctrinally and practically to the life of the Christian, as promised by his approach to study. Most importantly he always mentions Christ and his work as it is for shadowed.

There is so much gospel in Zechariah that I found it surprising for an OT commentary, though I really shouldn’t have for all scripture is about Christ. Phillips identifies the angel/man on the horse from the visions as the preincarnate Christ and supports this conclusion well. The chapter on Zechariah 3 where the high priest Joshua is given clean garments is an especially comforting reminder of the gospel and what God has done for us.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For those looking to get more into the Old Testament, Zechariah is a great place to start. By reading commentaries from the Reformed Expository series, as well as attending a church with expository teaching, I am really seeing the importance of good Bible teachers in helping lay Christians understand the text. I began with next to no knowledge of this book and left with a great sense of its meaning and a wonder at how beautifully it points to Christ.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Ryken: 1 Timothy – Reformed Expository Commentary November 5, 2008

Posted by heldveld in 1 Timothy, Book Reviews, Philip Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary.

This is the second of the Reformed Expository Commentary series that I have read (see my review of James). As with the first I found this volume to be engaging and insightful. It definitely has deepened my knowledge of 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy is a pastoral epistle written primarily to young pastor Timothy, but Ryken shows from several passages that the letter was intended for the entire church. So even though many of the chapters would find direct application to pastors, elders and deacons all church members can learn for the requirements of these offices. Further 1 Timothy is very practical book making it easy to make direct applications to the Christian life. To this point Ryken’s commentary draws out many important points on subjects such as prayer and money. We are also reminded of or need to care for the poor and our pastors .

While practical application of the Christian faith is predominate the book still instills the beautiful gospel message. Chapter 2 ‘Mercy for the Worst of Sinners’ which covers 1:12-16 is very touching. It is a great assurance to the Christian that God in his love has mercy on the worst of sinners. Although most of us have a hard time seeing the apostle Paul as the chief of sinners his words certain show his understanding of total depravity.  This is truley good news to us all. I have to admit I may have been close to shedding a tear after reading this one. It was that moving.

I Timothy also lays out a good deal of Christian doctrine. First in showing us that salvation in Christ is what should be first and foremost. It also expounds on the proper use of the law through three basic principles; 1 to show sin 2. to restrain evil and 3. to show the Christian way of life.  Perhaps most importantly we are seen that we must hold to the orthodox faith.

“Orthodox Christianity is not to be reinvented, re-envisioned, or reinterpreted; it is to be cherished, guarded, and defended.”

There were a couple of times I did question what the author was saying.  First I’m not sure I agree with is Ryken’s promotion of the office of deaconess. Though I will admit I have not researched the issue deep enough to say definitively ‘I disagree’, my leaning is to disagree. At one point he makes reference to the ‘age of dinosours’ so I’m not sure if he holds to a non-24 hour interpretation of the creation days. Not that crucial to an understanding of I Timothy, but I’ll admit I lean strongly to the 6/24 view.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Doriani: James – Reformed Expository Commentary September 12, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Daniel Doriani, James, Reformed Expository Commentary.
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I will have to admit this is the first commentary I’ve ever read.  I know a 30 something, life long Christian not having read a commentary is shocking…. OK maybe its just more of a sad statement of the state of current Christianity in the US, but that being said it will not be the last.  This particular volume was very insightful and easy to read. I’ve been interested in James after hearing our pastor peach through the book and thinking about what it means to live a Christian life.

One of the big issues with James, for us Reformed types anyways, is that the book seems to teach salvation by works and not faith, the opposite of Paul.  Doriani however fleshes out the gospel in James pointing to “mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:12), “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (5:11) and “God …gives grace to the humble” (4:6).  These passages show that James expects the believer to rely on God and not their works. James obviously speaks about works but Doriani explains that we should see faith leading to salvation and then to good works.

He also points out the many similarities between the book and Old Testament wisdom literature.  It is also shown how James also uses the poetic chiasm (1-2-3-3-2-1) pattern at points to build his case.  In all he does a great job of tying all of James’ points together into a coherent whole.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.  I half expected it to read like a text book but that was not the case.  This book was extremely helpful in forming my understanding of James.  It is both a challenging and hopeful book showing us how we should live but never letting us forget that “God …gives grace to the humble”. (4:6)

In closing I have to include this quote:

“James says there is an antithesis, a choice between two ways of life: a way of selfish ambition and a way of purity and peace (3:13-18). We can be a friend of God or a friend of the world (4:4). We can be proud or humbled, and repentant. Jesus says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11;18:14)”

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books