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Sola Fide – Assurance and Justification by Faith Alone

By Joel R. Beeke

One reason many believers lack assurance of faith is that they lack clarity on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, often confusing it with sanctification. Justification is clearly spelled out in the Word of God in Romans 4:5: ‘To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness’, and in Galatians 2:16, ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.’
Many do not understand that the Lord freely gives to those who ask of Him the results or benefits of all that Christ did on the cross (His passive obedience) and of His life of perfect obedience to the law (His active obedience). By this twofold obedience on behalf of sinners, God’s justice is satisfied. He thus may be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
We can do nothing that will make us worthy or fit to receive God’s forgiveness. Nothing is necessary to make us acceptable to God. As poor sinners, we receive the gift of salvation by true faith and are justified; that is, we begin as Christians in a right relationship with the Lord. There is nothing that we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God. God does not justify us because of our sincere sorrow for sin, our good works, or anything else. Justification by faith alone means that all our sins are forgiven only because of what Christ has done.
If we base our justification on some condition that we must fulfill or a particular experience that we must have, we inject a kind of legalism into our justification that destroys its gracious character and robs us of its saving and assuring character. Then our spiritual deficiencies can lead us to spiritual depression, for justification by works, no matter how subtle its form, will demolish assurance. If salvation were by works, we could never do enough of them to be saved! If salvation were by experience, no experience would stand up for long under close scrutiny.
It is true that God expects His justified people to put off their sins and do good works, but only as the fruit of being justified, not as a means to being justified. The Belgic Confession of Faith says that when Christians have received Christ by faith as ‘the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof’ (Art. 29). But we must remember that none of these things can be the ground of our acceptance with God. Judged in themselves, our best works must fall short, for whatever we do is stained with sin. James says that if we are guilty of breaking the law at one point, we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 3:2).
Thus, no true Christian will ever feel that he is fit to be accepted by God. Even the holiest of men are accepted by God only because the merits of Christ are imputed to them. Once we understand believe that, we are released from bondage. We may then go to God as sinners, knowing that God does not require anything from us as a condition for receiving His grace. We may come as we are, resting completely and exclusively on Christ’s merits.
This view of justification continues to be an important factor in the lives of those who have been assured of their faith. For when they fall into sin, they are reminded that they are unworthy to be accepted by God and that if God were not willing to receive us as sinners for Christ’s sake, there would be no hope for anyone. That is what it means to live out of Christ: to need His forgiving grace every day, to know that there is nothing in us that is acceptable to God, but that He is willing to wash away all our sins for Christ’s sake. Justification by faith alone stands in the foreground of the experience of every child of God who has assurance.

 


Joel R. Beeke is President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and Pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

His book, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith is available at local Christian bookshops, or online:

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Sola Scriptura

By John and Keri Folmar

Post tenebras lux.  “After the darkness, light.” Gospel truths had become shrouded in Medieval religion. The 16th century Protestant Reformation wasn’t a sociological phenomenon. It wasn’t a political movement. It was a revival, a spiritual awakening.  What sparked the awakening? Martin Luther knew where the credit lay. When asked about his accomplishments, he said, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing…The Word did it all.”

And yet everything changed—from the architecture of the church building, to the public order of service, to the underlying theology. The Bible was now translated into the language of the people. The preaching, now simple, verse-by-verse exposition. The Lord’s Supper, now observed in both parts, not just the bread (where formerly the wine was superstitiously kept from the people, lest they spill it on the ground). The singing, it returned to the church, in congregational form. The theology, it was reformed by the Word of God.  No longer was salvation by cooperation with the mechanics of the church—penance, the Mass, last rites.  Now, salvation was seen as a unilateral, sovereign act of God, where the Holy Spirit regenerated the sinner, enabling him to respond in repentance and faith. The agent of regeneration was “the word of truth” (James 1:18). It was this recovery of the biblical gospel that lit Europe on fire; and, then, eventually much of the world. The Word of God did it all.

Sola Scriptura was the fountain, the first of the five Solas of the Reformation. The Bible is where we find the precious gospel by which we are saved—by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone for God’s glory alone.

But times have changed since the Reformation. In our modern world, we have constant access to the Internet and can hear from our favorite commentator on Twitter in real-time. Entertainment is at our fingertips, only a click away. Isn’t the Bible terribly inefficient, if not irrelevant? Don’t we need something more current to spice up our churches? Something more immediate and personal to speak into our own lives?

Never! Our glorious and sovereign God has spoken and he continues to speak to us today through the Scriptures (Hebrews 1:1-3). As God’s Word, the Bible is sufficient, relevant in every culture and every age (Psalm 119:89).  As Scripture is read, sung, prayed and preached, churches continue to be reformed today, established as pillars and buttresses of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The Bible alone is necessary and sufficient for the task.

Just as the Scriptures continue to reform churches, they continue to transform individual lives. Second Timothy 3:16-17 promises, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” As we daily dedicate ourselves to reading the Bible and as we listen with open ears to faithful preaching, God’s Word transforms us from one degree of glory to another. And this, not just because the Bible tells us how to live, but because in it we hear from God himself and see Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

As Luther himself said, “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture.” This is how God makes himself personally present to us—through the Holy Spirit inspired words of the Bible.  The Bible is not a behavioral manual, or a set of instructions, or a textbook, but the very voice of God.

Sola Scriptura means the Bible is the Christian’s ultimate source of authority. It is God’s inspired Word, necessary and sufficient for doctrinal fidelity and life to the full. As Spurgeon beautifully said:

 

Believer, there is enough in the Bible for you to live upon forever. If you should outnumber the years of Methuselah, there would be no need for a fresh revelation; if you should live until Christ should return from the earth, there would be no necessity for the addition of a single word; if you should go down as deep as Jonah, or even descend as David said he did, into the depths of hell, still there would be enough in the Bible to comfort you without a supplementary sentence.

 

Sola Scriptura: The Bible is enough indeed.


John is Senior Pastor of the United Christian Church of Dubai. Keri is John’s wife and the author of The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman and several inductive Bible studies for women.

The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Scripture for Every Woman is available at local Christian bookshops, or online:

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Biblical Church Revitalization

When Brian Croft first arrived at Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, it was the classic dying Southern Baptist church. In the five years that followed, he survived 3 firing attempts, threats of violence, and the betrayal of close friends. But God saw fit to breathe life into his church again. Hear some of Brian’s story in this video from the Missouri Baptist Convention:

 


To find out more about this, check out Brian’s book, Biblical Church Revitalization, at your local Christian bookstore, or online:

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Spurgeon’s Sorrows

How do we get through them? The times that knock the breath out; when even our strongest and bravest must confess with desolate eyes, “I do not know what to pray” (to paraphrase what Paul expresses in Rom. 8:26). How do we get through such times, when silences trump sentences? It is as if our words have no life jackets. They must stay, tread water in the shallows, and watch us from a distance. Words have no strength to venture with us into the heaving deeps that swallow us.

And many of us who believe in Jesus don’t like to admit it, but we find no immunity here either. Many of us know what it is to lose hair, weight, appetite and the semblance of ourselves. Painful circumstances or a disposition of gloom within our chemistry can put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances and bodily chemistry can steal the gift s of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. We’ve forfeited God’s help.

Mentally, all of this, and its only Tuesday!

How do we get through?


The above extract is from Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression, written by Zack Eswine. This is what people have said about it:

…Spurgeon from early years to final days found dark distress ever hovering on the edges of his mind and sometimes launching an all out assault on his very being. How he managed all this, by the grace of God, both for himself and for others, drives both the gripping content and the riveting literary style of Zack Eswine in Spurgeon’s Sorrows.

Tom J. Nettles, Former Senior Professor of Historical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

The river of life often flows through sloughs of despond. Charles Spurgeon knew that well… Ditto Zack Eswine in this unusual, refreshing, sensible book… Read it, and take it to heart.

David Powlison, CCEF Executive Director, Senior Editor, Journal of Biblical Counseling

Zack Eswine is a pastor with the mind of a scholar and the heart of a poet. His wisdom gleaned from Charles Spurgeon’s struggle with depression is theologically profound and pastorally lucid.

Jason Byassee, Senior Pastor, Boone United Methodist Church, Boone, North Carolina

Zack Eswine, like Spurgeon, a preacher, pastor, and no stranger to suffering… there is much encouragement, comfort and practical help to be found in this rich and poetic treasure.

Richard Winter, Author of When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression, Director of Counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri

Buy Spurgeon’s Sorrows from your local Christian bookstore, or from these online retailers:

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Podcast with Melissa Kruger

We love to hear our authors share the stories behind the books that they write – and the insights and lessons which God gives them along the way! Here is a podcast from the folks at the Alliance of Confessing Evanglicals as Aimee Byrd, Carl Trueman, and Todd Pruitt speak to Melissa Kruger about her books, The Envy of Eve and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood:

A-List Uptown Girl

For a more in-depth discussion on the topic of envy, listen in to this podcast from Revive Our Hearts where Melissa speaks specifically about The Envy of Eve. Recognising envy in our lives; the link between unbelief and envy; and the trap (and dangers) of comparison are all highlighted and discussed by Melissa. Well worth a listen!

Revive Our Hearts

 

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Judas kissed Jesus

“The contrarian in me loves this – a look at Jesus through the eyes of His betrayer. And a look at our own relationship with Jesus through exploring theirs.”

Barnabas Piper, Author of ‘The Pastor’s Kid’, ‘Help My Unbelief’, and ‘The Curious Christian’


The kiss of death

No matter what our culture says and what social mores they’ve come to accept, kissing is intimate. You’re in someone’s space, you’re touching them, and you’re not merely touching, you’re touching lips. Now, I understand that Judas didn’t touch lips with Jesus, but he shared something intimate with the Son of God in order to betray Him.

One of the most intimate of human experiences was used as a signal to turn the Son of God over to His destroyers. This kiss would notify the guards who to mock, ridicule, beat, scourge and nail to a cross. This kiss would bring separation between Jesus and His disciples. This kiss would be the moment Jesus’ entire life has been building up to. This kiss of death, however, would bring God’s plan of redemption to fruition.

This kiss signified death. It signified death for Jesus. It was part of the plan Judas had discussed with the guards. It signified death for Judas. He looked one last time into the eyes of the Man who could save him and simply turned him over. It signified the death of death. Three days later, Christ would roll away the stone and walk away from that tomb. It signified the death of life as we know it. This earth is now closer to its end but the beginning of life eternal is ready for its beginning.

The ‘kiss’ of Christ

The beautiful hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, contains these rich lyrics that reflect upon the Savior on the cross, ‘Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Or thorns compose so rich a crown?’. Two polar opposites coming together: love and sorrow; sharp thorns and rich crown … kiss and betrayal. These things didn’t belong together, but they were brought together through the man Jesus Christ. Judas disgraced the kiss by using it to betray the Savior of the world. The kiss did not deserve to be disgraced in the manner Judas did. Judas betrayed with a kiss. The greatest traitor in human history kissing the most faithful and trustworthy. Christ, however, has a kiss of His own. What is the ‘kiss’ of Christ? The kiss of Christ is epitomized in the reality of the divine God ‘kissing’ humanity by becoming a human being. Jesus the King became Jesus the babe. The Creator became creature by taking on flesh, leaving His throne and coming to dwell with sinful man. The King of Glory does not belong among prostitutes, tax collectors and self-righteous Pharisees, yet He humbled Himself and dwelt among them.

King of contrasts

What else doesn’t belong together? Enemies adopted as children. You see, God has a way of reconciling things that don’t belong. Judas abused the kiss but God used it to bring His plan of redemption to completion. Christ’s disciples argued about who was the greatest, but Christ became the least so we could inherit the Kingdom. Leaders don’t serve and servants don’t lead, but Jesus led by serving, reconciling what doesn’t belong together. Giving away something is losing, but Christ reconciled giving as receiving.

Any one of us can see a lot of ourselves in Judas. He was an idolater and so are we. He feared man and so do we. He lacked faith and so do we. He sinned against Jesus and so do we. We should be humbled as we survey the life of Judas and realize our lives are often anything but faithful. However, we serve a Savior of reconciliation and He’s the faithful one that reconciles the faithless to Himself.


The above extract is from John Perritt’s new book, published with Christian Focus, What Would Judas Do?: Understanding faith through the most famous of the faithless. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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Christian Focus on the Reformation

Christian Focus Publications produce a rich selection of titles featuring the significant characters of the reformation – from Martin Luther and John Calvin, to lesser known figures such as Theodore Beza and John Huss. 2017 brings the 5ooth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, stirred in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg door.  We’ve picked out a few titles below which are required reading for those interested in the story of the reformation and its relevance to us today.


 

“With knowledge, wit, and clarity, Carl Trueman brings key insights from the Reformation on Christ, Scripture, and our appropriation of both to bear on the life of the modern evangelical church.”

Michael Lawrence, Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon

 

Carl R. Trueman examines the origins of contemporary Reformed theology in the Reformation world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After tracing how this heritage shaped and transformed the intervening period, he then describes some of the major challenges being faced by the evangelical church at the present time and suggests ways of responding which remain faithful to the Scriptures and the theology of the Reformers drawn from it and points towards a future that embraces and disseminates these wonderful doctrines of grace.


 

“…tells the story of Calvin’s life and thought in a compact and compelling way that will serve to acquaint readers with the warm human character of Calvin.”

William Barker, Professor of Church History, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

Robert Reymond brings us John Calvin the man. A reality quite different from the caricature often painted today. Here is a man of deep spirituality with a real love for his fellow man and God. A man also with tremendous intellectual abilities. Whether the moniker ‘stern Calvinist’ is applicable or not – his life has much to teach us.


 

Theodore Beza: The Man and the Myth by Shawn D. Wright

“Well researched and well written, this is an important book about Beza based on a close reading of Beza … A stellar contribution to Reformation studies and pastoral theology alike.”

Timothy George, Founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

 

Theodore Beza was a man who in his day was one of the luminaries of the Protestant world, who took the reins of the beleaguered Calvinistic movement after its namesake’s death, and who influenced English-speaking Protestantism more than you might imagine. Shawn D. Wright casts light on a figure often neglected and helps illustrate the significant impact of his faith and influence.


Related titles from Christian Focus Publications:

John Knox: Fearless Faith by Steven J. LawsonMartin Luther's Tabletalk

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by | April 24, 2017 · 2:17 pm

The Cost – What it takes to follow Jesus – Steven J. Lawson

Inside the Book: 

Nestled in a few verses in Luke’s Gospel is a Jesus who would not have been tolerated today: He was not politically correct and He certainly did not try to save people’s feelings. Steven Lawson unpacks these few verses, looking at the unashamed honesty, passion, and urgency with which Jesus explains the life-long cost involved in choosing to follow Him. True Christianity is the biggest sacrifice any person ever makes … but it is in pursuit of the most precious prize ever glimpsed.

Praise for The Cost: 

Like a master builder Steve Lawson gives us the foundation of Jesus’ own words to erect a frame showing the cost, demands, gains and losses of following Christ. In doing so, Dr. Lawson gives us a strong and firm edifice that brings glory to Him and His truth.

R.C. Sproul, Founder & Chairman of Ligonier Ministries, Orlando, Florida

This book is a “must read” for all! The unconverted will hear the gospel; the Christian will find the true road to devotion and joy; the minister will be instructed in the task of biblical gospel preaching, ensuring salvation both for himself and for those who hear him (I Timothy 4:16).

Paul Washer, President, Heart Cry Ministry, Radford, Virginia

Christ’s own summons to discipleship is impossible to harmonize with the laid-back, seeker-sensitive, superficial religion practiced by so many people today who claim to be followers of Christ. Dr. Lawson’s exposition of Luke 14:25-35 distills the vital message and presents it in a robust and penetrating way.

John MacArthur, President, The Master’s University and Seminary and Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

Listen In:

Steven Lawson spoke at Shepherd’s Conference 2017 on How to Call People to Follow Christ, listen in below:

About the Author: 

Steven J. Lawson is president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about biblical reformation in the church today, as well as the Professor of Preaching in the masters and doctoral programs at The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, California.

Where to Buy:

The Cost: What it takes to follow Jesus is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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by | April 14, 2017 · 3:25 pm

Michael A. G. Haykin on Patrick of Ireland

Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact by Michael A. G. Haykin

The following extract is taken from Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact by Michael A. G. Haykin. Part of the Early Church Fathers Series from Christian Focus Publications.

An Evangelical Reflects on Patrick

E.A. Thompson has rightly noted that Patrick’s ‘character is complex and of the utmost fascination’. My own fascination with Patrick began quite early in my studies of the ancient church. Initially, I suspect I was drawn to him because of my Irish ancestry. But in time, his rich Trinitarianism and zeal for missions, his biblicism and dependence on the Spirit exercised their own pull on my heart and mind. Since 1989 I have written a number of pieces on Patrick. In this book-length essay, however, I have not only sought to bring together the various strands of all that I have written about Patrick, but I have also expanded this material considerably so that readers today might see the implications of his life and thought for contemporary Evangelicalism.

It would be both wrong and anachronistic to describe Patrick as an Evangelical. His encouragement of monasticism, for example, hardly squares with Evangelical piety. His devotion to the Trinity, however, has much to teach Evangelicals, far too many of whom seem to have forgotten the absolute necessity of being Trinitarian in teaching and worship. His zeal for missions and the salvation of the lost is not only inspiring, but deeply convicting. Also, he is into missions for all of the right reasons: the glory of God; his love for the lost, in this case, the Irish, and his concern for their salvation; the duty he owes to God’s call on his own life; and obedience of the Scriptural mandate to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Then, there is his bibliocentrism: whether he had read many other books or not, he leaves us with the overwhelming impression that only one book supremely matters, and that is the Bible. He is not afraid to find truth in other sources – all truth is God’s truth – but in the final analysis, it is Scripture that guides him. Finally, I love his dependence on the Spirit. While his thought and expression are indeed shaped by God’s infallible Word, he sought in all integrity to listen to the Spirit in his daily life and so find that much-needed balance of Word and Spirit that we all require in our day. Most importantly in this regard, because of his own weaknesses, Patrick knew that the Spirit’s work in us is a humbling work, showing us that all in the Christian life is of pure grace: a truly Evangelical note — ‘if I have achieved or shown any small success according to God’s pleasure, … it was the gift of God.’

Featured Reviews:

“Michael Haykin paints a compelling portrait of this bibliocentric bishop and earnest evangelist. The dedicated missionary and thoughtful theologian that emerges belongs to the Gospel-loving global church and not just the Emerald Isle.”

Paul Hartog, Adjunct Faculty, Biblical Studies, Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, Ankeny, Iowa

“A fine balance between a biography of an extraordinary servant of Jesus Christ and an explanation of the beliefs that sustained Patrick.”

Michael Ovey, (1958-2017) Principal, Oak Hill Theological College, London

About the Author: 

Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.


Where to Buy:
Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact by Michael A. G. Haykin Buy Now:

 

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by | March 17, 2017 · 3:11 pm

The Focus on the Bible commentaries are popular level commentaries especially useful for pastors and small group leaders. They are a great resource for personal devotions and spiritual growth. Many of the authors of the commentaries are leading expositors of God’s Word on their speciality subjects. The series holds to the inerrancy of scripture and the uniqueness of Christ in salvation. For a full list of titles in the series, featuring authors such Dale Ralph Davis, Tim Chester and Jim Hamilton, check out www.christianfocus.com. Today we look at three of the latest additions to the series:


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John is known as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’. He was under our Saviour’s teaching and care for three years. He leaned against Christ’s chest at the last supper and witnessed the crucifixion. Who better then to write about the love of Jesus than the one who had such first-hand experience of it? In these three letters, John is passing on the impact of these experiences to people he loves, tenderly encouraging them to see past their failings and focus on the promises available in Christ.

“Hannah carefully explains the text and skillfully applies its message to our contemporary world. If you want to see afresh the beauty of Christ and grow in your love for him and his people, this book is for you.”

Matthew Harmon, Professor of New Testament Studies, Grace Theological Seminary


John: Jesus Christ is God by William F. Cook

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John’s Gospel is the mature reflections of the last living apostle. John the apostle wrote this book approximately fifty-five years after the resurrection of Jesus. During those years he had reflected on the words and deeds of Jesus and the result is that the pages of the Gospel contain the seasoned thinking of one of Jesus’ closest friends.

“Bill Cook is a wonderful New Testament scholar and pastor … This book will serve extremely well those who preach and teach the Word of God chapter by chapter, verse by verse and word by word.”

Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


Joel & Obadiah: Disaster And Deliverance by Iwan Rhys Jones

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Disaster and Deliverance, these two words sum up something of the message of both Joel and Obadiah. In Joel, the prophet begins by announcing a disaster in terms of a locust invasion, which has affected Judah. Nevertheless, the prophet holds out the prospect of deliverance. In the case of Obadiah, the focus is on Edom. Edom’s pride and longstanding hostility against the people of God has led her to be party to an attack upon them, and as a result, she is threatened with disaster. The people of God, meanwhile, are assured of better things at the hand of the LORD.

Writing in an accessible and succinct style, Jones introduces us to grand theological themes that run throughout the prophetic writing of Joel and Obadiah … As with many commentaries in this series, Jones’s treatment is fitting for both sermon preparation and small group Bible study.

John Scott Redd, Jr., President and Associate Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington

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by | March 15, 2017 · 1:12 pm