Review: The Truth of the Cross – R. C. Sproul

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fairly comprehensive introduction to a Biblical understanding of the atonement. Christ’s work on the cross is a subject that is often misunderstood by many modern Christians, and Dr. Sproul helpfully sheds light on the most important aspects of Christ’s work on the cross.

Sproul begins by confirming the absolute necessity of the atonement and does so by, in typical Sproul fashion, highlighting strongly the holiness of God against sin. That forgiveness and reconciliation cannot be merely attained by God ‘forgetting’ our sins and thereby violating His own justice and holiness.

This is linked very logically, and seamlessly, into the way in which the Bible looks at the work of Christ on the cross: a paid debt, a ransom, and a substitution. The most helpful section of the this work was Sproul’s continuing commitment to penal substitutionary atonement. Also, his discussion on what ‘ransom’ means from the Old Testament (including using examples from Old Testament law, and the book of Ruth) against the ‘Ransom Theory’ was quite helpful. The ransom, of course, was to God, not Satan. Sproul helps to see that, in the logical extension of the Ransom Theory, we can no longer proclaim ‘Christus Victor’ but ‘Satanus Victor’.

The next main section I thought was the highlight of the book – a demonstration of Christ’s fulfilment of Isaiah 53 as the Suffering Servant. There was nothing groundbreaking in this section, but the way it is written is theological precise, exegetically consistent, and devotional in nature.

The last main section is a defence and explanation of limited atonement (or particular redemption) as a distinctive of the Reformed faith. The argument that Christ accomplished and secured the salvation of all those for whom He died is laid out simply and in a compelling way.

The final chapter is a series of question and answers. The questions posed there are well answered, and as such may be helpful, but the chapter feels out of place in the book. Some of the questions aren’t hugely connected to the rest of the work, though useful in their own right.

Review: The Expository Genius of John Calvin – Steve Lawson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A short, concise introduction to the life and, more importantly, the expository preaching of John Calvin. The first book in an excellent series looking at the focus of the preaching of some the best and most influential preachers over the centuries.

Lawson does an excellent job of putting Calvin’s life into historical, and theological, context. The myths surrounding Calvin, such as his tyrannical Genevan dictatorship, are shown to clearly be false and Lawson clearly shows an appreciation for Calvin’s pastoral heart.

The main focus of the book, however, is on the preaching of Calvin; 32 distinctives of his preaching are considered. These distinctives are wide ranging considerations: from the type of copulating phrases Calvin used to link ideas, to his method of preaching 4 – 5 verses of exposition throughout the whole of a book, and his inclusive language, ensuring Calvin never spoke down to his congregation but numbered himself among those to whom he was preaching.

As an occasional preacher, this book really helped my grasp on the fundamental focuses of good exposition, and Lawson lets us learn from the master himself. Rather than telling us simply about Calvin’s preaching, he frequently inserts long quotations and excerpts from Calvin’s sermons to illustrate the point being made. This was especially useful in being able interact directly with Calvin’s work. In many cases, it simply made me want to read the entire sermons.

Lawson does an excellent job in highlighting the strength of expository preaching, and Calvin’s mastery of it. The book serves as an encouragement and an exhortation for preachers to go and do likewise. It is brief, concise, and serves as an excellent introduction to Calvin’s work, and expository preaching in general.