Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gospel Transformation Bible

ESV Gospel Transformation BibleESV Gospel Transformation Bible by ESV Bibles by Crossway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another great resource from Crossway that I was excited to see released a while back.  I love good Bibles, and this is a good Bible.  Jesus taught explicitly that all of the Bible is about Him and it is good to see more and more teaching that not only acknowledges this as truth but sees it as a focus of Bible study.

Bryan Chappell writes in the introduction about the “twofold” purpose of this work.

The goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible is twofold: (1) to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God’s grace culminating in Christ Jesus, and (2) to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart-transforming way. Our hope is that, as Christians throughout the world learn to see the message of salvation by grace unfolding throughout Scripture, they will respond to God with greater love, faithfulness, and power.

There has been much written recently focusing on the  continuity of the Bible, the overarching narrative of Scripture from beginning to end that frames all we find in its pages, and for that I am so thankful.  Growing up spiritually in a Dispensational world that embraced an almost Marcionite disjuncture between Old and New Testament, it was not until I was exposed to Reformed theology that I had any use for the Old Testament other than as an obstacle on my yearly pilgrimage through the Scriptures (a pilgrimage that seemed to wander in the desert with the Israelites but never seemed able to cross that Jordan River with Joshua).

My own dislike of the Old Testament stemmed from teaching that was wrought with an implied, and at times explicit, dismissal of anything beyond moral teachings and prophetic appearances of Christ in its pages.  This left the vast majority of the Old Testament irrelevant much beyond who is the fourth guy in the furnace or “What is your Goliath?”  That is why I am excited about more and more resources that seek to show the “unified message” of the Bible as “the Gospel of God’s grace culminating in Christ Jesus” and seek to teach believers how to “apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart transforming [rather than simply conduct transforming] way.”

How does the Gospel Transformation Bible seek to accomplish this?

(T)his edition of the ESV Bible features study notes for the entire Bible that show readers, passage by passage, how each particular book carries forward God’s redemptive purposes in history, culminating in Christ. These notes enable readers to see how the gospel of grace is the overarching message of the Bible, and how it transforms the human heart.

To aid in this, The Gospel Transformation Bible offers

Introductions to each book of the Bible are also provided, which include a section called “The Gospel in [Book].” This section orients readers to the big picture of how that book develops the story line of God’s redemptive plan.  In addition, there is a full index to help readers see the unity of Scripture and how various themes course through the Bible from beginning to end. By looking up various biblical themes—such as temple, idolatry, feasting, or marriage—readers can appreciate the way the Bible picks up and develops various motifs in a coherent, unified, and progressive way.

Crossway assembled an exciting and interesting list of contributors.  If you are familiar with Crossway Publishing, most of the contributors will be familiar names.  What is unfamiliar for the production of a study Bible is the amount of contributors from outside the world of academia.  Bryan Chappell and Dane Ortlund headed up a fun group of contributors for this work including: Sean Michael Lucas, Michael Horton, Jared Wilson, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Bruce Ware, Ray Ortlund, Graeme Goldsworthy, James Hamilton, Nancy Guthrie, Darrin Patrick, Kevin DeYoung, J. D. Greear, R. Kent Hughes, and Burk Parsons, among others.

This list is not as scholarly as many study Bibles.  Take for instance two of my favorites, Crossway’s ESV study Bible and Zondervan’s Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.  The first had Grudem, Packer, C John Collins and Thomas Schreiner as section editors and contributors almost entirely made up of seminary professors and leadership.  Zondervan’s Spirit of the Reformation Bible has for section editors the likes of Richard Pratt, Bruce Waltke, Poythress, Frame, GK Beale, Packer, Boice, Clowney and Roger Nicole.  This one also had contributions from almost exclusively seminary people.  The list of contributors shows that Crossway’s Gospel Transformation Bible is, like the contributors themselves, academically capable but not academically focused.  This study Bible is pastorally focused, “doctrine for life” if you will.  Not to be misunderstood, allow me to express clearly that this is not an either/or situation where seminarians know nothing about day to day pastoring or that non-seminarians are incapable of diagramming a sentence in Greek.   Both, pastors and professors, are necessary and good.  You will find much doctrine in the Gospel Transformation Bible as you will find much pastoral instruction in the ESV Study Bible, they really complement each other quite well.  I was just struck by the list of contributors being highly pastoral and I am surprised at how much I have enjoyed that.

The Gospel Transformation Bible has two goals it seeks to accomplish.  
Our goal will be to identify gospel themes through methods readers can identify and repeat in their own study of Scripture….common approach to understanding the redemptive nature of all biblical texts is to identify how God’s Word predicts, prepares for, reflects, or results from the person and/or work of Christ.

Along with that is the second goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible to
help readers apply gospel truths to their everyday lives. Faithful application typically answers four questions: 1) What to do? 2) Where to do it? 3) Why to do it? and 4) How to do it?”  It is the Gospel of God’s grace, empowered and applied by the Spirit of God, that motivates and enables faithful obedience.

I am excited about starting a little project for myself and I am going to offer a review of each book/section in the coming months to see specifically how and how well this is accomplished, but I was initially interested to see how much of the contributors voice finds its way into the notes while also keeping an eye out for how the two main goals were fleshed out in a sampling of the work.  To do this I focused on a couple of contributors that I am familiar with to see if I can distinguish their particular voice in the notes and to see how they handled the text in light of the goals of this Study Bible.

Out of all the contributors I am probably most familiar with the work of Michael Horton so I chose to look specifically at his introduction to Joshua.  As you read, it is fairly clear that this is the voice of Horton.  Some of the topics he emphasizes and the verbiage he utilizes to teach on Joshua is distinctly him.  I didn't necessarily see this as I read from other contributors, even ones I am pretty familiar with like Jared Wilson and Kevin DeYoung, but I think that has more to do with my inability to see what is probably clear to many who are more familiar with individual contributors.  I think it is fair to say, from what I read, that although I am sure there was an extensive editing process for all involved, the voice of the contributor can be found in their notes.  I like that.  It makes the work feel more like a community effort, many voices saying the same thing in many unique ways—which is, in a way, what the project intends to convey about Scripture.  Sure Paul wrote, and Moses wrote, and John wrote and you can hear each of their voices distinctly in how they write and topics they address and emphases they place, but they are all writing the same story, the story of God redeeming a people He has chosen to be His own as a display of his manifold glory.

I also wanted to see how well this work accomplished the goals set before it.  I plan on looking at that in-depth for a while, but from the parts I have focused on, it does very well.   Take for instance the work of Jared Wilson on Jude.

Wilson, in his notes on Jude, shows the Gospel Transformation type of theme that pervades this work, and the Scriptures themselves.
Seeing the Gospel from cover-to-cover, Wilson writes:

Jude reminds us of God’s saving work in Christ that echoes across all of human history. Jude startlingly remarks in verse 5 that it was Jesus who brought God’s people out of Egypt—centuries before the incarnation! Whatever Jude meant to convey here, at the least he is reminding us that Christ’s saving work is not an isolated and disconnected historical event. Rather, Christ’s work of redemption is the climax to all of God’s mighty deeds on behalf of his people.

Wilson also helps the reader see the “transformation” aspect of the Gospel, writing on verses 5-7,

Grace forgives disobedience but it does not produce disobedience, nor is it a free pass to disobey. Jude recalls God’s mighty deeds in history to remind his readers of coming judgment for the wicked…Jude displays the “photo negative” of the gospel, giving us a vivid and dark picture of those who twist the lavish grace of the gospel into a license to sin.

Horton also sticks with the goals of this work.  Commenting on the sin of Achan in Joshua 7, Horton takes the opportunity to discuss covenant headship and the believer’s position in Christ.
Achan, representing the people, deserved to be killed for his sin. Jesus, representing his people, did not. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). In both cases we sense both the seriousness of sin and the lengths to which God will go to preserve his people from sin’s contagion and corruption. Both Achan and Jesus were executed to turn away God’s wrath. But in a breathtaking act of substitution, we sinners, deserving the fate of Achan, are freely forgiven and welcomed into God’s family because Jesus, our representative head, has paid for our sins.

Elyse Fitzpatrick's work on Esther shows the same.

Note on 3:1–6--Many times throughout God’s story of redemption down through history, the wicked have sought to lay hands on the godly, as Haman sought to do to Mordecai and to the Jews. We see this, for example, in the lives of Joseph (Gen. 37:23–24), Moses (Ex. 2:15), David (1 Sam. 18:10–11; 24:1–2), Daniel (Dan. 2:13), and Jeremiah (Jer. 38:6). Evil may have its day, but God will have the final say. The ultimate example of this is Christ himself, whom wicked men seized and wrongfully crucified.

Graeme Goldsworthy, commenting on the call of Jeremiah, has one of the most beautiful quotes I have seen in a while.  He writes in his note on verses 1:4–10

The call of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet demonstrates the sovereignty of God. Before Jeremiah was conceived in the womb, God knew him, consecrated him, and appointed him as his prophet. This foreknowledge of the man is more than foreseeing his future. It establishes a relationship between God and his chosen one that is sure and that will fulfill God’s purpose. In this it foreshadows God’s foreknowledge of his people as expressed throughout the New Testament (e.g., Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:2).

Jeremiah’s timid response, echoed so often in our own hearts, is countered by the divine assurance that God’s purpose will be fulfilled. Many times in Scripture we see God choosing the weak, the aged (Abraham), the inarticulate (Moses), the morally blemished (Jacob), the obscure (Gideon), and the persecuted (the suffering servant in Isaiah)—all culminating ultimately in the true suffering servant, Jesus. The apostle Paul also had to learn that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:5–10). Jeremiah needs to be assured that his words will be God’s words because his message will have universal significance and will bring both destruction and renewal. The assurance God gives him strikes a theme consistent with the gospel—that God has chosen what is weak to confound the strong (1 Cor. 1:27), for the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). This gospel, like Jeremiah’s message, speaks of both judgment and redemption.

In Jeremiah’s weakness—not despite his weakness—God will be with him and will deliver him (Jer. 1:8, 19). This is good news for weak people today who know they need God more than anything else and who cry out for his all-sufficient grace. Such are the ones whom God uses in supernatural way.

James Hamilton, highlighting God’s faithfulness, comments on Hosea 4,

Hosea often uses Ephraim (the most prominent tribe in Israel) to personify both the sin of Israel and the undeserved deliverance the nation will receive—even as Ephraim’s original blessing was undeserved (cf. v. 17 and Gen. 48:15–17). This literary tie to the nation’s origins reminds us that the grace of God is never out of sight even when Hosea cites the nation for her sin and prophesies coming judgment. The unrest in our hearts caused by the prophet’s disturbing allusions to Israel’s sin (and our similar patterns of unfaithfulness) can be settled only by the grace of God glimmering in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the ministry of Christ, to whom Hosea points. The accusing voice of the Lord in Hosea 4, so right in its denunciation, will ultimately be directed toward God’s own Son, on behalf of those who trust in him.

I really could go on and on.  The Gospel Transformation Bible becomes more and more encouraging and edifying the more time I spend with it.  It is a work that sees the glory of God, as manifested in the person and work of the Son of God, on every page of the Bible.  This is a work I look forward to spending a lot of time with.

I love my 82,000 page ESV Study Bible.  I love that it seeks to tell you everything about everything.  How many miles is Nazareth from Jerusalem?  I don’t know, but I am pretty sure I can find it in the ESV Study Bible along with how many DOT camel-weighing stations and 7-Elevens you would find on your trip from one to the other.  The ESV Study Bible wants to show you every tree, shrub, animal, and flower in the forest and I will never cease to enjoy that.  However, sometimes I need to step back and take a good look at the forest and the Gospel Transformation Bible really attempts to make sure you see the forest, the big picture.  I look forward to being blessed by this work for some time to come!

I received a copy of this from Crossway for my honest review.  I already had a hard copy because it’s awesome and am happy now that I can bless someone else with it.  Grab one of these and enjoy!

View all my reviews