Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

The Expository Genius of John Calvin; A Review

In books on March 27, 2008 at 6:59 am

The Expository Genius of John Calvin
by Dr. Steven J. Lawson
Reformation Trust, 2007


Expository Genius of John Calvin coverThis wonderful book is written as a plea to modern-day preachers and teachers to return to the practice of expository preaching of the Word of God. From Dr. Lawson:

As we consider Calvin’s life and work, we will survey the distinguishing marks of his pulpit ministry, consider the core presuppositions that undergirded his biblical preaching, and examine his personal preparation for the pulpit. Along the way, we will gain an overview of his preaching itself—his sermon introduction, interpretation, application, conclusion, and final intercession. In short, we will explore the distinguishing marks of Calvin’s expository genius.

The goal here is not to take a sentimental journey—the hour is too desperate for such a triviality. Rather, the aim of this book is to raise the bar for a new generation of expositors. If you are a preacher or teacher, may you be challenged to a higher standard in your handling of the Word. If you are a supporter of one called to this ministry, may you know
how best to pray.


The book is divided into two parts. The first section gives a brief biographical sketch of John Calvin and the state of the church in Europe during his lifetime. The second section provides the reader with an overview of John Calvin’s preaching methods.

The biographical section, while not meant to be complete, is a great introduction for those who have not studied the life of John Calvin. It provides just enough detail to get a sense of what Calvin would have struggled with during his lifetime of opening the Word of God for himself and for others.

The second section, the majority of the book, details Calvin’s habits of expository preaching. Dr. Lawson begins with John’s thoughts toward what should be said and done in the pulpit and moves on to cover his study habits and how he prepared his sermons. It is interesting to note that Calvin, like many other preachers who spoke multiple times during the week, preached out of an overflow of his studies. He did not have to prepare his sermons in the typical manner because they were already formed in his mind. After pouring over the Scripture passage he was studying, preaching became, to him, simply relating that knowledge back to his audience in a manner that was easily understandable.

Dr. Lawson continues and describes how Calvin began his sermons with a brief review of the previous sermon (Calvin preached verse-by-verse each week, continuing right where he left off in the previous message) and then gave his audience an overview of the text before preaching on the text itself. The book then discusses how Calvin went about his exposition of the text and how he crafted his words towards his audience and delivered his message. John Calvin’s sermons would end with an explanation of how to apply the text to their lives and, finally, a plea to his audience to take God’s Word to heart and live it in their daily lives.


Dr. Lawson’s work accomplished its goal, to call on preachers to return to a faithful exposition of God’s Word in the pulpit, and gave a wonderful example of one man who did just that. You may ask why a layman would want to read this book if they may never stand before a congregation. My answer would be that they would gain a valuable guide in what to look for in good preaching as they seek out a church to belong to. In that light, I would recommend this book to all audiences, not just preachers and teachers of God’s Word.

I end with a description of the faithfulness John Calvin had to continually preach the Word of God above all things:

Upon his return, Calvin hit the town preaching. Reassuming his pulpit ministry precisely where he had left off three years earlier—in the very next verse of his earlier exposition—Calvin became a mainstay, preaching multiple times on Sunday and, during some weeks, each weekday. His verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture, week after week, even day after day, would make Geneva a shining beacon of truth.


The Truth of the Cross; A Review

In books on March 17, 2008 at 5:27 pm

The Truth of the Cross
by R.C. Sproul
Reformation Trust, 2007


The Truth of the Cross coverThe cross has been the center of discussion and debate since the early beginnings of Christianity. What exactly happened that night? Did it even have to happen? What was Jesus going through as it happened? Who benefits from what happened on the cross? These are the simplified versions of some very complex theological questions arising from our understanding of Christ’s work on the cross but if you think about it, so much of the way you live the Christian life is rooted in what you believe really took place on the cross. The author himself spells out how important this is in his comment

If you take away the cross as an atoning act, you take away Christianity.


R.C. Sproul’s most recent book The Truth of the Cross checks in at about 167 pages, a quick read if you are willing but certainly not sparse in depth. When the cross is discussed, normally you would hear the words atonement, justification, sacrifice, redemption, substitution, debt, suffering, and hell. Amazingly enough, you will find all of these topics covered in this book in a way that RC is well-known for: easy to understand but never lacking in thought-provoking theology.

Obviously in a shorter book like this it is difficult to thoroughly examine all of these topics but that wasn’t the author’s intent. The author seems to have written an introductory book, giving the reader who may have questions about the cross or maybe hasn’t ever studied some of these topics a good overview of the subject.

Although the book answers a lot of questions throughout its first nine chapters, I particularly enjoyed the tenth chapter, “Questions and Answers”. Some great questions are asked and RC briefly responds with just enough to cover the question but leaves the reader to ponder some more and, hopefully, dig into the Bible for more answers. I wish more authors provided a Q&A section within their books; a mini-catechism of sorts. This also serves as a good quick-reference guide to the book written in a much more readable form.


This is a great book for those looking for a quick introduction to the questions they have about the cross and some of the more theological terms associated with it. But of course, this would be an excellent book for anyone who has studied the cross but loves to hear the story again and again.

The Enemy Within

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2007 at 6:01 pm

The Enemy WithinI stumbled onto a fantastic book, The Enemy Within, by Kris Lundgaard. The Enemy Within is a great work on the power of indwelling sin and what can be done to help in the battle against sin. The book relies heavily on John Owen’s works, which can be found here. Owen may be difficult for some to read through considering the language and style he uses, but for sure it is well worth the effort to read through them.

When I read through books, I scribble notes in the margins and underline things I find interesting. Usually the notes are illegible to anyone but myself and that’s ok because I take notes for myself anyway. I did not want to keep these notes for myself though, this book has great value to all believers since we all struggle with sin in some form. I am posting some PDF slides that are a quick summary of the book. They probably will not be very useful if you haven’t read through the book or do not have a copy of the book in front of you though so I would encourage to pick up this book for yourself.

Here is the first slide with a quick summary of the book:

  • Sin must be mortified in the believer
  • The flesh wars against three areas in the believer:
    • the mind – the watchman of the soul
    • the affections – the desires of the soul
    • the will – the doer of the soul
  • Sin occurs when any area is dragged away in temptation and the other two follow
  • Mortification is done in faith, with the Spirit because of the work done on the cross by Jesus to make us into God’s holy people
  • We must understand how the flesh wages war if we are to have any victory over it

Download the slides here