Reviewed by Fred G. Zaspel
There is a real difference between preaching about Christ and preaching Christ. The latter entails the former, of course, but it is much, much more. Preaching about Christ may be informative, but preaching Christ is marked by informed boasting – “exultation” we call it, triumphant jubilation. Whether written or oral, preaching Christ is full of rejoicing and full of affection. It is the – biblical! – presentation of our Lord that is not content with a theology that is merely theoretical, abstract, or detached. Nor is it content with mere platitudes. Far from empty enthusiasm, preaching Christ is truth-filled proclamation and truth-fueled worship. Solid Christology, yes, but Christology reveled in.
Michael Reeves gets that.
He also gets that “gospel-centered” is not something else or something other than “Christ-centered.” He understands that we cannot rejoice in the gospel – or salvation itself – apart from rejoicing in Christ who is himself the one in whom all saving blessing is found. In him the saving love of the triune God is gloriously revealed.
Reeves’ new book, Rejoicing in Christ, is probably not like the other books on Christology you have read, but it is an outstanding model of Biblical and Systematic Theology devotionally and joyfully considered – theology as it ought to be done. There is a place for polemics, of course, and Reeves supplies plenty of ammunition for it. But Rejoicing in Christ is just what the title implies – a delighted feasting on the person and work of our Lord.
Reeves treats the standard topics of the deity of Christ, his incarnation and two natures, his death, resurrection, and ascension, our union with him by the Spirit, and his return. But each is treated not so much in traditional systematic categories but within the gospel-shaped story of Scripture and picking up themes such as Adam Christology in captivating and accessible ways. Christ is God, yes, but specifically he is God making himself known. What is God like? In Jesus we see exactly what God is like, and that is good news for any sinner! Is he truly man? Yes, indeed! He is the last Adam, the man in whom humanity is restored. Did he die? Yes, he bore the curse of sin in our place. But having exhausted the curse he rose in triumph, has ushered in the new age, has been exalted to reign over all, and stands as our righteous redeemer. And as we await his glorious return we live in him, feast on him, and glory always in his great person and work.
In chapter four Reeves addresses the contemporary questions of justification and sanctification. He roots both firmly in our union with Christ and demonstrates vividly the Christ-centeredness of the Christian life.
This also transforms what we mean by that tricky word holiness. Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity.
That is, Reeves also gets that we will sin less only by enjoying Christ more. So basic – an emphasis always needed and always refreshing.
Reeves is a contemporary writer very able to communicate with today’s audience. He knows how to turn a phrase so that it will be heard, and his work is easily accessible to any average Christian reader. Yet he is deeply informed and reminiscent of the best of the Puritans, for whom The Glory of Christ, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, and such, were stock in trade. (Have we become so busy in “doing” things and theology that we have forgotten what it is to revel in the glories of our Redeemer?)
In short, Rejoicing in Christ lives up to its title. Not every Christian will read it, of course, but I cannot imagine that Christian who could read it and not sense his mind stimulated and his heart stirred. Read and enjoy – you will find your soul nourished and your heart enlarged. This will likely be the most enjoyable book you’ve read in a long time.
Fred G. Zaspel is Executive Editor here at Books At a Glance.
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Rejoicing In Christ