Category Archives: Scripture

Book Review: Little-known Little Gems

Little-known Little Gems: The Message of the Minor Prophets, John Goris.  Porirua NZ: Matrix Typography, 2018.  Softcover, 55 pages, $20.00.

Though it makes up about two-thirds of the Bible, the Old Testament is often unfamiliar territory to many Christians.  And the twelve books that make up the minor prophets are likely even more unfamiliar.  When was the last time you heard a sermon or series of sermons on, say, Obadiah?  Jonah is perhaps the exception, but most of the minor prophets are strangers to many Christians.  John Goris seeks to rectify this with this little survey.

The author is a retired pastor residing in New Zealand.  He has served Reformed churches in both Australia and “the land of the long white cloud” (NZ).  Rev. Goris has long had an interest in the minor prophets and this book is the fruit of his many years of study and preaching.

Little-known Little Gems introduces us to each of the twelve books in turn.  Goris summarizes the historical context, the contents, and the main message of each book.  Most importantly of all, the author connects the main message of each book to the New Testament and its revelation of Jesus Christ.  Written clearly and simply, it could aptly be used as a textbook for a high school Bible class exploring these books.

I’m thankful for books, like this one, which take the Scriptures seriously as inspired and inerrant revelation from God.  The author has full confidence in the authority of the Bible as timeless truth.  Moreover, he has an excellent understanding not only of the diversity amongst these twelve books, but also their fundamental unity as divine Scripture.  I recommend Little-known Little Gems to anyone looking to fortify their grasp on this part of God’s Word.

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Little-known Little Gems is available in print and electronic formats.  Contact the publisher to order:   walter@matrix-typography.co.nz


Schaeffer: Inerrancy is a Watershed Issue

“Several years ago the respected evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer used the example of a watershed in the Swiss Alps to illustrate what happens when some Christians begin to abandon the complete truthfulness of the Bible in places where it speaks to matters of history and science.  When spring comes, two bits of snow that are only an inch apart in the high mountains of Switzerland will melt on two sides of a ridge in the rock, and the drop of water from one side of the watershed will eventually flow into the Rhine River and then into the cold waters of the North Sea, while the drop of water on the other side of the watershed will eventually flow into the Rhone River and finally into the Mediterranean Sea.  In the same way, Christians who seem so close together on many issues, if they differ on the watershed issue of biblical inerrancy, will in the next generation or two train up disciples who will be a thousand miles apart from each other on many of the most central matters taught in the Bible.”

~ Wayne Grudem, “Theistic Evolution Undermines Twelve Creation Events and Several Crucial Christian Doctrines,” in Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique (ed. by Moreland, Meyer, Shaw, Gauger, Grudem), p.822.


The Reformation and the Apocrypha

Did you know that the first editions of the Belgic Confession included two proof-texts from the apocrypha?  Did you know that our contemporary editions continue to include one small quote from the apocrypha?  Elsewhere in his writings, Guido de Brès referred more often to these non-canonical writings.  Moreover, de Brès was not exceptional in doing this.  Other Reformers did likewise, and so did other Reformed confessions.  In this paper, I outline de Brès’ use of the apocrypha, put it in the historical context of the Reformation, and attempt to explain it.


Must-Have NT Commentary Set

There are questions that I wish people would ask.  Questions like:  “If I had the means, what one set of New Testament commentaries should I purchase?”  I’ve never been asked that.  But it’s a great question and perhaps answering it will lead to some people actually thinking about it and then following up on it.

One possible answer would be John Calvin’s commentaries.  I love John Calvin’s expositions of Scripture.  I often refer to them.  Even after nearly 500 years, Calvin almost always has something valuable to offer.  But…there are three things that put Calvin in second place.  First, it’s not complete.  Calvin didn’t produce a commentary on the book of Revelation (in the Old Testament he also missed Judges, Samuel-Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs).  Second, when it came to the synoptic gospels (Matthew-Luke), he chose to work with a “harmony” method, rather than commenting on each book individually.  That has its advantages, but it can be difficult to find commentary on a particular passage in those books.  Third, Calvin was commenting nearly a half millennium ago.  He worked in literary Latin or French and had a rhetorical style with which many people today struggle to readily connect, even when he’s translated into English.  So Calvin is great, but would not be my first recommendation.

My first recommendation is the New Testament Commentary set produced by William Hendriksen and Simon Kistemaker.  Hendriksen (1900-1982) was a Christian Reformed minister.  He also served as a New Testament professor at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1942-1952.  The first volume of his New Testament Commentary was on the Gospel of John and it appeared in 1953.  He later wrote volumes on about half of the books on the New Testament.  After his death in 1982, Simon Kistemaker began the work of completing the set.  Also with a Christian Reformed background, Kistemaker served as a professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.  He wrote the volumes on Acts, 1-2 Corinthians, Hebrews, and James-Revelation.

Why would I recommend this commentary set?  First, it is complete, covering the entire New Testament verse by verse.  Second, it is written with exceptional clarity.  Both Hendriksen and Kistemaker were scholars and gifted communicators.  The average person in the pew shouldn’t struggle with these volumes.  Third, most importantly of all, Hendriksen and Kistemaker had a high view of Scripture.  They were Reformed in their theological perspective, confessional men.  Consequently, the New Testament Commentary set is trustworthy.

When I say that it’s reliable, I don’t mean to say that I always agree with Hendriksen or Kistemaker.  I have my differences on various passages — for example, I don’t follow Hendriksen on Romans 11:26, “And in this way all Israel will be saved…”  As he typically does, he lays out several of the options and chooses for one, but I disagree with his choice on that passage.  Same thing for 1 Timothy 2:15, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing…”  Nevertheless, it’s not the case that the interpretations with which I disagree result in an attack on the Reformed faith.  They still fall within the pale of confessionally Reformed orthodoxy.

So, if you’re in the market for one set of NT commentaries, I highly recommend the New Testament Commentary set published by Baker. When I just need to quickly check out at least one reliable Reformed interpreter, NTC is my first stop.  It’s getting on in years now, but still valuable and still faithful.  It’s worth having on your shelf.

NOTE:  Sadly, it appears that this set is out of print.  That means you’d you have to find it used.  It’s also available electronically for Logos. 


Bible Study Resources

Open Bible

A while ago, I received a request to provide a list of some trustworthy online Bible study resources.  The background to this is Reformed people venturing out into cyberspace to research passages, only to be led off the track by resources that are not faithful.  I replied to this request and thought it worth sharing here as well.  The list below does not imply my endorsement of everything published on each of these sites.  While all of these resources come from a Reformed orientation (all of them are managed by confessionally Reformed and Presbyterian believers) they still need to be used with discernment.  We ought always to have the spirit of the Bereans, testing everything against the Scriptures to see whether these things are really so (Acts 17:11).  Here’s the list:

  • http://theseed.info/ — presently has 1384 Reformed sermons on a wide variety of Scripture passages and Lord’s Days from the Heidelberg Catechism.  This resource should get more attention as a Bible Study aid.
  • http://www.ligonier.org/ — the teaching ministry of R.C. Sproul.  
  •  http://thirdmill.org/ — has heaps of resources, both regarding Scripture and theology.  Some are at a seminary level, but I think a lot of it will be accessible to regular folk.
  • https://www.monergism.com/ — a comprehensive collection of older Reformed writings, including commentaries.
  •  https://reformedbooksonline.com/ — includes links to dozens of online commentaries.  Run by a couple of my acquaintances from the US, both solid men.    

I know there are only five links there, but in those five links are thousands of pages of biblical exposition and other study aids.  Enjoy!