Review: Biblical Theology According to the Apostles

Biblical Theology According to the Apostles (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Chris Bruno, Jared Compton, Kevin McFadden. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of the summaries of Israel’s story in the New Testament and their culmination in the person of Christ.

The co-authors of this work call attention to a form of material not often paid heed to in the New Testament: the summaries of Israel’s story (SIS for short). They focus on seven SIS in the New Testament, and for each consider its context, content, and contribution to biblical theology. The seven are, with brief summaries of their contribution to biblical theology”

Matthew 1:1-17. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. The build-up from Matthew to David, then the interruption of Israel’s hope in the exile, brought full circle with the birth of Jesus.

Matthew 21:33-46. The parable of the unfaithful tenants. The story of judgment upon Israel for failing to fulfill its covenant obligations and the culmination of the covenant in the rejected stone who becomes the holy mountain.

Acts 7. Stephens speech. Traces God’s vindication of his rejected servants climaxing in Christ whom the religious leaders had rejected.

Acts 13:16-41. Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch. Traces the unfolding covenant from Abraham to Moses focusing on David and Christ, David’s greater son.

Galatians 3-4. Paul’s three versions of Abraham’s (and Israel’s) story in relation to the law and his offspring, Christ, and those who by faith are also his offspring, heirs by faith and promise, not law.

Romans 9-11. Israel’s identity. Israel by descent and by faith and the salvation of all Israel, on which the authors do not agree as to interpretation.

Hebrews 11. Israel’s heroes of faith. The authors observe the twin themes of social alienation and death and their heavenly hope fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus.

The authors note a number of threads running through these stories, most notably how they climax in Christ who resolves the tension of the seemingly failed land promises and exile. They highlight Abraham and David, who prefigure Christ, and Moses, more complex both as a figure of faith and the bringer of the Law. All told, the authors show how these summaries of Israel’s story contribute to the larger compositions in which they are embedded, focusing on Christ as covenant fulfillment and the example of persisting faith as an encouragement to an often-suffering church.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Covenant and Commandment

covenant and commandment

Covenant and Commandment, Bradley G. Green. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Summary: In light of the Reformation doctrine of justification by grace through faith, Green considers the place of works, obedience and faithfulness in the Christian life.

The Reformation doctrine of justification by grace through faith has been a doctrine of joyful liberation for so many who have despaired of ever being good enough for God. At the same time, it has been a point of contention, particularly when it is framed in a way that denies any role for works in the subsequent Christian life. Bradley G. Green argues in this installment (#33) of the New Studies in Biblical Theology that the traditional Reformation doctrine in fact supports a vibrant expression of works, obedience, and faithfulness, not as the basis of justification, but as the inevitable outgrowth of union with Christ and the transforming and empowering work of God’s Spirit.

He begins this study with a survey of relevant New Testament texts under fourteen categories demonstrating the reality and necessity of works, obedience and faithfulness. Then chapter 2 turns to the Old Testament books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel to show how the anticipate a wide outpouring of the Spirit and obedience from the heart and how the New Testament sees these prophetic words fulfilled in the first century new covenant people. Chapter 3 goes on to explore the relationship of law and grace and the relation of Old and New Covenants and argues that while we need not argue a radical contrast between law and grace between the two covenants and that believers under both were saved by grace, there is a qualitative and quantitative difference in the experience of New Testament believers of that grace.

Chapter 4 works out the relationship between Christ’s atoning work and the works of the believer. Green argues that the cross is not only outside and for us but works transformation in us, the death of the bridegroom to purify and prepare his bride for her wedding day. Chapter 5 then explores our union with Christ and how it is both we who obey and Christ who is obeying through us. Chapter 6 engages contemporary discussions about the future aspects of justification, the place of works, and the judgment. Green argues, against N.T Wright, that our understanding of justification does not need updating by appealing to the Reformers who in fact argue for the place of works in our ultimate justification.

The concluding chapter seems to tie up a number of loose ends and reiterate some themes demonstrating the contribution of the Reformers in the whole discussion. The epilogue then summarizes the argument of the book.

The great contribution of this book is to highlight how clearly the scriptures affirm that justification by grace and the life of works, obedience and faithfulness are not contradictory. Green’s survey of Reformers from Calvin to Henri Blocher is a valuable contribution. Yet I thought the brief engagement with N. T. Wright’s work was inadequate to demonstrate the superiority of his argument to that of Wright (but he wasn’t writing an 800 page tome but a 170 page monograph!).

A valuable study that demonstrates the richness of the biblical material and the Reformers theological work on the transformation worked in the life of the believer through union with Christ and the work of the Spirit.