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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Portraits of Faith" (Joel R. Beeke)

TITLE: Portraits of Faith: What Five Biblical Characters Teach Us About Our Life with God
AUTHOR: Joel R. Beeke
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015, (72 pages).

What is faith? What else can we learn about faith? Perhaps, faith is not so much about of our act of believing. It is much more about God revealing Himself to us. Faith is not about us trying to reach God but us allowing God to reach and embrace us. The author, Joel Beeke, gave four talks to hundreds of young people attending the Aberystwyth Conference in Wales in the year 2003. The talks had convicting power and have led many to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. At the heart of his talks is the core meaning of faith, which is "saving trust." Rather than to rely on definitions, he uses five biblical characters to demonstrate what faith actually means.

The first and second portraits are the faith of Adam and Eve. Adam's faith is demonstrated in how he names Eve. The name 'Eve' which Adam gave means 'life, life-giver, living.' This may seem surprising to some of us who tend to connect the world's first couple with sin and disobedience. Faith here is demonstrated because of Adam's trust in the future of life. After the pronouncement that Adam and Eve will die because of their disobedience, God also put a promise in which He will crush the serpent and godly seed will come out of Eve. Eve's faith is demonstrated in her willing to bear children despite the curse of sin and death. Both Adam and Eve believed God. Genesis 3 reveals how the human couple exercise childlike faith in spite of their sin.

The third portrait is that of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, something that Beeke calls 'Submissive Faith.' Her faith is exhibited in contentment, preferring to dwell among her own people instead of getting some special honour in some high places. After losing her child, she did three things that prove her faith in God. Her lifestyle of plain belief, willing submission, and contentment essentially "foreshadows the submission of Jesus."

The fourth portrait is that of a "mature faith" demonstrated by the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28. The woman who cried urgently to Jesus to help her daughter and persevered despite Jesus not saying anything. Her faith is demonstrated through a refusal to let rejections deter her. Jesus himself calls her faith 'mature' as in Matthew 15:28.

The fifth portrait is that of Caleb, one of 'persevering faith.' Despite not being in the majority, he believed that trust in God through faith is greater than man's perceptions of facts. It is so easy to dabble with statistics and make conclusions pertaining to our faith. Whether it is peer pressure or facts presented to us, we need to persevere in trusting God and believing in his promises.

The author is President and Professor of Systematic Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as well as a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written seventy over books and is a frequent speaker at seminaries and conferences.

So What?
Let me share three thoughts.

First, one can never exhaust the topic of faith. This is because faith is so profound that no amount of books can ever fully explain the meaning of faith. That is why this book is important despite the huge materials currently available about this topic.  Beeke points out that the "four types of faith" namely; the historical, the miraculous, the temporal, and the saving faith alone do not adequately cover such a theologically rich word. In doing so, he is helping us come face to face not with the concept of faith, but a big God! This is the most important point of it all. Faith is not about believing in something. Faith is about believing in Someone.

Second, links the present and the biblical past. I like the way Beeke writes each chapter, beginning with a biblical passage and character(s), continuing with a gospel focus, and ending with some applications for the day. The points are clearly laid out and should be easy on the ear. The study questions toward the end of the book gives readers the opportunity to apply the biblical texts further.

Third, we get a fresh look at the five biblical characters. Every generation will need to come face to face with each portrait of faith. Beeke has managed to distill how these characters have practiced faith in spite of their flaws. That is why it goes hand in hand with grace. The author's interest in talking about faith is partly inspired by an aged woman's acronym on G.R.A.C.E (God's Riches At Christ's Expense). Thinking that grace and faith go hand in hand, he believes that we need more but not less resources to enable faith. We need to stay faithful to biblical truth. We need to interpret the biblical narratives from the eyes of faith. This is what Beeke has demonstrated in his refreshing look at the five characters.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Reformation Heritage Books and Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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