About This Blog

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"Following Jesus Christ" (John K. Goodrich and Mark L. Strauss)

TITLE: Following Jesus Christ: The New Testament Message of Discipleship for Today
AUTHOR: John K. Goodrich and Mark L. Strauss
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2019, (392 pages).

The big problem with the modern Church is that it is far more apt at receiving the gospel of grace but less prompt in following Jesus. Perhaps, that is why discipleship is often considered secondary among many believers. Discipleship is essentially about following Jesus. When asked to describe what the Bible says about discipleship, many believers would point to the gospels about Jesus' tough call to discipleship. It is so demanding that the famous WWII martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer even titles his book as "The Cost of Discipleship." Apart from the gospels, when asked about how the rest of the New Testament talks about discipleship, it becomes more challenging. Editors John K Goodrich and Mark L Strauss have gathered a team of scholars to contribute an essay for each of the New Testament books. They show us the concepts of biblical discipleship. They consistently remind us that discipleship is not simply something embedded in a few verses in the gospels but throughout the New Testament. By broadening our understanding of discipleship throughout the New Testament, it is hoped that readers will be able to go beyond the gospels. More importantly, they will see the process of following Jesus is the consistent messaging of discipleship. Matthew's gospel talks about discipleship from a narrative angle. Mark emphasizes the cost of discipleship. Luke summarizes the link between discipleship and the Great Commandment. John's gospel is an invitation to readers to "come and see." In Acts, we see how discipleship is lived out as the early believers venture from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the outer parts of the earth. Paul's epistles are consistently Christocentric, with traits on a Christian disciple (1 Corinthians); presence of Christ (Colossians); Community (Philippians); Holiness (1 & 2 Thessalonians); Church leadership (Titus and Timothy); etc. Hebrews recovers the lost concept of discipleship while James reminds us of the need for single-mindedness in following Christ. Peter's letters exhorts believers toward the themes of holiness, orthodoxy, resurrection, and hope as we follow Christ. Revelation shows us the prophetic vision of discipleship. By looking at the New Testament from the angle of discipleship, we get to see a fuller picture of the purpose of Christ.

In Part Two, we read about how discipleship is applied in the modern world. JP Morelands demonstrates how discipleship works in the mind, especially in an increasingly secular state. It is about developing a Christian mind. Judy Ten Elshof views discipleship with soulcare in mind. Tod E. Bolsinger then describes how discipleship is lived out in the context of community and critical importance of social location. 

My Thoughts
The contributors in this book show us without a doubt that even though the word "discipleship" is not explicitly mentioned everywhere, the call and principle of discipleship are visible. Discipleship is spiritual growth. It is a process of becoming more like Christ. Wilkins affirms that "when we speak of Christian discipleship and discipling we are speaking of what it means to grow as a Christian in every area of life." The same applies to the New Testament, which helps us grow as followers of Jesus in every chapter. Part One provides us 17 essays from the gospels to Revelation. Part Two brings into the discussion about discipleship from the contexts of contemporary culture.

I feel like the word "discipleship" has been way overused but least understood. This directly impacts the way we apply what discipleship means in our respective Churches and Christian organizations. Some Christian leaders become too paranoid over the lack of applications that they fail to adequately understand the meaning of biblical discipleship. So they put the cart of applications before the horse of theological foundations. This book puts back the proper sequence that addresses any ignorance about what the Bible really says about discipleship. Like what Bonhoeffer has written: "We must therefore attempt to recover a true understanding of the mutual relation between grace and discipleship." The statistics mentioned by the editors also prove the point, that is, people are quick to state what they would like to do, but slow to understand why. Taking the words at face value can only lead us so far. If we want to grow deep in Christ and to bear fruit, we need to abide in Christ, and that means going beyond taking the words at "face value." This why books like this is crucial to help us plan and apply Church activities with adequate theological backing.

In conclusion, one of the best ways to honour anyone is to recognize his life's purpose and passion. The editors and contributors did precisely that by putting together a volume of well-researched articles on discipleship. I suppose the ball is now in our courts. Learn from the great minds who have spent much time exegeting and studying the New Testament. Then apply what we learn. That would be the much cherished fruit of the labour of these scholars. More importantly, it would be following Jesus according to the Word of God.

John K. Goodrich is Program Head and Associate Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute. He has three years of pastoral ministry experience and is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Institute for Biblical Research, Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research, and Evangelical Theological Society.

Mark L. Strauss is University Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, San Diego since 1993. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Studies and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Michael J Wilkins is Distinguished Professor of New Testament Language and Literature as well as dean of the faculty at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology. He specializes in New Testament theology, Christology, and discipleship.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Kregel Academic without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment