Monday, May 9, 2011

Following Jesus, the Servant King, Jonathan Lunde - Book Review

Zondervan has undertaken the Biblical Theology for Life Series to bring "groundbreaking academic study of the Bible alongside contemporary contextualization and proclamation."  So that you do not have to break out a thesaurus, the series goal is to cover a subject in scripture and apply it primarily within 21st-century American evangelical culture.  That does not automatically make the book yet another pint of fad-imbued swill, but if the person who wrote this copy for the back cover is an indicator of the content, we are in trouble.  Thankfully, the text is only a marketing gimmick.  Instead, Jonathan Lunde develops a theology of discipleship grounded in the biblical understanding of a covenant.  This approach separates the work from other popular methodologies driven along by strictly New Testament or even denominational lines to a richer and deeper understanding of walking and working in a covenant relationship with the triune God.

Lunde begins by asking three simple questions which drive the format of the book:
Why should I be concerned to obey all of Jesus' commands if I have been saved by grace?
What is it that Jesus demands of his disciples?
How can the disciple obey Jesus' high demand, while experiencing his "yoke" as "light" and "easy"?

The "Why" is dealt with in detail by examining what a covenant is, what types are present in scripture, and the content of the different major covenants made from Noah through the New Covenant in Christ.  Considered in these are the gracious dealings of God to man, righteous demands, and the proper place of faith and works in each.  This broad view allows the reader to understand how God developed his suzerainty and grant covenants from one revelatory period to another as his eternal plan, developing how God's grace was a basis for each with the view to a loving response.  Jesus is finally presented as the fulfillment of the covenantal demands and the proper intermediary for that to occur.

As a side note, Lunde develops the major covenants beginning with Noah, not because the covenant with Adam was insignificant, but because scripture does not develop it to the degree of the others. The author does point out the relative covenant pattern within the Adamic without overly pressing the text to make the connection.

The "What" is presented in Jesus' varied roles in his work and teaching in the Gospels.  As the giver, administrator, and best interpreter of God's word, what Christ says concerning past covenantal commands during his incarnation is examined.  Each part of this section examines the gospel accounts and understanding of prior covenants with the view to understand how those are practiced today, if at all.  Jesus is presented as the Prophet-King in the Davidic line and type who has authority over men as sovereign and as the Father's mouthpiece to properly interpret and administer the commands and precepts of God.  During his incarnation, he acts as filter, lens, and prism of the Law and Prophets for use by a New Covenant community.  Each of these three facets are examined in individual chapters with sufficient examples, followed by their understanding in the culmination to be a people behaving within the local sphere as on a mission with the gospel.

Finally, the "How" is developed by examining Christ's person and work in the New Covenant.  What was promised to which current believers adhere?  How does the Lord's position with its resulting role and responsibility to be played out in the life of a believer?  What of his earthly work is to be brought forward in each Christian and to what degree?  As Jesus went about doing his Father's work, he represented God to the people, redeemed the exiled, restored the broken, and began unveiling his current and future work as king.  Taking each of these separately, Lunde explains the place believers have as co-laborers with Christ in his mission and work, particularly as it means in being a disciple.

Finally, there is a chapter laying out the relevance that all theology has for the average Christian.  What all is meant to be a disciple in today's world?

Two points are in order here.  First, the author does not shy away from presenting his own view when it may in the minority.  In the discussion of Jesus as the servant-redeemer (chapter 14), we are presented with the faithful remnant as a possible first intent of Isaiah's servant passages.  This differs from both the typical Jewish understanding which has the entire nation of Israel in view without reference to the future messiah and the Christian view which looks solely at the Christological implications apart from any immediate reference.  By putting forth the notion of the remnant, Lunde (and others from whom he derived the hypothesis) offers a possible solution for a contemporaneous use in Isaiah's time that is typical of most prophetic writing with their “now and not yet” application.

Second, I am disappointed with the short shrift given to baptism as an integral part of the biblical theology of discipleship.  While Jesus' own baptism in relation to the fulfillment of all righteousness is given sufficient space, the Christian's is nowhere to be found though it is in clear view both when Christ commands the apostles to “make disciples of all nations” and when Paul teaches the Corinthians of the baptism into Christ as the anti-type of the Red Sea crossing. Regardless of a reader's understanding of baptism (means of grace or mere symbol), discipleship begins at that point.  It is the discernible marker of a commitment to the Father by virtue of the finished work of Christ in the empowerment by the Holy Spirit.

Overall, the book is quite worthwhile.  The arguments are sound and clear without being overly academic.  This makes this work well within reach of most teenagers and adults.  Interspersed throughout are sidebar quotes commenting on the subject matter being presented helping to elucidate the points made.  Even the book's printed format is favorable with its wide margin for plenty of notes.  I recommend this as a useful tool in not just understanding my own walk of discipleship, but in teaching end encouraging others in their spiritual growth and service.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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