What Jesus Demands of the World
By John Piper
Reviewed by Dr. Trevor Craigen
18.2 (Fall 2007) : 265-266
Diversity in writing style is surely confirmed by this book from the pen of John Piper. “Refreshing and personable” well describes his style this time. The introductory sections offer suggestions on how to read the book, advise on its aim, and inform the scholar that the fruitlessness of the quests for the historical Jesus caused him to set aside the conjectures and speculations of those seeking to get behind the Gospels somehow (29). Piper forthrightly assesses all those efforts as “massive minds assembling, with great scholarly touch, a house of cards,” to which he immediately adds, “It helps to be sixty years old. I have watched the cards collapse over and over” (31).
What he did was read the Gospels, wherein is the only true, compelling portrayal of Jesus, and gather all the commands which came from Christ’s lips. Then, by eliminating those which would not have any abiding significance to one’s faith and life, he ended up with fifty different commands worthy of reflection. Crunched down into one sentence, his aim finds expression in these words: “My aim has been to probe the meaning and the motivation of Jesus’ commands in connection with his person and work” (19, emphasis original).
The treatments average about six pages per command, with each set within its context, the comments being marshalled under several headings covering the whole of the pericope in which it stands. Demand #1 is “You Must Be Born Again” with its Scripture references, John 3:5, 7 and John 3:3, placed in italics immediately beneath the chapter title. Demand #50 is “Make Disciples of All Nations” with its references, Matt 8:11-12; Luke 21:12-13; Luke 21:24, similarly placed. Demand #25 is “Your Righteousness Must Exceed that of the Pharisees, for it was Hypocritical and Ugly,” using Matt 5:20; 23:27-28; Mark 7:21-23; Matt 5:8, as its biblical base. The next demand builds on #25 so that #26 presents the Pharisees from another angle: “Your Righteousness Must Exceed that of the Pharisees—Clean the Inside of the Cup” (196). As one glances over the list of demands or the chapters, familiar subject’s are brought to mind: loving your neighbor, loving God, not being angry or proud, taking up one’s cross, praying always, striving to enter the narrow door, and laying up treasures in heaven.
A healthy blend of devotional warmth and orientation with careful study, as evidenced by quite a number of footnotes and careful exegesis has produced a book admirably suited, because of its set up, to be a series of informative, instructive, and encouraging readings, either daily or weekly or whatever fits best with one’s schedule, e.g., this reviewer, with anticipation of being blessed, will dip in bi-weekly.
Thanks to Bethlehem Baptist Church, who, in awarding their pastor (Piper) a five-month leave from preaching, provided the concentrated period needed to pull it all together, and gave to the Christian, evangelical world what must be rated as a very good and stimulating book. Read it, and it will become perhaps just as quickly a “favorite from Piper.”