Tag Archives: Zondervan

Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment edited by Alan Stanley and Stanley Gundry

four-rolesFour Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment. Stanley, Alan P., and Stanley M. Gundry, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013. 234 pp. $19.99. Purchase new at Westminster Books for $13.46. Purchased used on Amazon or for Kindle.


All Christians believe that there will be a final judgment of believers and unbelievers, with Jesus Christ presiding as the faithful judge of humanity.  Yet beyond this basic agreement about the reality of judgment and the identity of the judge there are a number of disagreements about the coming judgment.  Debates abound concerning the purpose of the judgment, the number of judgments, the timing of the judgment(s), and particularly the relationship between faith and works at the final judgment.  This last debate is the focus of this new book in Zondervan’s Counterpoint Series on Bible and Theology, which presents four prominent views on the role of works at the final judgment. These different views exist because the Bible itself clearly teaches two things: that people are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (e.g., John 5:24; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9), and that people will be judged according to our works (e.g., Matt 25:31-46; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:11-15).  Different ways of reconciling these two truths have led to a number of different views on the subject, of which the four in this book are representative.  As with all the books in this series, a proponent of one view explains and defends his understanding, and each of the other authors responds, raising objections and questions, with the goal of making the subject more accessible to the wider church public.

Robert N. Wilkin, the Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society, presents the first view, which is that Christians will be judged according to their works at the rewards judgment, but not at the final judgment.  Wilkin operates from a dispensationalist paradigm (though as Schreiner notes in his response to Wilkin, dispensationalism does not require Wilkin’s position) that recognizes the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10), the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31-46), and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15), as distinct in both time and purpose.  Christians will be judged by their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but what is at stake is their eternal reward and position in the kingdom, not eternal salvation.  Christians can be unfaithful and not be rewarded, but they will still be saved (e.g., Luke 19:11-27). Unbelievers will be judged by their works at the final judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, and eternal salvation is at stake for them.  One of the key points Wilkins makes is that entering the kingdom means gaining eternal life, but inheriting the kingdom refers to the benefits and experience of reigning with Christ (e.g., Gal 6:7-9; Rev 3:5).  Wilkin stresses that once a person believes she has eternal life once and for all, and therefore perseverance in the faith can have nothing to do with eternal salvation.  Christians’ salvation cannot in any way be related to their works or that contradicts salvation by grace through faith.

Thomas Schreiner, Professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is the author of the second view, which is that works will confirm salvation at the final judgment.  Schreiner agrees with Wilkin that salvation is completely by grace through faith, but disagrees in that he believes the New Testament also teaches justification by works.  Schreiner sees a coherent blend between these two truths because under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit empowers God’s people to obey him (e.g., Rom 2:26-29).  Therefore works are necessary for salvation because they are the necessary evidence of salvation, but still wholly of grace.  Works will be put forward as evidence at the final judgment as the necessary outworking of faith (e.g., Eph 2:8-10).  Works are not meritorious, but they demonstrate the reality of faith.  Schreiner, in contrast to Wilkin, understands salvation as a process and not limited to a point in time, and believes all who are justified by faith in the present will certainly be justified by faith in the future, because God will equip them to perform the necessary good works.

The third view, that salvation at the final judgment will depend to some extent on works, is written by James Dunn, Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of Durham.  In contrast to the other three views in the book, Dunn doesn’t believe it is necessary to reconcile justification by faith with judgment by works, but to simply accept both as true.  Dunn is hesitant to systematize writings that arose out of different contexts and address different problems amidst different circumstances.  Focusing mainly on Paul, he insists that Paul emphasizes one truth when necessary and the other truth when necessary, and so should we.  Agreeing with Schreiner that salvation is a process, Dunn disagrees that is a certain one, teaching instead that apostasy is a real danger for converts, and that beginning in faith does not necessarily entail finishing in faith (e.g., 1 Cor 9:27; Gal 3:3).  Because obedience is a necessary condition for continuing in the faith while on earth, it follows that it is a necessary condition for receiving eternal life at the final judgment.

Michael Barber, Professor of Theology, Scripture, and Catholic Thought at the Great Catholic University, present the final view, that our works are meritorious at the final judgment because of our union with Christ.  He explains the traditional Catholic position, and stresses throughout his essay that believers’ works are only meritorious because they are the result of Christ’s work.  Barber agrees with Schreiner and Dunn that salvation is by grace and judgment is by works, but goes beyond both of them to affirm that salvation is also by works, because salvation is a process that is not confirmed until the final judgment.  He does clarify that works do not get one converted, but rather that it is through works, performed by the grace of God working in the believer, that is one is saved (e.g., Matt 25:31-46).

Each presenter is a knowledgeable proponent of their position, and their responses clarify what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of the other positions.  Alan Stanley, the general editor, offers a useful introduction to the debate, giving some brief historical and contemporary context, and also helpfully summarizes and contrasts all four positions in the conclusion. The format of the Counterpoints books does not allow for in-depth treatment of the issues or rejoinders to the responses, but footnotes in all four essays direct interested readers to further resources.  The book serves as a strong introduction to the topic and would most profit scholars, pastors, and students unfamiliar with the subject.  It would also function as a good supplemental textbook in a class on salvation or eschatology.  Most importantly, the book will help readers to see how each position understands the Scriptures in the debate, and will capably equip them to understand the full breadth of what the Bible says the role of works in the final judgment.

Gary L. Shultz Jr.

First Baptist Church

Fulton, MO

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible – Zondervan Publishing

Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Craig S. Keener, John H. Walton, editors. Nashville: Zondervan Publishing: 2016. 2,400 pp. Hardback – $49.99; Imitation Leather – $79.95. Purchase at Amazon for much less or on Kindle for an even greater savings.


I have reviewed and even given away a number of various study Bibles (you can read these here) and while I typically do not care for niche Bibles, I am becoming a collector of study Bibles. This particular study Bible is published by Zondervan and uses the New International Version translation.

Check out this video for an introduction from the editor of The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.


While including the entire text of the New International Version (2011), this study Bible is full of many additional features. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Targeted book introductions explain the context in which each book of the Bible was written
  • Insightful and informative verse-by-verse study notes reveal new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar passages
  • Key Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament terms are explained and expanded upon in two helpful reference features
  • Over 300 in-depth articles on key contextual topics
  • 375 full-color photos, illustrations, and images from around the world
  • Dozens of charts, maps, and diagrams in vivid color
  • Additional study Bible tools: cross references, a concordance, indexes and other helps

The edition I have is also a red-letter edition meaning the words of Jesus Christ are in red.


First, while I prefer the ESV translation personally, I will not comment on the NIV translation in this particular review.  This review will look at what separates this study Bible from the others.

First, one of the most striking aspects of this study Bible that is noticeable the moment you open it and flip through its pages are the full-color pictures, timelines, maps, and even the beige coloring of the center-column cross references. Also, each chapter and subject heading is set apart in color and quickly helps the reader to scan for a particular section or passage of Scripture.

Second, the study notes do not offer any theological insight or information because, quite frankly, that is not the nature of this particular study Bible. Rather, it offers the cultural insight of the time and place from when the particular text was written. For example, when Israel first took over the Promised Land to when Christ walked the streets of Jerusalem, there was much change in the culture and that is highlighted throughout this study Bible.

The reader will see how Israel functioned as a theocracy (during the time of Moses and the Judges) became a monarchy ruled by kings and later became a conquered nation ruled by many different nations through the years. What is more, the study notes bring this history to life and offer deeper understanding for the events taking place.

Third, the Hebrew to English and translation chart and Key New Testament Terms dictionary prove invaluable to the reader as not many will ever take a Biblical languages course or seek to read technical commentaries. Having these key resources at your fingertips proves to be a great aid in understanding the original meaning and intention of the authors.

Fourth, this one study Bible replaces two other resources by John Walton and Craig Keener: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. It is my understanding that the New Testament volume, originally published in 1994 is no longer in print though it can still be purchased on Kindle or Amazon.

Personally, these two resources are indispensable to my sermon preparation each week and consequently are placed on a shelf immediately behind where I stand at my desk. Even though I will keep both of the aforementioned resources in my library, I will also keep this study Bible readily available as I am sure it will be used as frequently as the other two.

Finally, the tag-line in much of the advertising by Zondervan is “Context changes everything.” While I do not think that a student of Scripture will have any doctrinal beliefs radically changed by understanding the cultural background (I may be wrong on this), I do believe that learning this information will take one’s faith to a much deeper level as they strive to understand how the Bible is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17) even today across time and cultural boundaries.


If you are a student of Scripture and want to learn more about the authorial intent of a passage in order to better understand its intended purpose for your life in the 21st century, then you can not do much better than owning a copy of The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Remember, this is not theological insight (though a case can be made that all Bible study is theological); rather, it is cultural information meant to help the reader better understand what was taking place when the text was written. I highly recommend this resource to every Christian.

Jesus, Continued by J.D. Greear

Jesus ContinuedGreear, J.D. Jesus, Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You. Nashville: Zondervan, 2014. 232 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.


J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham which has been ranked by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in the U.S. I have reviewed one of his previous books, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, which I found to be extremely helpful.


Divided into three parts and sixteen chapters, Greear takes on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  The first part deals with the reality that the Holy Spirit is usually missing in most evangelical discussions. He does discuss how this could be an overreaction to the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, but, need not be the case.

The second part is a frank and biblical discussion on how we are to experience the Holy Spirit. This part is the meat and potatoes of the book. Here we find that we experience the Holy Spirit in the gospel, the Bible, in our various giftings, in the church, in our own spirit and in our circumstances. It is this second part that the rubber meets the road when it comes to biblically understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The third part explains how we are to seek the Holy Spirit in our lives. Here, J.D. offers an apologetic against the charismatic ideas though he never really engages them directly.


From the beginning, I was impressed that Greear, a Baptist, would engage this topic. There have not been many outside of the Pentecostal movement that have attempted to deal with this subject except to deride the excesses.  Greear was intentional about staying within the parameters of Scripture while not being too concerned with the evangelical tradition from which he comes.

What he ended up writing was a clear and concise systematic treatise on the Holy Spirit that is accessible to all and not just theologians. I did notice, however, that this work is a bit longer than most that are being published today. I found that interesting and welcoming at the same time.

One way I think this work would have been made stronger is if he had a recommended resource list somewhere in the book (except in his notes) for anyone looking to study a bit deeper on this subject.


If you are looking for an accessible and biblically-balanced perspective on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, J.D. Greear’s work is an excellent place to begin.  I recommend this to all Christians as well as those non-Christians looking for an understanding of who the Holy Spirit really is.

Country Faith Compiled by Deborah Evans Price

Country FaithPrice, Deborah Evans.  Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today’s Leading Country Music Stars.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 128 pp.  $12.99.  Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for much less.


Growing up, I went to church (even though I was not a believer).  Growing up, I also listened to country music (because I was a believer in the many of the messages being sung on my radio).  What I knew about country music was that there was a lot sung about God and country in addition to a ton of music about broken relationship and even some about long lasting relationships.  Even now as a believer, I still find many country songs resonate with my personal life though I don’t listen as much as I used to.  Country Faith brings both of these worlds together.


With fifty-six different music stars, Deborah Evans Price compiled a devotional rooted in Scripture complete with each artist’s thoughts as to why that verse is personally important.  On one page you have the verse and the devotional thought.  On the facing page, there is a glossy picture of the music artist. At the end of the book, the Gospel of Mark is included in its entirety so you can begin your own quest in seeking which passage in Scripture is most meaningful to you.


I can already hear someone arguing against who was selected to be in this book to share their thoughts about their favorite passage in Scripture.  For example, Billy Ray Cyrus is included as is Wynonna Judd.  They have come under fire for their take on Christianity in the past.  Regardless of any of that flack, I found the work to be genuine and heart felt.

From Randy Owens of Alabama fame to Rodney Atkins and Phil Vassar and Charlie Daniels, the reader will enjoy some insight into the spiritual lives of many Country musicians from the later 20th and early 21st century.  My personal favorite was Alan Jackson sharing how his song, Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)? actually stemmed from his meditation on 1 Corinthians 13:13.  Watch the video from when he first sang this song:


This book makes a perfect coffee table book that will lead to many gospel conversations.  Not that the Holy Spirit needs it, but the star power in these pages can and will be used by the Lord to further His kingdom.  You will enjoy this book and it will make an excellent gift for anyone who enjoys Country Music.  I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversary Edition by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, edited by Kevin DeYoung

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn.  Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversary Edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.  352 pp.  $22.99.  Purchase at Westminster for much less.


Preaching & Preachers is undoubtedly the greatest book to be published on preaching in the last 40 years.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones lectured on this subject at Westminster Theological Seminary back in the Spring of 1969.  They have been influencing pastors ever since.

The original book was published in 1972 and has gone through numerous editions (nothing has changed in the text since 1972).  This latest edition is the 40th anniversary “deluxe” edition.

In this edition, Kevin DeYoung serves as editor.  Most importantly, the text has remained the same.  What has been added are essays from Bryan Chapell, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Timothy Keller, and John Piper.  DeYoung also included subheadings in the chapters to help the modern reader.


There is nothing that can be said about the text of Preaching and Preachers that has not already been said.  After only 40 years, it is truly a modern-day classic on the subject of preaching.  Some will agree with what the Doctor said and some will disagree.  Regardless, what you will discover is that ML-J was passionate about this one subject more than anything else he ever discussed.

The essays that are sprinkled throughout this anniversary edition are of immense help.  These essays are akin to asking some of today’s most noted preachers why and how Preaching and Preachers helped them in their ministry.

What is more, you will discover that this is not a book that will be read once and put back on the shelf.  Its impact will long-lasting and invaluable to the young man seeking to become a preacher.  As you return to it through the years (as I have in only the past 5 years), you will find yourself saying “So, that was where I arrived at that conclusion” or “That is where this idea originated.”

The essays and subheadings only add to the nature and usefulness of this invaluable resource for pastors.


This work is a must read for all who are set apart to be preachers of the gospel whether in a local church setting or as a missionary or evangelist.  While written to the pastor in the pulpit, its value will far exceed just the local pulpit.  This will be a foundational book, I pray, for future generations of preaching.  Preaching and Preachers is an excellent book to give to a young man considering the ministry or who was just licensed or ordained.

The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach edited by Bryan Chapell

The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times.  Edited by Bryan Chapell.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.  304 pp.  $19.99.  Purchase at Westminster Books for $12.99.


While the names of the contributors are familiar, the subject matter, as is most often the case, is not.  Bryan Chapell has edited a wonderful preaching resource for pastors with contributions from seasoned and trusted pastors for preaching sermons during life’s tragedies.  Contributors include John Piper, Tim Keller, Michael Horton as well as some lesser known men of the cloth like Mike Khandjian and Wilson Benton.


Divided into five parts with an appendix, this resource offers theological and practical considerations for preparing a sermon in the midst of a tragedy.  Part one is  a general four chapter section on responding to tragedies.  They include abortion, child abuse, community tragedy, and national tragedy.

Part two focuses in on the tragedy of losing a child – perhaps the most difficult tragedy to have to preach (at least that has been my experience).  These seven chapters include the preaching of the death of a special needs child, a miscarriage, and the death of an infant.

Parts three and four look at various funerals.  Part three offers consolation for funerals with difficult circumstances like drunk driving, cancer, and murder.  Chapter four aids in the preparation for a funeral sermon of a public figure.  The fifth part takes a look at preaching after a suicide.

The appendix is extremely helpful in that it will guide you in the choice of scripture passages as well as what you as the pastor should do in times of tragedy.  The second appendix gives explicit and general instruction on the pastor’s role in times of tragedy.


This a difficult book to review in that it is a resource book and one that is meant to be a guide for pastoral care.  Each “chapter” is introduced by a paragraph or two detailing the situation, the concerns, and the approach.  Each chapter in and of itself is the actual sermon preached.

Given the evangelical approach to this resource, the one component that shines through every sermon is the offering of hope in Christ Jesus.  While you will not be able to take these sermons and re-preach them, you will definitely have a guide in which you can craft your own.

The examples given to the reader in these sermons are real-life messages that were preached.  In other words, they were not crafted in an ivory tower by a guy who has never had to get dirty in the ministry.

Honestly, while the sermons and introductions are the main thrust of this particular book, I found the appendices to be worth the price of the book.  To have a trusted guide by an experienced pastor during a tragic time is an unbelievable comfort.


If you are a pastor, I highly recommend you get this resource for your ministry.  Let’s face it, we live our lives knowing, but not really believing, that tragedy can and will strike us at any time.  Preaching a funeral is difficult by itself–especially if it is a funeral for an infant or one that shocked the congregation.  Having this resource at the ready will ultimately be invaluable to the young pastor who has never had to preach a funeral of various tragedies.

Bible Review: A Reader’s Greek New Testament 2nd Ed.


Zondervan’s A Reader’s Greek New Testament 2nd Edition uses the eclectic texts that was used in the translating of Today’s New International Version (TNIV) which differs from the Standard Text which is used in Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece as well as the United Bible Societies’ The Greek New Testament. The text used on the TNIV was assimilated by Edward Goodrick and John Kohlenberger III in the mid-1980’s. In essence, they deviated at some points from the Standard Text mentioned above where the original NIV translators favored a different rendering of a phrase or word.

When the TNIV was translated, Gordon Fee, a scholar in the field of textual criticism both adjusted and authenticated the Greek text that was used. Fortunately, the editors left notes that showed these various renderings from the Standard Text. The editors for this second edition are Richard J. Goodrich, a research fellow in the department of classics and ancient history, University of Bristol, England and Albert L. Lukaszewski, general editor of the Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament. Both men have diligently studied the original texts and languages in order to best translate this reader.


The definitions were based on Warren Trenchard’s Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament. The definitions were revised somewhat if Trenchard’s proved to be ill-fitted for the text. In these instances, one of the following lexicons were consulted: Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich – 2000 (commonly referred to as B-DAG), Louw and Nida – 1989, Newman – 1971, or Liddell, Scott and Jones – 1996.

The footnotes consist of the Greek words used 30 times or less in the New Testament. In essence, the vocabulary you did not learn in first semester Greek is represented here. The apparatus is used to list variants and provide the source citations for any quote from the Old Testament or an Apocryphal book.

There is a small lexicon in the back that defines all the words that do are not listed in the footnotes below the text. That is, all the words that appear more than 30 times in the Greek New Testament.

To understand the significance of the footnotes and the importance of this reader, the editors break down the percentages of Greek words learned in Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek. Learning the vocabulary in Mounce will enable the student to know or at least recognize about 80% (110,425 words) of the Greek text. However, that is a bit deceiving when you realize that of those 110,425 words, 29,023 are “the” or “and.” In other words, 26% of the words you will be able to know or recognize are “the” and “and.”

Furthermore, the average verse will contain at least 3 unrecognizable words to the beginning Greek student. It is easy to see why so many students become disillusioned with the language and give up before they have truly learned anything.


While they boast of an easier to read Greek font, I really don’t have much of a comparison. They offer one on the back of the box, but because they do not use the same text it is hard to see much of a difference. What I did notice was that the first edition text was more italicized than that of the second edition.

The inclusion of the four maps is nice, but not necessary for the purpose of this Bible. Over all, the layout and the features found in Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek New Testament will greatly aid the beginning Greek student. I would, however, keep another lexicon (perhaps B-DAG) close at-hand in order to compare translations as well as alternative texts from the UBS4.


At $34.99 (less than $25.00 at Amazon), Zondervan’s edition of a Greek Reader is an outstanding purchase for the beginning Greek student. It is literally 50% what the UBS4 reader costs and when you are in seminary, thirty-five bucks can go a long way.

If, on the other hand, you are studying to become a textual scholar, I would still recommend Zondervan’s reader because of the cost and because it does not use the Standard Text. I do not profess to understand much regarding textual criticism, but I do know that if there is disagreement, I would like to know the rationale behind the disagreement and the reasons why the scholars chose what they did where they did.