Shelf Life Book Review: Romans

Elliot Ritzema

Romans: Teach the Text Commentary Series
Baker Books, 2013

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In this book, the first in a new commentary series, C. Marvin Pate works through Romans with the Bible teacher in mind. Each section of the commentary begins with the big idea of that portion of the text. Each section of commentary includes three headings: “Understanding the Text,” which discusses literary and historical context and exegetes the passage; “Teaching the Text,” which provides ideas on how to apply the text in a modern context; and “Illustrating the Text,” which refers the reader to historical and contemporary examples of concepts discussed in the passage.

Pate brings in a wide range of illustrations. For example, in the section on Romans 12:1–2, Pate directs us to a poem by George Herbert that highlights themes of sacrifice and devotion, an essay by G. K. Chesterton that urges us to see wonder in the everyday occurrences of life, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, and Paradise Lost by John Milton. Other sections include references to songs, movies, quotes, TV shows and more.

With full-color photos on nearly every page and explanatory knockout boxes and tables throughout, this commentary is both accessible and engaging. Preachers and teachers looking for a good application-oriented commentary on Romans will find this a valuable resource.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 5 No. 5

Shining by His Power

Justin Marr

My wife’s out-of-breath voice sputtered through the cellphone: “I know this is sudden, but the girls I told you about were moved to respite care, and”—she hesitated—“can we be their foster parents?” My mind raced. When we married not quite two years ago, we agreed to a 5- to 7- year plan for having children. I tried to disguise the apprehension in my voice when I asked, “How long do we have to decide?” Her pause felt uncomfortably long. “Three days.”

Having years of professional experience with children, my wife felt confident. I felt terrified. We sought the counsel of small-group members and pastors, and they all said the same thing: Fostering would be difficult, but we were in a unique position to make it happen. The outpouring of support and provision from friends—who hosted a shower for us and helped us move spare furniture out and donated furniture in—confirmed our decision.


I also found confirmation in John 1:4–5: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Who doesn’t want to shine the light of Christ? We want to make a difference in His name, whether on the mission field, in our city or in our home.

Saying yes was the easy part. The anticipation of bringing the girls into our family had us daydreaming about game nights and sit-down dinners. And the early days were exciting, fresh and fun. But dreams and excitement fade quickly when a screaming child slams a door in your face. It hurts to hear “I hate you!” when you give a child what she needs instead of what she demands.

Being a foster parent takes more energy than I ever imagined. At times, my glowing vision of changing a child’s life feels distant, as though it belongs to another time and place. There are joyful times when we see the girls becoming more respectful, pursuing their talents and taking on more responsibility; but when we feel stretched and strained, the hard times nearly eclipse the good. It’s easy to forget how much energy it takes to shine when circumstances darken.

And it’s in those moments that John 1:5 resonates in my mind, giving me resilient hope. All my fears, failures and anxieties prove that I am not the light—and this is paramount. Shining the light of Christ in darkness is impossible if I rely on my own energy and ability. But with God as the source, the light I’m sharing will never be extinguished. Better and brighter yet, Christ’s light will continue to shine when mine goes out. Even when the girls no longer live with us, the progress they’ve made and the things we’ve all learned will remain.

I am confident in the vision God gave us. And I’m hopeful that one day the streak of permanent marker on our antique dining table will remind me that the hard work was worth it.

Biblical references are from the New International Version (NIV).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 5 No. 2

Shepherds and Crooks

Colin Kruse

There aren’t many people today who hold the title of “shepherd” or can even claim to know someone who does. Yet our church culture is permeated with shepherd and flock imagery.

Although most of us don’t have a cultural reference point for this imagery, Jesus’ audience in John 10 certainly did. Here, Jesus uses these metaphors after healing a blind man—one who heard His voice and believed in Him. He tells those who listen, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). If we understand why Jesus uses this imagery to make His point, we can better understand what it means for us today.

Cultural Context


The scene presented in John 10:1–5 would have been familiar to a Jewish audience. Most families in any given village owned a few sheep that they kept in the courtyards of their houses. Several households together would hire a shepherd to care for their sheep. They would keep their sheep in a courtyard surrounded by a wall and often guarded by a gatekeeper. When the shepherd needed to enter the courtyards, he walked through the gates, which the gatekeepers opened upon recognizing him; but a thief—someone whom the gatekeepers didn’t know—had to climb over the courtyard walls. Likewise, the sheep eagerly followed the shepherd because they recognized his voice, but they would flee from the unfamiliar thief.

In John 10:7–18, Jesus takes the metaphor further, describing Himself as “the gate of the sheep.” When in the open country at night, the shepherd placed the sheep in a round, stone-walled enclosure for protection. As long as the shepherd secured the opening—the “gate”—the sheep were safe from wild animals and thieves.

Biblical Theology

Jesus uses this imagery to draw a parallel not only to Himself, but also to the Jewish leaders who burdened the people with heavy religious demands. These leaders are the “thieves and robbers” who threaten the sheep—the ones who treated the blind man of John 9 so harshly.

Jesus is probably drawing His imagery from Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34, passages that depict some of the kings of Israel as worthless shepherds who destroyed, scattered or lived off the sheep instead of protecting them. God’s fury against these kings shows His love for His sheep: “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord” (Jer 23:1). God promises to raise up a Good Shepherd, a “Righteous Branch” (Jer 23:5), to rule over His people—“one shepherd, my servant David” (Ezek 34:23).

By calling Himself the “good shepherd” (John 10:11), Jesus makes the radical claim that He is the fulfillment of these 500-year-old prophecies. In Jesus, these references to God’s role as the shepherd find their full expression (see Pss 23, 80; Isa 40:11).

Back to the Text

Jesus is no regular shepherd. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus lays down His life for His people because doing so is imperative to saving them. He dies as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29), thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:6–7:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

As a result, all who enter at “the gate of the sheep” by believing in Him experience forgiveness of their sins and become members of His people. In Him, we “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus is unlike the evil shepherds of His age (the Jewish leadership) and past ages (those of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel). He is the shepherd who becomes like a sheep, laying down His life.

Although the sheep and shepherd might serve as only a gentle pastoral illustration in our communities, we have a powerful portrait of the “one shepherd” in John 10: the Lord Jesus Himself, who was “pierced for our transgressions” and suffered “the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isa 53:5).

For more about sheep and shepherd imagery in John’s Gospel, pick up the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Go to

Biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 5 No. 2

Resources Used
D. H. Johnson, “Shepherd, Sheep” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 751–754.

Colin G. Kruse, The Gospel According to John, (Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

Ancient Words, Future Hope

John D. Barry

Leviticus 4:1–6:30; John 7:14–44, Song of Solomon 5:13–16

Atonement is appealing because we all have relationships we wish we could reconcile. The 12-step program involves forgiving and forging renewed relationships when possible. But the story with God is different. There’s an acute awareness that we can’t fix things with our Creator; we need someone or something else to do it for us.

Jesus is described as the atonement, the sacrifice, and the perfect offering. But what do these terms actually mean? In Leviticus 5:14–6:30, we learn what it means for Jesus to be a guilt offering: He takes the guilt of the people, incurred through their sinful acts, and takes it upon Himself. He becomes the “ram without defect from the flock” (Lev 6:6).

Jesus takes the stage as the Suffering Servant in Isa 52:13–53:12, fulfilling the events it prophesies. Isaiah 53:10 reads, “If she places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in his hand, it will succeed” (my translation).

When He is arrested, Jesus understands that He is on His way to die at the hands of His own people (the “she” in Isaiah is “Jerusalem” or “Zion”). Matthew notes, “But all this has happened in order that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled” (Matt 26:56). Jesus acknowledges it by saying, “the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners!” (Matt 26:45). This echoes Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with sickness, and like one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we did not hold him in high regard.”

Leviticus seems archaic until it is put into this perspective. The oddities of this ancient book give us a connection to Jesus. He is the fulfillment of all Israel hoped for. Isn’t this the same in our lives? At first it might seem like the events are somehow disconnected or distant from God and His works. But upon a second glance—in retrospect—we see they’re a foundation for hope.

In what areas of your life do you need to connect with God’s work? What does the interaction between ancient law, prophecy, and Jesus’ life teach you about God and His work in our lives?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.

John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at

Shelf Life Book Review: Jeremiah and Lamentations

Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

Jeremiah and Lamentations: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries
IVP Academic, 2013

Hetty Lalleman’s new volume, Jeremiah and Lamentations, replaces the 1973 edition in the Tyndale collection. This resource organizes each section of commentary into a three-part structure: “Context,” “Comment” and “Meaning.”


The “Context” sections reveal the significance of each passage within the biblical book as a whole. The “Comment” section contains a passage-by-passage analysis. Pastors will appreciate Lalleman’s commentary. For example, on Jeremiah 31:31–34, Lalleman says, “God did not break [the covenant]; the people did. Yet God does what was impossible in treaties between human lords and vassals: this Lord makes a new covenant” (233). Serious Bible students will appreciate that Lalleman’s commentary, while not technical, explores Hebrew words and places in the text where the Hebrew and Greek texts differ.

If you’re looking for specific application of Jeremiah and Lamentations to a 21st-century context, you may want to supplement research with other commentaries. The “Meaning” section tends to focus on the ancient context. However, Jeremiah and Lamentations succeeds in expositing the text so we can make applications on our own.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation . Originally published in print, Vol. 5 No. 5