I’ve come to realize that many of my favorite authors, preachers, theologians, missionaries, Bible translators, and hymn writers are British. To name just a few there’s John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, John, Knox, John Owen, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, Isaac Watts, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, David Livingston, Hudson Taylor, George MacDonald, Horatius Bonar, David M’Intyre, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, J.C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Studd, Roland Allen, , C.S. Lewis, John Murray, F.F. Bruce, Eric Liddell, G. Campell Morgan, Martyn Lloyd Jones, John Stott, James Packer, Stuart Briscoe, Sinclair Ferguson, Derek Thomas, Alistair Begg, and Colin Smith. This past year, I discovered a new favorite British theologian. His name is Michael Reeves.
Reeves, the author of the book I’m reviewing today, Rejoicing in Christ, is destined to become a writer I will read again and again. In fact, I can’t wait to see his book Delighting in the Trinity. Reeves has his PhD from King’s College London and serves as Director of the online theology website uniontheology.org and is a Senior Lecturer at Wales Evangelical School of Theology. I don’t know Reeves’ age, but judging by his photograph, I’d imagine he’s about half the age of J. I. Packer. I can only hope and pray God will use Reeves in the years to come as mightily as He has Packer.
Rejoicing in Christ is devotional theology at its best. Reeves has a command of the Scriptures, theology, and church history. He is a perceptive biblical theologian, but he writes clearly. His passion seems to be to point his readers to the beauty of Christ. Rejoicing in Christ is one of the most Christ-centered and biblically saturated books I’ve read in a long time. Christ is portrayed as our mediator not only in salvation, but in creation and the consummation.
The author has the ability to see the big picture of God’s redemptive plan in the Bible, yet make connections of details that I’ve never noticed before. For example, at the beginning of his chapter on “Come, Lord Jesus” he beautifully shows the relationship between the trumpet blown on the Day of Atonement in the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-10) with the sounding of the trumpet of Christ’s return “announcing the atonement bought goal of all things.” (1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
An added feature of the book that I really appreciate is the generous use of beautiful and interesting religious art from over the centuries. These works, which are scattered throughout the book, relate to the subject at hand. I only wish the images were several times larger so I could more fully enjoy their detail.
Another positive feature is the many short (1-3 pages) articles on subjects directly or indirectly related to the theme of the chapter. For example, within Reeves’ chapter on “Life in Christ” he includes three short articles he’s written: “The Merry Messenger” (Charles Spurgeon), “Wholehearted” (Caleb of the Old Testament), and “I am the vine; you are the branches” (an exposition of John 15).
I’ll close with a couple of direct quotes, first from the introduction to Rejoicing in Christ:
“Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son, is the Beloved of the Father, the Song of the angels, the Logic of creation, the great Mystery of godliness, the bottomless Spring of life, comfort and joy. We were made to find our satisfaction, our heart’s rest, in him. Quite simply, this book will be about enjoying him, reveling in his all-sufficiency for us, and considering all that he is: how he reveals such an unexpected kind God, how he makes, defines – how he IS – the good news, and how he not only gives shape to but is himself the shape of the Christian life.
“Once upon a time a book like this would have been utterly run-of-the-mill. Among the old Puritans, for example, you can scarcely find a writer who did not write – or a preacher who did not preach something called ‘The Unsearchable Riches of Christ’, ‘Christ Set Forth’, ‘The Glory of Christ’ or the like. Yet today, what sells? What puts the smile on the bookseller’s face? The book that is about the reader. People want to read about themselves. There’s nothing, necessarily wrong in that, of course, but that is not primarily what life is about. “For to me, to live is Christ,” said the apostle Paul. “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 1:21; 3:8). Startling words, all too easily dismissed as religious overexcitement. But Paul was not raving; he was speaking plainly the deepest wisdom: that life is found in Jesus Christ, the author and source of it, and if we know him rightly, we will find nothing so desirable, so delightful, as him.”
One more excerpt – this one in a section called “An Identity Before All Others.” It spoke to me personally:
“What am I trying to say in this chapter, really, is simply this: our union with Christ is not just the appetizer to the Christian life, the soup we push back as we wait for the meat to arrive. It is not the doorway that leads us through into a life that Is about something else. It IS the steak, and the living room of the Christian life.
“Yet how easily we shuffle on elsewhere! For me, I find the weight of what I do with my time, the sheer allotment of my hours, makes me think I AM what I do. And quietly I come to think of myself primarily not as a son of God in Christ but as successful or unsuccessful, popular or unpopular – depending on how the day’s going. Bluntly, when not defined by Christ, I find myself as fragile as a puffed up balloon. When I begin to define myself by success or popularity, they matter far too much to me: when I get them, my ego inflates preposterously; when I don’t, I implode. That simply can’t happen when the core of my identity is consciously found in Christ, for he is the same – yesterday, today, and forever.”