Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review of the Sacraments in Biblical Perspective by Ronald P. Byars

The Sacraments in Biblical Perspective: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church

The Sacraments In Biblical Perspective
by Ronald P. Byars
ISBN 978-0-664-23518
Interpretation Commentary Series from Westminster/John Knox Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Westminster John Knox Publishers have developed a well-received collection of commentaries on Scripture called Interpretation. The Interpretation Commentary Series is a preaching and teaching commentary series developed with several leading scholars in mainline seminaries and colleges.

After the Interpretation Series was completed, the publisher continued the series addressing topical issues related to life in the church, especially those that need to be preached on or taught about. I already have copies of the study that WJK put together on the Canons and Creeds, as well as the one they published on the Ten Commandments.

Most recently I have received The Sacraments in Biblical Perspective. This fine study discusses the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. It is historically grounded, biblically focused, and accessibly written. I love it!

The strengths of this book are as follows:

  • The nature of it's interaction with Scripture--This commentary spends most of its time referencing Scripture, and interacting with the text directly. Although these texts are organized in a more theological fashion, it still reads like I am engaging a Biblical commentary. 
  • The treatment of broad thematic elements--Byars is not content to just refer to texts that just reference baptism and the Lord's Supper. He follows the stream of water and blood upriver to its source in the Old Testament, and he follows the stream downriver pointing out unnoticed references and relationships in the New Testament as well. 
  • The brief discussion of a Sacramental Theology at the beginning of the book--Byars looks how our understanding of the sacraments has developed over time, especially in relation to the Reformation and the Enlightenment. He asks the tough questions of the church, challenging believers regarding their lack of respect and value of the sacraments in the modern and postmodern age.
  • Its usefulness in relationship to the Revised Common Lectionary
This study is not for everyone, but I think it would be helpful for Christian leaders who have occasion to preach or teach on baptism or the Lord's Supper. This is especially true for those who minister in ecumenical contexts. I have never seen a more thorough resource that is also so well organized and easily read. I will return to this book often.

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