I want to tell you about my upcoming book, “Jesus Is Risen, Paul and the Early Church,” for release Oct. 2. This is my fourth Christian-themed book and I am more enthused with each one.
Ever since I became a believer, I've been eager to share my experiences. Ever since I began to study the Bible, I've been anxious to share what I've learned with people who may be skeptics or unsure, like I used to be.
In my first Christian-themed book, “Jesus on Trial,” I recounted my personal faith journey from skeptic to believer. Next was “The Emmaus Code,” in which I detailed the countless ways the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.
In “The True Jesus,” I presented the Gospels as one unified narrative in chronological order. I went through nearly every verse in all four books, sometimes quoting verbatim and other times paraphrasing, though striving to remain absolutely true to the text, which I firmly believe is the inspired Word of God. Throughout the narrative, I interlaced commentary and insights -- my own and those of reliable scholars and commentators. My aim was to introduce readers -- both inexperienced and advanced — to the flow of the Gospels and to help them better understand the material. My ultimate goals, as with all these books, were to whet the readers' appetite to read the words of Scripture itself, instill a passion for the Bible, and encourage people to make reading and studying it a lifelong commitment.
In “Jesus is Risen,” I pick up the New Testament story where I left it in “The True Jesus,” moving from the Gospels to the history of the early church in the book of Acts. As readers seemed to enjoy my chronological narrative of the Gospels, it seemed fitting to structure "Jesus Is Risen" the same way, beginning with the book of Acts and then six of the Apostle Paul's 13 epistles — Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans — which are believed to have been written before his other seven epistles. Space constraints forced me to save Paul's other epistles and the rest of the New Testament for a subsequent book. This has worked out nicely, as Luke provides an illuminating picture of the early Church in Acts, including Paul's tireless activities spreading the Gospel. Then, in the six epistles, Paul covers some of the historical material chronicled in Acts and also addresses issues related to the early Church and Christian doctrine.
I pray that readers will get a flavor for the history of the early Church and how Christianity spread so rapidly throughout the Roman Empire during the first century. As in "The True Jesus," I paraphrase the biblical text or quote it verbatim while providing an ongoing commentary designed to aid the reader's understanding of the action and theology in the corresponding Scripture.
The Gospels are where we meet Jesus in person. His words and actions come alive; His character jumps from the pages; and His love and goodness permeate every verse. And we see Him and His message from a different perspective in Acts and the epistles; the former showing the apostles on fire for Christ, honoring His Great Commission to spread the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the latter setting forth Christian doctrine and instructions for the early church. It's exciting, powerful stuff.
Since first reading the Bible, Paul has been my favorite biblical figure and writer. After his conversion, he becomes a tireless evangelist and literally “writes the book” on spreading and teaching the Gospel. The richness of his theology and his practical advice to churches is unparalleled in Scripture. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and his theology springs from his prolific pen. In terms of understanding the spiritual message and implications of the Gospel, there is no substitute for reading Paul's writings.
With this book, I hope readers will come to better understand the robust activities of the early Church and the genuine challenges the apostles confront as they doggedly preach the Word throughout the Roman Empire. I earnestly pray the book's framework will enhance your perspective of the events as they unfold and your understanding of Paul's writings — and mindset in which he writes them. It is riveting to experience the explosion of Christianity through Paul's eyes and those of other Church leaders. You will stand side by side with them as they square off against ruthless opponents and grow through adversity.
Paul expounds the Gospel message like no one else, especially the notion of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, which is why the preeminent Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce called him “the preacher of free grace.”
Paul explains the role, activities and indispensability of the Holy Spirit to the Christian's life. In his letters (and through Luke's account in Acts) we see Paul's deeply human side and his spirituality like no other biblical figure apart from Christ. He leaves no card unturned as he unapologetically defends his positions and ministry against fraudulent opponents who would have destroyed the Gospel in its infancy.
Throughout Paul's writings, what stands out to me as much as his profoundly logical mind and his love for Christ is his raw genuineness as a human being. His professed agony over the fate of his beloved Jewish brothers tugs at our heartstrings. His stubborn and abiding love for his people persists to the very end. If Christianity's greatest evangelist and theologian is unafraid to share his own weaknesses and shortcomings with the world, then, as lesser mortals, we must be truly encouraged when we face our own struggles in the faith. Paul imparts clear instructions on how to live life in the Spirit and to become free from sin's reign, as we grow more Christ-like. Through Paul, we learn the true meaning of Christian liberty. Freed by Christ from the bondage of sin and the strict requirements of the Law, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard, not as a matter of following rules and regulations, but voluntarily, out of our love for Christ.
With the exception of Christ, there is no greater teacher than Paul, and we owe it to ourselves to sit at his feet as we watch him in action and read his words of instruction. Contrary to certain skeptics, Paul's teachings are wholly consistent with those of Christ. The message is clear: Through His mercy and grace, God forgives sinners who place their faith in Christ. Christ's righteousness is imputed to believers, and God maintains His standard of perfect justice. Too marvelous for words!