The Kingdom of God by Jeffrey Johnson
Although I had been raised in a family that attended various churches, from non-denominational military chapels with no discernible doctrine to Nazarene churches with Arminian theology (later in life I was to wonder why those preachers ever preached anything other then Hebrews chapter 6), I was never with an interest in the Word of God. When I was redeemed, I began my search for meaning in the Scriptures and found the popular dispensational teaching of my Baptist church to be very suspect and off track. Once I began learning the doctrines of grace (known as Calvinism), the Scriptures came into a more clear view and then reformed theology was opened to me and I saw the larger redemptive story in the Bible; the main point of the Scripture is to show man how sinful he is and point him to the promised Redeemer.
But something still wasn’t right. The predominate teaching in the reformed world is from the Presbyterians. And while I can accept their church practices (though I cannot agree with them), I could not see how they made the church equal to the nation of Israel. This perspective, and a couple others closely related to it, cause our Presbyterian brothers to view virtually all Scripture as applicable to the church. It was the complete opposite of what I was taught in my dispensational churches, where there is near complete separation between the church and the nation of Israel. Neither system made sense to me.
By the providential hand of God, the early part of the 21st century has brought us a renewed interest in historical Baptist views. While several very good books have been written in this rather large field, the one that made the biggest impact on me was The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism, by a man who has become a dear friend to me, Jeffrey D. Johnson. That book made a very clear, biblical argument against the underlying theology of paedobaptism and introduced me to an historic and biblical Baptist view of covenant theology. This title, plus a couple of books on biblical theology (a process that keeps systematic theology from losing its place in Scripture – biblical theology is the contextual study of what the Bible says. The historic, redemptive context of a passage provides more clues to its meaning than anything other than related Scripture.), were foundational in helping me the Word of God even more clearly.
And now, much to my joy, our brother and servant of God, Jeff Johnson, has written another book: The Kingdom of God, A Baptist Expression of Covenant and Biblical Theology, due out early next year. Rather than a polemic pointing out the errors of paedobaptist theology (in an effort to convince Baptist to stay in the camp and comprehend a better view of the covenants), Jeff’s new book is a focused apologetic in favor of the historic Baptist view of covenant theology and biblical theology.
Is this stuff important? While it’s not as important as a biblical comprehension of who you are and who is the Christ, it is pretty important stuff. Because it will help the reader see the importance of approaching the Scriptures with humility rather than with unexamined presuppositions that subtly influence your understanding of what you read. When we open the Bible, we are taking into our minds the Word of God. The right fear of God and humility because we rightly see ourselves are essential attitudes for certain understanding of His Word and the covenants revealed therein. Charles Spurgeon went as far as to say, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity. I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based on fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and grace”
Johnson’s writing style is straight forward and easy to read. The main focus on his study of covenant theology is the Abrahamic Covenant and the duality therein. Failure to see the continuity as well as the discontinuity would leave one embracing paedobaptist theology on the first hand or dispenationalism on the other. From an early chapter in his new book, “In one sense, the debate between the continuity and discontinuity of the Old and New Covenants centers on the true identity of the people of God and the relationship between Abraham’s physical seed and Abraham’s spiritual seed, which returns us to the original question. Who are the true people of God? Are God’s people “the nation of Israel”? Are the people of God “believers and their seed?” Are the people of God “believers only?” Are God’s people some sort of combination of the two groups? The differing answers given to this question are what separate these theological positions from one another.”
He ends this section of the book with an examination of the covenant theology revealed in the book of Romans, showing how the Apostle who wrote Galatians was consistent in his theology, even when it went against his deepest human concerns.
The second part of the book is relatively short introduction to biblical theology which makes this topic approachable by any child of God. The historical record from Scripture shows the rise and fall of kingdoms and peoples, all of which were brought to pass to deliver, preserve, and protect the promised Seed. Creator God is the God of means as well as ends. Biblical theology helps us see His hand of providence in history and keeps us from falling into the error of thinking man is in charge of his own destiny.
There is a BONUS appendix in this book, where brother Johnson takes a quick look at The New Perspectives on Paul. Some who are impressed with the wisdom of man have been swept away by this new view; Jeff shows us why the wisdom of God is to be trusted – even in the face of all the king’s men with all their advanced degrees. The biblical Apostle Paul, not the one found in The New Perspectives, told us he did not come to us with brilliance of speech or wisdom, for he didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among us except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He came to us in weakness, in fear, in much trembling. His speech and proclamation were not with impressive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that our faith would not rest on the wisdom of men but on God’s power.
40% off: Pre-publication sale for The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Covenant & Biblical Theology. 280 page, hardcover with dust jacket. Retail price $28.00. No payment necessary until after it is released. To reserve a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Reserve two copies for 50%, plus free shipping. This is a pre-publication sale only. This offer ends on 27 November.