Reviewed by: Ryan M. McGraw
Date posted: 07/17/2016
Knowing Christ, by Mark Jones. Banner of Truth, 2015. Paperback, 250 pages, list price $16.00. Reviewed by OP minister and professor Ryan M. McGraw.
Years ago I heard R.C. Sproul say that while his favorite book he ever wrote was The Glory of Christ, it was also his worst-selling book. The fact is that while millions of readers (apparently) want to find their best life now, far fewer people invest in knowing the glory of Jesus Christ. Although Mark Jones’s Knowing Christ presents nothing novel, many of its teachings will be new to many readers. This book is calculated to help readers grow in their affection for Christ, even while they increase their knowledge of him.
Knowing Christ is pastoral and practical. It arose, appropriately, from the crucible of preaching and ministering to a local congregation (p. xi). Some of the best devotional works of the church have been produced in this way. Jones’s choice of John Owen as one of his great “heroes” (pp. xiv, 232) is reflected fruitfully in the rich content of this book. He includes the key aspects of Christ’s person and work, including his two natures, his humiliation and exaltation, his covenant with the Father, his voluntary and vicarious obedience, his suffering, his role as Judge, his death, his resurrection, his ascension and session, and his threefold office, among other subjects. Jones takes what is difficult for most and makes it personal and practical for all. His primary goal in writing is to give readers “a reason to love [Christ] more” (p. xv). This reviewer hopes that this aim will prove to be contagious.
Knowing Christ is precise and well written. The strength of the Puritans lay in their ability to use precise scholastic concepts as the backdrop for warm devotional theology. Jones writes with the same skill. The endorsements, however, are a bit over the top. While this reviewer agrees that Knowing Christ should endure for a long time, is it wise to predict that it will “serve the church permanently” or that it will be “passed down from generation to generation”? The Lord alone knows which works will endure, and he alone can give such a blessing. Some books should be remembered that are not, while others that should not stay in print do so. This has as much to do with divine providence as with a book’s merits (or demerits). Nevertheless, this reviewer prays that Jones’s book will get the readership it deserves, since most do not know what they are missing.
In a homiletics course that I teach, students often ask how to preach Christ. My short answer is that we should preach Christ as Paul preached him. His example did not grow out of a homiletical theory as much as from a heart and mind preoccupied with the glory of his Savior. No one can preach Christ well unless he knows Christ well. The material presented in Knowing Christ is the primary need of ministers and church members alike in every age.