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5.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Chain of the Gospel, 17 July 2011
This review is from: How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home (Hardcover)
As the author himself admits, what "works" in a sermon does not always read as well, and this exposition of Romans 8 may well have been richer in the hearing, but even as a written and read series of studies it is powerful, pastoral and, at times, intensely moving.

In the course of eleven chapters, Derek Thomas carefully leads us through Paul's unfolding of God's eternal and sovereign purposes in the life of a believer from eternity past to eternity future, glorying in all the implications of those purposes, from "no condemnation" in 8v1 to no separation at the end of the chapter.

Thomas begins by explaining how a holy God can justify guilty sinners and love them so much - the basis of the "no condemnation" - and addresses the problem of ongoing sin that Paul painfully wrestled with in Romans 7, and which all true believers struggle with. In one of many quotable quotes in the book, he writes, "Grace must raise the temptation to think we can sin as we please; if it does not, we have not understood the true extent of grace."

He then contrasts the flesh-controlled and Spirit-controlled minds, asking what is the default setting of our minds if left to wander, leading to one of the most helpful chapters of the book, on the mortification of sin. Thomas recognises the responsibility of the believer to put sin to death but stresses the role of grace in that process and has a helpful definition and explanation of legalism. From there the author leads us higher and higher towards the summit of Romans 8, examining the privileges and blessings of those who have been adopted into the family of God.

If you doubt the effectiveness of the transition from sermon to book, read chapter 9 where all the warmth and passion of the preacher's heart, both for God and for his people, is laid bare. Thomas focuses on the Son's agony as he approaches death, and the Father's unswerving commitment to the eternally agreed divine plan for the salvation of sinners. The Son asked to be spared but the Father could not spare him. Quoting a moving illustration that I will undoubtedly use myself, Derek Thomas goes on to say, "Our heavenly Father is defined by the fact that He, too, is One who has lost a Son--handed over to sinners for sinners." That is the basis and foundation for all the stupendous doctrinal certainties of Romans 8.

I am writing this review while on holiday on the Fife coast of Scotland. Just down the road is a local feature known as The Chain Walk which takes you across a hazardous stretch of coastal terrain and keeps you from becoming trapped by the incoming tide, being struck by falling rocks and from losing your footing. Derek Thomas shows how the Golden Chain of Romans 8, and indeed the whole chapter, is designed to give believers the same, much needed help to navigate along life's hazardous, spiritual journey.

When I teach homiletics I define true preaching as that which "teaches the mind, touches the heart and targets the will". This exposition ticks all those boxes and more. There is careful exegesis, relevant explanation and much pastorally minded application. Buy it, read it and thank God afresh for the truths it opens up so helpfully.
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