This is the first book review that I am publishing on this site and it is a joy for me to introduce to you not just the book but also the author, who has had a great impact on my life and thinking. He is John Piper. With 33 years of pastoral experience, he has also been a prolific writer with many books to his credit. Although, my engagement with his writings has been largely limited to articles written by him on his online ministry platform, www.desiringgod.org, the very first books that I read were ‘Five Points: Towards a deeper experience of God’s Grace’ and ‘Does God desire all to be Saved’. And both these books have proved to be major turning points in my life, as they drastically altered my view of God, man and salvation. One of his distinct contributions to Christian life and thought has been the idea of Christian Hedonism, which he often encapsulates through the statement, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him’. You can read up more about it on the Desiring God website.
But right now, I want to introduce to you another book penned by him which I read over the last few days, ‘Fifty reasons why Jesus came to die’. It is a short book but another great book for both new and old believers, on the all-important subject of ‘Death/ Cross of Jesus Christ’. In his introductory chapter, Piper says that ‘the death of Jesus Christ is the most important event in history’ and he tells us that this book is about what this great event ‘accomplished for the world’. He points out that often misled Christians have blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus Christ (Piper 14) but the Bible is very clear that ‘God himself was the chief actor in the death of his Son’ (Is. 53:10; Rom. 8:32; Rom. 3:25) (Piper 16). In Piper’s words, ‘God planned it, and by the means of wicked men, he accomplished it’ and ‘God meant it for good’. And he adds that since God meant it for good, we must also look beyond human causes to that divine ‘purpose’ in Jesus’ death (Piper 12). And when we find out that purpose, it ‘breaks and humbles us’ (Piper 16) to love those around us.
So, the aim of this book is to find out that great and good purpose of God in the death of His Son Jesus Christ. Piper gives us ‘fifty reasons why Jesus came to die. Not fifty causes, but fifty purposes’ (Piper 17). And in order to do that he ransacks the New Testament Bible. He says that ‘(His) aim is to let the Bible speak’ and he does what he says. He divides the fifty purposes in to 50 chapters and each chapter starts by citing New Testament verses to support his argument. Every chapter presents one specific purpose in the death of Christ, followed by Bible verses to support that conclusion. If we could even memorize these fifty reasons and the NT verses that support them, our knowledge of Jesus and His Cross will be greatly enhanced. Piper explains each purpose statement with clear arguments supported by the cited verses. What makes him a faithful Bible teacher is that his arguments are always grounded in Bible verses or passages and they are always set within the literary context of the Bible. This discipline leaves us with hardly any reason to disagree with him, unless we are biased due to some other considerations in our mind.
Mature believers won’t find many of the reasons to be new revelations. For e.g. Jesus died ‘to absorb the wrath of God’, ‘to show the wealth of God’s love and Grace for sinners’, ‘to become a ransom for many’, ‘for the forgiveness of our sins’, ‘for our justification’, ‘to complete the obedience that becomes our righteousness’, ‘to heal us from moral and physical sickness’, ‘to give eternal life to all who believe in Him’, ‘to reconcile us to God’, ‘to free us from the slavery to sin’, ‘to ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation’ and ‘to rescue us from final judgment’. But that is where Piper seems to take even mature believers to greater depths of understanding the Cross of Jesus Christ by giving profound spiritual insight in to these well-known biblical truths. The chapters on ‘justification’ and ‘the obedience that becomes our righteousness’ really came alive to me as I understood the massive implications of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. It was like applying gospel-truths to my life like never before. So, it can be exhilarating for mature believers, yet it is written so simply that even a new believer would be able to grasp these truths easily.
But this book adds many more purposes, some of which could be fresh insights for even mature believers and some others would help them to understand the far-reaching consequences of the Cross of Christ on every area of their lives. Some fresh insights for me were that Christ died ‘to become for us the place where we meet God’, ‘to free us from the futility of our ancestry’, and ‘so that He would be crowned with Glory and Honor’. And I was enriched to read about the effect the Cross of Christ has upon my marriage and my joy in Christ. These 50 reasons seem to encompass almost every purpose of God in the Cross of Jesus but Piper says that ‘these pointers will set you on a quest to know more and more of God’s great design in the death of his Son’ (Piper 12). It would be interesting to mark out every verse that talks about the purpose of the Cross in your Bible and see if you can find any more purposes than what Piper found, although it looks impossible having seen Piper’s thoroughness in dealing with a particular theme.
As I conclude, I would highly recommend this book to all new and mature believers. By reading it mature believers would enhance their understanding of the Gospel and new believers can begin to understand the Cross of Jesus Christ and what it has achieved for them. It is an excellent resource for pastors and leaders to take their flock through. And it is great news especially for Indian churches as it is published here in India by OM Books and at very affordable prices in English, Hindi, Manipuri, Tamil and Telugu. I am sure that you will be blessed, as I was, in reading this great book from one of the greatest Christians alive today.