Saturday, August 01, 2015

It Was Like Being Right There for Three Years

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The Training Of The Twelve (book review)


[While many of my other reviews are on books that have been offered to me, this one I searched out and bought myself. But when it comes to writing a review, I do my best to treat both types equally.]

It has been a good many years since I read a book on the life of Jesus Christ that has impacted me in the way that Alexander Balmain [A.B.] Bruce’s did recently.  The second edition that I read is published by ReadaClassic.com and weighs in at 398 large pages. My research indicates that the original version (not too much different) was written in 1877. When I was discussing it with my pastor, he indicated that “it’s a classic” in the Christian literature world. The write-ups I read indicated it was the number two bestseller surpassed only by the Bible itself, in this category.  Let me tell you why.

The book should be read with Bible in hand. Not only does Bruce hold your attention, but also writes a great devotional guide on all of Christ’s dealings while He was here physically on earth among us.

The author is not afraid to pose challenges to what Jesus said and to consider them fully and fairly before he offers his rationale for what he believes. I found myself convinced almost every single time. For example he wonders whether Jesus was “indulging in exaggeration” when He told Peter that “Unless I wash your feet, you can have no part of me”?

There are thirty-one chapters covering, in a fairly chronological order, the lessons that Jesus taught His disciples as He moved around from place to place with them. Bruce also looks at the lesson or event from the perspective of each of the four gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – where applicable.

The appendices are very helpful for those wanting to study the material over and over again after they first read the book.  There’s an index of Scripture references for easy finding of key ideas by subject, as well as three others for the Greek, Latin, and German, respectively, words and phrases used in the text. Another great feature of the book is that reference notes are provided in large numbers in brackets and then explained at the end of each chapter.

The book is laden with quotable quotes.  Here are but a few of the shorter ones:
  • On healing: “For surely He who so cared for men’s bodies would care yet more for their souls.”
  • On the Holy Spirit: “ . . . sanctification is a slow, tedious work, not a momentary act . . . the Spirit is given gradually and in limited measure, not at once and without measure.”
  • On religious liberty: “For it is a solemn crisis in any man’s life when he first departs in the most minute particulars from the religious opinions and practices of his age.”
  • On Judas and some of those who profess to know Christ: “Graceless men may for a season be employed as agents in promoting the work of grace in the hearts of others.”
  • On the Lord’s table: “Christians eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man at all times, not merely at communion times, simply by believing in Him.”
  • On ‘calling’: “He (Christ) sought disciples God-given, God-drawn, God-taught, knowing that such alone would continue in His word.”
  • On Satan’s goal: “For the whole aim of Satanic policy is to get self-interest recognized as the chief end of man.”
  • On His Church: “The agreement He requires of His disciples is not entire unanimity in opinion, but consent of mind and heart in the ends they aim at, and in unselfish devotion to these things.” And, “He did not wish His church to consist of a collection of clubs having no intercommunion with each other, any more than He desired it to be a monster hotel, receiving and harboring all comers, no questions being asked.”
  • On self-sacrifice: “For no man is at liberty to choose whether he shall be a good Christian or an indifferent one, or is excused from practicing certain virtues merely because they are difficult.” And, “Where a testament is, here must also be the death of the testator.”
  • On love: “While imposing sacrifices, love, by way of compensation, makes them easy.” And, “Love made her (Mary who anointed Him in Bethany) original in thought and conduct.”
  • On obedience: “A master is pleased when a pupil understands his lesson, but a lord is pleased only when his servants do his bidding.”
  • On loss: “Sorrow is healed by weeping: the sympathy which melts the heart at the same time comforts it.”
  • On leadership: “The main business, even of the chief under-shepherds, is not to make others follow Christ, but to follow Him themselves.”

I was particularly impressed with how A. B. Bruce explained the end times as well as the failure of the disciples to remain faithful at the time of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion.  You’ll be most pleasantly surprised. And I was amazed at how similar our times are right now in terms of what the twelve disciples were up against in their day.

This book is a must read for any true believer, especially those that would teach the Word of God.  Next to the Bible, it is the most comprehensive analysis of what of Jesus said on earth. From where I stand after thoroughly studying this classic, it may well have been titled, “The Training Of The Thirteenth” – that 13th been each and every one of us who dares call themselves a Christian.

    -- Ken B. Godevenos, http://www.accordconsulting.com, Toronto, Ontario. 15/08/01  

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