Reviewed by: Phil Proctor
Date posted: 05/20/2012
How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek Thomas. Published by Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011. Hardback, 157 pages, list price $15.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Phil Proctor.
Derek Thomas, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Columbia, South Carolina, has produced a rich and pastoral exposition of Romans 8. This book grew out of a sermon series, and each chapter definitely has the feel of a sermon. In each chapter, one will find a central theme, rich illustrations from church history (from Jerome and Anselm to contemporaries such as R. C. Sproul and J. I. Packer), a point of questioning application, and an appeal for a gospel response.
The eleven chapters average around ten pages of comfortable reading, which should take about thirty minutes per chapter. This easy format, coupled with the accessible language, makes this a wonderful book for private devotional reading or for group book studies. Thomas begins where the gospel begins, with an uncompromising treatment of sin and our personal condemnation before a holy God, which immediately draws us to the glory of grace and the pronouncement of "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).
The last chapter, on verses 35–39, is entitled "Union with Christ—Forever," but don't be fooled: this glorious doctrine is the unifying thread that runs throughout each of these sermons and is emphasized in each of the chapters. This underscores the warm, devotional aspect of the book. Other "meaty" doctrines are handled in an understandable manner, including mortification of sin, the "golden chain" of verses 28–30, and adoption.
This book would make a wonderful weekly Bible study, although this leads to a minor criticism: the book would be enhanced if there were five or six "group study" questions at the end of each chapter to foster conversation and discussion. But this is a very minor criticism of an excellent and profitable book.
Thomas engages both the heart and the mind, challenges the reader to consider the relevance of the chapter to his or her own life, and, above all, continually points us to Jesus Christ. For example, Thomas opens chapter 8, entitled "The Golden Chain," with these thoughtful and devotional comments on Romans 8:28–30: "If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more solid and stable than Mount Everest.… Outside this promise … are straw houses of drugs and alcohol and numbing TV and dozens of futile diversions. There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans. Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28." The book is warmly recommended.