The Gospel Transformation Bible: A Rich Feast for the Soul

As a reader of this post, you’re probably familiar with this scene from the Gospel of Luke, when the risen Christ teaches two disciples on the road to Emmaus:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

I don’t know how many times (but it’s several) that I’ve heard a fellow believer say, “Oh, I wish I had been there.” Well, if you’ve ever said this, or at least thought it, then you’ll want a copy of the new Gospel Transformation Bible, the next great ESV Bible from Crossway.

With the tagline, “Christ in all of Scripture. Grace for all of Life,” the Gospel Transformation Bible aims to embody Paul’s summation of his ministry in Acts 20:24, “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Thus, the GTB has two main goals: (1) to show readers how Scripture points to Jesus Christ, from Genesis to Revelation; and (2) to help us apply these truths about God’s grace to our lives. In both goals, the GTB succeeds admirably.

This volume, edited by Bryan Chapell and Dane Ortlund, calls on the knowledge and insights of a diverse team of contributors, including scholars, authors, and pastors. As you would expect from Crossway, their approach is decidedly Reformed. But contrary to stereotype, the GTB is not an icy product of the “frozen chosen.”

No, this Bible has a warm, compassionate, Christ-centered heart. Perusing the study notes for several passages, I was struck (and somewhat surprised) by the devotional focus and tone. For example, in the note (really, two long paragraphs) on Isaiah 44:1-25, predicting the people’s redemption from exile, contributor Kelly M. Kapic of Covenant College observes:

Undeserved deliverance, not mere command or conditional love, fuels repentance. As with the exodus preceding Sinai, here again God’s grace is extended to his people in their state of need, reminding us of the grace that is ours even before we return to him—a grace that enables us to repent and rest in his deliverance.

As someone who is used to digging into the copious interpretative and contextual material available in the ESV Study Bible (which I believe is still the best, most comprehensive study Bible available), making this kind of switch—from mostly interpretation to much more application–took some getting used to. Yes, there is plenty of “meat” here, but it is sliced into more bite-sized chunks. In some ways, the GTB makes Bible study almost too easy, serving up applications galore on a silver platter. My hope is that, as I delve further into this excellent volume, I will not see an oversimplified approach that, like a kids’ Sunday school class, says that the answer to every question is “Jesus”—though in a sense, of course, it is.

On the other hand, my temptation when reading and studying the Bible is to do the hermeneutical work and stop there—without applying what I’ve learned. The GTB, when read faithfully and prayerfully, should put an end to that mistake. And it’s a good thing. After all, the One who said he is the Way and the Truth just as emphatically said he is the Life.

Recently awakened to the applications inherent in Bible prophecy, I was curious to see how the GTB handles the as yet unfulfilled predictions of Scripture. Here’s what contributor Iain Duguid of Grove City College says in part about Zechariah 14:1-21, describing the coming day of the Lord:

The persecutors of God’s people are more to be pitied than the martyrs whom they slaughter, for they will be victims of divine judgment of truly terrible proportions. On the last day, every knee will bow before the Lord and his Anointed, either willingly or unwillingly. How much better to bow willingly, no matter the cost, than to be found holding out against the Lord when time finally runs out.

I doubt Billy Graham could give a better altar call.

No, the Gospel Transformation Bible is no substitute for actually walking the road with Jesus—to Emmaus or anywhere else. But don’t be surprised if it helps you get there more confident in your faith, and more close to the gracious Savior who walks with you.

Crossway gave me a copy of the Gospel Transformation Bible in exchange for my promise to review it.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for BreakPoint.org. He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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