Phillip Ryken (president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Il) has done an incredible job writing on the doctrines of sin and salvation in his book “The Message of Salvation.” This book was written in 2001 and is part of the Bible Speaks Today Series published by IVP Academic in Downers Grove, Il.
In this book, Ryken attempts to “communicate God’s saving message from throughout Holy Scripture, using representative stories, sermons, letters, and poems to explain the Bible’s own doctrine of salvation” (pg 8). While most theology books use methods that create dry, stagnant material, the method employed here by Ryken makes this book an incredibly easy and engaging book to read. If one attempted to critique Ryken for a lack of use of Scripture, do not listen to that person because I guarantee you they did not read this book! The book is written with an easy to follow structure containing four parts.
Part one of this book spends time discussing the very reason that we need salvation. This first part is called “Saved from sin.” In the first chapter, he walks the reader through the narrative in Genesis 2:15-3:6 to explain our need of salvation from the story of the creation story and the fall of man. In chapter two Ryken examines what we need to be saved from by examing the fall in Genesis 3:7-24 showing how sin’s entrance into the world demands righteous judgment. Chapter three, the last chapter in this part, examines the inability we have to save ourselves by looking at the text in Isaiah 59:1-21.
Part two of this book begins to explain our salvation on the basis of God’s grace. This second section is called “Saved by grace.” In chapter four, our election in Christ is explained from Ephesians 1:3-4. Chapter five describes our deliverance from sin by looking at the Old Testament story of the Israelites deliverance out of Egypt in Exodus 15:1-21. Chapter six explores the idea of redemption by telling the story of Ruth from Ruth 4:1-22. Chapter 7 is Ryken’s chapter exploring the idea of God’s mercy on sinners and his expiation and propitiation of our sins from Luke 18:9-14. Chapter 8 describes the reconciliation and restoration of a relationship that was broken with the fall of Adam and Eve by looking at Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2. He completes this section by writing chapter 9 on the proof of our salvation, the resurrection from Acts 13:26-49. Part three begins Ryken’s explanation of our salvation through faith and this part is called “Saved through faith.” Chapter 10 kicks this section off with a beautiful description of our regeneration by looking closely at the story of Nicodemus and Jesus’ interaction in John 3:1-18.
Part three begins Ryken’s explanation of our salvation through faith and this part is called “Saved through faith.” Chapter 10 kicks this section off with a beautiful description of our regeneration by looking closely at the story of Nicodemus and Jesus’ interaction in John 3:1-18 (Yes, John 3:16 is part of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and is not a stand-alone verse;). Our salvation, while ultimately a work of God, is not void of our participation and thus, chapter 11 begins developing the idea of faith and repentance by looking at the story of the blind man, beggar man, and thief in Luke 18:35-19:10. Ryken recognizes that our salvation is nothing if it were not for our union with Christ and so he spends chapter 12 describing our being alive in Christ (our union with him) in Ephesians 2:1-10. Two of the benefits we receive from our union with Christ are justification and adoption and so he spends chapters 12 and 13 describing those two benefits from Romans 3:21-28 and 2 Samuel 9:1-13.
Part four is called “saved for God’s glory.” We were not saved arbitrarily, but for a purpose. In chapter 15, he studies Acts 2:42-47 examining the idea that we are now Gods people. We are the communion of saints. Chapter 16 describes our sanctification. The idea that we are continually be made, through the Spirit, into the likeness of Christ, for we were “saved to sin no more.” Chapter 17 is a recognition that once we are saved our lives do not automatically get better, we will suffer. But have no fear for God helps us to persevere 1 Peter 1:1-9. Chapter 18 is the description of the hope that we have for glorification is coming Revelation 7:9-17. Ryken ends this section by giving an exposition of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. This “Message of Salvation” is not a message that we should keep to ourselves, but rather, we should shout it from the mountaintops for Jesus Christ has come to save us! It is now our prerogative to proclaim this message to the ends of the earth.
This book was written in such a way that it can be used easily for small groups and Bible studies. Ryken includes a study guide at the end of the book with helpful questions that guide discussion based on each chapter. This book may cost $17 but the information in it is priceless. Everyone needs to read this extremely engaging book to help them gain a very clear, understandable, scriptural understanding of our sin problem and what God in Christ did to overcome that problem and reconcile us to himself.
Quality rating: 5 stars
Recommended Reader: The Beginning Theologian