BOOK REVIEW: Jesus, the Evangelist

Jesus, the Evangelist is a hardcover book written by Richard D. Phillips and published by Reformation Trust. It is list priced at $19.99 and includes two indexes – one for Scriptures references and the other for subjects and names. (The table of contents can be found below.)

Richard D. Phillips might be known to some readers for some of his previous books – Chosen in Christ, Walking with God, Turning Back the Darkness, and a commentary on Hebrews for the Reformed Expository Commentary series (P&R Books).

In Jesus, the Evangelist, Phillips sets out to give instruction on sharing the gospel from the life of Jesus himself in John’s Gospel. His point in writing is to encourage Christians who are not active in sharing their faith to share more, and to encourage those Christians who are active in sharing their faith to re-evaluate how they go about sharing Christ. Do we have a proper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ? And if so, are we motivated to share it every chance we get?

Phillips’ book in broken up into three main sections. The first section looks at ‘Biblical Principles of Evangelism’ by looking at the ‘Witness of John the Baptist’ and ‘Jesus’ Calling of the First Disciples.’ Phillips begins by showing how the truths of Christ’s taking on flesh (John 1) provide not just a theological basis for understanding Christ, but the impetus for sharing the gospel of Christ and how we should share it.

The book’s second main section presents a ‘Theology of the Gospel.’ Here, Phillips uses Jesus’ ‘Witness to Nicodemus’ as the foundation for his study. Phillips begins by showing how salvation is preeminently a work of God’s sovereign grace, calling sinners out of spiritual darkness into God’s glorious light. Being born again is something that happens to us, not something we bring about ourselves. This new birth doesn’t take place apart from the proclamation of the gospel of Christ, revealing that Christ really is the only answer to the question, ‘how can one be saved?’

The book’s third and final section looks at ‘Jesus’ Witness to the Samaritan Woman’ to demonstrate ‘Jesus’ Practice of Evangelism.’ Phillips show how Jesus balanced both the need to connect in a real way to people, displaying a genuine concern for their well-being, as well as not making light of their sin. Regardless of any other circumstance, Christ came to achieve salvation from sin and that must remain the focus our message and methods.

Phillips gives us a final treat through an appendix entitled, ‘The Sovereignty of God in Evangelism.” Despite the utilitarian title, these final pages are an added bonus. Phillips explains how God’s sovereignly brings about salvation by ordaining the means as well as the end, and shows how God’s sovereignty is a powerful encouragement for us to be bold and incessant in sharing Christ.

Jesus, the Evangelist proved to be an excellent read. Phillips says in the preface that the content of the book originated in a series of sermons from the Gospel of John. This is evident in the style of the book. Good, biblical teaching is brought to the reader with clear and engaging writing. This is the first of many positives about this book.

Another positive is its timeliness. Today the issues of Reformed theology (aka ‘Calvinism’) are being debated on school campuses, in large denominations, and local churches. Unfortunately, one of the chief criticisms of Reformed theology is that it squelches and drive or passion for evangelism. This book shows that allegation to be false. Granted that I could probably find any number of individual Christians who are cool in regards to evangelism – but this could be done from any number of theological traditions. In the tradition of Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, and John Piper, Phillips shows that a strong belief in the sovereignty of God serves to ignite passion for evangelism.

If there is a negative, it’s that the book is too short! I would have loved for Phillips to continue to mine John’s gospel for more of Jesus’ perspective and practice on evangelism. Nevertheless, in the end Phillip’s book is a real gem. It was one of the first books our church’s new book shop put in stock. The study questions at the end of each chapter make this an easy book to use for some training or discipleship class at churches. I commend to you as one of the most theologically thoughtful and eminently practical books on evangelism. It provides a helpful corrective to modern errors on both fronts in a very accessible way.


*Here is the complete table of contents:

Part One

The Witness of John the Baptist and the Calling of the First Disciples: Biblical Principles of Evangelism

1. A Witness to the Light: John 1:6–9

2. The Word and the Voice: John 1:19–28

3. Behold, the Lamb! John 1:29–34

4. Bringing Them to Jesus: John 1:35–42

Part Two

Jesus’ Witness to Nicodemus: The Theology of the Gospel

5. Born Again: John 3:1–8

6. The Answer: John 3:9–21

7. The Gospel of Love: John 3:16

8. The Gospel of Faith: John 3:16–18

Part Three

Jesus’ Witness to the Samaritan Woman: Jesus’ Practice of Evangelism

9. Jesus the Evangelist: John 4:1–10

10. Living Water: John 4:10–15

11. Dealing with Sin: John 4:16–19

12. The Cry of New Life: John 4:27–30

13. The Savior of the World: John 4:27–42

Appendix: The Sovereignty of God in Evangelism

Index of Scripture

Index of Subjects and Names

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