Zondervan gave me a copy of Following Jesus, the Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship by Jonathan Lunde to review. Apart from that I am under no obligation as to the content of the review.
The first thing to be aware of about this book is that it is not in the genre of “how-to books.” Even though about 1/3 of the book is devoted to answering the “how” question…the answer is anything but a traditional “how-to” explanation.
There certainly are an adequate amount of “how-to” discipleship books on the market…for instance, Bill Hull’s The Complete Book of Discipleship or Greg Ogden’s Transforming Discipleship, however neither of those delves as deeply into the Biblical (particularly the Old Testament) roots of discipleship as Lunde’s book does.
The first chapter provides an overview of what lies ahead and, in general, what lies ahead are Lunde’s answers to three significant questions:
- the “Why” Question: Why should I be concerned to obey all of Jesus’ commands if I have been saved by grace?
- the “What” Question: What is it that Jesus demands of his disciples?
- the “How” Question: How can the disciple obey Jesus’ high demand, while experiencing his “yoke” as “light” and “easy”?
The answer to the “Why” Question turns out to be a survey of the covenants, their “gracious contexts”, and their “demands.” By walking through the covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic (2), Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant) Lunde shows a recurring pattern of grace and righteous demands, even for the “grant type” of covenant. For the reader who has never before done a study of the covenants, this section will both unlock new understandings as well lead to a thirst for more information concerning the covenants and their relationships.
Some readers may have minor quibbles in this section (i.e.. Are there really two Abrahamic covenants? Is the Davidic covenant conditional or a grant? etc.) Nevertheless, very few will disagree with Lunde’s broad conclusions in this section. And in the end, the reader should have a better understanding of how grace and demands can mix without resulting into legalism.
The second section of the book looks at the “what” question. In this section Lunde provides a survey (not a comprehensive one) of Jesus commands and shows how Jesus reinterprets God’s laws for us. Some of the laws are abandoned (food laws), some are intensified (think in terms of the Sermon on the Mount), in the end, this section will probably hold few surprises, but nevertheless provides a Christocentric basis for how the believer relates to God’s law. One thing that pleased me in this section was to see the Great Commission being interpreted in light of Matthew 10 (and thus emphasizing the mission of the Church includes both proclamation as well as demonstration).
I expected the third section to move from theological foundations to a more applied model (in keeping with the “how” question.) However, that really doesn’t occur in this book until the final chapter, rather this section focus on two key points…the implications of an inaugurated kingdom and the implications for Jesus’ roles as representative, redeemer, and restorer for our discipleship. As to the latter, Lunde spends a great deal of time looking at Jesus’ roles and the importance for us in remembering them and receiving grace from them for our daily walk as disciples. None of this struck me as particularly controversial.
However, not everyone will agree with Lunde’s understanding of the inaugurated kingdom. In brief, Lunde applies the “now/not yet” schema that has come to be widely accepted as far as eschatology is concerned…to soteriology. That is to say, the promises of the New Covenant have yet to reach ultimate fulfillment, consequently there remains a struggle with sin in our daily lives. Now few will argue with that on the basis of experience, however, Paul’s writings seem to argue that things really have fundamentally changed…”we are no longer to be slaves to sin.” I , myself, am torn on this issue…I can see where Lunde is coming from and yet, I don’t find in Paul’s writings what I would expect to find (Romans 7 being the exception that proves the rule) if we have not had a complete transformation. Certainly I am not arguing that there isn’t more that will yet be done (i.e.. glorification), but I wonder what hope there is for discipleship if it can only be partial hope. In the end, Lunde’s book encourages me to explore even more the Biblical foundations of discipleship. And that is certainly not a bad result for a book about discipleship.