I probably don’t need to remind you that I’m not Oprah. But if I had my own book club these would be my top picks. Yesterday I gave you a quick glimpse into my top 20. In the coming days I will give more details on my top five picks. Here then is the first installment…
#5: The Glory of Christ by John Owen
In a pop-Christian publishing world, it is difficult to find great books exalting the beauty and excellency of Jesus Christ. Yet a study of the person and work of Christ is the most beautiful, rewarding and life-changing study for our souls.
I cherish the writings of Puritan John Owen because he forces me to love what God loves, to cherish what He cherishes and delight in what He delights. It may sound simple, but really the demands here are quite high and the product is very rare.
Owen himself gives us a good summary of the book:
“That which at present I design to demonstrate is, that the beholding of the glory of Christ is one of the greatest privileges and advancements that believers are capable of in this world, or that which is to come. It is that whereby they are first gradually conformed unto it, and then fixed in the eternal enjoyment of it. For here in this life, beholding his glory, they are changed or transformed into the likeness of it, 2 Cor. 3:18; and hereafter they shall be ‘for ever like unto him,’ because they ‘shall see him as he is,’ 1 John 3:1, 2. Hereon do our present comforts and future blessedness depend. This is the life and reward of our souls. ‘He that has seen him has seen the Father also,’ John 14:9. For we discern the ‘light of the knowledge of the glory of God only in the face of Jesus Christ,’ 2 Cor. 4:6” (pp. 287-288).
And this is the theme Owen develops for the reader.
Now, as you saw from the quote above, Owen is not easy to read. But if you are patient and willing to rephrase his concepts into contemporary language, this volume is loaded with a lifetime of sermon quotes and insights on the person and work of Christ. Even worship leaders will find much usefulness in Owen.
The volume concludes with a great and passionate plea for the glory of Christ to be applied to the reader’s heart. A study of Christology is incomplete until the invitation is offered because “wherever there is a declaration of the excellencies of Christ, in his person, grace, or office, it should be accompanied with an invitation and exhortation unto sinners to come unto him” (p. 419).
This is what sets John Owen apart from other books written on the same subject: He calls for a response. John Owen is not content to paint a biblical picture of Christ’s glory and then leave the reader alone to get the point herself. Owen closes with clear, real-life application.
Owen’s understanding of Christology demands a response from the sinner. For Owen, to continue in unbelief is to despise the glory of Christ. Standing on the sidelines and thinking you see the beauty of Christ but do not hold Christ as your own, is to despise Christ’s person and office and the wisdom of God (p. 424). In other words, the more beautiful Christ is, the more important personal faith becomes and the more heinous the sin of personal unbelief.
I love Owen because he cuts it straight. He is an expert biblical exegete but he is a compassionate shepherd of souls, too. If your soul is dry and you need to feed upon the beauty of Christ, pick up a copy of The Glory of Christ and let its truth percolate down through your heart and fuel your Christian life.
The Glory of Christ, John Owen, Banner of Truth, complete works, 0851511236