Monday, July 26, 2010

‘Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Insights on John’ by Charles R. Swindoll – Book Review and Giveaway

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One of my favorite pastors/teachers over the past few decades is Charles R. Swindoll. Zondervan has a new Bible study commentary series called ‘Swindoll’s New Testament Insights.’ His latest is 'Insights on John.'

Here is the synopsis of this book series:

Combining rich, rock-solid scholarship with a storyteller’s imagery and passion, Chuck Swindoll has a gift for sweeping people into the immediacy of the Scriptures. This landmark series is the legacy of a master teacher and communicator to the church of Jesus Christ. You’ll gain remarkable new insights into the Bible – and far more. God’s Word will come alive for you, filled with drama, power, and truth, as you journey with Chuck chapter by chapter through the New Testament. 

Here is the biography of this renowned author:

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the clear, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. He currently pastors Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas and serves as the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary ( His renowned Insight for Living radio program airs around the world. Chuck and Cynthia, his partner in life ministry, have four grown children and ten grandchildren.

Pastor Swindoll has written a plethora of books, including ‘Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Insights on Romans,’ which preceded this book. The next books in the series will be ‘Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Insights on James, 1 & 2 Peter,’ which will release in October, 2010, and ‘Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Insights on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus,’ which will release in February, 2011.

In the Author’s Preface, Dr. Swindoll explains why he wrote this valuable book:

Among my favorite and most well-worn volumes are those that have enabled me to get a better grasp of the biblical text. Like most expositors, I am forever searching for literary tools that I can use to hone my gifts and sharpen my skills. For me, that means finding resources that make the complicated simple and easy to understand, that offer insightful comments and word pictures that enable me to see the relevance of sacred truth in light of my twenty-first century world, and that drives those truths home to my heart in ways I do not easily forget. When I come across such books, they wind up in my hands as I devour them and then place them in my library for future reference…and believe me, I often return to them. What a relief it is to have these resourceful works to turn to when I lack fresh insight, or when I need just the right story or illustration, or when I get stuck in the tangled text and cannot find my way out. For the serious expositor, a library is essential. As a mentor of mine once said, “Where else can you have 10,000 professors at your fingertips?”
In recent years, I have discovered there are not nearly enough resources like those I just described. It was such a discovery that prompted me to consider becoming part of the answer instead of lamenting the problem. (pp. 7-8)

He goes on:

I am grateful that it has found its way into your hands and, ultimately, onto the shelves of your library. My continued hope and prayer is that you will find these volumes helpful in your own study and personal application of the Bible. May they help you come to realize, as I have over these many years, that God’s Word is as timeless as it is true. (p. 9)   

In the Introduction, Dr. Swindoll explains the Book of John this way:

John did not structure his gospel haphazardly. The narrative unfolds much like the Christian life itself. Our initial, intriguing introduction to the Savior quickly leads to a call to believe and to follow. Understanding will come in time. This is not an intellectual decision but a moral one. Then, as we witness His power, her His teaching, and experience life in His presence, our understanding deepens and our confidence grows. Gradually we become mature disciples, though never beyond the need for grace after failure. Dr. David Beck goes even further to propose that John intentionally portrayed anonymous characters – including himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – as a means of drawing the reader into the narrative so that he or she might participate in the story.
In other words, John’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth is no mere biography. The gospel of John is an invitation to believe in the Son of God, to become His disciple, to deepen our understanding of His identity and mission, to grow in maturity, and to join Him in tending His sheep.
Now…let us “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (1:29)! (p. 20)

Not only is that passage interesting and informative, but it is so beautifully written!

The first verse in the Gospel of John is ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ I have always been intrigued by what that verse really means. Dr. Swindoll explains that the ancient city of Ephesus was the birthplace of “The Word”:

Around 500 BC, a Greek noble of Ephesus named Heraclitus taught that the universe operates according to a rational structure, a unified ordering principle, which we can discern if we carefully observe its patterns and solve its many riddles. According to this theory, all the laws of physics, mathematics, reason, and even morality can be traced to this one ordering principle, which he called logos, “the Word.”…
Ephesus not only gave birth to the logos idea, it became a celebrated repository of texts on Greek philosophy. By the time John lived and taught there, clashes with the priests of Artemis had become a distant memory. Now, the philosophers of Greece, both ancient and modern, threatened to corrupt Christian doctrine. Some have suggested that John was overly influenced by the Greek logos idea and have accused him of leaning toward Gnosticism. Greek philosophers, however, would have strongly objected to the logos becoming flesh. John merely affirmed the valid parts of Greek philosophy in order to preach the truth of Christ on common ground.
Perhaps as a result of John’s teaching, the church of Ephesus became a fortress of Christian theology. (p. 24)

I learned something new from that ‘aside’; that is one of many in this book.

In John 5:1-18, the Pharisees challenged Jesus for healing on their Sabbath Day. Dr. Swindoll makes this strong statement about legalism, which is still prevalent to this day in the Church, and how it affected his own life as a young man:

Legalism is an enemy. I make this declaration not only on the basis of Scripture; I have discovered its spirit-smothering capacity through experience. As a young believer seeking companions to share my spiritual journey, I found myself surrounded by a group of legalists and, without realizing it, I began to embrace their views. I started gauging the quality of my spiritual life and the lives of others by a list of do’s and don’ts, measuring everyone’s worth in terms of performance and achievement. I wanted to pursue spiritual excellence, but I thought I could do it on my terms, as though righteousness depended completely on my efforts. Instead of experiencing greater joy in my relationship with Christ, I became critical and judgmental. I gradually cultivated a harsh, negative, rigid spirit. Freedom was gone. Worship was flat. Service was drudgery. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that environment of legalism was smothering me.
Because legalism is a subtle, silent killer, we need to understand our enemy before we confront it. We need to know what it is, how it appears, and why it is wrong. (p. 105)

I am involved in a women’s ministry class called Gracestoration in which the Good Shepherd and His sheep are strongly emphasized. Therefore, the section in John 10:11 (“I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep”) is particularly dear to my heart. Here is Dr. Swindoll’s commentary on that verse:

Jesus’ statement is a strong “I AM” (ego eimi), paired with the phrase “good shepherd,” which is particularly emphatic in Greek. What follows is a clear foreshadowing of the persecution He will suffer and a strong affirmation of His substitutionary death on behalf of His followers. Just as important is His acknowledgement that truth always will be a lightning rod for evil; nevertheless, He will not flinch as evil strikes Him with all the power of hell. As the Creator, He cannot be overpowered by anything. Yet He will voluntarily suffer and die to carry out the Father’s redemptive plan. (p. 191)

I love his straightforward writing style.  

One of my favorite parts of the Gospel of John is John 15:1-11, in which Jesus compares His relationship with His followers to a vine and its branches, and how both pairs had to abide in order to stay healthy and strong. Here is how Dr. Swindoll explains how we can apply that section of Scripture:

If you have trusted in Christ, your eternal destiny has been set. You are chosen of God and nothing will pluck you from His hand. Your position in Christ is secure; your production, however, is another matter. If you “abide” in Christ – that is, obey Him, primarily by loving one another – you will enjoy four specific benefits.
1.   Prayers are answered (v. 7)
2.   God is glorified (v. 8)
3.   Love is stimulated (vv. 9-10)
4.   Joy will overflow (v. 11)
(pp. 260-261)

This is a lovely hardcover book, full of Dr. Swindoll’s insights from his many years of life and study. I have enjoyed Dr. Swindoll for decades, and appreciate his writings in this book. He examines the book of John verse by verse, providing his thoughts and commentary. He also includes entries from his journal. There are photos and illustrations as well, as well as Key Terms including the original Greek and its transliteration. There are also maps highlighting where the events of the Book took place, as well as ‘The Gospel of John at a Glance,’ providing Themes, Emphasis, and Audience.
This book is terrific for the student of Scripture, as well as the new Christian who wants to learn about the ‘Love Gospel.’ I thank Dr. Swindoll for sharing his ‘insights’ as well as Zondervan for seeing fit to publish this wonderful resource, and I look forward to the rest of the books in the series.

You can order this book here.

This book was provided for review purposes by Zondervan Publishers.

I have a copy of ‘Swindoll’s New Testament Insights: Insights on Romans,’ the first book in this new series from Zondervan (and also another one of my favorite books in the New Testament; thanks, Andrew!), that I would love to send along to one of you!  This is another beautiful hardcover book full of Dr. Swindoll’s exemplary teachings.

There are several ways to gain entry:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog, telling me what your favorite book is in the Bible, and why.  Please make sure to leave your email address in this format – sample[at]gmail[dot]com.

2) Follow me on Twitter; I will more than likely follow you back! If you are already a Twitter follower, that counts, too! Please leave a new comment to that effect.

3) Follow me as a Google Friend on this blog; if you are already a Friend, that counts, too! Please leave a new comment to that effect.

4) Become my Facebook friend. Please leave a new comment to that effect.

5) Follow this blog as a NetWorked Blog Follower after you’ve become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

So there are five chances to enter! Please limit one entry per option.

This giveaway is for U.S. residents only. The deadline for entry is Monday, August 9, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  A winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 and will be contacted via email. The best to all of you!


John said...

Re: John intentionally portrayed anonymous characters – including himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – as a means of drawing the reader into the narrative

If one believes that bit of unbibilcal sepculation then would they also suppose that the readers of the Book of Revelation were to be put off when they find that John repeatedly identified himself by name in that book?

Ps. 118:8, Pr. 30:5-6 and many other verses warn against putting the authority of God's word in subjection to non-Bible sources. But one has to take off their own shoes before they can take a walk in someone else's moccasins and, similarly, when it comes to cases of The Bible vs. Tradition, one has to be willing to let go of the traditions of men in order to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight in the text of scripture. has a free eBook that just compares scripture with scripture in order to highlight the facts in the plain text of scripture that are usually overlooked about the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved”. You may want to weigh the testimony of scripture that the study cites regarding the one whom “Jesus loved” and may find it to be helpful as it encourages bible students to take seriously the admonition “prove all things”.

Bob said...

added you in Google Friends Connect, I am thinking that is what you meant by #3.

BTW, favorite book of the Bible is Proverbs, so much to learn in it.


Andrea Schultz said...

Hi John - thanks for giving your opinion on Dr. Swindoll's commentary on John's Gospel.

Hi Bob - that's indeed what I meant. Thanks for the follow!

Blessings -


Anonymous said...

I would love to win this book! If I have to choose only one, my favorite book of the Bible is Matthew because it contains so many of the words of Christ!

kate {AT} atentforthesun {DOT} com

karenk said...

i enjoy the gospel of luke....and the book of esther very much

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Favorite book of the Bible is Psalms. I love poetry, I love the depth of feeling there--there's a psalm for just about every time in a person's life! I also love Acts because of its exciting events and seeing God's hand. Romans is great. Well, ALL of the Bible is great!
I'd love to win this book--thanks!

lotus82 said...

I follow you on twitter (soklad)


lotus82 said...

I follow you on GFC


lotus82 said...

I follow you on networked blogs.


lotus82 said...

Facebook friends (stephanie christmann)

Bill Mazey said...

Romans 15:13 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Ephesians is one of my favorite books in the Bible because it is both doctrinal and practical.

wjmazey [AT] gmail [DOT] com

Misusedinnocence said...

Psalms. I love the poetry of it, it's so beautiful.

Misusedinnocence said...

I follow on gfc.

Deborah M said...

I am a follower and have done all of the above except Twitter. I don't do Twitter yet. LOL

I love the book of Romans. We are told over and over that Jesus wants to be with us through eternity, and all he asks is for us to believe.

Deborah M.

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