In his delightful book about books, The Minister in His Study, Wilbur Smith says, “The most inexhaustible, inspiring, and important subject that can ever occupy the minds of men is the person and work of Jesus Christ.” He goes on to speculate that over ten thousand books about Jesus Christ had been written in English over the past two hundred years (prior to 1973) and beyond that would be all the books in other languages.
I think Wilbur Smith would have been happy to see a recent book titled Name Above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson. Published by Crossway Books, this small volume contains seven messages, each focusing upon one of the titles given to Jesus.
The book’s background is itself a great illustration of the ongoing world and life-changing impact of Jesus.
Both authors are Scotsmen, both are fervent believers, both are pastors, and both were serving in American churches. Alistair Begg, a Baptist, is pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and Sinclair Ferguson, a Presbyterian, only recently announced his resignation from First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Their common Scottish roots and childhood Christian experiences and their common in Christ cemented bonds of friendship—even more, brotherhood—between the authors.
The background to the material in the book was a conference in Memphis, Tennessee. I think it would have been a grand experience to hear these sermons. Thankfully, they can be read and reread with profit, in this volume.
The topics of the book are Jesus as the Seed of the Woman, the True Prophet, the Great High Priest, the Conquering King, the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant, and the Lamb on the Throne. The sweep of Old Testament prophecies, Gospel accounts, and insights from the Epistles are all packed into these sermons.
This is not an in-depth theological study of Christ, nor is it detailed exegesis of Christological passages, or an interaction with various theological views. It is preaching, proclaiming, and worshiping Christ—in print form. This is fine devotional reading, but that should not imply any fluff. This is a good theological survey, but that does not mean any dry details. This is the Gospel, Good News, for believers to hear and hear again.
Let me mention a few favorite parts of the book.
In the chapter titled “Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest,” the writer discusses Jesus as worship leader, song leader, and preacher of the Word. It is so easy for the mind to fade in and out in worship, for great words being sung to go unnoticed, and for the experience to be routine. But when we realize the presence of Christ, the lethargy, like the apostles’ sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, is shaken off. When the Word is preached, from whatever portion of the Bible, “Christ himself addresses our minds, speaks to our hearts, draws out our affections, and brings us to faith and repentance.”
Chapters 2, 3, and 4 unfold what John Calvin called the “threefold office” of Christ. That is, Jesus Christ is prophet, priest, and king. This rubric, or outline, is a useful study for connecting Jesus with the Old Testament. It also explains His teachings and ministry in the Gospels. The Epistles build upon different aspects of these titles. Hebrews, for example, is largely devoted to Christ’s work as High Priest. The kingship of Christ was a major point of His ministry and a point of contention for His enemies. Christ as prophet, a revealer of the Word of God, is clear from the Gospels in letters red and black.
My favorite chapter, I think, is “Jesus Christ, the Son of Man.” On the morning I started it, my intention was to only read a few pages into the chapter, which is thirty pages long. I had other readings that were pressing. After I got started into this study of the oft-used title “Son of Man,” I could not stop. Besides the instruction, based on Daniel 7, there was this remarkable quote regarding miracles:
“Already Jesus is giving glimpses of the future renewed creation. Perhaps you have gone into a darkened room and switched on the light, only for it to fuse. Yet in that moment you caught a glimpse of what was in the room. In a similar way the miracles give us momentary glimpses of the last and future world when all things will be made new” (page 121).
Perhaps that phrase “momentary glimpses” is a fitting way to describe this whole book. We need those images, exhortations, pictures of Christ before us constantly. This book preaches to the preacher, comforts the believer, and points us again and again to the Savior Jesus Christ.