J. Sidlow Baxter. The Master Theme of the Bible: A Comprehensive Study of the Lamb of God. Part One, pp. 15-157. Kregel, 1997. 204 pp.
Baxter presents a volume on Jesus as the Lamb of God, a theme he believes to be The Master Theme of the Bible. This work is not technical, and most laymen will find its contents straightforward and understandable. These essays are simple Bible studies rather than academic or professionally theological treatises. Based on a collection of messages preached at Bible conferences, the contents of this book are “meant for the general public and average reader” (11). As such, the original languages occur only rarely, always accompanied by translation and explanation. Baxter’s style is often conversational, but this is intentional. Permeating the pages is a definite devotional demeanor. These reflections on the glories of the Lamb are sure to warm the heart of any reader.
The book divides into two parts. The first section explores the doctrine of the Lamb while the second peruses the dimensions of the cross. This review will cover only the first section, dealing with the person of Christ. The chapters are as follows: (1) The Revelation of the Lamb; (2) The Centrality of the Lamb; (3-5) The Sovereignty of the Lamb: Pre-incarnate, Post-resurrection, and Never-ending; and (6-7) The Finalities of the Lamb: Lord and Savior, and Judge and King.
The Bible, although a collection of books and letters written by many different people from many different times, cultures, and languages, is one book united around one grand theme. This can only be attributed to the work of supernatural revelation. Scripture’s divine origin shines forth through the progressively revealed nature of its doctrines. The doctrine of the Lamb exemplifies this as well as any theme of Scripture. Ten primary passages trace its progression throughout the Scripture, each revealing a little more about the Lamb. The first passage is Genesis 4 and the account of Abel. The second is Genesis 22 where Abraham nearly sacrifices Isaac. The third passage is Exodus 12 and the Passover lamb. The sin-offering lamb of Leviticus is next, followed by Isaiah 53 and the suffering Lamb. The New Testament revelation begins with John 1 and the Baptizer’s announcement of the Lamb of God. Acts 8 and Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian further unfolds this revelation of the Lamb. The eighth passage is 1 Peter 1:18-21, and the final two are in Revelation 5 with the Lamb on the throne and Revelation 21-22 where the Lamb reigns eternally. Each of these ten passages teaches a different truth about the doctrine of the Lamb, shedding more and more light on the perfect work of redemption that Christ accomplished.
Three of these passages emphasize the central position of the Lamb in all of Scripture: Isaiah 53, Revelation 5, and Revelation 20-21. From humiliation to exaltation to consummation, the Lamb is paramount in all of history. Although Christ arose from the grave in victory, the Christian must never leave the vision of the crucified Lamb. After His resurrection, Christ became the joint-occupant with the Father on His kingly throne. He now rules as sovereign over the Church and the universe. In the eternal state, the Lamb will continue His place of centrality. He is its light, its music, its theme, its source of joy, its object of service, its strength, and its glory.
The author takes a strong stand against liberalism, affirming that the Scriptures are “nothing less than the written Word of God, given by direct and inerrant divine inspiration” (17). The Bible is a supernatural book that records supernatural events. Although liberalism claims to have the scientific mind, Baxter persuasively argues that liberals have rejected the evidences and deny miracles based on an a priori bias against the supernatural. For this reason, liberalism is not scholarship; it is an antichristian attitude based on a willful denial of the truth. Although the author rejects amillennialism and affirms the premillennial faith (97-98), he nonetheless maintains that Christ is presently reigning over the universe as He is sitting on His throne in heaven (32, 95). The author also holds to the gap theory, arguing that a pre-Adamic race once inhabited the earth (109). The number seven in Revelation is symbolic for completion. Although there were seven literal churches to whom the seven letters were addressed, together they represent the visible church as a whole (122). The Lamb is central to Revelation, and what is intriguing it that the word for Lamb is arnion, which means “little lamb” (126).
The reader will find little to critique in the contents of this fine work, but the author’s style is sometime rather burdensome. In an attempt to make the message memorable, Baxter loves to give lists, parallels, and alliterations. For example, in the first chapter he traces no fewer than four lists of progression through the ten key passages on the Lamb. Sometimes the terms chosen seem contrived and forced to fit artificial parallels. Rather than aiding in remembering the material, the multiplicity of lists is often counterproductive and confusing. For example, in discussing the triune centrality of the Lamb, the author expresses it in terms of “the Cross, the Crown, the City” and the “Crucifixion,” the “Coronation,” and the “Consummation” (65). Such listings permeate the entire book, making the reader weary.
Baxter’s book is certainly a helpful book about an immensely important theme. Although he goes overboard with listings and alliterations, the passion of the writer for the subject will surely stir the heart of nearly every reader to worship the Lamb more fervently and proclaim Him more zealously.