Friday, November 03, 2017

Books on Christian Sanctification for Baptist Separatists: My Recommendations

At different points, I have been asked what are some works that I would recommend on the Christian doctrine of sanctification. I believe that the books below are useful, even if I cannot recommend them without qualifications.  For the reasons explained in the study of the unscriptural nature of TULIP theology here, Calvinism is contrary to God's Word.  (So is Arminianism.)  Furthermore, the Bible teaches dispensationalism, as well as independent Baptist separatism, not Reformed eschatology that allegorizes large portions of God's Word. Any Calvinism or eschatological allegorization below is not recommended.  With those qualifications, I have found valuable the following works. (By the way, you can save on getting any of these works through online bookstores by following the method described here for Internet purchases.)

1.) A great way to grow in sanctification is to simply study the Bible.  A commentary that has solid and edifying applications is Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible.  Be sure to get the unabridged version, and, if you intend to read it through from cover to cover, or at least read it on the parts outside of the prophetic books where he spiritualizes eschatology, get one with print that is big enough to actually read instead of the one-volume unabridged version that has font that is so small that you will go blind trying to actually make out what it says.  Charles Spurgeon's Treasury of David is a wonderful commentary on the Psalms, combining penetrating exegesis with heartwarming application.  Charles Bridges' A Commentary on Proverbs has solid application on that book--we have gone through it as part of our family devotions.

2.) Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon, is a solid daily devotional by the famous English Baptist and separatist.  (The book's text, and audio files of it being read aloud, are on my website here; some of the other works referenced here are also present in the soteriology section on my website.  Many can also be viewed on Google Books.)

3.) Another daily devotional that is worth reading is The Poor Man's Morning and Evening Portions by Robert Hawker.  Hawker also wrote The Poor Man's Commentary on the Old Testament and The Poor Man's Commentary on the New Testament.  All are very Christ-centered, but sometimes he waxes allegorical in his desire to find Christ everywhere, and his Calvinism can thrust itself too much into everything in a way that does not happen with Spurgeon (although he also followed the TULIP).  The works were called "The Poor Man's X" because when Hawker wrote them he intended them to be available cheaply for the poor.  Today print versions are not that cheap.

4.) Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost by John Owen is a classic that shows the centrality of the Holy Trinity to the believer's sanctification.  Owen's sentences are not easy to follow, but the book could radically improve your understanding of and love of God as Triune.  I received permission to post a synopsis of Owen's argument online here, and I would recommend reading this synopsis first, and possibly listening to lectures #19-20 from my college class on Trinitarianism here, where we review Owen's argument, before tackling Owen.  Kelly Kapic has produced a version of Owen's book where the text remains unchanged, but a very extensive introduction and synopsis is present, along with notes on Owen's use of words that are not commonly used any more.  I would recommend most people read Kapic's edition of Owen.  Do not let John Owen's difficult sentences keep you from grasping the great truth he explains about the Christian's communion with the Father, Son, and Spirit.

5.) John Owen has also written some great works on Christian mortification: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers; The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers; A Treatise of the Dominion of Sin and Grace; and The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded. Kelly Kapic has done something similar to what he did to Owen's Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to Owen's works on mortification in a book entitled Overcoming Sin and Temptation. These works by John Owen are not the easiest reads, but the content is fabulous.

6.) Holiness, by J. C. Ryle, is another work that is definitely worth reading and with a great deal of solid content.

7.) This Day In Baptist History, David L. Cummins, is a valuable set (3 volumes) by Independent Baptists with encouraging daily studies from Baptist history.

8.) While these are not books, another great way to grow in grace is to listen to good expository sermons, such as those preached at Bethel Baptist Church in El Sobrante, CA.

Do you have any thoughts on the books above, or any recommendations of your own for devotional works useful for Baptists?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this list, Thomas.

E. T. Chapman

Bill Hardecker said...

Thank you for your book recommendations for "devotional" type readings, Bro. Ross. About two years ago, I have read Robert Hawker's Morning and Evening Portions, and just thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a worthy-read, imho, too. I also am fond of Matthew Henry. I would like to say that I have read him through from start to finish, so next year I will work to move on from Leviticus to Deuteronomy and thus finish vol. 1 of Hendrickson Publisher's set of Henry's Commentary. Their six volume set is perfect because not only are the fonts standard but also the KJB text stands at the head of each his sections.
A couple of works that I would recommend for devotional reads would be:

1. David Olson's Daily Light - Devotional Thoughts from the New Testament. The strength of this book is that the believer will have read through the entire New Testament in a year. There is also a Scripture reading chart at the back of the book. Olson's applications are extremely practical and super helpful. He even put out a giant print edition for senior saints. His website is help4uministries (dot com).

2. Jeff Voegtlin's Two Year Bible reading plan infuses a great daily dose of the O.T. and N.T. in a paragraph format with minor editing for ease of reading. Anyone can receive an email feed of this reading plan by signing up on his website (his name plus .com) and go to the Blog & Bible Reading tab, and click on the Bible Reading tab.

Some classic works that I think are worth reading and gaining something of spiritual encouragements from:

1. Edward Bickersteth's "The Trinity."
2. William S. Plummer's "The Rock of our Salvation" (Reformed/Ammillennial)
3. Octavious Winslow's "The Work of the Holy Spirit"

Along with the Scriptural mandate to "prove all things" and to "try the spirits," I believe these works are good for consideration.

Other honorable mentions (excluding their Calvinism issues) would be: Thomas Watson (gold in nearly every line of his "Body of Divinity," Richard Baxter's Practical Works by Hendrickson Publishers, A.W. Pink's Profiting from the Word of God are good.

I would suggest for you to format your "The Nature and Means of Vivification..." for these types of reading. I think that would be helpful. Of course, now I feel like the church member that says..."Pastor, here is something for you to do." HA!

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Billy,

Thank you for your suggestions. I am glad that you thought Hawker was a blessing. I am currently studying through Matthew with three commentaries: a dispensational one, of very careful Greek text-based exegetical one, and Matthew Henry. I think that Henry is a worthwhile read in much of the Bible, but would have less use for the prophetic books where he is going to spiritualize everything. I agree also the six volume set is a lot better because you can actually see what you're reading – that is what I use.

Thank you for the other recommendations as well. I have not read too much of Winslow, but have liked what I have read. I have never heard of David Olson. Do you know what his theological position is?

I think one significant difference between reading a devotional book by a Puritan and one by a Keswick author is that with the Puritan you kind of know what to watch out for (covenant theology and TULIP) while with the Keswick writer you never know what weird stuff you're going to come up with, and, furthermore, you are likely to have a much shallower interaction with the biblical text.

Thanks again.

Bill Hardecker said...

David Olson, is Mr. Dave, a brother in the Lord, and member of Fairhaven Baptist Church. He is serving as their Missions Director, College Prof, etc.
I no longer read Keswick writers. Especially after reading several pages of your articles on Murray, Meyer, etc. There really are better things to read anyway.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brother Ross,
Knowing your position on salvation, having read much of your articles on repentance, the Lordship of Christ, and sanctification, it does not surprise me that most of your book recommendations come from Reformed writers, most notably the Puritans. I say that because if anyone wants to find solid Biblical teaching on those doctrines, then the best place to find it would be from the Puritans, keeping in mind to filter out the Calvinism that you mentioned. I have searched long and hard, and I have found very little sound teaching on those doctrines from IFB sources, with the exception of your materials, Brother Bradenburg’s articles on this blog, and David Cloud’s writings. It concerns me greatly that so many IFB preachers are preaching a false gospel because of their unbiblical stance on the aforementioned doctrines. If more Baptists were right on those doctrines, then perhaps many of us would not have to be looking to the Puritans as much for sound teaching on those subjects. Of course, if not for the fact that most of our Anabaptist ancestors were slaughtered for their Biblical convictions by the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, we would most likely have a greater body of literature on those doctrines from those Anabaptists to glean from, who were much closer to us doctrinally, than the Puritans.

The one specific area that the Puritans were masters of relating to the doctrine of salvation, was on the subject of true and false conversion. They have a wealth of material on that subject, and most of it is very good. Also, it is not all Calvinistic, as Richard Baxter wrote some excellent treatises on true and false conversion, and he was criticized by both the Calvinists and the Arminians alike for not identifying with their camps. Of course Jonathan Edward's treatise on "Religious affections" is amazing, and there is nothing like that in all of IFB literature. I fear that even within our IFB circles that are right on the doctrines of repentance, faith, Lordship, discipleship, and sanctification, there is little to nothing written on the subject of true and false conversion, and yet Jesus himself addressed it often (Matthew 7:21-23); (Mark 8:34-38); (Luke 14:25-33); as well did the Apostle Paul on numerous occasions (I Cor. 6:9-11); (II Cor. 13:5); (Galatians 5:19-21); (Ephesians 5:5-6). I am concerned that many IFB preachers automatically assume that practically everyone in their congregation is saved if their church holds the Biblical position on those doctrines. Which is certainly not the case, as one can certainly ascribe to the truth of those doctrines in theory without ever truly being born-again.

I would agree with your recommendation on the book “Holiness” by JC Ryle. I believe that book is a powerful antidote to much of what Keswick theology teaches. Ryle rightly understood that the greatest problem and threat of Keswick theology, and with those who constantly talked about consecration, was that they ultimately minimized the new birth, and made it something much lower and less supernatural then what scripture represents it to be. So, the professing believer making Christ Lord of his life in a definitive post-conversion act of consecration became the emphasis over people passing from death to life in the new birth. Not good, and you and I both know that the fruit of such false teaching is that many IFB churches are filled with professing believers who are lost because of such teaching by men who ought to know better.

I think it would be great Brother Ross if you could get some of your materials published into book form. I am grateful that they are available online, but I am kind of old fashioned in that I much prefer to have the books rather than the online material. Again, just my personal preference. Your writings on repentance, Spirit Baptism, Discipleship, worship, and many others would be a great blessing to have in book form, and would supply a missing void in IFB literature.


KJB1611 said...

Dear Jason,

Thanks for the comment and the kind words.

Jonathan Edwards has some great works. I was going to mention also his Life of David Brainerd. His work on the religious affections is also worth reading, although (while I am totally with you on the serious problem with unconverted persons who profess Christ) he could sometimes, I believe, quench the bruised reed and quench the smoking flax and cause unnecessary doubts in immature true Christians.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Billy,

Thanks for the recommendation--it is good to know of another IFB who has written something useful here. It sounds like Bro Olson's work should be worth checking out.

I agree that reading Keswick people is a waste of time in the vast majority of instances.

Anonymous said...

I would highly recommend John R. Rice as a good source for many practical Biblical doctrines. His book on Acts and on "We Can Have Revival Now" are great. Times of revival aid greatly in the sanctification of believers so his book is helpful from that perspective.


KJB1611 said...

Dear Jake,

Thanks for the recommendation. While Bro Rice was off on Spirit baptism (see, e. g., here:

for the truth), and the modern Sword of the Lord rejects the gospel by denying repentance, Bro Rice believed in repentance and has numbers of heart-warming books that can encourage believers and that deserve mention. I cannot comment on the specifics of the two that you mentioned, however. His "The Soul Winner's Fire" was a blessing to me, however.

Thanks again.

Kent Brandenburg said...


John R. Rice took a keswick view of sanctification. He was a revivalist. If someone were to read his book on the fulness of the Spirit, he would find himself totally messed up on biblical sanctification, looking for a second blessing and in many ways making Acts normative for today. I would call him a soft continuationist.