My Thoughts

A Christ-centred ministry: Book Review of ‘Spurgeon on the Christian Life’ by Michael Reeves


*Why bother about someone who lived about two centuries ago? As the preface to the ‘Theologians on the Christian Life’ series, of which the book under review is a part, points out, studying past theologians and believers gives us perspective:

“We tend to lack the perspectives from the past, perspectives from a different time and place than our own. To put the matter differently, we have so many riches in our current horizon that we tend not to look to the horizons of the past.”

Hence, a look at an aspect of the life and ministry of one of the great leaders in the last two hundred years would surely afford us some perspective.

The man

The name of C.H. Spurgeon is beloved among evangelical [i] Christians. He is loved for the warmth and wittiness of his writing, as well as the biblical faithfulness which exudes from his sermons. Living between the years 1834 and 1892, his influence has far outlasted his short years.

But how well have we really known him? This volume by Michael Reeves has successfully helped to bridge that gap for us in the twenty-first century.

Spurgeon was pre-eminently a preacher. Coming from a long line of preachers, it is hardly a surprise that God chose to call him to the same vocation. In view of this, his life and ministry are relevant to modern preachers, as the book so clearly displays.

This is particularly because Spurgeon wasn’t merely a preacher; he was a Christ-centred one. And his devotion to Christ was not a mystical adoration, it was a thoroughgoing reliance on the person and work of the Redeemer. It resulted in several other points of emphasis in Spurgeon’s ministry. He spoke of the depth of human sin, the compelling need for the new birth, the daily reliance on the cross of Jesus for the believer’s sanctification, as well as a life of prayer. This dogged focus on Christ arose from his saturation in scripture, which he saw as leading to Jesus from every text, in much the same way every hamlet or town in England had a path that led to London.

Spurgeon was equally a pastorally minded theologian. Although he was well versed in theology, with knowledge of the biblical languages, yet he always sought to distill this in plain terms which ordinary people could understand.

A catholic Calvinist

He was what we might call a catholic Calvinist. He described his perspective thus:

“Calvinism means the placing of the eternal God at the head of all things. I look at everything through its relation to God’s glory.”

However, his Calvinism was derived from his devotion to Christ. He saw that everything hinged upon Christ and upon God’s sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners. So he was willing to extend a hand of fellowship to those who, while not adhering to Calvinism, clearly reveled in the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ. As Michael Reeves reminds us,

“He rejoiced in warm fellowship with Methodist, Arminian friends, viewing them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and “natural allies” in the gospel of free grace against ritualist and rationalist Christianity.

It is helpful to hear Spurgeon himself on this:

“We believe in the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic; but we do not regard those five points as being barbed shafts which we are to thrust between the ribs of our fellow-Christians. We look upon them as being five great lamps which help to irradiate the cross; or, rather five bright emanations springing from the glorious covenant of our Triune God, and illustrating the great doctrine of Jesus crucified.”

Spurgeon’s perspective is thus a helpful guide for some believers today, who zealously adopt the name of ‘Calvinist’ yet fail to extend charity to those who might not have grasped the full extent and beauty of God’s redemptive plan.

RegenerationSpurgeon - book

Converted to Christ after a 5-year period under conviction of sin, Spurgeon never doubted the importance of regeneration or the new birth. And he believed it was the commencement of the Christian life. Thus he came to view baptism as the public profession of this new life which had just commenced at regeneration. As Reeves narrates, ‘he believed that baptism is essentially about an outward expression of the believer’s faith, not a conferral of God’s grace.’

In view of the foregoing, Spurgeon was vehemently opposed to the practice of infant baptism (or paedobaptism). Aside from his conviction that the practice is not scriptural, he believed that it obscured the need for saving faith in Jesus Christ. Many orthodox believers in paedobaptism, no less than John Calvin or John Murray or most of the Puritans, would disagree. They would insist that baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant; unlike Spurgeon who claimed it was an expression or ‘avowal’ of faith.

Spurgeon was concerned, and I think rightly, about the dangers which the practice of infant baptism could breed in people. For so many in his day and ours believe themselves to be safely in God’s kingdom because they had received baptism as infants. However, I believe his concern was also shared by many who still held on to the practice because they saw that the flow of scripture required it. The problem lies in whether a full diet of scripture is presented in churches which practice it. Do they clearly teach that baptismal regeneration is unscriptural? Do they remind the parents of the child that their infant is to be brought up to eventually and truly profess faith in Jesus? Where these are lacking, infant baptism would lead to serious issues.


Spurgeon came to realize, just like a great number of witnesses throughout the history of the church, that the call to follow Christ often comes with suffering as a package. While suffering has no redemptive effect itself, it is a means by which God often fits his workers for ministry to others.

This brings to mind Peter’s counsel to believers in 1 Peter 4:12 that suffering should not be seen as something strange. Paul also instructs us that God will not allow us to suffer beyond the measure of God’s grace (1 Cor. 10:13). Our faith in Christ bears us up and leads us to trust in Him even more.

We should take the Puritans seriously

Those familiar with Spurgeon have long known that he loved the Puritans. This volume was helpful in showing why.

Aside from being brought up in a home which treasured their writings so much as to have a large stock of them, Spurgeon was struck by their depth and seriousness. As any reader of the Puritans would realize, they took the Bible seriously and would spend so much time and ink in ‘screwing the word into men’s hearts’ (their language)

In addition, the Puritans’ devotion to Christ, which shines through their writings, endeared them to Spurgeon. Here is a quote from Richard Sibbes[ii], one of the Puritans, which might have just been spoken by Spurgeon himself:

“The special work of our ministry is to lay open Christ, to hold up the tapestry and unfold the mysteries of Christ. Let us labour therefore to be always speaking somewhat about Christ, or tending that way. When we speak of the law, let it drive us to Christ; when of moral duties, let them teach us to walk worthy of Christ. Christ, or something tending to Christ, should be our theme, and mark to aim at.”

For the Puritans, theology was to lead to worship and prayer. One of the early representatives of this school, William Ames[iii] had even defined theology as the science of living to God. Their profound grasp of the doxological end of all theological study resonated with Spurgeon and made their writings his lifelong companions.

His favourite book after the Bible was the Puritan classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress[iv]. And Christian’s journey was for Spurgeon a true picture of the believer’s experience. Coming from the City of Destruction and moving on to the Heavenly Jerusalem, the believer meets all sorts of challenges and frustrations on the way. But under the watchful eye of his crucified but risen Saviour, the journey is completed successfully when the Christian enters into the joy of his heavenly Father. This was itself a summary of Spurgeon’s life and ministry.

And it continues to be a description of everyone who shares Spurgeon’s faith in the glorious Christ.

*Michael Reeves. Spurgeon on the Christian Life (Theologians on the Christian Life). Crossway, 2018. 192 pp. A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Crossway through the Blog Review Program.

[i] Evangelical Christians believe in the divine authority of the scriptures, the universal problem of sin, and the truth that only in Jesus Christ can people be reconciled to God and receive salvation.

[ii] Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) – Anglican pastor and theologian

[iii] William Ames (1576-1633) – English Protestant theologian and pastor

[iv] The Pilgrim’s Progress, published in 1678, is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan (1628-1688)


Don’t Let Your Ego Stop You from Becoming a Servant Leader

Blanchard LeaderChat

More than 6,300 people have registered for our Servant Leadership in Action Livecast coming up on February 28.

That’s a lot of people!

I think the event is popular because people recognize we are in desperate need of a new leadership model—one that recognizes that people lead best when they serve first.

(For more information about the Livecast, keep reading.)

We have all seen the negative impact of self-serving leader behaviors. So why does this type of leadership continue to be so prevalent in today’s organizations?

In my experience, self-focused leadership is always caused by an overactive ego—one that is driven by comparative feelings of being either more than or less than others. Once you fall into one of these traps, you spend your time trying to either prove how smart you are or win the favor and approval of others.

One of my favorite books on this topic is

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Who is an editor?


A midwife after taking delivery of a baby


An editor is a midwife – a midwife of ideas.

Women have been given that unique position and privilege of conceiving a baby and having the precious human being gradually develop within them. While the child grows, she supplies all that is needed for growth. After a period of around nine months, the baby is fully developed and is ready to be born.

Then steps in the midwife. Through training and experience, with sensitivity for the tenderness of a baby and knowledge of the complexity of the delivery process, the midwife helps the baby transition from the womb to the cradle for the whole world to see.

The role of an editor is much the same. Hardly the owner of the idea, an editor is one who helps a writer or author to birth an idea or thesis or message which is tucked away in the recesses of the mind and fashions it into a fully formed product. The editor does not just look for apparent errors of punctuation and grammar; they go further. An editor questions the style, worries about the tone, digs out the intended meaning, scrutinizes the language, and ensures it is suitable for the intended audience.

An invaluable resource, the editor hardly gets the credit. That still belongs to the writer or author. And for most of us, that is fine. We rejoice in the knowledge that through our skill and painstaking effort, a voice, message or idea has been put out for the world to hear. The editor is largely a behind-the-scenes agent who performs essential back-end tasks and hardly gets seen. And like the frame on which a beautiful picture sits or the canvas on which a striking portrait is painted, the editor supports the creation of a work of beauty and skill. They are neither the painting nor the portrait, yet both depend on them.

I am an editor, and I am glad to be a midwife of ideas.


The Christian and history

The Christian Mind

les-anderson-167377 Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

I had a discussion with a friend recently, and our discussion veered towards how many Nigerian schools were not teaching history. We reflected on the little instruction in history we both received as young pupils compared to the apparently worse state the subject is in today.

Our brief conversation later got me thinking about how crucial the subject of history is to the Christian faith and worldview. And the relationship is such that the believer cannot afford to neglect the subject.

Unlike the traditional African ‘God’ who is aloof from his creation, the Christian believes in a God who acts in history. Right from his creation of our first parents, he gets involved in their lives. Planting a garden and commissioning Adam to tend it, He reached out to save them when they fell. He sent Abraham to a foreign land, rescued his descendants generations later…

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Understanding Grace

The Christian Mind

joshua-earle-63441 Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Grace is central to the Christian worldview. At the core of the Christian understanding of reality is that although man has fallen from his exalted position in which he was created, God has stepped in to secure his salvation. And this salvation Paul has declared to be by grace:

 “For by Grace are you saved” (Eph. 2:8)

How then does grace play out? What is involved in God’s display of saving grace? Let us briefly examine five themes which highlight how God’s grace works out in the salvation of individuals.

Man’s utter sinfulness

The Bible describes the condition of fallen humanity as one of death. God issued this threat if our first parents disobeyed His injunction (Gen. 2:17). Sadly, they did. And the sentence was passed in keeping with divine justice. All the miseries and ills befalling humanity ever since – crime, broken homes…

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The Idol of Politics

The Christian Mind

Dome - National assembly National Assembly, Abuja

If you grew up in Africa, the word ‘idol’ immediately conjures up images of ancestors offering food items or performing rituals to some sculpted artifact or a natural feature (rocks, rivers, or trees). And your reaction would probably go like this: “Our ignorant ancestors were uneducated; that was why they could hold to such silly beliefs. We, their descendants, know better than to kneel before such lifeless and unresponsive gods.”

Such a view would be sorely mistaken. Idols are way more than we think.

According to Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton in The Transforming Vision, idols are good, created things which we have absolutized and religiously pursued to give us fulfillment. They are aspects of God’s world, but we put them in God’s place to provide what only God can give. So many things have been thus misused, including money, sex, fame, and even reason.


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