"Insights on John" by Charles Swindoll

Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on John. Zondervan, 2010. 363 pgs.

Swindoll begins his book by explaining his own love for the bible, and for the study of the bible. As such, he is 'forever searching' for books resources which "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 drive those truths home to my heart in ways I do not easily forget." Finding these kinds of books is rare, says Swindoll, and therefore he has decided to be part of the solution.  Thus stands the reason for this series.  Swindoll has, with commendable alacrity, accomplished precisely that which he set out to do, no more and no less.  In other words, this book is a collection of sermons which take the reader through the book of John.

For myself, we have just finished 6 months of preaching from the gospel of John at BAC.  Therefore, I have recently read several other commentaries on John, the 3 most notable/helpful were: Newbigin, Carson, and Brown. Therefore, I could not help compare.

What I found was this.  Swindoll is successful in doing what he set out to do.  This book is engaging, connecting, and motivating.  It is engaging in that it is an interesting and easy read.  It is connecting in that he does draw the scriptures into the twenty-first century, 'making them relevant.' It is motivating in that Swindoll hardly misses an opportunity to exhort the reader to change.  However, these come with a price.  In making the complicated simple, Swindoll misses much. In connecting so quickly between the scripture and our day, I often felt as if the scripture was not allowed to speak for itself.  And, in placing so much stress on 'driving the truths home' Swindoll often ends up with applications and exhortations that have little to do with the central message of the text.

Overall: This was a good book.  Conditionally recommended; the reader needs to be cautious, lest she think that Swindoll is doing something he is not. 3.5 of 5 Stars.

Disclosure: This book was given to me for free in order to review by Zondervan, through engagingchurchblog.com


Andrew said...

Thanks for such a thoughtful review, Andrew. It seems fortuitous that you could review this after just preaching on John for 6 months (!). How did that sermon series go? Did your community respond to the teaching in any unique ways? Also, (if you don't mind my asking) how did you preach through the book? Verse-by-verse? Or in large sections?

Thanks again!

Andrew said...

Andrew, thanks for the comment and questions.

The sermon series went well overall. The responses were typically mixed, but I think we are seeing a growing desire in the congregation to deepen the faith of our community... We will see how it goes :)

For preaching, we did large sections. We did a couple of introductory sermons from John 1, followed by the 7 signs and 7 "I Am" statements, Jesus last teaching to his disciples and the Holy Spirit, and so on.

Andrew said...

Thanks for the response.

I like how you broke up the book of John for preaching. I asked that question simply because I've heard a lot of sermon series from the gospel of John over the years, and wondered how you went about it.

Recently I was in a Bible study that needed 3 meetings worth of "filler" material until we started our next organized study. So I picked 3 chapters from John that are easily discussed and we worked through them in order: Chapter 1, 17, and 21.

Jesus is the Word. Jesus prays for the Church. Jesus reinstates Peter.

We had great discussions and I used the Swindoll commentary in my preparation.