The Book Christian Faith in the Old Testament is here!

I was so excited to get the first copies of my book: Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles, Thomas Nelson, February, 2014.
Below is an imaginary interview that highlights the benefit and unique character of this book. I say “imaginary,” because I actually wrote both parts–both the questions, attributed to “Jim,” and the answers, attributed to me.

Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles, Thomas Nelson, 2014, by Gareth Lee Cockerill

Jim: Dr. Cockerill, your book has an interesting title, Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles. Just what is the purpose of this book?
Cockerill: Thanks for asking that question, Jim. I wrote this book to help ordinary Christian lay people understand the Old Testament as a whole and the vital message of each part of the Old Testament. Modern Christians are often woefully ignorant of the Bible’s first thirty-nine books!

Jim: But why is it so important to understand the Old Testament? Doesn’t the New Testament give us all we need to know about Jesus?
Cockerill: To read the New Testament without the old is like reading only the last chapter of a novel. The New Testament claims that what it says about Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old. The Christ of the New Testament fulfills the promise of God to Abraham, the history of God’s Old Testament people, the longings of the Psalms, the message of the Prophets, and more (see, for instance, Luke 24:27 and Acts 17:2-3). In fact, the Old Testament was the only Bible that the first Christians had.

Jim: I see, that is the reason for your sub-title, The Bible of the Apostles.
Cockerill: Yes, the Apostles began preaching Jesus with no Scripture but the Old Testament.

Jim: What led you to write this book?
Cockerill: Jim, for more than thirty years I have been fascinated with the study of how the Bible fits together and especially with the role of the Old Testament. This passion began in the 1970’s when I was doing my Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. It was fueled by my study of the Book of Hebrews, which draws so heavily on the Old Testament, and nurtured by my teaching of the Bible, both at seminary level here in the United States and while I was serving in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I began to see how grasping the Bible as a whole enriched my understanding of each Biblical book and passage. I saw how comprehension of Scripture’s unity facilitated my students’ understanding. Most of all, I saw how God could use this grasp of the whole Bible to make us more godly.

Jim: I see that you are pretty passionate about the Bible and about its unity! What, exactly, will a lay person get by reading your book?
Cockerill: This book offers three important benefits: (1) The reader will grasp how the Bible as a whole fits together. (2) The reader will come to understand the contribution that each part of the Old Testament makes to the whole. (3) The person who reads this book will gain insight into how each part of the Old Testament applies to us today and helps us live the Christian life. Christian Faith in the Old Testament helps us to identify with God’s people throughout history and to be reshaped by the word of God.

Jim: There are a number of recent books on the meaning of the Old Testament. What makes your book stand out from others?
• First, this book is written for lay people. It is both understandable and engaging. I was blessed to have several pastors and lay people read the manuscript. Then I took out anything that they did not understand. My son-in-law, Carey Vinzant, who is an excellent stylist, helped me. Thomas Nelson provided excellent editorial service. Furthermore, very chapter has helpful charts and diagrams. My students know that I am very visual!
• Second, the reader can use this book to go straight through his or her Old Testament. Many books on the meaning of the Old Testament rearrange the books in some supposed historical order.
• Third, this book tells you not only how each part of the Old Testament fits into the whole, but how each part applies to us today.

Jim: Great, but is this book only for lay people? What about pastors and students?
Cockerill: This book was written with clarity and without technical jargon for the benefit of lay people. It was, however, written for intelligent people. Theological students and pastors will find it useful for themselves and for ministry. Steve Schellin, Senior Pastor of Southland Community Church, Greenwood, Indiana, has this to say: “As a pastor, Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles really connects with me. I will use this well-written and informative book often in my reading, preaching, and teaching. In addition, I will encourage my congregation to read it! Dr. Cockerill helps everyone to grasp the wholeness of Scripture and provides aids to help us live an obedient life that reflects the full-scope of the bible’s teaching.”

Jim: Dr. Cockerill, just one more question. What about the difficulties that some people find in the Old Testament? Do you deal with them?
Cockerill: Jim, this is not a book about Old Testament “difficulties.” It is my conviction that we cannot deal with these “difficulties” until we have a grasp on the Old Testament’s unity and message. Only then do we have a context for deal with these questions. I have focused on helping people grasp this unity. Occasionally, however, when appropriate, I address problems some have raised about the Old Testament.

Jim: Thanks, Dr. Cockerill, for sharing with us about Christian Faith in the Old Testament: the Bible of the Apostles. We appreciate what you have done to help us deepen our knowledge of Scripture. I look forward to reading this book.
Cockerill: Thanks, Jim, for the encouragement. There is one more thing I would like to say. I have written with a sense of vocation and the conviction that God wanted me to share the insight he has given me with his people. He has confirmed this conviction with what appear to have been a series of miracles—getting the contract for the book in the first place, completing the book on time despite added responsibilities, and getting the fine endorsements for this book from so many people that I respect. It is a privilege to lay this book at the feet of Jesus to use as he wills.

“The Father of Mercies and God of all comfort”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Cor 1:3-4 (ESV)

Last night’s Wesley Biblical Seminary class on 2 Corinthians was rich. We were studying 2 Cor 2:3-11 using both the English and Greek text. This class is a wonderful mix of people, men and women of various ages involved in various ministry contexts—all motivated to understand and obey God’s word. There were five of us in the room and three more who joined us by Skype—one in Portland, Oregon, one near Mobile, Alabama, and one in Mexico City. Their three faces on the large TV screen at the end of the room reminded us of news correspondents—we had our correspondent on the west coast, our correspondent on the gulf coast, and our correspondent in Mexico City. We, however, were not interested in the evening news, but in the unchanging but every relevant truth of the Gospel found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.

Together we traced the logical structure of this passage. The God of all comfort who comforted Paul was also the God who would comfort and sustain the Corinthian Christians in the middle of their sufferings for Christ (2 Cor 1:3-7). Paul adds his own testimony to the faithfulness of God in verses 8-11. He begins by praising the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” and ends by urging the Corinthians to join in prayer for his deliverance so that, when God delivers, they, along with many others, will give God thanks.

Our study reminded me of that summer day in 1978 when this Scripture became so precious. I said “summer” day, but I should have said “rainy season” day, for we were in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The person who had been mission coordinator had been forced to return to the US because of a heart problem. There was no one else to do the job but me. The responsibilities were intimidating. My wife Rosa, who knows me well, was afraid that the responsibilities would tear me apart. I had taken the former mission coordinator and his wife to the airport—a round trip that took about six hours. The next day I returned to the airport to meet a visiting General Superintendent. His plane was delayed—when it finally came, he wasn’t on it. I arrived back where we were staying about two o’clock in the morning. The next morning I arose late, preparing for another airport run, but began the day by filling the tub with hot water—this was the only place in our mission where we had hot running water. I was going to have a soaker. It seemed a good idea to have my devotions while sitting in the tub. There I was, reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. . .” (ESV). “The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” spoke to me and said, “That’s who I am, and, if you will let me, I will give you the “comfort” you need to “comfort” your colleagues and to do this job I have given you for the next year.” I looked up and said, “Lord, that’s a no brainer. If you will give that comfort, I’ll take it!” God did! The year that followed was one of the best in my life. He gave me strength and joy, he enabled me to support my colleagues, and he blessed our ministry.  At the end of our previous term of missionary service I had gone home sick. After that year of God’s comfort we returned to the states with both health and joy. I bear witness—the God of our Lord Jesus Christ is, indeed, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

Making the Bible “Relevant”

We often hear people talk about “making the Bible relevant.” It is so easy to begin looking at the passage for Sunday by asking how it applies to the people in my church. What practical application can I make? However, a quick, sometimes superficial, attempt to find the relevance of Scripture often encourages us to import our own ideas into the text and prevents us from listening to what it is actually saying. We do not need to make the Bible relevant—it is relevant—it needs to be heard and understood. We must grasp its consistency, grand story, and the over-all unity of its message (see Christian Faith in the Old Testament ). When we have truly comprehended the thrust of Scripture, we will not doubt the importance of its condemnation of sin, offer of redemption, and guidance for life.

There are many facets to the perennial relevance of Scripture. Yes, the Bible addresses the need of the human heart throughout the ages. Yes, the Holy Spirit is continually working through Scripture guiding the people of God. There is, however, one aspect of this continuing relevance that often eludes us. We know that the Bible finds its center in Christ. He fulfills the Old Testament. The New Testament bears witness to Him. We tend, however, to limit this Christ-centeredness to the Christ who lived on earth some two thousand years ago. However, the Christ who took on our humanity, lived an obedient life, offered Himself on the cross, and rose from the dead, is now seated at God’s right hand as our all-sufficient Savior! The Bible is relevant because it finds its fulfillment in and bears witness to an ever-contemporary reality.

This insight came to me through my study of (you guessed it!) the Book of Hebrews. Last September I had the privilege and honor of giving a lecture on this subject at the Henry Center for Theological Understanding, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. If you are interested, I invite you to listen to “‘Do not Refuse the One Who is Speaking’ (Heb 12:25): Hebrews and Contemporary Preaching” at I cannot adequately express my appreciation to Dr. Tom McCall, Geoffrey Fulkerson, and many others who made my visit to the Henry Center and to TEDS very pleasant.

Finishing Well!


Today Rosa and I stood at the graveside of our dear missionary friend Ruth Pierson, with Chuck, her husband of more than 40 years, and her family. It was a  bone-chilling, dreary Michigan day with about a foot of snow on the ground. How good it was to hear Christ’s words pronounced by the minister: “I am the resurrection and the life,” and to know that the chill of death has been removed forever for those who await his coming. By his passion he has melted the cold hopelessness of life without God.

Ruth and Rosa had much in common. Fort starters, both served for three years in Sierra Leone as single missionary nurses, then came home, got married, and took their husbands back with them–Ruth brought Church and Rosa brought me. Rosa always looked forward to the times when we could visit with Chuck and Ruth.

It was a joy to fellowship with our many missionary friends who came to celebrate Ruth’s home going and to  share  our memories of her. Her faithfulness reminds us that the only life worth living is a life of trust in and obedience to Christ. Ruth has finished her course, kept the faith, and heard Christ’s “well done.” Her life beacons us to run the race with perseverance until we finish well!