1 Corinthians. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. By Alan F. Johnson. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004. 343 pp. Paper, $19.00.
This commentary on Paul’s first (canonical) epistle to the Corinthians is somewhere between a devotional commentary and a technical commentary. Greek words are rarely mentioned. Yet illustrations are fairly rare in this work.
Johnson writes in an easy to follow manner. This work reads more like the transcript of sermons than it does like a technical discussion. JOTGES readers will surely appreciate this feature of the commentary.
The author’s treatment of passages related the Free Grace position show that he does not hold strongly either to Free Grace or to Lordship Salvation. For example, concerning 1 Cor 3:5-15 Johnson says, “Certainly they are not rewarded with salvation for their labor, since salvation is a gift of God’s grace, but perhaps they will be rewarded with some form of praise from the Lord (3:14; 4:5)” (p. 72). His discussion of 1 Cor 9:24-27 follows the same path (cf. pp. 149-52). Yet in his discussion of 1 Cor 6:9-11 (pp. 95-98) he implies that professing Christians guilty of repeated offenses will go to hell (“will not share in the kingdom of God,” p. 98). Similarly he says regarding 1 Cor 5:5, “Such unrepentant offenders must learn the folly of the world’s snare and have their sinful nature [italics his] destroyed through repentance so that their lives may be saved at the return of Christ” (p. 90, italics added).
Johnson seems comfortable explaining each passage as he sees it, even if his discussion doesn’t seem to link up with what he says elsewhere. In other words, he doesn’t seem to have a theological axe to grind.
I especially appreciated his brief discussion of 1 Cor 3:1-4 (p. 71).
Also well worth noting is his discussion of 1 Corinthians 15. After noting that he has been to many funerals where the preacher fails even to mention the resurrection of the dead, Johnson makes this interesting point: “For many years I have asked my evangelical theology students whether they believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Almost all unhesitatingly put up their hands. But then when I ask if they believe that Jesus is 100 percent human right now as well as divine, almost no hands go up. What has happened? I believe they cannot conceive of Jesus as now existing in a new human form (body); instead they think of him as some sort of disembodied spirit, even after the resurrection” (p. 280).
He then adds, “Faulty thinking about the resurrection has invaded the modern mainstream church, even among evangelicals” (p. 280). He follows that statement with this quote by Bynum, “‘Although opinion polls tell us that most Americans believe in heaven, it is clear that the resurrection of the body is a doctrine that causes acute embarrassment, even in mainstream Christianity’” (p. 280).
I recommend this commentary.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society