Book Review: Portraits of Faith (Joel R. Beeke)

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The average Bible study analyzing biblical examples of faith would normally turn with rapidity to Hebrews 11. It’s the “Hall of Faith,” and rightfully so, there are plenty of great examples there. But what if we can learn the beauty, the extraordinariness, the profundity of Christian faith from chapters like Genesis 3, 2 Kings 4, Matthew 15, and Numbers 13-14?

These may seem obscure examples, but Joel Beeke’s goal is to highlight some of the more “underdog” stories of faith we find in Scripture, to illustrate the multi-faceted picture of what faith in Christ looks like. The men and women Beeke puts under the microscope are Adam and Eve, the Shunammite woman, the Caananite woman, and Caleb (3 of the 5 are women, which even more brings to light what is sometimes sadly looked over). In Portraits of Faith, Beeke has shared with us much of his research on this important doctrine, stemming from a seminary project that he spent much time on trying to find out the right way to present it! Beeke provides a very important anecdote:

I spent nearly fifty hours on this assignment before I wrote one sentence, yet everything I had done left me unsatisfied. Somehow it was too abstract…Then I began to think, this is the way! You can best understand faith by seeing how faith operates by the Spirit in the lives of fallen sinners like us. (7-8)

The book is very short, and could easily be a 4-week small group discussion or a quick personal study of four important biblical pictures of Christ-centered faith. I found all of the chapters helpful, but the two I most enjoyed were the Childlike Faith of Adam and Eve, and the Mature Faith of the Canaanite woman. Beeke is not dealing with easy texts here. He has not done a concordance search, found the word “faithful” in a story narrative, and simply expounded on it. Rather, he has found characters (such as Adam and Eve, the folks who helped usher sin into the world!) we may not expect, in situations we wouldn’t think we could find the doctrine of faith shine.

It is an encouraging study, because it reminds us that faith is a gift from God, not something we muster up in ourselves. Faith, according to this book, is a childlike, submissive, maturing, and preserving confidence in Christ alone. It is a leaning on the Holy Spirit to guide us, to guard us, to be our Helper. Faith is often a grey, murky word in Christian circles, but Beeke has sought to define it through people, and has succeeded. This is a small, but packed book. I definitely recommend it.

Note: I was provided this book by Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.

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