The Bible market is a peculiar one, and not just because there’s such a thing as a Bible market. There are hundreds of different variations available today:
Metal-ensconced Bibles. Kids’ Bibles. Women’s Bibles. Bibles showing you how to be a prosperity preacher. Interlinear Bibles. Klingon Bibles… I’m pretty sure there may even be a scratch-n-sniff version coming out soon (if not, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, you’re welcome)!
We ESV fans have plenty to choose from, too. The ESV Study Bible is certainly the best known by far, but there are a few others. And now they’ve added a new (and much-hyped) version to the family: the Gospel Transformation Bible. In this study Bible, readers are shown how the gospel permeates the entire text of Scripture, beginning in the first verse of Genesis and culminating in Revelation with explanatory notes written by the likes of Scotty Smith (John), Jared Wilson (Jude), Justin Holcomb (Acts), Ray Ortlund (Proverbs), Jim Hamilton (Hosea), and dozens more.
There’s a lot that I could say about this, but let’s get down to the most important, and most obvious, question: What makes the Gospel Transformation Bible different from other study Bibles?
The answer really comes down to purpose. This is a study Bible intended to go after the hearts of readers, to aid in their worship of the Lord. While the notes included definitely explain the text, they’re less technical than those of the ESV Study Bible and geared toward application in light of the gospel. The goal of the authors is not to simply give readers more information, but to encourage heart transformation.
One of my favorite sections comes from Holcomb’s notes on Acts 7:1-73, Stephen’s speech before he is stoned to death. Commenting on this passage, he writes:
Does the gospel “destroy Moses”? Is Christianity something new that breaks away from the Old Testament? These are the sorts of charges that Luke continually refutes in Acts. Christ’s incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection are the true fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of God. Jesus did not overrule and obliterate the revelation of God that had been entrusted to the Jews; he embodied and fulfilled it.
In the Old Testament, God made his dwelling among the Jews in the form of the tabernacle, a temporary tent that allowed Israel to say, “The glory of God is with us” (cf. Ex. 40:34–35). In the incarnation of Christ, God came to dwell among us, taking on flesh so that we may truly call him “Immanuel, . . . God with us” (Matt. 1:23; cf. John 1:14).
In the Old Testament law, God revealed his concern for justice and his love for the weak and oppressed (Deut. 10:18–19; 15:7–11; etc.). In the ministry of Christ, God himself brought good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, and liberty to the oppressed (Luke 4:18; cf. Isa. 61:1–2).
In the Old Testament, God required the lives of spotless lambs so that the curse of death would pass over his people (Ex. 12:5). In the death of Christ, God became the Lamb, whose sacrifice would once and for all defeat death (John 1:29; Heb. 7:27).
In the Old Testament, God brought life out of death, empowering barren women to give birth and bringing the dead back from the grave (Gen. 21:1; 25:21; 1 Sam. 2:21; 1 Kings 17:19–22; 2 Kings 4:34–35). In the resurrection of Christ, the Son of God walked out of the grave, triumphantly offering new life to those under the curse of sin and death (Rom. 6:4; 1 Pet. 1:3).
The God who raised Jesus is the same God who acted powerfully and faithfully throughout the Old Testament—indeed, the Christian gospel depends on this identification. People are not merely urged to join a new fad but are offered the undeserved gift of being grafted into God’s own people by the blood of Christ (Rom. 11:17–24; Eph. 2:12–13). We were once slaves, but now we are adopted as sons and daughters (Gal. 4:1–7). (pp. 1462-1463)
I realize this is a lengthy quote, you need to see how it all flows together. Do you see how everything Holcomb writes hangs on the gospel? He makes it very clear that the Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the Law and the embodiment of it. But his goal isn’t just to help you see how Jesus completes and fulfills the Old Covenant. His goal is to leave you in awe of what God has done through the person of Jesus Christ.
His desire, like the other authors, is to increase your worship of Jesus as you read the text.
This is something so few study Bibles offer in their notes, even in my trusty ESV Study Bible (which I love dearly). The ESV Study Bible offers brilliant technical notes, which are very helpful with writing and speaking projects. But I wonder, sometimes, if they’re not a bit intimidating for the average reader. The person who may not need to know about the nuances of tense and accents in Greek, but would benefit from a clear explanation of the passage in light of the gospel.
That’s what the Gospel Transformation Bible offers, and it’s probably this Bible’s most unique—and important—feature. And for that reason alone, it’s one I’m happy to encourage readers investigate for themselves.
Title: Gospel Transformation Bible
Publisher: Crossway (2013)