Book Review - The Great Exchange

 

ISBN-10: 1581349270  
ISBN-13: 9781581349276
Special Features
bibliographical references, index,
appendix—outline of the doctrine of atonement

Authors
Jerry Bridges
Bob Bevington

Bios from Crossway

Jerry Bridges is a longtime staff member of the Navigators and currently serves with their collegiate ministry. In addition to his international speaking ministry, he has authored ten books and three devotionals; among them The Pursuit of Holiness, which has sold well over a million copies, and the award-winning The Discipline of Grace and I Will Follow You, O God.

Bob Bevington has practiced optometry since 1980 and cofounded several companies. His passion, however, is the message of the cross.

 “The word for becomes a most important operational word, the very fulcrum of the Great Exchange … . The gospel is written in the language of transaction … his death for my sin becomes my death for my sin, and his sinless life lived for me becomes my sinless life, my righteousness” (p. 219).

Patterned after The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton (published in 1870), The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness is a survey of the primary New Testament passages discussing the atonement. Second Corinthians provides the thesis for the book with these words: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 ESV).

The book is divided into two parts. The first part attempts to establish a systematic theology of the atonement and presents the “apostles” (the New Testament books of Acts through Revelation) as providing the “completed view of Christ’s work of atonement” (p. 25). This “completed view” of the atonement is in contrast to the “Atonement Foreshadowed” (Chapter 3) in the Old Testament sacrifices and the “Atonement Expected” in the Old Testament prophecies (chapter 4).

Part Two is a walk through the New Testament with a pause at each of the key atonement passages for a concise presentation of their significance in the panoramic landscape of the atonement.  Rather than systematizing the atonement, Part Two utilizes a biblical theology model in order to effectively show the atonement as one of the core teachings of the apostles. The book concludes with a very brief outline of the doctrine of the atonement, more as an afterthought rather than a sufficient summary.

The Great Exchange defines atonement as “the satisfactory compensation made for an offense or injury, in which a price is paid on behalf of the offending party, resulting in their discharge from the obligation to pay the due penalty” (p. 23). It goes on to remind us that the cross is the culmination of the atonement, and Christ was the substitute Who took our place and provided the atonement for our sins. Not only did He die for our sins, but He also lived to provide for our righteousness forever in Him. 

Chapter six is a wonderful summary of Paul’s concept of “the righteousness of God” and rises to the top as one of the most helpful and quotable chapters. In it, the author defines “the righteousness of God” as “an attribute of God [that] refers to who God is in His holiness and perfect justice, and it ultimately means God’s unswerving commitment to display his glory and uphold his name” (p. 82). It further explains “the righteousness of God” as, “the righteousness that is transferred from the sinless Christ to sinners as a result of his finished work on the cross” (p. 82). The only way to harmonize these two ideas of righteousness is in the grand Bible doctrine of the Great Exchange: my sin for His righteousness.

 With the exceptions of Philemon, James, 2 Peter, and 2 & 3 John, all of the New Testament books are represented. Romans and Hebrews are the two books with the most material, which probably goes without saying since Romans is Paul’s “textbook” on salvation, and Hebrews is primarily concerned with a new and better way of salvation found in Christ.

Strengths

This book presents fertile ground for further study. I put several notes in the margins regarding things I would like to study more deeply. The book was both academic and devotional. Rather than jumping to conclusions or making sweeping assumptions, the authors take special care to guide one reasonably through the necessary steps that they themselves took in order to arrive at their conclusions, and they do this without getting bogged down in details. The logic the authors use in making their points is commendable and quite refreshing. It was also an asset to have the book arranged by Bible passage, which makes it a useful reference tool.

Weaknesses

Due to the format of the book and a seeming desire to make each passage explanation able to stand alone, there is a tendency toward overlap and repetition. This would only be evident to those who read it through from cover to cover. The book also lacks footnotes and Scripture cross references. These two features would have made it a more authoritative volume on the atonement.

All in all, this book is a fantastic resource. I would recommend it to pastors and layman alike. It provides a great one-stop overview of all the facets of the atonement. It is written on a high school to early college level, but is quite engaging as well as accessible. The importance of this book lies in its clear and concise demonstration of the atonement as central to our understanding of salvation. There were no rabbit trails or hobby horses in the book. It stays on task and unapologetically declares and defends the need for the Great Exchange to take place in every person’s life.

I was drawn to the book initially because Jerry Bridges’ name was on the cover. As I read further into the book, the devotional content was a definite aid to my spiritual walk. I was able to read it around the Easter season, and the book certainly helped to put the cross in perspective. I have also used it occasionally in sermon preparation and, most recently, in the preparation of a doctrinal statement. In the forward, Sinclair Ferguson quotes Lord Bacon’s essay, “Of Studies,” and writes: “’Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.’ Here is spiritual food to be chewed and digested” (p. 13).

Discussion Questions

  1. In your opinion, what is the most comprehensive passage regarding the atonement? Why?
  2. In your opinion, what is the most concise biblical statement of the atonement?

Anthony Hayden currently serves as the music director of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church (Lebanon, IN). Prior to his present ministry, he and his wife, Mary, taught for two years at a Christian school on the island of Saipan in the western Pacific. Anthony graduated from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) in 2000 with a B.Mus. in Church Music and an M.A. in Teaching Bible in 2002. Anthony and Mary have two daughters, Mercy and Naomi.

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