Book Review: By His Wounds You Are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman's Identity

Image of By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman's Identity
by Wendy Horger Alsup
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 2010
Paperback 176

Not only was I delighted to review this book, I am also delighted to recommend it. It has been said that each generation needs its own writers to convey the old truths in fresh new ways. I think perhaps Wendy is one such writer. She has the ability to distill truth into simple phraseology. Early in her book, I enjoyed this statement: “I am a mix of pride and shame—pride when I get it right, shame when I mess things up. Understanding redemption frees me from both” (p. 31).

By His Wounds is a study of the book of Ephesians, written for women. While the Scriptures are obviously sufficient for people of both genders, this book brings women’s concerns and everyday needs to the table of Scripture. Wendy shows how it looks for a woman to unpack the great and precious promises we have in Christ and try them on in her own home, as she relates to her husband and guides her children.

I enjoyed the way this book is put together. I like the size of it—more of a workbook than an average-sized paperback. The margins are wide. Each chapter (there are 35, which easily lends itself to a month-long study) has a page of empty lines where the reader can put down her reflections. There are study questions, but these are located at the end of the book. One of the things I liked best was the inclusion of actual scriptural passages instead of references only. The entire text being addressed precedes its respective chapter in the book. Cross-referenced verses are almost always offered in their entirety. It is possible to do this study with this book alone, a simplicity greatly appreciated by a busy mom like me.

Wendy takes small parcels of Scripture at a time. Some chapters are a brief two pages while others may have more space devoted to them, depending on the subject matter she chose to focus on. The material is presented in such a way that it is user friendly for a new convert as well as for the more seasoned believer. It is earnest discussion, but very accessible.

The study progresses from chapter to chapter through the epistle of Ephesians, just as Bible commentaries do, though not as exhaustively. If there was one negative point in reviewing this book it would be that I would have enjoyed reading Wendy’s insight on even more of the epistle than is included. But it was not her purpose to do an extensive exegesis. Her central idea, as is communicated by the subtitle, is “how the message of Ephesians transforms a woman’s identity.” The study is designed to answer the question, “Who am I in Christ?” I was encouraged to think about the effect of the gospel upon each of the numerous roles I have in my life.

Wendy offers thoughtful, inspirational discussion on the big ideas (adoption, election, redemption, grace, hope, sexual immorality—she spends a couple chapters carefully addressing the topic of spiritual warfare) in this epistle. She is candid and transparent. Any woman reading this book will be able to relate to the struggles she shares and find hope in the conclusions and truth she draws out of the text. Wendy is careful to continually take a step back and observe Ephesians as a whole to make application in light of all the ideas previously addressed. She draws from John Stott’s Message of Ephesians numerous times throughout the book and chooses mainly the ESV for the Scripture passages.

One of my favorite discussions was the one regarding our role not only as adopted children but also as the Bride of Christ, with allusions to various passages from Hosea. Later in the book she addresses submission and the role of the husband and wife. This self-revelation made me smile:

I have noted in my own life that I enjoy hearing exhortations meant for my husband, but then the thoughts of what he should be doing are rolling around in my head, and I watch like an Olympic judge to see how well he is doing. (p. 129)

As I approached Ephesians 6, I was looking forward to the discussion of the armor of God. It has been a favorite topic of study for me. One can get caught up in details though, and miss the most basic truth, which she identified in these words: “This is war, and the most important thing in war is to stand in place and not give ground” (p. 142). Well, yes, come to think of it!

I was surprised by Wendy’s thought that “[God] is the original wearer of this armor,” citing Isaiah 11:5 and 59:17 (p. 143). This is a fresh vantage point on a passage I’ve read and heard sermons about many times. I like it when an author opens up a new facet of a familiar idea. About the breastplate specifically, she writes, “If you are weighed down by the idea of righteousness, you have let the wrong people define the term for you” (p. 144). She mentions that in this warfare it is crucial to identify the enemy, poignantly stating, “It is ridiculous to think we can win a battle with an enemy by attacking his prisoners, but we do it all the time in the church” (p. 143).

Wendy is serious about getting women serious about studying the Scriptures. Not in the “touchy-feely, emotional, Jesus is my boyfriend fluff” (p. 130) sort of way many of us have discovered is common in Bible study materials today. This was a refreshing read for me. I plan to use it for my ladies study group.

Readers of this review may be interested to know that Wendy is currently conducting a discussion of By His Wounds on her Facebook page.


Diane Heeney is a stay-at-home mom, who enjoys some freelance writing, blogging, and speaking for ladies’ retreats and functions. She received her BA (Church Ministries) in ‘85 from Bob Jones University and went on to serve at BJU as a secretary in the Extension office and later as Director of Girl’s Extension Ministries. Diane and her husband Patrick have helped a number of churches in the past 16 years, and are now assisting the ministry of a growing church in Lander, Wyoming. They have three children: Erin (13), Michael (all camo, all the time at 10), and Kate (their sweet surprise, now 4 yrs old).

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There are 3 Comments

Michelle's picture

I'm glad you mentioned the physical layout of the book in your review. I've always wished Bible studies would include ALLl the Scripture I need to complete the study. It is hard to balance an open study book and open Bible when you're sitting on the back porch enjoying God's sunrise.

Thanks for the review and link to the Facebook discussion.

Dick Dayton's picture

Thanks for the review. My wife teaches a ladies Sunday School class, and is always looking for some good materials that are both practical and true to the text. I have been using a John MacArthur set with my men's Bible study, and it also includes the text of Scripture in the book, which keeps us all focused.

Dick Dayton

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Thanks for the review Diane. I will be ordering a copy for my wife, Kim.

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