Book Review

Hoeksema, Herman. Righteous by Faith Alone: A Devotional Commentary on Romans. Edited by David Engelsma. Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2002. xxvi. 702 pp., including Scripture Index and short bibliography. $41.95 US, hardcover. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien.

For the lion’s share of his ministry, Rev. Herman Hoeksema brought God’s Word to one of the largest Reformed congregations in the United States, the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Always a brilliant and powerful preacher, his series of sermons were well received by God’s people. Some of these series have been published. Here is another: a series of ninety-seven sermons on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans.

The fact that we have this marvelous collection is thanks to Mr. Martin Swart who was a member of First PRC until his death in 1977. Mr. Swart loved God’s Word and set out to make as many transcripts of the messages of his minister as he could. His great legacy to the Church of Jesus Christ - not only to the Protestant Reformed Churches—was a collection of sixty-nine notebooks containing complete series of sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism. When one reads these sermons, one is aware of why that large church building seating perhaps twelve hundred people was always full. At times there was standing room only to hear the great preacher.

These sermons have been gone over and edited by Professor David Engelsma. Do not let the word “edited” trouble you, however. This reviewer has in his possession photocopies of all the English sermons in the Swart collection. Random comparisons show that Professor Engelsma has done a magnificent job of preparing these sermons for print.

While the sermons in this volume do not cover all the verses in the epistle, they give the running significance of this marvelous book which god has given to us through the Apostle Paul. The result is a clear and simple presentation of the Gospel, and yet, a presentation that thankfully has theological content. In what other way can Romans be properly preached?

Those who would criticize Hoeksema for not preaching with a practical and personal emphasis must read these sermons. Already in the first sermon on Romans 1:14, entitles “Separated Unto the Gospel”, the author concludes his powerful message: “Do you say to the Son of God, ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom I belong’? Then this gospel is yours, and you can rejoice and say, ‘I then, having been justified by faith, have peace with God.’”

In another message (Romans 1:18), Heoksema writes, “...her who says, ‘There is no hope for me,’ and says, ‘Be merciful to me a sinner,’ and seeks his righteousness in the risen Lord, will no more taste the wrath of God.”

Many passages stand out in their warmth and spiritual blessing. The messages demonstrate a concern for the flock God had given to Rev. Heoksema to serve (p. 544f). Beautifully Rev. Hoeksema would lay out the Gospel (p. 671). He was very up to date, and remains so today. He asked, “Do the all things that are out of God also include evil?” Rev. Hoeksema answers that question on page 572. Like today, many parents had a deep concern for their wayward children. Rev. Hoeksema spoke to that deep hurt in his sermons (p. 402f).

Every minister will benefit from this volume, not only for clear exegesis and theology, but also for the pattern of sermon construction taught by example in this volume. Readers will be as spiritually blessed as were the people who sat in the pews to originally hear these messages. With perhaps one or two exceptions, each chapter is six or seven pages long. A Devotional Commentary on Romans is highly recommended. It can and should be used for devotional reading!

Rev. Jerome Julien is a minister in the United Reformed Church. He teaches full time at Zion Christian School in Byron Center, Michigan.

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