Bryan Chapell. The Gospel According to Daniel: A Christ-Centered Approach. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014. 224 pp. $16.99 [Buy on Amazon]
B.B. Warfield famously described the Old Testament as a room “fully furnished but dimly lit.” In saying this, the great Reformed theologian of Old Princeton meant that the basic and crucial elements of the gospel were revealed in the Old Testament, but full revelation awaited the arrival of Jesus Christ, who would be the fullest revelation of God’s glory.
Author and preacher Bryan Chapell has given his life to Christ-centered preaching. He has written numerous books and has served the church both in the pastorate and in various academic positions, most notably as president emeritus at Covenant Theological Seminary and as professor of preaching at Knox Theological Seminary. Chapell is an incredibly gifted preacher especially with regard to exposing the glory of the gospel in the Old Testament. In his own words, “My passion and privilege for the past three decades have been to help others see the presence of the gospel throughout Scripture. My contention has been that Christ’s grace does not wait until the last chapters of Matthew to make its appearance but rather is the dawning light increasing throughout Scripture toward the day of the Savior” (7).
When it comes to the book of Daniel, Christians either focus too much attention on the example of Daniel or on the end times prophecies. This unbalanced focus usually clouds understanding of this remarkable book. Chapell believes there is a better way to approach Daniel. He brings his gifts to the book of Daniel in his latest work, The Gospel According to Daniel. Chapell unfolds the oft-misunderstood book of Daniel by taking into consideration biblical, theological, contextual, and Christological elements; and he constructs a bridge between this Old Testament text and the cross of Christ. The Gospel According to Daniel is a practical look with a Christ-centered lens into one of the most well known, yet confusing books of the Bible.
The Gospel According to Daniel is divided into as many chapters as is the book of Daniel itself; twelve. In the introduction, Chapell makes clear that he has not set out to write an exegetical verse-by-verse commentary. “Rehearsing the facts” is not why he wrote this book (7). If you are one to typically skip the introduction in a book, you should not miss this one. Chapell’s introduction is a valuable resource in itself for preachers and students of the Bible. In it he unpacks the importance of Christ-centered study of Scripture and gives a guideline on how a Christ-centered approach to Scripture is best.
Chapell exposes the gospel in each chapter and then makes multiple application points through healthy biblical theology and helpful stories and illustrations. The flow of this book is sermon-like. You will feel like you are reading sermons on Daniel, instead of an analytical commentary. Essentially, Chapell preaches the book of Daniel to his readers.
The Gospel According to Daniel is a resource that should find itself on the shelves of pastors and lay people alike. While pastors will find an incredible help in preparing sermons on Daniel, lay people seeking to better understand Daniel will be able to see Christ in Daniel and make gospel applications to their lives. The format of The Gospel According to Daniel enables this. It is easy to navigate the book for help in studying various passages in Daniel.
While not every verse in Daniel is commented on and though there are things that are not addressed, the overall message of Daniel is conveyed and seen in a Christological lens. While The Gospel According to Daniel would fall short of serious theological and exegetical studies in Daniel, it is a valuable devotional guide and preaching resource The practical benefits for casual study of Daniel are far-reaching.
Right Hero Worship and Saving Faith
The greatest strength in The Gospel According to Daniel is Chapell’s avoidance of hero worship. It is so easy to approach a book like Daniel and come away with greater awe for the man than for his God. This is especially true in kids ministry. Many curriculums elevate men like Daniel as demigods to be worshiped. Chapell directs his readers to worship the true Hero, Jesus Christ.
Chapell’s explanations of saving faith in Daniel 3 and 6 are insightful and were my favorite parts of his book. I left with a deeper understanding of saving faith. Instead of simply calling for following the example of the young Judean men in their relentless faith, Chapell describes what true saving faith looks like while also observing what it is not. For example, Chapell writes on the resolve of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 in the following ways:
“Biblical faith calls for each of us to acknowledge God’s provision as sufficient, loving, and good even if it falls short of, or contradicts, immediate desires that cannot fully anticipate his plans or fathom his wisdom” (55).
“True faith simply acknowledges that God knows and does what is right. True faith does not pretend to know all that must be done. Any faith that insists God must do things our way in order for him to be truly faithful does not fully trust him” (56).
“Teaching that some heroic degree of faith will inoculate us from trial or tragedy destroys the faith that we actually need in the midst of such afflictions” (58).
The emphasis throughout the book is not on the faith of Daniel, but on the grace of God in the gospel as it is seen in Daniel. This grace-centered, Christ-centered format allows readers to rightly understand Daniel while avoiding the error of hero worship.
It is often difficult for Christian pastors and lay people alike to see Christ in the Old Testament. So, pastors often do not preach Christ-centered sermons from the Old Testament and many Christians struggle to know how to study the Old Testament. In the end, best efforts at understanding a book like Daniel boils down to hero worship of a biblical character. Bryan Chapell offers a better way to approach not only Daniel, but all of the Old Testament; in a Christ-centered way that leads to worship of the only true Hero.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggershttp://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.