During the last supper we had with our beloved systematic theology professor Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, I asked him, “Dr. Ferguson, John Frame’s systematic theology was out a few months ago. When is your turn? When will you write your own?” He smiled at me and said (picture Scottish accent), “Never, I will not join those who recently wrote sub-standard textbooks on systematic theology. I think what we have from Bavinck and Berkouwer are fine. No need to add another new yet bad one … Maybe you write one for me?” Anyway, I do share his feeling sometimes. When I see a new systematic theology textbook, I often think “Not Another Systematic Theology Textbook!” So here I am, writing a review of a systematic theology textbook, a volume from a multi-volume work (one of which happens to come from Dr. Ferguson …although I am not reviewing his now) This is my take on a quick glance from Letham’s volume, “The Work of Christ”
What is a good framework to systematize the work of Christ? Bavinck chooses the dual state of Christ –humiliation and exaltation. Letham finds the munus triplex framework a fitting system as each office is defined in terms of the works.
Letham lays down his foundational doctrines: covenantal unity in God’s purpose and people fulfilled through Christ, the soteriological centrality of union with Christ, and the kingdom of God as the reign of God over the world.
In part 2, Letham starts engaging with the prophetic role of Christ. Letham traces such a prophetic function from Christ’s earthly ministry to the apostles and finally to Scripture under the mediation of the Holy Spirit. In part 3, Letham starts with the consequent absolute necessity of the atonement and upholds the doctrine of penal substitution. In relation to justification, Letham correctly criticizes the linearity of ordo salutis which tends to separate the work of Christ and the Spirit.
What could be a better ending than the kingship of Christ? Part 4 covers both the cosmic and the ecclesiastical dimensions of Christ’s kingship. Letham emphasizes the necessity of creation in Christology as the pre-existent Creator Son is the incarnate Christ, i.e. the unity between creation and redemption. Later, Letham argues that church should be the spearhead of cosmic redemption as the church is the resurrection community.
Overall, this book reminds us that we are united with Christ and share what Christ has. Therefore, just as Christ is the prophet, priest, and king, so we are as well in a derivative sense. That alone could be a good enough reason to read this book.