But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.
Solomon wrote these wise words well before the invention of the printing press. It was true in his day. It is certainly true in our own. Over the years I've read hundreds of books. Possibly thousands. I've even written two of my own.
If we're not going to be excessively devoted to books but still want to gain value from them we must seek not just to read but to read books worth reading. As we seek the best resources to help us understand God's Word it is not always helpful to read the bestsellers. Some of the best books are much lesser known.
What follows are some of the best books I've encountered on important biblical subjects. Many of them will help you better understand the Bible itself which is by far the best book you can read. I pray these recommendations will be a blessing to you in your walk with the living God. I would also love to hear your recommendations if you find that one of your favorite books is not on my list! You can email them to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books by Joe Kohler
The Forgotten Officer is about church leadership. The leaders Jesus gave to equip His church are listed in Ephesians 4:11. One of these leaders has been redefined and forgotten. The role of the evangelist in Christ's church is crucial for our growth and fulfillment of the Great Commission.
"As a whole, this book is intelligently written and theologically grounded. ... a radical but well-supported idea that has the potential to reinvigorate Christian churches across the nation." -Kirkus Indie Review
Gate Crashers: The Offensive Church is about the church. The church exists to glorify God in all things and all places. The two main tasks of the church are the building up of the body and the evangelization of the world. When the saints are not properly equipped and edified, the evangelization of the world is hindered.
From the back cover: "God bless Joe Kohler for his deep concern for the lost, and for his passion to equip the church to fulfill the Great Commission in these closing hours of time." -Ray Comfort, evangelist and founder of Living Waters
Suggested Books To Build Your Theological Study Library
(click the link or the picture to buy from Amazon)New Testament Introduction contains a wealth of information on every book in the New Testament. It is a good companion to your study of the New Testament as it discusses important context and interpretive matters.
David Dorsey's The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi helps the modern reader to make more sense of the Old Testament text. Modern readers usually read the English text alone and in their heads. The Old Testament text was originally written in Hebrew, meant to be read aloud, in groups. This radically different way of reading/hearing the text leads to different observations. Dorsey helps bridge the gap in this excellent commentary.
Encountering the New Testament is a very readable book. It contains basic background information for every New Testament book and helps set the context for greater understanding of the Bible. Some may find Guthrie's book (above) to be a challenging read, but everyone should be able to profit from this one.
Encountering the Old Testament is the same as its companion, just for the Old instead of the New.
Few biblical genres can be as difficult to understand as the Old Testament prophets. As such, this Introduction to the Hebrew Prophets: The Prophets As Preachers provides excellent context and perspective to help you understand these important biblical books even better.
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth teaches how to properly read the different genres contained in the Bible. We don't read poems and textbooks the same, so why would we read every book of the Bible the same? The answer is we shouldn't. We should read every book of the Bible correctly and this book helps teach us how.
The Hermeneutical Spiral is a difficult read. What it lacks in ease it more than makes up for in content. Those looking for more than How To Read The Bible for All Its Worth provides may want to check out the Hermeneutical Spiral.
It can be easy to detect the errors in others interpretations but can you recognize your own errors? Exegetical Fallacies will help you to identify and then avoid common interpretive mistakes that we are all guilty of.
Every Christian should have a good understanding of how we got where we are today. The church did not begin or end at The Reformation. My suggestion for a good place to start is by reading Christianity Through The Centuries.
Often quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament can be a bit perplexing. I have found no better resource in these instances than this Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Every time the OT is used in the NT is covered in this wonderful commentary, which also provides background information on the original OT context, how Jewish sources understood those same passages, and how the NT writer is using the text. Really an excellent resource.
While I don't agree with every conclusion Viola draws, I love the purpose of The Untold Story of the New Testament Church. Viola seeks to reconstruct the entire New Testament period into one narrative and encourages you to read the NT along with his historical reconstruction. You can create your own historical reconstruction by reading the NT background research books above and draw your own conclusions. Viola has done this and the result is an enjoying and edifying read, even if you should take some of his conclusions with a grain of salt.
Like Viola's book (above), A Survey of Israel's History attempts to put the Old Testament into one coherent narrative. This is helpful because the arrangement of books in the Old Testament by genre and not in chronological order leads to confusion for many. This book can help straighten it out.
This Handbook of Denominations in the United States is a good book to keep on your shelves if you are like me and have a hard time keeping the history and theological peculiarities of each denomination straight in your mind.
Books on the Gospel
It would be difficult for me to overstate my fondness for Paul Washer's The Gospel's Power & Message. I have read this book many times and anticipate reading it many more. I have also given many copies away for others to read. I have found no better, more complete, or more careful discussion of the gospel than this book.
Paul Washer's Gospel Assurance & Warnings is a book for believers. It goes deeply into biblical tests of genuine salvation to warn false converts and assure genuine ones. Highly recommended reading.
What is the Gospel? is not as thorough as Washer's book above. However, that is not really a criticism or a weakness. It's a strength. Gilbert has done something that very few authors have done - he took the important topic of the gospel and made it very accessible. This short read is an excellent primer and a good giveaway to those just learning about the gospel.
Robert Coleman's The Heart of the Gospel is a theology book. I have a lot of Systematic Theologies on my shelves. The reason I recommend this book so highly is that Coleman always brings things back to the gospel. When theologians disagree, Coleman points these disagreements out - then shows why both sides still require the same gospel focus. A truly great read.
Don't be overwhelmed by the size of this book. The content is worth whatever time it takes to see how the gospel is interwoven through the entire Bible. Wright does a commendable job of demonstrating The Mission of God remains the same from beginning to end.
Recommended Evangelism Resources
For those just learning how to share the gospel effectively with others, I recommend The Way of the Master as a first step. It's better to take the Basic Training Course (below) together with a group of other like-minded believers for encouragement and edification, but if that's not possible this book is helpful for the individual looking to understand the biblical use of the Law in evangelism.
The Way of the Master Basic Training Course is not really a recommendation for individuals, but for leaders to use with their groups. I've taught a lot of different evangelism classes and this is one of the best.
Coleman's The Master Plan of Evangelism reads more like a discipleship book than an evangelism book. That's the point. Evangelism is often reduced to methods and procedures that can be taught in 8 weeks or less. Coleman demonstrates that Jesus's plan for the evangelism of the world involved a much deeper investment in His students, the Apostles.
William Fay's Share Jesus Without Fear can teach you how to unleash the power of God's Word in evangelism without fear of argument with those you are sharing with. A great resource for every Christian to understand and employ.
David Morel's Secret to an Open Door is a great, easy to read, and easy to implement strategy for increasing fruitful witnessing opportunities. It is based mostly on the Apostle Paul's prayers in Colossians 4:2-4 and Ephesians 6:18-20. Other books are better at clarifying the content of the gospel. This book's strength is teaching you to faithfully pray for more opportunities to proclaim the gospel.
Recommended Personal Edification Resources
A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Praying with Paul is hands down my favorite book on prayer. While other resources offer strategies and methods that may bless some, this is really a study on the inspired prayers of the Apostle Paul. Studying these prayers should influence our own as we learn Paul's priorities in prayer.
While I don't normally recommend prayer books that contain the non-inspired prayers of other people, The Valley of Vision is an interesting read. As I read through the prayers of some of our Puritan brothers and sisters, I am humbled by the superficiality of some of my own prayers. This book may be a blessing to you if you will allow your own prayers to be deepened as you dwell on the glory of our God.
Other journals exist for Charles Wesley but this two volume set is the one you want. This critical edition does not delete parts so you get the fullest picture you can. This journal is packed with encouragement through this faithful brothers salvation, preaching, and teaching ministry. Known mostly as a hymn-writer, Charles Wesley will blow you away as an indefatigable preacher of the gospel.
Volume I and Volume II comprise the entire manuscript journal.
For those who prefer the more famous Calvinistic Methodist, George Whitefield's Journals are another (and cheaper) option. Whitefield and the Wesley brothers had far more in common than they did in contrast.
Spurgeon's Lectures to my Students is both entertaining and challenging. A must read for anyone considering church leadership.
Jerry Bridges presents a balanced and biblical look at the believers responsibility to walk with the Holy Spirit empowered by the grace of God in the pursuit of living out the holiness that they have received as a gift in Christ. The Pursuit of Holiness is an excellent read and a lifelong pursuit.
The Practice of Godliness is Bridges' companion to The Pursuit of Holiness (above).
Why I Am Not A Calvinist (and its companion volume below) is a good resource for Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. I personally am neither Calvinist nor Arminian (although I've been accused of being both). Often those in opposing camps are more interested in lobbing insults than they are in extending grace. This book is as gracious and biblical a critique of Calvinism as I've found.
Why I Am Not An Arminian is a great resource like the above but from the opposite perspective. While some may be interested in one perspective more than the other, my recommendation is to prayerfully and carefully read both.
Recommended Apologetics Resources
Tactics assumes that you are already comfortable and equipped to share the gospel faithfully and clearly. If that describes you, then this book will teach you two powerful questions that will help you navigate any conversation and open doors to share the gospel. If you need help with communicating the gospel, don't start here but check out the resources above on the gospel and/or evangelism first.
Some Christians believe that thinking deeply is a sin or somehow detracts from faith. It isn't and it doesn't. J. P. Moreland does a great job in this book helping Christians to obey the command to Love Your God With All Your Mind. The section on logic alone is worth the price and should be read, in my opinion, by every Christian.
Books For Preachers and Teachers
Haddon Robinson's Biblical Preaching is a great read for any aspiring preacher of God's Word.
Wiersbe's book Preaching and Teaching with Imagination teaches the preacher to use biblical imagery as it has been inspired. Many communicators kill the imagery by over analysis. You may learn a lot from dissecting a frog, but sometimes it is better just to watch it jump. So too, we ought to let the inspired biblical imagery be free to jump off the page for our hearers.
If you can already study the text and come up with a great idea but struggle with how to arrange your material and communicate it effectively, then Communicating For A Change is a great resource for you.
Every preacher and teacher must have a firm understanding of the trustworthiness of the Word of God. Every generation sees new attacks on the Bible and all who seek to preach or teach from Scripture must be equipped to handle it correctly as the inerrant Word of God that it is.