There is a great tragedy in the Christian life when we are not able to describe Christ not because we know so little about Christ, but because we know Christ so little. As the object of faith, the Christian’s rest, reassurance, redemption, and reconciliation are all dependent upon Him. While there is no better authority or source for knowing Christ than Scripture, sometimes others can reveal the Scriptures to us in ways that we had not previously thought. Knowing Christ by Mark Jones is one of those books.
Because everything in life, not just the Christian life, is dependent upon a person’s exalted view of Jesus Christ, writing about our Lord and Savior is a monumental task. One cannot talk about Christ without covering a whole multitude of topics from creation to redemption to eternity. Therefore, one must appreciate how well Mark Jones develops the focus on Christ, covering a lot of ground and capturing the reader’s attention with one topic: Who is this Christ?
The Book: Knowing Christ
From Christ’s birth to Christ’s ascension, Jones seeks to show the activities and attributes of Christ so that people would know Christ better and love Him more. He notes, “How often we cut Jesus in half, wishing to know that we are saved and that all is well with destiny, but forgetting that to be truly saved means we must truly know Him!” While no book can compel us to love Christ more, it is statements like these that God can use to motivate us toward loving His Son more.
One cannot read Knowing Christ without appreciating the author’s priority and reliance upon the Word. We can be thankful that there are authors like Jones who are willing to place Scripture in such a prominent place within the book, since Scripture alone is our authority. However, I found two areas where the book needs more explanation.
While it is certain that the Holy Spirit had been active long before Pentecost (Acts 2) and indeed had been working in Christ during his time on earth, there are moments when the author seems to blur the roles and responsibilities, particularly in chapter seven when discussing the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of Christ. With that said, this issue is very minimal and knowing the author holds very solid views in his theology of the Trinity helps to alleviate those concerns.
Secondly though, it might add more value to the book to see more of the Old Testament passages that point to Christ involved in the writing. While Jones does bring in some Old Testament passages, most of it is with a passing glance or reference note. There are some mainstay passages in the Old Testament (i.e. Isaiah 7:14; Psalm 118) that would encourage his readers while accentuating his points to a higher level.
In reality, neither of these two drawbacks are worth straining over. One is simply a personal preference, while the other is mere clarification. They may be useful in assisting the author in his points, but the book still fulfills its purpose wonderfully without them.
When a reader recognizes the profundity of Mark Jones’s writings, the two areas of deficiency are minimized greatly. Jones has written a book that challenges Christians in both their knowledge and their walk. He brings forth Scripture to set before our eyes a picture of our wonderful Savior. While one could address the benefits in various ways, they can best be summed up with three notions: (1) transformed theology, (2) transformed thinking, and (3) transformed living.
Knowing about Christ and knowing Christ through relationship, cannot be addressed without addressing theology. Author Mark Jones does a great job of teaching difficult concepts in an understandable way throughout the writing. Interwoven throughout the book are the subjects of doctrine and church history. Within just one chapter, the author addresses the concept of the covenants, of subordinationism, and atonement (see chapter three, ‘Christ’s Covenant’).
Knowing Christ is a book that is meant to transform our relationship with Christ. It does this by transforming our thinking about Christ. The author points to failures in Christian thinking in order to elevate the readers’ view of Jesus Christ while minimizing their view of themselves. No longer is Christ portrayed merely as a servant of man, but man is portrayed as a servant of Christ.
From the outset, Jones demonstrates how Christians have incorrectly pictured Christ as Redeemer only, noting that when Christ is seen only as a redeemer, it subjects Him to people, when instead people must be subject to Him (see chapter two, ‘Christ’s Dignity). Such a statement challenges the mindset that Christians have had for so long, and yet it forces them to acknowledge that Christ is so much more than we have allowed Him to be in our minimalist views.
Knowing Christ stimulates one’s mental capacities forcing each of us to think more deeply about who Christ is and what our relationship with Him is to be. Bringing forth principles of logic, Jones pushes us toward conclusions such as, Christ’s eternality implies immutability, His sinlessness heightens the temptation, or even that Christ’s anger helps to reveal Christ’s mercy. The author leads readers into a level of thinking and understanding that many of us would not have thought we were capable of on our own.
Finally, to know Christ is meaningless if it is not lived out in a lifestyle. Woven throughout the book are not merely Mark Jones’s recitation of Scripture to tell readers who Christ is, but he takes it further. He uses each teaching as an opportunity to compel readers toward a desire for Christlikeness and then demonstrates how believers can be Christlike in character. Perhaps this is best seen in chapter eight (‘Christ’s Faith’) as Jones explains how Christ’s demonstration of faith enables a believer’s faith. He notes the following on pages 67-68:
“Far from demeaning Christ, his faith adds a luster to his holy life that should cause Christians to stand in awe of one who never wavered in his faith so that we might attain faith ourselves.”
Books are often great at conveying head knowledge, but Mark Jones does an exceptional job of conveying heart knowledge (to the best of his ability knowing that the Holy Spirit is ultimately responsible for the work in a believer’s life).
Seen as a follow-up to J.I Packer’s book, Knowing God, it is hard not to compare the two books and have a certain level of expectation. However, Knowing Christ is a book set apart in its own right. With a different style of writing, the author has a different emphasis and goal in mind. Thus, it would be unfair to make such a comparison between two great books. Instead, the book needs to be judged on its own merit with the recognition that it is indeed a solid book worth the investment of time it takes to read it.
With a balance between conveying the humanity of Christ and the deity of Christ, Knowing Christ is a book that is sure to stimulate your relationship with God through His Son. With a study guide in the back and shorter chapters, the book can easily be read as part of a Bible Study or even as a devotional (whether personally or as a family). Regardless, it is a book that is meant to be read slowly and deliberately. Take time to dwell on the pieces of presentation that are placed before you. There is much to the book, so continually read it in light of Scripture and allow them to work together to permeate into your life.