‘By His Wounds’ straddles genre in the sense that it’s more than a study guide but less than a commentary. It’s what Wendy calls ‘a short study’ – it’s not exhaustive and it’s geared towards the goal of encouraging women (who may have been put off by studies written by men) to take the book of Ephesians more seriously.
The great strength of this book is the opportunity it gives women to interact with scripture. Each section is preceded by the relevant chunk of Ephesians and then each chapter has that bit of Ephesians at the top of the page. It feels like a workbook and the reader is encouraged to make notes, scribble ideas or write out thoughts, if that’s helpful. It’s clear that Wendy’s been gripped by scripture and this book invites other women also to mine the spiritual wealth of God’s word. She exhorts women not to settle for knowing the gospel but missing its transforming power.
What I learnt from this book:
- The grace of God means that I need not respond to God as someone desperate for love but as someone secure in the love of her Father.
- It is not my responsibility to play Junior Holy Spirit or to try to coerce others into godliness but to trust profoundly in the power of prayer.
- Being part of Christ’s bride means that in some sense I complete him.
Wendy writes passionately and uses her own journey to illustrate the points she’s making. It’s pretty chatty and Wendy comes across as a fellow sister wrestling with these issues and sharing God’s transformation of her thinking and life. There are powerfully honest appeals to the reader as a sister in Christ. I found it a little melodramatic at times but that’s probably a case of personal preference (or maybe an Australian / American thing). This book lacks the same finesse as ‘Practical Theology for Women’ but I think for many women, its rawness would be part of its appeal.
However, after the introduction, the first few chapters are quite dry. It’s not that the theology’s not exciting: it’s just that there’s not a whole heap of application or women-specific stuff. Wendy acknowledges that. It’s because she’s following the shape of Ephesians – big picture first, then the more practical stuff. However, at the end of section one, there’s some really good heart-work to be done which, had it been introduced throughout section one, may have spiced it up a little. It’s worth it to persevere though and the theology of the first two sections does set the scene well for the latter half which is a valuable cluster of biblical thinking on difficult issues like marriage, forgiveness, motivation, sexual sin, church abuse and spiritual warfare
In terms of its theology, Wendy is heavily dependent on John Stott’s commentary on Ephesians and also quite concerned with word study from the Greek. I thought that most of the time her own reflections were adequate without having to quote from Stott and I wasn’t always sure that the Greek word study added much to her case. The real value is not from the technicality of this work but from when Wendy shares of her own experience of being transformed by reading Ephesians and especially when she addresses the reader.
This book might be a little heavy going if you’re just reading the Bible on your own, though the discussion questions will help with that. (They’re at the back rather than in the relevant chapter, which I thought was a bit weird, but once you locate them, you’re flying.) But for a women’s Bible study group or the like, this is a helpful resource. It’s eager in its approach to the Bible, brave in its content and heartfelt in its pleas. I’m planning to use it in some of my mentoring relationships.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.