John Piper loves the Apostle Paul. And so do I. That’s why I decided to pick up Piper’s new book Why I Love Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.
Early on Piper makes a bold claim: “No one in my life, besides Jesus himself, has led me into treasures of life-changing truth like this man.” If you’re familiar with Piper’s ministry and reliance on the Apostle’s writings, this won’t surprise you. Neither will some of the content—some of which you may have heard in a sermon or seen in print before (although I’m assuming not in the same exact wording).
Why I Love Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons is structured like a listacle, as the title suggests, but reads like a biography, as the title also suggests. This book shares why Piper loves the Apostle Paul, and is thus subjective and extremely personal. Another title could have been A Biography of the Apostle Paul’s Influence on John Piper, since the book functions as a dual biography of sorts, describing how Paul’s life, writings, and ministry have shaped Piper’s.
Since the premise of this book is fairly straightforward (especially for people who have read Piper before), I’ll cut to the chase and share my experience with it. While I haven’t finished the book, I really enjoyed this ‘dual biography’ approach since both Paul and Piper have influenced me greatly. I enjoyed learning about the birth of Christian Hedonism when Piper wrestled with Philippians 1:20–21. I enjoyed hearing of Piper’s experience clinging to Spirit-inspired words of Paul as he battled cancer. The reason I stopped reading was because I had a good taste of how Paul has impacted Piper and wanted a greater experience of Paul for myself.
It’s one thing to hear about a transformative journey from a trusted teacher, it’s another thing to take the same journey for yourself. If Piper heard this, I think he’d be encouraged rather than discouraged because it means his affection for Paul was contagious. I’m sure I’ll finish this book one day, and when I do, it will be motivated by a desire to see the construction of Piper’s Pauline-influenced theology and rejoice with Piper at how God used and is using the wonderful Apostle.
Since the purpose of the book was unabashedly subjective (why Piper loves Paul, not why we should all love Paul), it didn’t surprise me that one of the top reasons I love Paul didn’t make it in Piper’s list of 30: his prayers. (But to be fair, what makes Paul’s prayers excellent is the embedded theology and passion, both of which make up the entire book.)
In conclusion, I recommend Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons by John Piper for people who love both Paul and Piper and want the dual-biographical approach the book winds up taking. What I recommend more than this book is to soak yourself into the Apostle Paul’s 13 letters and life as told in Acts. Paul is an anomaly in church history, and the more we learn about him and from him, the more we will love both him and his Savior.
Title: Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Crossway Books
Rating: 4 stars
(I had to exercise great self-restraint not linking this song at the beginning of this review.)