Book Review: “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands” by Paul Tripp

Title: “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands”
Author: Paul David Tripp
Publisher: P&R Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-87552-607-2
Pages: 360
Release Date: November 2002
Rating: 5/5 (highly recommended)
Purchase: Amazon.com, WTS Bookstore

NOTE: I have since done a re-review of Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, published July 2013.

Most counseling books, I imagine, deal exclusively with behavior modification. In this book, Tripp points out how this approach to counseling is neither biblical nor helpful. As Christians, and particularly as Reformed Christians, we know that “[t]he heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9) and that “the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Thus, Tripp argues, the goal of the Christian counselor is to address problems at the root—their heart—to move counselees to becoming partners in God’s goal of progressive sanctification. Tripp also notes that everybody is a counselor, whether informally or formally, Christian or non-Christian. We all very frequently offer insight and advice to those around us. As such, this book will be very helpful to any Christian in preparing them to counsel a fellow believer in a biblical manner.

As an aside, I think that a book like this one could only have come from a publisher such as “Presbyterian & Reformed.” To be fair, an Arminian publishing house could also have published this book, since they are also very doctrinal and believe in total depravity. But being a Calvinist, I admit that I have a tendency to read Reformed books written by Reformed authors published by Reformed publishing houses. But my point here is to say that I find it doubtful that any of the “major” Christian publishers like Zondervan or Tyndale would have published such a book that believes in the total depravity of the human heart and thus views sanctification not as a behavioral modification effort, but a God-led transformation of the heart.

This book is grounded in a few basic principles: that the gospel that justifies also sanctifies, that sinners are continually in need of help because they are blind to their sin (Ps. 36:2-4), that God has called each us to be used as counselors (Heb. 3:12-14), and that counseling involves a relational approach. From this, Tripp develops a four step model of “love, know, speak, do,” which he explains in great detail. We are called to love others as God loves us, which means caring for them, but it also means not allowing them to live willfully in their sin. To be effective counselors, we must also know whom we are dealing with, down to their heart, where the sinful problems lie. Then we must speak the truth to them, showing them their sinful heart as we are able to see it, but also providing the comfort and hope that comes from knowing that God is working to sanctify us. Finally we are to help them do something about what they have learned, to be active partners in the sanctification process.

This book has been very helpful to me in illustrating my need for what can also be referred to as “accountability.” Tripp notes that sanctification is not an individual matter, but according to Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 is meant to be a collaborative effort (327). I am a fairly “go it alone” kind of guy, who sees the wisdom in the axiom “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” But because I know my tendency to be blind to my own sin, I am growing in my recognition of my need for people to counsel me in showing me the sins in my heart so that we can allow God to transform and participate in the overthrow of the dominion of sin. Everybody is blind to his or her own sin, and everybody needs counsel. Not only that, but everybody is a de facto counselor, and as Christians we should know how to handle situations that will arise. This biblically grounded and argued book comprehensively, conversationally, and lovingly addresses these needs. I strongly recommend it to you.

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