Promise and Deliverance – S.G. De Graaf- Padea Publishing
S.G. De Graaf (1855 – 1920) was a prominent Dutch preacher in Amsterdam and Promise and Deliverance is his most famous work. It runs to 4 volumes – 247 chapters and 1626 pages. What is remarkable is that the original audience for these books were teachers of boys and girls. They are books of Bible stories!! Each chapter begins with a short summary, a theme sentence and then the body of the chapter runs to roughly 6-7 pages. It covers the narrative sections of Scripture. The books were originally published in Dutch in 1936, and translated into English by Evan Runner of Calvin College. The first volume appeared in English in 1977 and the final volume in 1981. Runner recounts in his introduction to Volume 3 that 25,000 copies of Volume 1 were sold in the first two years.
De Graaf is convinced that the hero of every story in the Bible is the Triune God and was concerned that “our purpose in telling Bible history ought to be the same as God’s purpose in recording it for us in his Word” (Vol 1 p18). With regard to Biblical Theology, what some of us in my generation naively thought started with Moore College in the 1980s, we discover with greater clarity and more theological depth in De Graaf.
You won’t agree with every jot and tittle and there are times when I disagree with De Graaf over the main point of the passage (particularly in volume 3 on the gospels where he’s got dispensationalists in his view too often – not altogether a bad thing, mind you). I do think these volumes are very helpful for preparation. He doesn’t miss the wood for the trees and, if nothing else, De Graaf gets the big picture. He is a master at putting the narrative into the main theme of scripture. There is no flatlining of the text which there sometimes can be with Redemptive Historical preaching, when you get to Christ without seeing the texture and the tone of the passage. For De Graaf the dominant motif is covenant, ‘Without Covenant there is no religion, no conscious fellowship between man and God, no exchange of love and faithfulness. Without the covenant, man would be just an instrument in God’s hands. When God created man, He had more than an instrument in mind: He made a creature that could respond to Him” (Vol 1.p36). You will also find that he gives a right emphasis to both Covenant and Kingdom without those two seeming to be pitted against each other.
As to why the word covenant is used less often in the New Testament, Runner summarises De Graaf, ”The gospels are concerned with the Christ, the Head of the covenant. All the light falls on Him. Christ came into this world as the Mediator of our redemption. He is the second – and the last – Adam. He was the new representative of His Covenant people. He bore the judgement of God upon sin for all who are in Him by believing in Him. But He also lived a wholly righteous life. That life of righteousness, which the covenant conditions demanded, He offered to the Father on behalf of His people. Although He was born of Mary, He was capable of living a wholly righteous life because He was begotten of God.” (Vol 3 p.17,18)
You can download the PDFs here but actually the books are truly worth getting. I got mine from the ever generous Joel Beeke, second hand. For men thinking of the ministry and elders they are a worthwhile investment; dare I say it, essential. I wish I’d read them years ago. They deserve to be reprinted. In short, get these volumes! For people in our churches there have to be contexts where they can get to grips with the whole of Scripture, training them to see the picture and, for those of us called to do this, I don’t think there’s a better place to help than De Graaf.
“I highly recommend this book. One of the best available” R.C Sproul
“This book deserves a wide audience among all who believe that the Bible is fully the Word of God and who wish to share the riches of the Gospel with others” Raymond O. Zorn, Westminster Theological Journal