The following series of posts is a detailed summary and review of Paul David Tripp’s book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. I hope that providing this will encourage you to read the book in its entirety.
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Paul David Tripp. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002. 375 pages.
Paul David Tripp received his M.Div. from the Philadelphia Theological Seminary and his D.Min. degree from the Westminster Theological Seminary, also in Philadelphia. Tripp is a counselor at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where he is the director of Changing Lives Ministries, as well as a lecturer in practical theology at Westminster. In addition to his teaching and counseling responsibilities, Dr. Tripp has also authored several books and is a highly sought lecturer and speaker.
The purpose of this book is clearly stated by the author in the preface to the body of the text. Tripp states his two-fold thesis in the following manner:
…[T]his book is about: how God uses people, who are themselves in need of change, as instruments of the same kind of change in others. This book’s goal is not just that people’s lives would be changed as they give help and receive it. The goal is to help change the church’s very culture (xi).
Within the confines of this book, Tripp gives his reader a comprehensive outline for how these two goals can be accomplished, starting with the changes needed in the heart of each individual person, and then moving out, to describe the changes necessary in the behavior of people and in the interactions between people. While Tripp seems to be stating in his thesis that the ultimate goal is the radical culture change of the church as a whole, his writing consistently points to the fact that he believes change in the church will not occur without there first being an individual radical change in the hearts and minds of every believer in the church.
To further support this statement, Tripp begins his argument in Chapter One with the most basic heart change any person can experience: the change that occurs in the heart of one who has accepted Christ as Savior. Tripp argues that the need for change in the hearts of men is due to the Fall of the first man and woman. When sin entered the world, the need immediately occurred for a Savior to redeem the hearts of a now sinful mankind. In order for someone to recognize that a change is possible, or even needed, she must first recognize the fallen nature of her own heart and acknowledge the need to be rescued from that fallen nature.
Tripp clearly states from the beginning that only God can begin the redeeming process. “From the moment of the Fall, for generation after generation, he controlled everything so that someday he could fix what had been so horribly damaged. Into this world, at just the right moment, he sent his one and only Son” (3). While salvation from the damnation we deserve for our sins is reason enough to rejoice over the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the reader is quickly informed that, “The King came not to make our agenda possible, but to draw us into something more amazing, glorious, and wonderful than we could ever imagine” (4). There is more to this life than simply being redeemed so that we can share an eternity in Heaven with Christ; we are here to bring God glory through our actions and reactions to the world around us. Recognizing our sin and a need for a Savior and then accepting the call placed on every believer’s life to impact the lives of those around us is, Tripp states, the first step in becoming an effective instrument for change in the lives of people around us.
Chapter Two moves in a logical order from the main idea of Chapter One. Once a person has surrendered her life to Christ, there are certain things she should now be doing as one who is living in the grasp of the Redeemer. The overall theme of the second chapter is summed up in the following statement: “God transforms people’s lives as people bring his Word to others” (19). According to Tripp, this is the second step in the process of becoming a people helper; Christians are not to be those who simply refer their lost or hurting neighbors and family members to the church pastor. Rather, each person who has experienced a saving knowledge of Christ is called to bring Christ’s message of hope and peace and redemption to whomever in their life needs the message. Tripp continues to support his thesis of radical church change by focusing in this chapter on the idea that “in the biblical model, much more informal, personal ministry goes on than formal ministry” (19). His concept in this chapter is to enforce the idea that radical change is not solely the responsibility of paid church staff, but that, as a body, each member of the church is responsible for proclaiming the Word so that people’s lives will be dramatically changed.
Tripp spends a significant amount of time in this chapter answering the key question of any ministry: “What is the best way to minister biblically to another person?” (24). He answers this question in two ways. First he explains what biblical ministry is not. He states that biblical ministry is not the practice of throwing trite advice and biblical-sounding platitudes in the general direction of a hurting individual. He states that the topical, encyclopedic use of Scripture is an incorrect use of Scripture. In this vein of thinking, Tripp states, “If I handle Scripture topically, I will miss the overarching themes at the heart of everything else God wants to say to me…The sad fact is that many of us are simply not biblical in the way we use the Bible!” (27). Instead of simply stating the problem and moving on, Tripp does a good job of giving logical examples of how to use the Bible correctly in ministry situations. He then gives the reader what he calls the three overarching themes of Scripture: God’s sovereignty, God’s grace, and God’s glory. Next, these three things, he states, must be communicated to the hearer before any true change can take place in the heart. And change, Tripp concludes, “is the central work of God’s kingdom” (35).