War of Words (Book Review)

There are only a handful of contemporary Christian authors who, whatever they publish, are worth reading.  Paul Tripp is one of those writers.  In the year 2000 he published War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles.  In the subsequent 12 years, this book has become something of a classic.  Tripp is well-known in Presbyterian and Reformed circles, but he deserves as wide an audience as anyone.  His biblical insight is incisive.  His human insight is penetrating.  His humility and honest is a breath of fresh air in a world of Christian publishing that too often stifles regular Christians with law without grace (pharisaical religion), or grace without law (licentious religion).  Tripp offers something different.  He knows he is a sinner saved solely by the grace of God, and he is not afraid to bare his own struggles in ways that will make you laugh with sympathy and cry with empathy.  War of Words is nothing short of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that gracious good news announced to sinners in need of forgiveness and new life, applied to our life of communication–certainly the most far-reaching aspect of life.

War of Words is divided into three parts with a total of 13 chapters.  Almost every chapter is structured like a good exegetical and expository sermon.  In other words, Tripp selects a complete Bible passage (even printing it in the book) and spends an entire chapter explaining, illustrating, and applying it to our life of talk.

Part 1: Talk is not cheap
1. God speaks
2. Satan speaks
3. The Word in the flesh
4. Idol words
Part 2: A new agenda for our talk
5. He is King!
6. Following the King for all the wrong reasons
7. Speaking for the King
8. Getting to the destination
9. Citizens in need of help
10. On the King’s mission
Part 3: Winning the War of Words
11. First things first
12. Winning the war of words
13. Choosing your words

In part 1, Tripp shows that the war of words is nothing new, but has been raging since the dawn of creation between God and Satan, for the hearts of humanity throughout the ages.  God dealt the decisive blow to his enemy with the coming of the Word in the flesh (God the Son, Jesus Christ).  But the war continues in every person’s heart because sinners are still speaking words that glorify their heart idols rather than the one true God.

Part 2 offers the solution to our word problem–a new agenda, which is the agenda God assigns to his adbassadors.  If you have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, the Word in the flesh, then your agenda is set by your Lord.  This agenda (or standard) is explained in his section.

In part 3, Tripp offers the biblical strategy for God’s servants to win the word of words.  In involves embracing the gospel every day through repentance.  The steps of repentance are consideration, confession, commitment, and change.  Chapter 12 shows what winning the war of words looks like–essentially living the Christian life by walking in the Spirit and submitting to God and others for the purpose of being an agent of God’s redeeming love.  Chapter 13 gives some practical tips on how to winsomely and effectively choose your words in the midst of battle.

I love this book.  I cannot count the times when my wife and I read it together, preparing for our small group discussion, and caught ourselves laughing out loud at Tripp’s personal illustrations.  Tripp thinks, speaks, and acts just like a regular guy–which is what I am.  And he relates how his wife responds to him, just like a husband’s better-half frequently does.  But make no mistake, this is not a book that performs heart surgery on men only.  Tripp understands the fallen human condition so well because he believes with unwavering consistency what the Bible teaches about sinners.  He “gets” sinners.  He “gets” the gospel.  And he “gets” how the Savior changes people into the image of his glory.  If you read this book, eat it, digest it, and work at it, the war of words you fight every day will be changed for the better.  Why?  Because it will give you a taste of what salvation is like–when the war of words will be no more forever.

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