Thursday, May 8, 2008

Come and Welcome - Substance

I have been somewhat remiss the last few days. I have been reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, but I have not posted much here about what I have read. For several days now I have wanted to make a comment on the substance of this book, but have not found the right opportunity.

Regarding substance, I find it remarkable that this entire book, 225 pages coupled with a four page outline, is devoted to the exposition of a single verse of Scripture:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37, ESV)

Twenty words in the ESV, 23 in the KJV, 20 in the NIV, 23 in the NASB, 20 in the Geneva, 22 in the NET, and 18 in the Greek (TR and NA27). Just a few short words, but positively packed with meaning. (In fact, a friend of mine once told me that John 6:37 was the most Calvinistic verse in the entire Bible, but I will leave that discussion for another time. I will simply comment here that Bunyan holds a thoroughly Calvinistic soteriology, making a universal call to all to embrace Christ: "Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ". He thus refutes those who accuse Calvinists of having no evangelistic zeal .)

In this day and time, with our gravitation towards "sound bites", would we tolerate a series of sermons that would focus week after week on one short verse? Yet, as we read Bunyan we recognize that this book started out as a series of sermons, just like manyof the other books chosen this year for the Puritan Reading Challenge. There is a substance to this book that is woefully lacking in our day. Just the four page outline contains more substance than most contemporary sermons.

Don't get me wrong, there are some who handle God's Word in this way in our age, but they are the exception. In Bunyan's day I am sure that there were also many pulpits filled with unworthy, and often unregenerate, men, but 17th century Puritan England uniquely produced many, many mighty men of God.

What is most impressive is the fact that Bunyan had no formal theological education. In the words of King Charles II, Bunyan was an "uneducated tinker". Reading this book, or any of his other works demonstrates a love of God, a devotion to His Word, and a desire to feed God's children. In short, Bunyan was a man of substance. May God give us a multitude of "uneducated tinkers" of substance with the power to "touch men's hearts" in our day.

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