Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: Men Made New

In 1965, John Stott spoke at the Keswick Convention for the first time, leading a series of four Bible studies from Romans 5-8. These were subsequently released as a little paperback book by IVP, under the title of Men Made New. In just over one hundred pages, Stott opens up the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer as he explores the work of sanctification in a Christian. It's a great wee book, and one that I immensely enjoyed on my holidays.

Observing that Paul's letter to the Romans is 'the fullest and most coherent manifesto of the Christian gospel in the New Testament', Stott declares that 'there is a grandeur, a comprehensiveness, a logic about his exposition.' After showing the need for justification and how it is achieved, chapters five to eight are the fruits of our justification, 'the great privileges of justified believers, of Men Made New.'[As a side note, when this series has been collected into the bigger volume called 'John Stott at Keswick', the title was changed to 'The Privileges of the Justified.'] Those privileges are found in each of the subsequent chapters - peace with God, union with Christ, freedom from the law, and life in the Spirit.

As ever, Stott was in fine form as he teaches and applies the word of God to the situation he finds in the church around him: 'Many think and behave as if the gospel were good news of justification only, and not good news also of holiness and of heaven.' The fruits of our justification are seen to be peace, grace and glory - reflecting the three tenses or phases of our salvation. But not to be missed or neglected is also the suffering that comes with the Christian life.

While most of us shrink back from suffering, Stott shows that Paul is clear that suffering is essential for the Christian, because it produces endurance, like antibodies are produced by infection. 'We could not learn endurance without suffering because without suffering there would be nothing to endure.' Our suffering is rooted and made bearable because of Christ's suffering for us, as he notes the 'unflattering terms in which we are described... failures, rebels, enemies, helpless to save ourselves.'

On God's love, he reminds us of the objective and subjective awareness believers experience: 'This is how we know that God loves us. We know it rationally as we contemplate the cross, where God gave His best for the worst. And we know it intuitively as the Spirit floods our hearts with a sense of it.'

As he turns to consider union with Christ, he declares that it is 'a state which leads to holiness.' 'It is not the literal impossibility of sin, but the moral incongruity of it, which the apostle is emphasizing.'

'So the secret of holy living is in the mind. It is in knowing that our old self was crucified with Christ. It is in knowing that baptism into Christ is baptism into His death and resurrection. It is in reckoning, intellectually realizing that in Christ we have died to sin and live to God.'

As he discusses the relation of the Christian to the law, he notes that we are still slaves (free slaves!), but not to the law, but to Christ. 'The law says, 'Do this and you will live.' The gospel says, 'You live, so do this.''

On the Holy Spirit, Stott summarises his work as follows: 'These, then, are the four gracious activities of the Holy Spirit. He subdues our flesh, He witnesses to our sonship, He guarantees our inheritance, and He helps our weakness in prayer.'

All in all, this is high quality bible teaching, exactly what you would expect and we came to love from the one known as Uncle John. My little book was a 1978 reprint of a 1966 edition which had sat on my bookshelves, having been rescued from a retiring minister's library, and caught my eye as I was picking holiday books. I'm glad to have read it, although you might be better able to read the version of the chapters in 'John Stott at Keswick'. Get it, read it, and rejoice in God's glorious work in your life.

No comments:

Post a Comment