Thursday, March 23, 2006

J.I. Packer: Need for Biblical Gospel

A Must Read! J.I. Packer's 1958 introduction to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Banner of Truth). The Death of Death is considered by many to be the most comprehensive exposition on the meaning and extent of the atonement ever written. Dr. Packer says,

"Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered [the Biblical] gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. Why?

It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts . . . it is too exclusively concerned to be 'helpful' to man - to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction - and too little concerned to glorify God. [Its} center of reference is man, [and its] concern seems limited to making them feel better. [T]he new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of 'helpfulness.' Accordingly, the themes of man's natural inability to believe, of God's free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for his sheep are not preached. [It] appeals to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; [it] speaks of his redeeming work as if he had make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; [it] speaks of God's love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and [it] depicts the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence 'at the door of our hearts' for us to let them in. . . . [I]t needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical gospel. To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need."

How (even more) true are these statements today, in 2006, than they were in 1958?! Sobering! And challenging.

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