On John RW Stott 1921-2011 - Peter Jensen

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Fri Aug 5 10:15:57 EDT 2011


On John R.W. Stott 1921-2011

By Peter Jensen 
July 28, 2011

There are a few, a very few, who deserve to be called a Prince amongst the people of God. John Stott was one such.

We all see other people partially. I am not therefore going to try to give a rounded picture of the man. I am only going to mention briefly the areas in which his impact was strongest in our part of the world. But the source and nature of that impact was at the very heart of his whole ministry. It had to do with his treatment of scripture.

The thing for which we will mainly remember him was as one which expounded the Bible as God's word.

All preaching worthy of the name Christian starts from the Bible. The Biblical preaching of my youth would start characteristically from a verse, sometimes taken out of context and used as a starting point for an extended Christian homily with exhortation.

Our first hand experience of John Stott was different. He took passages rather than texts and gave rigorous attention to the context and the meaning of the passage taken as a whole. And he spoke with such spiritual vibrancy that you could immediately tell that the biblical text was shaping and informing his faith and his walk with God. Here was a man with something to say, precisely because he took it from scripture.

The effects were profound. Not only did people come to know Christ through his preaching and not only were people built up in Christ. He modelled a preaching style which other could use as well. He was not the great orator who can only be admired but never emulated. He was a servant of the word which showed what can be done by faithful attention to the text of scripture. Obviously few had his intellectual and theological skills; nonetheless we could aspire to use his model.

His ministry had a multiplier effect. First and foremost, he helped you to revere and love the Bible.

His expositional commitment underscored the sufficiency of scripture. His expositional method underscored the clarity of scripture. His expositional habit underscored the authority of scripture. You were more inclined to say, what a great passage, than what a great preacher.

There were two features of this preaching which I remember in particular. The first is to do with its simplicity. It was not that he strove for popularity and delivered trivia. On the contrary. It was the simplicity of the master craftsman, who could analyse the text of scripture and by carefully tracing the development of its thought, help his hearers to be better readers. We could see what he could see, and we could be inspired to believe that we too could read the Bible for ourselves.

The second feature was the basis of the first - he was a scholar. I don't mean that he had a Ph.D or taught in a University. He was beyond such measures. I mean that he had mastered the arts needed for biblical exposition and he gave the time and energy to make sure that of his results. You can only achieve true simplicity by working very hard. That is what he did. Our debt to him, under God, flows from his willingness to give time and energy and thought to the study of scripture in the light of modern thought and modern needs and to pastor us through his preaching.

In this, as in much else besides, he was a Prince amongst God's people. 

----The Most Rev. Peter Jensen is the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney




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