The other day I was reading the Tribune and saw an obituary for John Stott. I was surprised, grieved, and actually thankful to see that he had died. By thankful I mean that this man who had spent his life preaching and writing and working theology into the ears and hearts of so many had now the grand opportunity to face the One he spent himself pointing others to.
I was first introduced to John Stott’s work in graduate school, at Wheaton College. I was taking my first graduate level course in theology with the late Dr. Tim Phillips and Dr. Dennis Okholm. Both of my teachers were amazing thinkers, and I had the fortune of learning much from Dr. Okholm particularly. He took over the class when Dr. Phillips left the campus to pursue treatment for a cancer that returned.
We were assigned to read the Cross of Christ. I read that book harder than any book I opened while at Wheaton. I didn’t know it then, but the text would be a grounding book for me throughout my studies there. I would return to it periodically while serving the church to teach on related material and when I continued to pursue studies in seminary a couple years after completing work at Wheaton.
I never met Rev. Dr. John Stott. I’m told he was a humble man, a man whose faith pervaded his life. He thought carefully and lovingly. I’ve opened several of his books since the Cross of Christ, and those attributes lift from his work. So, to close this short reflection, I’ll include a paragraph from the book I’ve marked and annotated and highlighted in different inks.
Stott is talking about the salvation of sinners in a section on the achievement of the cross (from pg. 178):
What then, first, is the human plight, from which we cannot extricate ourselves and which makes it necessary for us to be redeemed? We have seen that in the Old Testament people were redeemed from a variety of grave social situations such as debt, captivity, slavery, exile and liability to execution. But it is a moral bondage from which Christ has ransomed us. This is described now as our ‘transgressions’ or ‘sins’ (since in two key verses ‘redemption’ is a synonym from the ‘the forgiveness of sins’), now as ‘the curse of the law’ (namely the divine judgment which it pronounces on law-breakers), and now as ‘the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers’. Yet even our release from these captivities does not complete our redemption. There is more to come. For Christ ‘gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness’, to liberate us from all the ravages of the Fall. This we have not yet experienced. Just as the Old Testament people of God, though already redeemed from their Egyptian and Babylonian exiles, were yet waiting for the promise of a fuller redemption, ‘looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem’, so the New Testament people of God, though already redeemed from guilt and judgment, are yet waiting for ‘the day of redemption’ when we shall be made perfect. This will include ‘the redemption of our bodies’. At that point the whole groaning creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and be brought to share in the freedom of the glory of God’s children. Meanwhile, the indwelling Holy Spirit is himself the seal, the guarantee and the firstfruits of our final redemption. Only then will Christ have redeemed us (and the universe) from all sin, pain, futility, and decay.