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Reading Classics Together - The Seven Sayings (Introduction)
April 24, 2008
Last year some of the readers of this site began to read Christian classics together with me. The impetus for this project was the simple realization that, though many Christians want to read through the classics of the faith, few of us have the motivation to actually make it happen. This program allows us to read them together, providing both a level of accountability and the added of interest of comparing notes. We spent eight weeks reading through J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, covering one chapter per week and posting some thoughts about the book on Thursday mornings. We then turned to John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation and read it over thirteen weeks. Both titles were worthwhile reads and we learned that they have rightly earned their reputations as Christian classics. Feedback from readers assured me that this was a project we should continue as it benefited all who chose to participate.
Today we begin the third round of this project by reading The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by A.W. Pink. We’ll cover only the Introduction today and look at each of the book’s seven chapters in the seven weeks to come. I hope you’ll read along with us.
Each I am going to offer a short summary of the chapter and a couple of brief reflections. At that point I’ll ask that you feel free to post your own questions, comments or reflections.
As Introductions go, this one had a lot to offer. Because the book focuses on the seven words Jesus spoke from the cross, Pink had to provide the important “back story” in this introduction. To do this he explained that the death of Jesus was natural, unnatural, preternatural and supernatural.
Jesus’ death was natural in that it was a real death. The fact that this can seem so unremarkable to us proves that we do not have a sufficient apprehension of just who Jesus was. That God Himself could suffer and face a very human death is far more remarkable than we are accustomed to thinking. Jesus’ death was unnatural in that it was abnormal. Death had no claim on Jesus as it does on every other human who has ever lived. Hence Jesus death was different from any other before or since. Jesus’ death was preternatural in that it had been marked out and determined for Him beforehand. Before the foundations of the earth it had been foreordained that Jesus would die and that He would die in this manner. Jesus’ death was supernatural in that it was different from every other death (just as His birth was different and His life was different). Pink expands on this point by showing seven ways in which the Lord’s death was entirely unique.
“In the chapters which follow we shall hearken to the words which fell from his lips while he hung upon the cross - words which make known to us some of the attendant circumstances of the great tragedy; words which reveal the excellencies of the one who suffered there; words in which is wrapped up the gospel of our salvation; and words which inform us of the purpose, the meaning, the sufferings, and the sufficiency of the Death Divine.”
While I enjoyed Pink’s discussion of Jesus’ death under the four headings, it was the section on Jesus’ death being supernatural that really grabbed and held my attention. Though certain aspects of this have crossed my mind in the past (such as Jesus yielding His Spirit rather than having it taken from Him) there were others that were fresh to me. Never have I considered that Jesus was actively involved in fulfilling prophecy when He said, “I thirst.” While prophecy obviously has a predictive element, it makes perfect sense to me that Jesus would have had an awareness that He was fulfilling prophecy. Hence He deliberately cried out in thirst in order to fulfill those prophetic words spoken so long before. Similarly, I had never before taken in the significance of the word “loud” in the context of Jesus’ words. Jesus spoke loudly, showing that His strength had not failed Him. He had not been defeated; He had won. Pink attaches significance to every element of the biblical narrative whereas I am sometimes too quick to miss the important details.
Though this Introduction was short, it certainly packed a punch and gave me some things to meditate upon. I can’t wait to dive into the heart of the book beginning next week.
Next Thursday we will continue with the first chapter of the book. We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.
I would like to know what you gained from even just the Introduction to the book. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.