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Reading Classics Together

June 26, 2008

To this point the “Reading Classics Together” effort has gone very well, at least by my assessment. We’ve read J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation and A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. We’ve had hundreds of people participate by reading the books together and discussing them each week. All along we’ve been reading some of the classics of the Christian faith—books many of us wish to read but books few of us have ever made time for. And now it is time to decide on the next classic we’ll read together.

There are two names that were continually in my mind as I pondered where we should go next: John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards. The potential trouble with both of these men is that their seminal works are, in a word, long. If we are to read a long work I wonder if I may just be reading alone by the end. Regardless, I have decided that works of this quality will be worth it. And so I am proposing that our next book be The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards (all 350+ pages of it).

Here is what the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University says about the work:

A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections stands as Edwards’s most penetrating interpretation of the awakenings of his time, not to mention one of the most penetrating of any time. As in Some Thoughts, he argued against the extremes of emotionalism on the one hand and intellectualism on the other. Affections were essential to true religion, but they had to be tested. First, Edwards lays out his religious psychology of affections, which encompassed both understanding and will and involved the total range of human faculties. Answering critics of the revival, Edwards then discusses at length a series of “negative” signs, or unreliable criteria for judging the graciousness of affections. Finally, and most famously, he provided twelve “positive” signs for self-examination. The twelfth sign, which Edwards gave the fullest treatment, was the importance of Christian practice as evidence of the state of the heart. Here, for Edwards, was the ultimate standard for visible sainthood.

It is going to be a demanding read, and something of a long one, but I know the payoff will be worth every second spent in the book.

I will be reading from the Banner of Truth edition of the work, but you can follow along in any of the unabridged editions (of which there are many available). For technophiles, there is a Kindle edition available for only a couple of dollars. For those who are not interested in spending money, CCEL has the complete text available in HTML, PDF and other formats right here.

If you wish to purchase a printed copy of the book, you can do so from Amazon, Westminster Books, Monergism Books or just about anywhere else good Christian books are sold.

We will target July 17 as our start date. That gives you three full weeks to secure a copy and to read the Introduction and Preface. Then, every Thursday following, we’ll read a portion of the text and discuss it together.

It would be a helpful gauge of participation if you’d post a comment on this post indicating that you’d like to read this book with us. So if you are going to read along, let me know, either with a comment or a quick email. I’m looking forward to reading this next classic with you!

June 19, 2008

We have come to the final chapter of the The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, the third classic we’ve read together here. It has gone very quickly! If you have not been reading along with us it is obviously too late to start now, but stayed tuned for the next book we’ll read together (I will announce it here in a couple of weeks).

Summary

The seventh chapter looks at the final words Jesus spoke while on the cross. Having spoken words of forgiveness, salvation, affection, anguish, suffering and victory, he cries forth one final time, this time with words of contentment. Luke 23:46 describes this. “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.”

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. Here we see the Saviour back again in communion with the Father.
  2. Here we see a designed contrast.
  3. Here we see Christ’s perfect yieldedness to God.
  4. Here we see the absolute uniqueness of the Saviour.
  5. Here we see the place of eternal security.
  6. Here we see the blessedness of communion with God.
  7. Here we see the heart’s true haven.

Discussion

As usual, I’d like to focus on just a couple of the points in this chapter that stood out to me. As with many of these sayings on the cross, I’ve spent a good deal of time in the past thinking and writing about this one. I’ve thought deeply about what it means that Jesus commended His spirit to the Father and what it means that He “dismissed His spirit” as another of the gospel writers terms it. But I learned more in reading this chapter. I enjoyed Pink’s section detailing how this saying points to the uniqueness of Jesus. Jesus’ life was not in the end taken from Him; instead, Jesus laid it down. Jesus had the power to lay down His life and, as we saw three days later, He had the power to take it again. Pink did a great job of tying together the different expressions of this in the gospels, showing how this was a word of power, of authority and of contentment. Jesus willingly gave His life for the Father’s glory and in the end, it was Jesus who surrendered His spirit when His work was done.

And how could the Christian’s heart not be uplifted by section showing how these words show the blessedness of communion with God. Here was Christ, on the cross, in utter agony, in the worst physical trial imaginable, and yet He still enjoyed communion with the Father.

This is one of the sweetest truths brought out by our text. It is our privilege to enjoy communion with God at all times, irrespective of outward circumstances or conditions. Communion with God is by faith, and faith is not affected by the things of sight. No matter how unpleasant your outward lot may be, my reader, it is your unspeakable privilege to enjoy communion with God. Just as the three Hebrews enjoyed fellowship with the Lord in the midst of the fiery furnace, as Daniel did in the lion’s den, as Paul and Silas did in the Philippian jail, as the Saviour did on the cross, so may you wherever you are! Christ’s head rested on a crown of thorns, but beneath were the Father’s hands!

And what a beautiful truth this is. Even (or perhaps especially) in life’s greatest trials, in its most terrifying and terrible moments, we can be assured of our fellowship with the Creator. Nothing can separate us from that sweet communion.

And finally, I’ll make brief mention of the final section which discusses the heart’s true haven. I don’t think I could do better than to quote Pink’s words:

These words then may be taken to express the believer’s care for his soul, that it may be safe, what ever becomes of the body. God’s saint who has come nigh to death exercises few thoughts about his body, where it shall be laid, or how it shall be disposed of; he trusts that into the hands of his friends. But as his care all along has been his soul, so he thinks of it now, and with his last breath commits it to the custody of God. It is not, “Lord Jesus receive my body, take care of my dust;” but “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” - Lord, secure the jewel when the casket is broken.

The spirit is the treasure. May we all follow the Saviour’s example and commend our souls to the care of the Father.

Next Time

There is no next time, at least with this book. In the next week or two I’ll announce the next book we will read together. As always, you can feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions for future reading. I think we’ll probably go back in time and try to read an older classic for our next round. I’d really like to find a manageable portion of Edwards or Calvin that we could do—but obviously many of their works are just too long for this format.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. 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 can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading. Also feel free to share your reflections about the book as a whole.

June 12, 2008

We are nearing the end of the The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross and by next week we will be finished. It seems to have gone by very quickly. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. If you have not been reading along with us it is probably a bit too late to start now, but stayed tuned for the next book we’ll read together (I will announce it here in a couple of weeks).

Summary

The sixth chapter looks at what may well be the best-known words Jesus spoke on the cross: “It is finished.” A.W. Pink rightly calls these “words of victory.” They were not words of surrender that proved Jesus had been defeated and was succumbing to death. Instead, they were words of triumph as Jesus accomplished the work He had come to the world to do.

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. Here we see the accomplished fulfillment of all the prophecies which had been written of him ere he should die.
  2. Here we see the completion of his sufferings.
  3. Here we see the goal of the incarnation is reached.
  4. Here we see the accomplishment of the atonement.
  5. Here we see the end of our sins.
  6. Here we see the fulfillment of the law’s requirements.
  7. Here we see the destruction of Satan’s powers.

Discussion

These are words I have pondered more than any of the others Jesus spoke while on the cross. As with the other sayings, they are ones whose meaning we could never exhaust. If I were to lay aside every responsibility in life and spend the rest of my days pondering just these words, I’m sure I could never arrive at the complete depth of their meaning. No greater cry has been uttered in all of history. No more important cry has been uttered. This is the very center point of human history.

The first area that jumped out at me in this week’s reading was what Pink put under the heading of “Here we see the end of our sins.” Here he makes the distinction between sin in and sin on. “If then God laid my iniquities on Christ, they are no longer on me. Sin there is in me, for the old Adamic nature remains in the believer till death or till Christ’s return, should he come before I die, but there is no sin on me.” The distinction is crucial. If sin were upon me, I would be under its curse and judgment. Its guilt and condemnation and penalty would still be upon me. But when Christ cried out “It is finished” He indicated that He had borne my sin and that it was no longer upon me. Sin still indwells me, to be sure, but the work of Christ has removed it from hanging over me with its condemning power. Pink points back to the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament to illustrate this. It is a powerful section that aptly describes the end of our sin. Thank God that He took that sin and rescued me out from under it.

The other area that stood out was the section describing the destruction of Satan’s power. This is an aspect of Christ’s work I particularly love to ponder. When Christ declared “It is finished,” Satan and all his host must have rejoiced. “To human appearances it looked like the moment of his greatest triumph, yet in reality, it was the hour of his ultimate defeat.” They must have thought Jesus was dead and finished but in reality this moment marked the ultimate defeat of evil. This would only become clear three days later when Christ triumphed over death, but already the work necessary to destroy evil had been fully and finally accomplished. We now properly regard the devil as a vanquished foe. Though he continues to make his presence felt in the world and though evil remains, he is in full retreat and his time is drawing to a close. We have no reason to fear him, for Christ has conquered.

Next Time

We will continue next Thursday with the seventh and final chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of contentment.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. 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 can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading.

June 05, 2008

This morning those of us who are reading some Christian classics together are going to be looking at the fifth chapter of A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Before we begin, do allow me to apologize for not posting about the chapter last week. When I go to conferences my intentions are always good, but somehow I can rarely do all the things I think I can. Such was the case last week.

Summary

Jesus’ fifth saying on the cross is the word of suffering. According to John 19:28, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” This is the simplest of Jesus’ sayings from the cross and could easily be seen as His least significant. Yet in this chapter Pink shows that even such a simple statement is loaded with meaning.

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. Here we have an evidence of Christ’s humanity.
  2. Here we see the intensity of Christ’s sufferings.
  3. Here we see our Lord’s deep reverence for the Scriptures.
  4. Here we see the Saviour’s submission to the Father’s will.
  5. Here we see how Christ can sympathize with His suffering people.
  6. Here we see the expression of a universal need.
  7. Here we see the enunciation of an abiding principle.

Discussion

By way of preamble, I should say that I was challenged by this chapter, perhaps more than even the others, to be willing to look deeply into even Scripture’s smallest parts. This little phrase we are studying today could so easily be overlooked or could be seen merely as the thirsty cry of a tortured individual. And while it was that, Pink shows well that it was also much more. It is too easy for me, I think, to look only at the most obvious, most surface meanings without digging deeper into the text. Pink is a master of digging deep.

As is usually the case, there were a couple of Pink’s points in this chapter that stood out to me more than the others. The first was his discussion of these words pointing to Jesus’ humanity. While the Trinity is an impossible concept to grasp fully, I am well aware that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. The Bible teaches this with clarity and there is no reason to disbelieve it, even if we cannot get our minds around it. Somehow seeing Jesus’ cry for a drink as an aspect of His humanity touched me. Somehow it shows Him to be so human, so fully human. This comes even more into focus as we later ponder the fact that Jesus could so easily have called forth water to assuage his thirst. He was, after all, the one who created the world! But as Pink points out, none of His miracles were done for His sake, and this would be true as well on the cross. He suffered humbly as one who was fully human, even while being fully God. What a wonder!

The second area that stood out was the discussion of this saying being a sign of Christ’s submission to the Father’s will. He hung on the cross and He hung on the cross with parched lips, in order to be obedient to the Father’s will. He was willing to suffer in order to please and to obey the Father. In this case His Father required that the words of Scripture be fulfilled and Jesus was willing and eager to do so. “In death, as in life, Scripture was for the Lord Jesus the authoritative Word of the living God. In the temptation He had refused to minister to His need apart from that Word by which He lived, and so now He makes known His need, not that it might be ministered unto but that Scripture might be fulfilled.” What an amazing thing that Christ, fully man, was so focused on obeying and glorifying God even while in such a state of agony. Never did Christ forget His mission.

Next Time

We will continue next Thursday with the sixth chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of victory.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. 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 can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading.

May 22, 2008

This morning those of us who are reading some Christian classics together are going to be looking at the fourth chapter of A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together.

Summary

Jesus’ fourth saying on the cross is the word of anguish. While hanging on the cross and facing the wrath of God, just cried out to His Father. This is what Matthew tells us in chapter 27 and verse 46 of his gospel. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. Here we see the awfulness of sin and the character of its wages.
  2. Here we see the absolute holiness and inflexible justice of God.
  3. Here we see the explanation of Gethsemane.
  4. Here we see the Savior’s unswerving fidelity to God.
  5. Here we see the basis of our salvation.
  6. Here we see the supreme evidence of Christ’s love for us.
  7. Here we see the destruction of the “larger hope.”

Discussion

Before I began reading the chapter, I spent some time just silently meditating on these words of Jesus. They are words I’ve thought about many times in life and ones which deserve much meditation. They are words for which we can never exhaust and never truly understand the depth of their meaning. Quite needless to say, my meditations took me to nowhere near the depth they took A.W. Pink.

The first thing that stood out to me as I read Pink’s reflections on these words of Jesus is the inadequacies of film to portray Jesus’ suffering. Countless millions of people spent a couple of hours watching The Passion of the Christ and there they saw Jesus get beaten to a pulp. In as much as Mel Gibson showed us Jesus’ physical sufferings, the movie was reasonably accurate. But the fact remains that no movie could describe the greater sufferings of Jesus, for they were inward and spiritual. Though His body was beaten and bruised, and though He felt incredible physical anguish, such has been the lot of millions of men through the history of the world. I dare say there have been many who have suffered worse physical torment than Jesus did. But the primary anguish Jesus faced was separation from God and the pouring out of God’s wrath upon Him. And how can we adequately describe this with words or portray it in film? It is impossible; it cannot happen. How can film portray the love and the anguish as they met on the cross? “These words of unequaled gift were both the fullest manifestation of divine love and the most awe-inspiring display of God’s inflexible justice.” What so many miss as they consider the cross is the actions of the Father and the awful toll this took on His Son. There is more to the cross than just the physical and we must make this clear!

The second thing that gripped me was Pink’s description of the various manifestations of man’s sin. “In its first manifestation it took the form of suicide, for Adam destroyed his own spiritual life; next we see it in the form of fratricide—Cain slaying his own brother; but at the Cross the climax is reached in deicide—man crucifying the Son of God.” Does this not show us on a macro scale the nature of sin, that it grows, always demanding more? A small sin quickly becomes a greater sin; soon nothing but the ultimate sins will please us. And such was the case when man reached the penultimate in sin—putting to death his own Creator.

Finally, I was challenged by Pink’s word that we must see the cross from at least four different viewpoints. “The tragedy of Calvary must be viewed from at least four different viewpoints. At the cross man did a work: he displayed his depravity by taking the Perfect One and with “wicked hands” nailing him to the tree. At the cross Satan did a work: he manifested his insatiable enmity against the woman’s seed by bruising his heel. At the cross the Lord Jesus did a work: he died the Just for the unjust that he might bring us to God. At the cross God did a work: he exhibited his holiness and satisfied his justice by pouring out his wrath on the one who was made sin for us.” This is all true, I am sure, but will require a lot more meditation before I would want to comment on it very much. How wondrous is the cross! It could be our meditation from now until the Lord’s return and we would still never exhaust its riches or its significance.

This was another chapter filled with gospel truths. This book is a gold mine.

Next Time

We will continue next Thursday with the fifth chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of suffering.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. 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 can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading.

May 15, 2008

This morning those of us who are reading some Christian classics together are going to be looking at the third chapter of A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. This week we move on to the book’s third chapter.

Summary

Jesus’ third saying on the cross is the word of affection. While hanging in agony he looked down to his mother and to his dear friend John. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. Here we see the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy.
  2. Here we see the perfect man setting an example for children to honor their parents.
  3. Here we see that John had returned to the Saviour’s side.
  4. Here we discover an illustration of Christ’s prudence.
  5. Here we see that spiritual relationships must not ignore the responsibilities of nature.
  6. Here we see a universal need exemplified.
  7. Here we see the marvelous blending of Christ’s perfections.

Discussion

I felt that in this chapter Pink did a really good job of drawing out some of the implications of Jesus’ words to his mother and his friend. This chapter may not have been quite as meaty as some of the ones that have come before (and some of the ones to come) but there was still plenty there to chew on. There were two areas that really spoke to me.

The first of these was that this word to John was an example to any of us as we consider how we relate to our parents. “It is too often assumed,” says Pink, that the “fifth commandment is addressed to young folks only. Nothing can be further from the truth.” Just yesterday I was speaking to a friend about responsibility to parents and this chapter seems to tie in well. In our culture we value autonomy and feel that our parents should be able to support themselves indefinitely. This seems to be uniquely western since in most other cultures, and certainly in biblical culture, it is assumed that the parents would support the children and, when they were older, the parents would receive support from the children. Pink disagrees with this way of thinking. “In the course of time, the children grow to manhood and womanhood, which is the age of full personal responsibility, the age when they are no longer beneath the control of their parents, yet has not their obligations to them ceased. They owe their parents a debt that they can never fully discharge.” Children are to continue to esteem their parents and to care for them in whatever way is necessary. I believe those who adhere to other faiths tend to see this as more of a responsibility and put Christians to shame in this area. When we learn from Jesus’ example we see the unique responsibility to care for elderly parents.

Does this example of Christ on the cross put you to shame? It may be you are young and vigorous, and your parents gray-headed and infirm; but saith the Holy Spirit, “Despise not thy mother when she is old” ( Proverbs 23:22). It may be you are rich, and they are poor; then fail not to make provision for them. It may be they live in a distant state or land, then neglect not to write them words of appreciation and cheer which shall brighten their closing days. These are sacred duties. “Honour thy father, and thy mother.”

The second portion that jumped out to me was the one that discussed John’s return to the Saviour’s side. It is easy to forget, as we read these words, that John had earlier fled from Jesus. At some point he had migrated back to Jesus’ side and stood there before the Lord. But Jesus did not rebuke him. Jesus did not hold this against him. He did not say a word about it. Instead he bestowed upon John a great honor and responsibility. Though he had been scandalized by Christ and ashamed to be seen with Him, John returned and Jesus forgave. What an encouragement this is to those who have wandered away from God in their hearts. “Christ did not rebuke John on returning; instead, his wondrous grace bestowed on him an unspeakable privilege. Cease then your wanderings and return at once to Christ, and he will greet you with a word of welcome and cheer; and who knows but what he has some honorous commission awaiting you!” God is far more willing to forgive sin than we are to commit it. What a great God He is.

Next Time

We will continue next Thursday with the fourth chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of anguish.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. 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 can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading.

May 08, 2008

Today those of us who are reading some Christian classics together are going to be looking at the second chapter of A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Two weeks ago we began our eight-week study of this book by looking at the Introduction to the book and last week we read the first chapter which dealt with Jesus’ “word of forgiveness.” This week we move on to the book’s second chapter.

Summary

Jesus’ second saying on the cross is the word of salvation. To the thief who hung beside Him, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. Here we see a representative sinner.
  2. Here we see that man has to come to the end of himself before he can be saved.
  3. Here we see the meaning of repentance and faith.
  4. Here we see a marvelous case of spiritual illumination.
  5. Here we see the Saviourhood of Christ.
  6. Here we see the destination of the saved at death.
  7. Here we see the longing of the Saviour for fellowship.

Discussion

There was a lot to take from this chapter (both because of its length and its depth). I will point to just a couple of items that stood out to me.

In the first place, I enjoyed Pink’s discussion of how a man must come to the end of himself before he can come to God. “Before any sinner can be saved he must come to the place of realized weakness.” As sinful humans we tend to rely on our own strength as long as we can, only giving up and learning dependence upon God as a final measure. We do this in salvation and continue to do it through the process of sanctification. So often God does not really begin His work in us until we have first exhausted all of our own methods. And so it was with this man. “He could not walk in the paths of righteousness for there was a nail through either foot. He could not perform any good works for there was a nail through either hand. He could not turn over anew leaf and live a better life for he was dying.” And here is where Pink makes a profound application. “Those hands of yours which are so ready for self-righteous acting, and those feet of yours which are so swift to run in the way of legal obedience, must be nailed to the cross. The sinner has to be cut off from his own workings and be made willing to be saved by Christ.” And once he has been saved, that same sinner must continue to be cut off from his own workings if he wishes to be sanctified and wished to grow in grace. It is a lifelong challenge to let go of ourselves and to depend on Christ.

Further on in the chapter I found this challenge. It is something I have thought about often and something I struggle with more then I’d care to admit.

That which makes heaven superlatively attractive to the heart of the saint is not that heaven is a place where we shall be delivered from all sorrow and suffering, nor is it that heaven is the place where we shall meet again those we loved in the Lord, nor is it that heaven is the place of golden streets and pearly gates and jasper walls - no, blessed as those things are, heaven without Christ would not be heaven. It is Christ the heart of the believer longs for and pants after - “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” ( Psalm 73:25). And the most amazing thing is that heaven will not be heaven to Christ in the highest sense until his redeemed are gathered around him. It is his saints that his heart longs for. To come again and “receive us unto himself ” is the joyous expectation set before him. Not until he sees of the travail of his soul will he be fully satisfied.

This reminds me of John Piper’s words from God is the Gospel: “The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever say, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?” Too many Christians look to heaven for its benefits to us without understanding that the greatest benefit of all will the presence of Christ. We can long after all the good of heaven without feeling any desire to enjoy its greatest Good. And what a tragedy it is if we focus our attention and our affections on lesser treasures. To be absent from the body is to be present not with grandma or mom or dad, but first and foremost to be present with Christ. This promise should quicken our hearts and be at the forefront of our desires as we long for eternity.

And one more quick passage that caught my attention. In discussing the thief on the cross beside Christ Pink says something that stirred my heart with gratitude for so great a Savior. This thief “was an outcast from society - who would remember him! The public would think no more of him. His friends would be glad to forget him as having disgraced his family. But there is one with whom he ventures to lodge this petition - ‘Lord, remember me’.” When everyone else reviled this man, Christ still heard Him and gave Him the greatest gift. What a Savior!

Parenthetically, am I the only one who thinks Pink may rely on italics just a little bit too much? There were some portions of the chapter, particularly near the beginning, where it seems he went just a little bit crazy and it almost made it difficult to read. A small complaint, to be sure…

Next Time

We will continue next Thursday with the third chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of affection.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. 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 can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading.

May 01, 2008

Today those of us who have embarked on a project to read some Christian classics together are going to be looking at the first chapter of A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Last week we began our eight-week study of this book by looking at the Introduction to the book. This week we move on to the first chapter.

Summary

The first of the Savior’s words from the cross is the one we most need to hear. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is Jesus’ word of forgiveness, offered to the Father on behalf of those who had fastened Him to that cross. In these first words we see Jesus, even in His deepest agony, in an attitude of prayer, interceding for those whom He loves.

In this chapter Pink unravels all that Jesus meant in these few words. Here we see…

  1. …fulfillment of the prophetic word.
  2. …Christ identified with His people.
  3. …the Divine estimate of sin and its consequent guilt.
  4. …the blindness of the human heart.
  5. …an exemplification of Jesus’ own teaching.
  6. …man’s great and primary need.
  7. …the triumph of redeeming love.

Discussion

I had read only the first sentence before I needed to stop. “Man had done his worst.” I guess I knew this already—that what man did to Jesus was the worst thing he had ever done or could ever do. In fact, I mentioned this in a sermon just a few short weeks ago. But somehow this simple sentence just made me stop and consider that there really is nothing man could ever do, ever, in any situation, ever!, that could be worse than this. All of the horrible crimes we read about in the news and all of the disgusting events we read about in history, pale in comparison to this act of slaughtering the Son of God. No evil scheme any man could dream up could be worse than this. It is the most awful event in all of history and the most awful event that ever could be. How could man even scheme something so evil as to put to death the very Creator of the world? And what kind of God would humble Himself to suffer such humiliation and to face such pain?

I paused again on the next page when I read this, Pink’s reflection on Jesus being in prayer upon the cross: “No longer might those hands minister to the sick, for they are nailed to the cross; no longer may those feet carry Him on errands of mercy, for they are fastened to the cruel tree; no longer may He engage in instructing the apostles, for they have forsaken Him and fled—how then does He occupy Himself? In the Ministry of Prayer! What a lesson for us.” From here he encourages Christians who may be overcome by age and sickness and who may feel that their years of ministry are over. He encourages them to use these times to engage in this ministry of prayer. Who knows, but you may “perhaps accomplish more by this than by all your past active service. If you are tempted to disparage such a ministry, remember your Savior. He prayed, prayed for others, prayed for sinners, even in His last hours.” And what an encouragement this must be—and what a challenge it is—for us. Even when we feel like we have nothing to offer, we can go to our knees and plead for others before the throne. This “invisible” ministry is one that is far more powerful than we know and one whose results we may only know in eternity. But what a blessing it was that Jesus prayed even while on that cross.

And all this before even getting to the heart of the chapter. I suppose I will stop here and leave it to others to reflect on the seven points laid out by Pink. But first I’ll say just one thing. On a couple of occasions I’ve expressed my view that forgiveness is conditional—that God only expects us to forgive those who have repented of their sin. It would seem from this chapter that Pink would agree. Perhaps ironically, I am a bit less sure now than I used to be that this is always the case, but I did enjoy reading Pink’s rationale for such an understanding.

Next Time

We will continue next Thursday with the second chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of salvation.

Your Turn

As always, I am eager to know what you gained from even just the Introduction to the book (click here to read some comments from readers about the Introduction). 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 can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the chapter.

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.

Summary

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.”

Discussion

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 Time

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.

Your Turn

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.

April 02, 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. I’m not quite sure how many people took the opportunity to read along with us, but believe there were at least a couple hundred. 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.

The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the CrossFor our third book I’ve decided that we will read The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by Arthur Pink. I will be reading from the edition recently published by Baker and featuring forewords by John MacArthur and Warren Wiersbe (and recommend you do the same if you do not already own a copy of the book). Here is the publisher’s description of the book: “The words Christ spoke from the cross can inform Christians of the purpose, the meaning, the sufferings, and the sufficiency of his death. After an introduction that discusses the nature of Christ’s death as natural, unnatural, preternatural, and supernatural, Dr. Arthur W. Pink clearly illustrates the lessons that can be drawn from Christ’s words-lessons on forgiveness, salvation, affection, anguish, suffering, victory, and contentment. This comprehensive and accessible volume is useful for both sermon preparation and personal study.”

If you would like to participate, please commit to reading the introductory chapters and Forewords by Thursday April 24. We will then read the seven chapters over the following seven weeks. All I ask of participants is that they read along and that they at least consider posting a comment each week.

You can buy it at Amazon, Westminster Books, Monergism Books and just about anywhere else. It shouldn’t cost you much more than ten dollars.

It would be a helpful gauge of participation if you’d post a comment on this post indicating that you’d like to read this book with us. So if you are going to read along, let me know, either with a comment or a quick email. I’m looking forward to reading this next classic with you!

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