Is Christian faith about ‘personal relationship with Jesus’?

There is a continuing rumbling discussion in the Church Times about the phrase ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ since Angela Tilby’s diatribe against ‘evo-speak’ in February, to which I responded with a letter the following week, and to which there have been further responses. Before exploring the issues, it is worth reflecting on the different reasons for reaction to this phrase—and on reflection I am aware that it is not a phrase that I use myself, and I confess to feeling uncomfortable with some ways in which this language of ‘relationship’ is deployed.

One possible objection is that ‘relationship with Jesus’ focuses on the second person of the Trinity rather than being fully Trinitarian, though in recent discussion that theological concern doesn’t appear to be evident. Another objection might simply be what we might call ‘ecclesiology-cultural’: it doesn’t fit very comfortably with a certain church ethos. After all, there isn’t anything very ‘chummy’ about the language of the Book of Common Prayer, with its ‘manifold sins and wickedness’ which do ‘most justly provoke thy wrath and indignation against us’. Related to that, and connecting theology with the culture of our language, I remember having a debate with a friend at a summer New Wine conference a few years ago, where my friend argued that God is something akin to a celestial chum, and that if we found God mysterious or difficult to understand then we were missing out on God’s friendship. I think this approach is in serious danger of reducing the analogy of human friendship in our understanding of relationship with God, can trivialise our worship, and doesn’t attend to our confident but still partial understanding expressed in 1 Cor 13.12 as ‘seeing through a glass darkly’ or, in contemporary English, ‘dim reflections in a mirror’. This is reflected in many of our contemporary praise songs, where (in one charismatic tradition) as we ‘come closer’ in some sense to the presence of God, we move into celebrating intimacy, rather than being overwhelmed with the holiness and ‘otherness’ of God or being challenged (as were many who came close to Jesus in the gospel accounts) about the demands of discipleship. So there are clearly some important issues to explore here.


But one of the objections in this week’s Church Times letters is worth engaging with in its own right:

If I remember rightly, the only people about whom it can be reliably said that they had “a personal relationship with Jesus” are his mother and father, Mary and Joseph, his brothers (and sisters?), his cousins, the disciples, and a few other people. And I can’t recall Jesus exhorting people to be his close confidantes: quite the opposite, as in “Do not cling to me” (John 20.17).

The notion of having “a personal relationship with Jesus” has very little, if anything, to do with Christianity.

One immediate observation to make here is that the writer does not have a very good memory. In an episode specifically mentioning Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters, Matthew records his reinterpretation of kinship relationships around the kingdom of God and discipleship follow Jesus:

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12.46–50)

This is no mere rhetorical flourish, since this redefinition of kinship relationships sows the seed of the new understanding of the people of God away from ethnic identity and around response to the good news of Jesus, which eventually leads to the mixed Jewish-gentile communities of Jesus-followers we find in Acts and beyond. And this kinship language is found both in Revelation (‘the rest of her offspring’ referring to those like Jesus who spring from the expectant Old Testament people of God in Rev 12.17) and in Paul’s writing. His reference to fellow believers as ‘brothers and sisters’ springs from their shared sibling relationship with Jesus in which we all address God as our Father.

This might lead us to reflect further on the language of discipleship in the gospels. In Mark’s account of the appointment of the Twelve, he describes them as those who will ‘be with him’ (Mark 3.14, a phrase missing from the parallels in Matt 10.1 and Luke 6.13), which is unmistakeable as language of relationship derived from a rabbinical understanding of teaching and learning. The disciple spends time in the presence of the master, in relationship with him, observing and learning from both his actions and his teaching, that he in turn might grow to become like the master. It also seems clear that the gospel writers intend this not merely as a record of what has happened, but as a paradigm for the life of faith for all. We see this in Luke’s pattern of cascading this experience outwards, as first the Twelve and then Seventy (Two) are commissioned to declare the good news in word and deed in Luke 9 and Luke 10 respectively. By the time of Pentecost, these disciples number 120, and very quickly they grow to more than 3,000. Luke never suggests that the pattern of Jesus’ relationship with the Twelve is anything other than extended to all those who later respond, and so he uses the word ‘disciple’ quite flexibly, just as Paul uses the word ‘apostle’ to refer to many others beyond the Twelve, for example in Romans 16.


It could be argued that all this remains in the arena of theological definition, rather than describing anything that we might call, in affective terms, a ‘personal relationship’. But there are at least four objections to that.

The first arises, again, from the gospel narratives. The language of ‘believing’ (pisteuo) clearly involves some kind of assent to claims about reality, as expressed in Jesus’ opening proclamation in Mark 1.15: ‘repent and believe the good news’ (μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ). But this is never separated from a sense of personal encounter and trust in Jesus himself; we frequently meet individuals in the narrative who are confident, unsure, or searching for ‘faith’, and Jesus’ response is almost universally in terms of appeal to personal trust. This sense of personal encounter is (mostly implicitly) presented as a model for subsequent readers, but occasionally this dynamic is made quite explicit, most notably in the story of ‘doubting’ Thomas at the end of John’s gospel:

week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.26–29)

The second is the frequent occurrence of what can only be understood as affective language in Paul’s own description of the life of faith. In Romans 5.5, he talks of ‘the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit’, and it is quite difficult to understand this in anything other than affective and relational terms. He expands on this work of the Spirit in the life of the believer three chapters on:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co–heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Rom 8.14–17)

Once again, this is highly affective as well as theological language about relationships. Note that Paul is also using kinship language as a theological description, both explicitly (‘children of God…sonship’) and implicitly—we call God ‘Abba’ just as Jesus, our elder brother in spiritual terms, did.

Thirdly, the table fellowship of Jesus, which brought people into personal relationship with him in the gospels (though this needed to be completed by a response of repentance to his message) becomes the paradigm for the central Christian act of worship in the celebration of Communion. In most liturgical contexts, this has become rather rarified and abstracted in its presentation, and we could do with recovering the personal dimension of the family meal—which actually isn’t that difficult to do. I think it is hard to miss the relational as well as theological connections with Communion in the risen Jesus’ words to the Christians in Laodicea:

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me. (Rev 3.19–20)

Fourthly, it can be argued that reconciliation should be considered the theological centre of Paul’s understanding of the gospel. Although the term does not occur as frequently as others in Paul’s theological vocabulary, it combines all the elements of what Paul believes God has done for us in Jesus, which is mediated to us by the Spirit. Ralph Martin argues:

It is the overall theme of reconciliation … that meets most – if not all – these tests. This is not to say that the word-group katallass- is prominent in Paul’s writings; manifestly it is not … But the contention stands, namely, that reconciliation provides a suitable umbrella under which the main features of Paul’s kerygma and its practical outworking may be set.

And Tom Wright comments:

The heart of it all…is koinonia, a ‘partnership’ or ‘fellowship’ which is not static but which enables the community of those who believe to grow together into a unity across the traditional divisions of the human race. This is a unity which is nothing other than the unity of Jesus Christ and his people, – the unity, indeed, which Jesus Christ has won for his people precisely by his identifying with them and so, through his death and resurrection, effecting reconciliation between them and God.

There is little doubt that ‘reconciliation’ is a term of personal relationship, and some English versions translate terms related to ‘reconciliation’ with the phrase ‘changing us from God’s enemies to his friends’, perhaps echoing Jesus’ language in John 15.15: ‘I no longer call you servants but friends’.


Alongside this, it is worth noting Paul’s consistent description of himself as the slave (doulos) of Christ, so Paul clearly does not allow the language of friendship and relationship to lapse into the idea of God (or Jesus) as ‘celestial chum’. But one of the paradigmatic images of the gospel is offered to us in Jesus’ teaching in Luke 15 of the ‘prodigal’ son and the patient father; the climax of the story is the father’s emotional embrace of the son as they are restored and reconciled once more. The personal emotion of this moment is captured so eloquently in Rembrandt’s portrait at the top of this piece.

As I reflect on the sense of God’s reconciling presence in my life, I realise it is often expressed and experienced in the most tangible relational terms. I regularly have a sense of God’s personal presence; I experience God speaking to me in a range of different ways; I am aware from time to time of his direction, of healing and of answered prayer. In the light of this, it is very hard to see how we can avoid using the language of ‘personal relationship’ in some form or other to describe the Christian life—if lived fully.


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62 thoughts on “Is Christian faith about ‘personal relationship with Jesus’?”

  1. Good question. I don’t like the phrase myself, and hardly ever use it, but do acknowledge that its trying to capture something important. I would add 3 things to the conversation.

    The world koinonia is used, outside of religious setting, as describing business partnerships. But of course, most business was a family affair. So its strongly linked with the idea that we are in the family business (headed by the father and eldest son), doing the work of bringing the kingdom. So there is strong family relationship here, which must entail personal relationship.

    Secondly, the word pistis (faith), was much more about filial loyalty than about intellectual belief. I like the latin fides pointing to our word fidelity, “to be true to”. So our faith, rather than personal belief, is us being true to Jesus and His way and giving our allegiance to Him and His way. Within that, my faith is being true to Jesus and his way, and giving my allegiance to Him. That invovles corporate relationship and personal relationhip.

    Which leads me to my last point. The idea of “a personal relationship” is very individualistic and blinkers the user to the family relationship. Not songs like “My Jesus, my saviour” but “Our Jesus, Our saviour.” The rejection of this focus on individualism is important, but we then need to be careful not to throw the baby of personal allegiance out with the bathwater of self-focus. In the community, in the family, the individual still has a place of significance. In the family relationship there is still a need for me to know my saviour and Lord, and for me to give my allegiance to Him

    Reply
    • Thanks Colin. I like your comment about koinonia being used for business partnerships, and in light with the comment I cite here, Tom Wright makes much of the Lord’s Prayer being a joining in with the family business.

      Interesting that critics haven’t particularly focussed on individualism, but try to find theological problems with the language of relationship…

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  2. For Evangelicals our relationship with Jesus is absolutely personal – enfolded within His manifest Trinitarian Coinherence and Real Incarnational Presence and that is Evo-speak as in Evangelical speak for those relying on a Liberal-Revisionist hermeneutical tendency to “go forth and falsify” – Truth for Evangelicals is always manifest Real Personal Encounter and we will never give it up nor we will give Him up.

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  3. Wesley commented that Christianity consists in the personal pronouns – my shepherd, my leaders, my restorer, my Lord, my Saviour etc. That is the language of personal relationship. Jesus promised that anyone who loves him he and the Father would make their home with that person (John 14.23). That wonderful promises follows his claim that he is the way, the truth and the life, and that no-one comes to the Father except through him (John 14.6). The Reformers emphasised that faith is not mere knowledge, nor even knowledge and assent. They insisted that true faith, whilst including knowledge and assent, also includes trust. Such trust entails reliance upon the Saviour who is encountered, known and enjoyed.

    Reply
    • Thanks George. I wonder how much this question of trusting relationship was indeed near the centre of concerns for the Reformers. If so, I wonder how we make sense of the reaction against that in a number of quarters. Some of this appears to come from those committed to an institutional way of thinking, but for others it is philosophical commitment to a non-realist understanding of God.

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  4. This is an excellent article that should be widely circulated.

    Of course it is hard to see how the relationship in question could be non personal.

    Or why anyone could be interested in it if it were.

    Or how it could be called a ‘relationship’ if it were.

    Or how there could be any relationship if the word ‘relationship’ were inapposite.

    Or how there being no relationship could cohere with the idea of the cross restoring humans to relationship with God.

    There are small-horizoned cultural and tribal reasons why people resist the idea of ‘personal relationship’ just as they resist ‘born again’ which is one of the most multiply-attested ideas in the NT. But if this is our one life and this is a huge and amazing world, being small-horizoned is the least appropriate or understandable thing possible.

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  5. I think as well regarding relationship of Hebrews and Jesus not being ashamed to call us brothers. Re BCP even as a non Anglican I see in both the reverence you mention and a rich intimacy. On friendship and chumminess I remember Mike Ivey talking about how our society struggles with the concept of friendship that does not depend on equality

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  6. Thank you for the grist… Ive found that for some the very idea of a personal relationship with God is really uncomfortable. Is this because of the sometimes trivial, ways that this is presented? A mere friend like any other, devoid of glory and holiness. Or might it be that one person’s experience of God is held up as normative?

    My own conversion was a realisation that Jesus had died for me (yes, for all but all must embrace each sinner in person) and that he was alive now. I can’t see how it cannot be personal in some significant way.

    “One possible objection is that ‘relationship with Jesus’ focusses on the second person of the Trinity rather than being fully Trinitarian..” I’m concerned that the relationship with God is sometimes “reduced” to a relationship with the third person of the Trinity. I say “reduced” as it gives the appearance of a splintered Godhead. Evangelism becomes a sharing of what the Spirit is doing in me.

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  7. I would suggest that the primary personal relationship to which we are invited is that with God as Father. It is central in Jesus’ teaching on prayer. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” This is all second person singular and so very personal.

    Then there are Paul’s two references to the Spirit enabling us to call on ‘Abba’. That might not be quite like ‘daddy’, but it does seem very personal and close. This is trinitarian, however, as it is Jesus who shows us the Father, and it is he through whom we can come to the Father.

    Reply
    • There is more than one writer who emphasises that ‘Abba’ isn’t ‘Daddy’ but that needs a lot of clarification.

      If the point is that the 2 words do not fully map onto each other, few words ever do between 2 different languages.

      If we called James Barr’s bluff by saying ‘What then would be the Hebrew/Aramaic for ‘Daddy’?’ – then what would it be other than ‘Abba’?

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      • I remember watching a documentary about modern orthodox Jews, and it showed a young man in a telephone conversation with his dad, speaking Hebrew. I didnt understand a word of it but from time to time I heard ‘abba’, clearly addressing his father in an intimately loving way.

        It reminded me how amazing it is that because of Jesus, we can address the Creator of the universe in the same way.

        Peter

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      • At a church weekend years ago Simon Downham was the guest speaker. To introduce the subject of God as Father he used the version of the Renault Clio advert with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer (https://youtu.be/DwqEpwO-5PE). The point was the word ‘papa’ – suggesting that is a closer word to ‘abba’ than ‘daddy’.

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        • Yes, I think ‘papa’ is a closer equivalent. The repeated syllable makes it primal international language. There are few words more universal than things like ‘mama’ because they are onomatopoeic. (Plug: my thesis tied all this in with speaking in tongues, and my personal experience too ties this to the sort of primal language that is seen in toddlers who gabble and chunter.) Paul himself twice in 1 Cor compares baby language (13.11, 14.20 – plus the implications of his ‘use your mind’ language 14.14-19).

          Funnily enough one of the only papers that overlapped closely with this view of things was Morton Smith ‘Pauline Worship as seen by Pagans’, though he took eclecticism and selectivity to new levels.

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    • I’d largely agree but not quite…

      “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Cor 13:14

      Is this addressed ( actually or effectively) to God? Presumably Paul isn’t merely wishing them well but prayerfully writing. Is “God” there “God the Father” or something else…?

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      • I think in this context ‘God’ is the ‘God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ’. This has continuity with the God of Israel…but that term would include (with theological retrospection) Father, Son and Spirit.

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  8. 1 Some years ago as part of a Rev’d Daniel Cousins Through Faith Mission team, in Gravesend (very much welcomed and supported by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali) we went about door- to -door, in schools, in pubs on the streets, churches with a Spiritual Beliefs Survey (SBS) and the Agape “Knowing God Personally” booklet. The last question on the SBS was, “If you could have a personal relationship with God would you want one?” I can recall talk to a man at his door, a Muslim, who was very receptive to answering the questions, including about Jesus, being unsettled by the last question!
    2 Language of many “sons to glory”, of, as said, Abba, of bridegroom, of adoption, doesn’t speak of arms-length business transactions, relationship.
    3 Our Union with Christ, John 17, goes beyond a business covenant relationship, or vassal-state-type covenant. Christ in us, indwelling Spirit, or as AW Tozer put it “Man-the dwelling place of God”.
    4 John Owen wrote extensively on Communion with God:
    “4.1 saints have communion with God . “truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ
    4.2 And this communion is a holy and spiritual communion,
    4.3 The knowledge that God and man can live in fellowship together is hidden in Christ. It is too wonderful for sinful, corrupted human nature to
    4.4 Now communion is the mutual sharing of those good things which delight all those in that fellowship.
    4.5 Those who enjoy this communion are gloriously united to God through Christ and share in all the glorious and excellent fruits of such communion.
    4.6 Our communion with God lies in him giving himself to us and to our giving ourselves and all he requires to him.
    4.7 This communion with God flows from that union which is in Christ Jesus.”
    This is merely part of the opening chapter of Owen’s Banner of truth book, Communion with God.
    Owen goes on to consider fellowship/communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit set out in over 207 A5 pages, replete with scripture.
    5 From Mike Reeves, “Christ Our Life”
    5.1 Quoting Calvin, “We do not, therefore, contemplate (Christ) outside ourselves from afar that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body- in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.”
    5.2 All believers are given the status of the Son himself.. the son shares his own Sonship with us (Romans 8:34)
    5.3 We get to share the very relationship with the Father that the Son has himself always enjoyed. The personal namehe has for his Father we are allowed to share. We can come before the Almighty and say-or stutter! – with a beloved son’s own confidence, “Abba.” Galatians 4 :4 “Because you are sons. God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who who calls out “Abba” Father.”” (The cry of Son in the garden of Gethsemane.)
    6 Calvin – The Son of God became son of man that the sons of men might become sons of God.
    7 Sonship is a recognition of primogeniture – Christ Jesus sharing all that he is and has with all who believe on his name, male, female, class, every tribe, tongue, nation.
    Praise his Name, Name above all names.

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  9. I know the phrase ‘a personal relationship with Jesus’ can/has become a bit hackneyed which is a shame. I like to use the phrase ‘a bespoke relationship with Jesus’ because we all know Jesus in our own unique way: we may enter through the same narrow gate, but then the land of pilgrimage is spread out as we discover the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ’.

    I especially like Paul’s reference to this bespoke relationship in Philippians 2: ‘that I may know him and the power of His resurrection’.

    I also like to emphasise when Paul writes in the second person plural which we miss in our modern English versions (the KJV is great for this, distinguishing thou and you). As Colin said above, we also have a united relationship with him as his people born of the Spirit.

    I’ve always been intrigued by the command ‘Do not cling to me’ in John, when Matthew has the women after the resurrection holding him by the feet!

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    • I think the ‘do not cling to me’ is an indication that Jesus will not remain with them in his raised-but-not-yet-ascended form, but that he must go to the Father and send the Spirit.

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    • Plus of course the Yom Kippur reference (High Priest untouchable, in context of John’s sequence of festivals one per section, and of the 2 angels at either end and the robe and turban), which was posted online from my KT Revival Times article Dec 2004, and popularised in Mark Stibbe’s ‘The Resurrection Code’. Various writers had seen this ‘touch’ point before including the Pentecostals Subritzky and Hames.

      Reply
        • The other data besides
          feasts-cycle;
          robe/turban;
          one angel each side of the Presence;
          don’t touch (the word means touch not hold or cling) are:
          -Peace be with you (Yom Kippur = Atonement, reconciliation)
          -If you forgive…they are forgiven (Atonement theme)
          -‘Year’ themes (Yom Kippur is part of the New Year festival) such as jubilee-style abundance out of total lack (fishcatch).

          The 7 festivals, one for each of the 7 sections of John, are:
          (1) wedding
          (2) Pentecost (the first harvest which is 4 months before the second one: chapter 4; also Spirit and mountain themes here, which are associated with Pentecost)
          (3) Passover – all the bread material
          (4) Tabernacles
          (5) Dedication
          (6) Funeral or Burial / Day of Preparation of the Passover (lamb with spices)
          (7) Yom Kippur, part of New Year.
          These are the same 7 as in Revelation – however, Revelation’s 7 are in the proper chronological order, which is one reason I think John wrote Rev. earlier than the gospel.

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          • I think these are interesting possible theological construals. I am not persuaded that these are strong inferences that can be made from the data of the text…

          • I do think there is a strong correlation between good work on NT and attention to the actual text. I have always found that, but it is especially true with John who has more of a closed system (detailed internal logic) than the other writers. So he is a good writer to study at times when one has less access to libraries.

            I do also wish ‘the text’ were a plainer concept, as the words, sentences and paras on the page all have interpretative contexts beyond the plain word, and will always be better understood the more contextual extratextual knowledge one has.

            The one I am not sure about is 20.17 ‘brethren’. Is this a new and strengthened relationship as a manifestation of forgiveness and ‘Atonement’? Cf. Matt 18.15. Or perhaps Ps 22.22 is in view.

            The reason I and M Stibbe think this is right is that we each already knew that the other festivals were ‘celebrated’ in John (IMHO one per main section), New Year was the missing one, and the missing section was the final section. But when the possible matchups were seen, they were multiple.

          • I look at it this way: if it is precisely the puzzling features (number of angels; position of angels; turban (soudarion); emphasis on its positioning too; apparent non sequitur of ‘Do not touch me because I have not yet ascended’ [cf. ritual purity necessary for High Priest to enter the Presence]) that are made better sense of – and in one fell swoop – by the Atonement Day idea, then that is what one looks for in a good interpretative key. The fact that, in the process, the one ‘missing’ festival fell into the round hole of the one unoccupied section can only strengthen the point.

            The 3 Ws Westcott, (Rowan) Williams and Wright are positive about this view of the 2 angels. Mark Stibbe is a fairly singleminded John specialist and for him it was a eureka moment that led to an entire book on this one theme.

  10. While this seems to widen the scope of Ian Paul’s article, taken together it is pertinent, to relationship, individual and communal, (and need for bodily resurrection and ascension) but probably too long for the comments section: apologies. if Ian permits this to be put up. From the Heidelberg Catechism:

    Lord’s Day 1

    Q&A 1
    Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
    A. That I am not my own,1 but belong—body and soul, in life and in death2—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3

    He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4 and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5 He also watches over me in such a way6 that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven;7 in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8

    Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life9 and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.10

    1 1 Cor. 6:19-20
    2 Rom. 14:7-9
    3 1 Cor. 3:23; Titus 2:14
    4 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:2
    5 John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:1-11
    6 John 6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:5
    7 Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18
    8 Rom. 8:28
    9 Rom. 8:15-16; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14
    10 Rom. 8:1-17

    Q&A 49
    Q. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
    A. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.1

    Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.2

    Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge.3 By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.4

    1 Rom. 8:34; 1 John 2:1
    2 John 14:2; 17:24; Eph. 2:4-6
    3 John 14:16; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5
    4 Col. 3:1-4

    Lord’s Day 19

    Q&A 50
    Q. Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?
    A. Because Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is head of his church,1 the one through whom the Father rules all things.2

    1 Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18 2 Matt. 28:18; John 5:22-23

    Q&A 51
    Q. How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
    A. First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts from heaven upon us his members.1

    Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.2

    1 Acts 2:33; Eph. 4:7-12
    2 Ps. 110:1-2; John 10:27-30; Rev. 19:11-16

    Q&A 52
    Q. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
    A. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me.1 Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.2

    1 Luke 21:28; Rom. 8:22-25; Phil. 3:20-21; Titus 2:13-14
    2 Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:6-10

    GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
    Lord’s Day 20

    Q&A 53
    Q. What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?
    A. First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.1

    Second, that the Spirit is given also to me,2 so that, through true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits3 through true faith, comforts me,4 and will remain with me forever.5

    1 Gen. 1:1-2; Matt. 28:19; Acts 5:3-4
    2 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Gal. 4:6
    3 Gal. 3:14
    4 John 15:26; Acts 9:31
    5 John 14:16-17; 1 Pet. 4:14

    Lord’s Day 21

    Q&A 54
    Q. What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?
    A. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word,1 out of the entire human race,2 from the beginning of the world to its end,3 gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life4 and united in true faith.5 And of this community I am6 and always will be7 a living member.

    1 John 10:14-16; Acts 20:28; Rom. 10:14-17; Col. 1:18
    2 Gen. 26:3b-4; Rev. 5:9
    3 Isa. 59:21; 1 Cor. 11:26
    4 Matt. 16:18; John 10:28-30; Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:3-14
    5 Acts 2:42-47; Eph. 4:1-6
    6 1 John 3:14, 19-21
    7 John 10:27-28; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; 1 Pet. 1:3-5

    Q&A 55
    Q. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
    A. First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts.1

    Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and joyfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.2

    1 Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 6:17; 12:4-7, 12-13; 1 John 1:3
    2 Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:20-27; 13:1-7; Phil. 2:4-8

    Lord’s Day 22

    Q&A 57
    Q. How does “the resurrection of the body” comfort you?
    A. Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head,1 but also my very flesh will be raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.2

    1 Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:21-23
    2 1 Cor. 15:20, 42-46, 54; Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2

    Q&A 58
    Q. How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?
    A. Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy,1 so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.2

    1 Rom. 14:17
    2 John 17:3; 1 Cor. 2:9

    Lord’s Day 23

    Q&A 59
    Q. What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?
    A. In Christ I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting.1

    1 1 John 3:36; Rom. 1:17 (Hab. 2:4); Rom. 5:1-

    Reply
  11. Thanks Ian
    Recently speaking on John14 and struck by the very intimate ‘personal relationship’ promised by Jesus: v21 “whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him, and manifest myself to him…v23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to Him and make our home with him.”

    Reply
    • Don’t forget the Paraclete earlier in that precious chapter, the one who comes alongside to help. It completes the Trinity.

      Reply
    • Indeed – I have always assumed the Spirit is the way in which the Father and Son make their home personally with us.

      It does stagger me how some ‘christians’ can mock the nature of a ‘personal relationship’ with the Lord – is surely suggests a lack of knowledge of both the Scriptures and a personal relationship with the paraclete.

      Reply
  12. I can certainly give a time in my life when I encountered Jesus. I was baptised as a baby, but had no contact with church, but at thirteen I began to attend Evensong on my own. I had no idea why I was drawn to this, but I felt better and different each time I had been to the service. Again I had very little connection with church until I had children and began to take them to church. I was invited to Billy Graham at Sheffield in 1985 and there was a banner “I am the way, the truth and the life” and I knew I had to decide whether that was true. I said “Yes, Lord I believe”. When I arrived home I read the Luke’s Gospel I had been given and I suddenly understood . He walked with me and talked with me and he still does. The Son connects us to the Father through the Holy Spirit. I have had periods in my life of charismatic renewal, but I am now finding much depth in the Prayer Book Service and I serve the King by taking him into school through Open the Book. He promised me “life in all its fullness” and he does.

    Reply
  13. As Gareth Malone’s latest choir venture airs on the screen I am reminded of one of his earlier choirs near Watford. One of the choir members testified as to how the choir had met his needs (I think he was recently bereaved) in much the same way that a Church community would do. My point is that the Church must be much more than a mutual support group. If as evangelicals we have taken individualism to excess, then a pure community ecclesiology negates the need for us to be instance of the Kingdom on earth as in heaven. Surely it must be both personal and collective? Thanks for another stimulating article Ian.

    Reply
  14. I think people who resist this phrase may be merely pointing out that it is in danger of implying that the relationship is one of equals. God can love us, and Jesus, being the partly human part of the trinity (forgive the short-hand) can be a friend if we personally perceive him ‘close’, but God remains something much beyond human, something at least partly incomprehensible (passing all understanding), and we must not seek to define God and limit God.
    Some modern worship songs seem to me to ascribe qualities and limits to God in quite laughable words.

    Reply
    • They are written by trained musicians who have the only existing financial backing behind them. The late 1970s and 1980s had a vogue for words straight out of scripture which worked well even for writers not gifted in lyrics, but now that the words are more personal and less scriptural the fact that the writers are not by any stretch trained poets becomes an issue. Beyond the fact that much is ungrammatical, some publishers have even abandoned any attempt at punctuation, and though not all writers trade in cliches the only way that lyrics of quality have eventuated has been when old hymns have been readopted wholesale and reset. That is exacerbated by the fact that our heritage (backlist) can only grow and grow, so opting for the transitory (especially when less care has been taken over the words) is less and less necessary.

      However, previous centuries were equally backward, perhaps, in matters of rhythm – not that these are the most important. That means that our own age is not by any means the worst in achieving an all-round finished product, because words and music are fitted to one another from the start unlike in former days. From the last 3 years I admire ‘ O the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God’ (though even here some of the imagery can be and has been questioned), ‘a hundred billion galaxies’, ‘what a beautiful name it is’. My bete noire is ‘Good good father’, a blatant product of our own particular culture IMHO.

      Reply
  15. Ian, thank you for this. As an Anglo-Catholic I do use this language.
    I am rarely without the icon of Jesus and a Friend, in which Jesus stands alongside the believer with his hand around his shoulder. [I always use a hand on the shoulder for blessings rather than on the head which is intrusive].
    When Anglo-Catholicism was at its strongest this intimate, personal relationship with the Lord was a strong element. See Fr Andrew SDC’s poems, Fr Gilbert Shaw’s affective prayers, the hymns in An English Catholic Hymn Book. Benediction/Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is deeply intimate.
    Has A-C declined because it became too rational? Too separated from the affective element?
    Where A-C continues to thrive in working-class estates and especially in the north, the affective element is hugely significant.
    Surely it is the rational that is individualised, the affective is always communal, we want to ell people about our friends, our affection is catching.
    The mystical poetry of John of the Cross is deeply personal and affective. The ‘dark night’ [of the soul] is an experience of passionate affectivity.
    For myself, this friendship with Jesus is, like all good friendships, challenging, enlarging, renewing, the best thing in my life.
    I could go on …

    Reply
    • Jesus as friend has a long and precious history (all the way back to John 15, of course!)

      God talked with Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

      I’m going to give a sneaky reference to the Spirit as well. In the Royal Navy, when an officer faces a court marshall, he has with him by way of counsel not a defence lawyer or advocate, but one whose official title is “the accused’s friend.” Given the legal connection in ‘paraclete’, I then presume to think of the Spirit as the one along side me to help and strengthen me as my friend.

      Reply
    • Father Richard

      From an Evangelical perspective I am interested in your reading of the Apophatic Carmelite Mysticism of John of the Cross and your use of “passionate affectivity” – we would see this not as an “emotional-affective” descriptor but a “noetic-communicative” linguistic descriptor of something spiritual happening – a form of Cardiagnosis signalling that Love is Always trying to communicate with us.

      Reply
  16. I think the term ‘personal relationship’ came about not so much because the NT puts things in that precise wording, or even feels it needs to (the matter being too obvious – how can you pray outside a personal relationship?), but because it perfectly articulates a rebuttal of what in other quarters was being denied.

    Just like the Bible does not have a ‘charismatic movement’ but the origins of the term can be found in the need to articulate and restore something that had wrongly been taken out of the picture.

    Reply
  17. As a quick historical note, I don’t think any previous comments have mentioned the deeply affective language of the Puritans. Obviously they were of their time, but their language often goes beyond what most of us would feel comfortable with.

    Reply
    • Over Christmas, I try to listen to the cantatas of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on the appropriate day (some of the most joyous music I know). Some of the arias express quote intense personal devotion. Here is a excerpt from an aria from Cantata 4 for New Year’s Day, it is sung mostly by the bass soloist:

      My Jesus is my delight,
      My Jesus refreshes heart and breast
      Jesus, you who are my dearest life,
      My soul’s bridegroom,
      Come! I will embrace you with delight
      My heart will never leave you
      Who gave himself for me
      On the bitter beam of the cross!
      Ah ! Then take me to yourself
      Even in dying you shall be
      What I love best;
      In distress, danger and affliction
      I gaze at you with longing.

      (from http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV248-4-Eng3.htm)

      People (myself included) sometimes complain about “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. They having nothing on this! The original German words are by Johann Rist (1607-1667), so of the same time as the Puritans. It is interesting that they were chosen for the Oratorio in 1734.

      Reply
      • Memories of hearing this Advent 2000 at the Barbican still delight. The bass soloist not only arranged the full musical details of the performance, but also was perfect in every detail of pitch and diction.

        Reply
  18. Yes these are interesting comments. I also am reluctant to talk about a personal relationship with Jesus – as if he were a secret friend with whom I converse in two way conversations. But when I read a (non fiction) book I think I know at least something about the author. And on the occasions I have subsequently met the author I have rarely been proved wrong. When I read the gospels I know I love Jesus. If that is a personal relationship then so be it.

    Reply
  19. Yes, I guess there are always ‘poor’ hymns being written. Charles Wesley is said to have written over 6,000 hymns, so most of those have not been remembered. I just wonder why people want so many new hymns when there are plenty of excellent old ones. Modern tune styles don’t really work for communal singing, they are mostly intended for solo performers, and endless dumbing down of both words and tunes leads to a very flat experience of singing, lacking inspiration.

    Reply
    • Yes. It is a serious point, and I think it is due to commercialism – which songs are being plugged at the main events etc.. In truth, you have only to think of J and C Wesley, Moody and Sankey, Graham and Shea to get the message that strong hymnody is crucial to Christian revival. The Welsh Revival (of spectacular public and international effect, shattering effect on the evangelist, and disappointing duration) was strongly associated with ‘Here Is Love’ and ‘I Hear Thy Welcome Voice’.

      Reply
      • Yes Christopher,
        15-20 years ago there was a fashion, if I can describe it as such, for singing only two verses of “Here is love” as if seeking to repeat or replicate the Welsh Revival, whereas the song was a product, an overworking of an inworking by God, of the revival.
        I didn’t realise it had four verses until I bought “Redemption Hymnal” second hand, previously used by a local Pentecostal Church from an Oxfam shop:
        Here is a reminder, to me at least, of the two verses, usually omitted in my limited experience. It is somewhat personal in its, sung application. and adoration.
        “3 Let me, all Thy love accepting,
        Love Thee, ever all my days;
        Let me seek Thy kingdom only,
        And my life be to Thy praise;
        Thou alone shalt be my glory,
        Nothing in the world I see;
        Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
        Thou Thyself hast set me free.

        4 In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
        By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
        And Thy grace my need is meeting,
        As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
        Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
        Thy great love and pow’r on me,
        Without measure, full and boundless,
        Drawing out my heart to Thee.”

        Found on a free on-line library: https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Here_Is_Love/

        Reply
        • PS, Christopher,
          The Redemption Hymnal also contains “I hear thy welcome voice”, of which I was unaware. Thanks.
          If some churches do not allow the singing of “In Christ Alone” because of reference to the wrath of God being satisfied, the Redemption Hymnal would be thrown into the “bonfire of the orthodoxies”.

          Reply
          • Hartsough’s hymn is unusual in that not only are tune and words apparently by the same person (I may be wrong?) but also it was the one time in his life he touched the heights. The latter is also true of ‘O Love that wilt not let me go’ and others.

            We made a point of having the four-verse version of ‘Here is Love’ at the end of our wedding. It is overwhelming, and so much better than the 2-verse version.

    • The reasons why we need new hymns are:

      1) Because the words need to reflect modern language, especially if we are to connect with people who do not think church is for them. Thee and Thou are just the tip of the iceberg as other words have changed their meaning or gone out of use. It is the same reason we no longer use the authorised version of the Bible or the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in most of our services.

      2) Because many of them use long theological words that are lost on many in our churches. I could try and explain ‘consubstantial, co-eternal’ but I think there are more important things to get across.

      3) Because to many poetry is elitist and does not connect to them. If we use that language we create a barrier. Perhaps that is why the church today is largely middle class.

      4) Because many (but not all) of the old hymn tunes are equally out of step with modern thinking. 50 years ago you could go to sung communion in a parish church and it would be sung to Merbeke. I really like plainsong and tudor music, but I have to admit that it is not mainstream.

      We are called to proclaim the gospel afresh in each generation – we need to do that in both the literary and musical language appropriate to the place and time.

      Some of the old hymn words can be modernised or are sufficiently clear not to need it (Amazing Grace is an example – yes grace may need explaining to some, but it is such an important word to understanding of the Gospel it is well worth the time ).

      Getting back to where we started much of the words speak of that personal relationship that, though it was in some of the older hymns, is missing from the vast bulk of them.

      Equally some of the old tunes work for a modern generation – some have even been successfully arranged in a modern style. I have heard some cracking arrangements of Slane (Be thou my vision)! Some are just dirges and should be consigned to history. 100 years or so ago Rock of Ages was a really popular hymn, but the tune is awful! Lets sign a joyful noise.

      Yes some modern music is not well suited to communal singing, but a lot of it is. And yes lets keep the best of the old as well.

      Reply
      • Nick I appreciate what you are saying and I am sure some new hymns can enhance the preaching of the Gospel, but not all singing ‘noise’ should be joyful. There are several tunes for Rock of Ages, I like ‘Toplady’ best. Yes, it is not a joyful tune, but the hymn speaks of our desperate need of redemption, which only becomes joyful through salvation, moreover, as a ‘Good Friday Hymn’ it would hardly be appropriate to be all that happy. Our need of redemption is definitely part of what needs to be taught.

        More generally, you are saying that the people whom we hope will attend churches can’t understand long words, or our ‘thees and thous’. Well, if they are to grow in faith they shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to learn these things, and occasionally hearing them sung won’t do any harm. If you try to simplify things too much, people will soon feel they are being presented with something a bit phoney, and go elsewhere for something authentic.

        Reply
        • Although some do not understand some of the words, the main point is that the language alienates them. They perpetuate the idea that Church is old fashioned and not relevant to today.

          As I said in my post we could explain all the unusual words (they are not all long), and indeed I said that Grace is a word we should explain, but some such as consubstantial should be confined to use by theologians.

          Yes there is a place for tunes that are not joyful.

          Reply
      • Redhead’s tune, (‘Petra’?) to Rock of Ages can be dirge-like, I agree. But that suits a serious mood. And what is more necessary.

        Hastings’s ‘Toplady’ more sung by Pentecostals has endured incredibly well.

        But for my money the finest tune for this hymn is Maunder’s alternative tune at the end of ‘Olivet to Calvary’. Maunder gave 2 tunes: the Redhead and his own.

        Reply
      • Nick,
        I think much of what you have written, can be used as an argument for matching the hymns to the scripture and to the preaching, rather than random personal choice of the musicians which seems to be the rule in some churches, even in the name of being led by Holy Spirit. You are probably aware that the old Methodist Hymns and Psalms book had a scripture index with matched hymns.
        On a more modern level, other Song books group songs and hymns into themes.
        Another old hymn which “sings well” today is “Before the throne of God Above”even though I take your point about thee’s and thou’s, which can easily changed and have been in some instances.
        And it fits with title of Ian Paul’s article, as it is deeply personal in relationship’
        All hymns could readily be given a short contemporary language introduction, so that they don’t stand alone, separate as it were, from the rest of the worship service.
        P.S I’m not a musician, and musical terms are lost on me.
        I’m of the view that the best hymn/songs are a mixture of orthodox Christian Theology and personal application, worship and adoration old and new.
        There was an adage I heard some years ago, that old hymns were sung about God, modern songs are to God. It’s an overgeneralisation, for sure, with some significant exceptions.
        But how important is it to be theologically correct, precise? You may be aware that there has been some controversy over a modern, deeply personal song by Cory Asbury, “Reckless Love”and in some circles has overflowed into an espousal of the theology of God’s love being reckless, which I’ve heard being preached, without explanation or qualification and with an oblique reference to the “cosmic child abuser” god of the cross of Christ as propounded by Chalke and others.

        Reply
        • There is a school of thought that all the hymns in a service should be matched to the scripture readings and the sermon. I generally follow the idea that some should, but I do am not one to slavishly follow this.

          Its not just the old Methodist Hymn book that have a scripture index. Most modern hymn books (e.g. the 2013 Ancient and Modern) have one as do the books of Worship Songs (e.g. Songs of Fellowship). Indeed many modern songs are much more related to scripture than some of the old ones, but if quoting scripture was the only criterion, we would have missed those songs which do speak of the experience of the personal relationship. As has been said above there are good and bad examples of these in old hymns and in modern worship songs.

          Also some hymns make oblique references to scripture that requires us to have a deep knowledge of scripture to interpret the meaning. Perhaps in another era there was a general deeper knowledge of scripture, but these days for example the words “here I raise my Ebenezer” do need some explanation before the hymn is sung.

          However all that does not really answer the question of making the words of hymns and songs appropriately accessible for the congregation you want to come in. If you are an Oxford parish filled exclusively by university academics then perhaps you may choose hymns with all the unusual words you like, but that is not going to work for estate ministry. Many will have been turned off by the language before you get a chance to explain the meaning.

          Reply
  20. Theology, Melody, Poetry make for a good worship song.

    The great hymns of the past were generally written by ministers who had studied the faith and taught the faith. They had content. They were also accompanied by tunes that were memorable, catchy could be sung unaccompanied. They also had phrases that could be easily remembered and repeated. In the modern era, Graham Kendrick began writing ‘worship songs’ instead of solo performance songs (who remembers ‘paid on the nail’? after a year studying theology at a seminary.

    Many of today’s songs are written by people with what appears to be almost no Biblical or theological knowledge, no sense of poetry or language & little musicality.

    Sure, there have been some good songs in the past 2 decades coming out of Hillsong, Redman, Tim Hughes and especially the undervalued Martyn Layzell – but much of what we are offered is theology-less, melody-less, poetry-less meh. I fear the lure of ‘big bucks’ and Christian music
    machine looking for the next young thing with cool hair cut and cool T shirts, has seriously damaged Church worship. Worship is now an industry, not a ministry – worship sells.

    Here a few examples of the next gen of song writers & worship leaders who’ve ‘got it’ IMHO (but i’m biased 😉 )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_sZBueMC0U&list=PL0nGytEy65goUK_HSQYeDCDUsBPUc0oDG&index=4

    Reply
    • 1. I was going to mention, the singing of Psalms, so thanks for the link Simon, with 23 Psalms being first up.
      The Getty’s have a new collection of sung Psalms.
      And an Australian? band, The Sons of Korah, have some marvellous sung Psalms, not that they are for congregational singing. Marvellous and affecting: there’s more.
      Here is Psalm 51: https://youtu.be/8RnDuwbz5UI
      I’ve also heard wondrous a cappella psalm singing on the the internet such as this stunning congregational sung in Gaelic psalm 22: https://youtu.be/6S3XDunMj2Y
      2. Puritans. I agree with John Grayston above. Some of the Puritans such as Richard Sibbes and Thomas Goodwin would be toe- curling embarrassing with to many puritans, (both legalistic conservatives and legalistic liberals) in the church today.
      3 Worship. There seems to be a widely held distinction abroad in the church between worship and preaching. John Piper doesn’t draw that line: preaching is (or should be) worship. As Tim Keller says it’s not merely good advice, good information, but Good News, with the aim of on-the- spot affective change, in hearers, revivalist, if you like, as I’ve heard him say, having being influenced by M Lloyd -Jones and Jonathan Edwards.

      Reply
      • Geoff
        Keller “worship as preaching” –
        I have not read/heard this take – am intrigued – can you direct me to online talk or has he written on this? I often think we must resist notion much touted in charismatic contexts that we have ‘worship, word, ministry’ – by saying that the word is the ministry time, but I am struck by it also as worship – in both the prep, preaching, & hearing & responding to the Word.

        Reply
        • Hello Simon,
          Here is a link to a John Piper article, which I think gives a flavour, a strong taste, of what came to mind, even if it is not the one that first drew me to the write the above. There seems to be a series on-line.
          Hope it is an encouragement in your continued calling.
          https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-place-of-preaching-in-worship
          This seems to be taken from his book Expository Exultation, described as: “Building on the foundation laid by his previous two books, A Peculiar Glory and Reading the Bible Supernaturally, Piper makes a compelling claim about the purpose of a sermon: it should not just explain the text; it should awaken worship by being worship. Christian preaching is a God-appointed means of transforming its hearers in both head and heart — in both intellect and affections.”
          “the purpose of a sermon…:it should awaken worship by being worship…transforming its hearers in both head and heart-in both intellect and affections.”

          Reply
  21. Not at home at moment, Simon. Twas Piper who said preaching is worship, in effect, to be affective to hearers.
    Will try to find the source on old computer at home. But without being patronising you seem to have encapsulated it in a nutshell, glorifying, worshipping God in and through it all.

    Reply
  22. I suspect a lot of the background for this article is a reaction to the language used in some modern worship… Which some may find over familiar. If anything Paul’s relationship with Christ was even more intense than we would expect… You’ve only got to read passages in the epistles to see that eg Philippians 4!
    And those references in acts to bring directed by the spirit of Jesus…. Show that it wasn’t limited to Paul.

    Reply
  23. My reading for today (in ‘Encounter with God’ [sic]) is Act 26:1-18, Paul’s defence before Agrippa. This reminded me of another aspect of the believer’s personal relationship with Jesus. Paul describes his Damascene encounter when the risen Jesus says, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Jesus identifies himself personally with the individuals that are being persecuted.

    You find the same personal identification with the treatment of “my brothers and sisters” in the judgement of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46.

    Reply
  24. Although I had been attending an Episcopal church for many years and had been baptised and confirmed at age 12, I met a high school friend who said I needed a personal relationship with Jesus. At the time, I thought that was pretty arrogant that God would be expected to stoop to my level so to speak. But I came to see what he meant. I would argue, from relationship science, that we often misunderstand what “faith” means. Partly it’s intellectual belief. But if I tell my wife I am sure that she exists, she will not be impressed. I guess God is not impressed either with intellectual acknowledgement of His existence. In relationship science, faith seems tied to a sense of positive expectation, as it says in Hebrews that you must believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (if I remember the verse right). In other words, do I positively expect God will hear my prayer? Do I expect Him to always have my best, long-term interests in mind, not because I am deserving but because of His loving nature? Do I expect Him to give me wisdom to do His will moment by moment? Does He understand my feelings when my world seems to be crashing all around me?

    Reply

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