As the CT staff puts the finishing touches on this issue, I have just returned from several rewarding hours of dialogue between Wheaton, Illinois, evangelicals and a group of Chicago-area rabbis. The topic of our conversation was God's grace, and we came to a deeper understanding of our differences. (More on those some other time.)
In order to explain evangelical understandings of grace to these Jewish friends, I distributed copies of several classic hymns: "Rock of Ages," "Amazing Grace," and "Just as I Am." These hymn texts illustrate our belief that:
- we are unable to contribute anything to our salvation ("Not the labor of my hands / Can fulfill thy law's demands");
- God initiates the saving encounter of grace ("Thy love unknown / has broken every barrier down"); and
- Jesus' dying in our place is the price of grace ("Nothing in my hand I bring, / Simply to thy Cross I cling" and "Let the water and the blood, / From thy wounded side which flowed, / Be of sin the double cure; / Save from wrath and make me pure").
How could I have forgotten to include Charles Wesley's 1738 hymn "And Can It Be"? ("Emptied himself of all but love, / And bled for Adam's helpless race.")
These hymns were written in an era of evangelical giants, and they still speak powerfully today. They capture the core Protestant message. But in our time, there are signs that belief in grace may be coming untethered from our classic understanding of the Cross. See Mark Dever's "Nothing But the Blood" (p. 28) for more.
Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and is an expert on English Puritanism. Indeed, he is "a Puritan in 21st-century clothing," as J. I. Packer notes on the back of Dever's 2005 volume, The Message of the New Testament. ...1
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