we heard the news about John Stott while in Manhattan and had the enormous privilege of being at All Souls, Langham Place on Sunday morning to share with our fomer church family.
Like so many other articles written, I have distinct memories of Uncle John. Three come to mind.
First is reading his book “Christ., the Controversialist“, a great defence of the doctrine of Scripture from the words of Jesus Himself in the gospels. It was a fantastic primer on the topic and set me firmly in the right direction.
Second was a sermon he preached on marriage back in 1997 when I had been at All Souls for a few years. The text was Ephesians 5:22-33 [media player to listen here]. Close to the start, Stott uttered these magic words,
Your preacher tonight has (conceivably you may know) never married. And not only so but he's well and truly “on the shelf”! So does that disqualify him from teaching on this subject?
Well, I venture to say “no!” because although I'm not a player of the game and I'm not a participant in the match, I enjoy the objectivity of the touchline! Besides, all preachers have to preach on matters of which they have no personal experience. Married clergy who are still married and have not divorced nevertheless have to preach on the subject of divorce. And all of us have to preach on death, before we die! So in the end it is not experience that will guide us but careful attention to the word of God and what it actually says.
That simple observation had a profound effect upon my understanding of my own role as a preacher. Experience was not necessarily (or even at all) necessary – what was required from me was to rightly divide the word of God.
Third was his sermon preached the Sunday after the September 11 atrocities. In a talk entitled “How should the Christian respond to evil?” Stott worked his way through Romans 12 and 13 showing clearly from the text that personal revenge is never mandated for the Christian (on the basis of course, that we leave it to God) but there is a place for the State to “punish the evildoer”. And of course, a wonderful end in the gospel of forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ. The audio is available here – I thoroughly recommend it. (Perhaps on the approaching 10th anniversary of that outrage and the sometime (to my mind, anyway) increasingly militant word coming from some on the subject, it's worth listening to again.)
So three brief recollections to add to the countless paragraphs written by others. Thanks be to God for giving us John Stott for whom to live was Christ and now in death has only further gain.