Editor’s Introduction -- By: Jonathan Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 06:3 (Summer 1997)
Article: Editor’s Introduction
Author: Jonathan Armstrong

Editor’s Introduction

John H. Armstrong

Soon after beginning my formal study of theology in 1969 I took a required doctrine class for which the mandatory reading list introduced me to classical writings of the Christian tradition. I soon had a growing desire to understand more clearly the great sixteenth-century debates on grace and salvation. Several years later God was pleased to grant to me understanding to joyfully embrace the freeness of sovereign grace. My life would never be the same. I saw the entire Bible as an open revelation of God’s free grace. Passages that had troubled me since my conversion in the 1950s now made sense to me. God was the central character of the canon, and grace was His primary gift. I shall forever remember the tears that freely flowed when I saw and understood that Jesus loved me, not for any imagined good in me, but out of unbounded mercy and grace. What amazed me more than everything else was that my Savior loved me from eternity past. I have never gotten over this revelation of divine truth to my heart!

I am so glad that our Father in heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see—
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.

Tho I forget Him and wander away,
Still He doth love me wherever I stray;
Back to His dear loving arms I would flee
When I remember that Jesus loves me.

O if there’s only one song I can sing
When in His beauty I see the great King,
This shall my song in eternity be:
“O what a wonder that Jesus loves me!”1

Shortly after this encounter with God’s love and sovereign grace I realized that this truth was even more decisive than I could have ever realized. I soon saw that the doctrine of God’s freeness in grace was at the heart of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. I began to read the confessions, the creeds and the warm evangelical catechisms of the Reformers, the Puritans and their various heirs. I relished these aids as they helped me better understand Sacred Scripture. My appreciation for tradition and for the history of the church grew. I realized that sola scriptura did not mean the Bible only, as if evangelicals had no tradition or visible holy catholic church. It meant, as the Reformers properly taught, that all tradition, valuable as it is by degrees, must be judged by the Sacred Scripture, the final court of appeals. But tradition itself was both valuable and necessary. To come to the Scripture as if no one else had ever done so was unwise and dangerous. I further understood that the evangelicalism of my time, with its almost in...

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