Editorial: The Life And Legacy Of George Whitefield (1714-1770) -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 18:2 (Summer 2014)
Article: Editorial: The Life And Legacy Of George Whitefield (1714-1770)
Author: Stephen J. Wellum


Editorial: The Life And Legacy Of George Whitefield (1714-1770)

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He received his Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he is the author of numerous essays and articles and the co-author of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012).

This year marks the 300th anniversary of George Whitefield’s birth. Whitefield is important for a number of reasons, all of which deserve our attention as evangelical Christians. As a man committed to the preaching of God’s sovereign grace and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is probably no better example of an individual who lived out his theological convictions. Believing that Scripture calls the church to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world, Whitefield faithfully and tirelessly proclaimed Christ at home and abroad. During his lifetime, for example, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean thirteen times, as he wore himself out preaching Christ to all who would listen, and calling men, women, and boys and girls to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. In addition, he sought to put the Gospel into practice by not only proclaiming Christ but helping those in need. For Whitefield, the preaching of the Gospel demanded action in word and deed, and his life, although certainly not perfect, was a shining example of biblical Christianity at work in real life.

Whitefield is also important in demonstrating that it is possible for evangelicals to work together, even evangelicals who differ sharply in

their theological convictions. As an Anglican with Calvinistic convictions, he was able to forge links with those outside of the Church of England and work with those within. His friendship with the Wesley’s is well known, which nicely demonstrated that people with differing theological convictions can still work together in the common cause of the Gospel. Obviously, Whitefield’s working with those who named Christ had its limits, as he sought to proclaim and defend orthodox Christianity. But within the pale of orthodoxy, Whitefield, without compromising his theological convictions, desired to see Christ’s Church unified, and his life was a fine example of a person who worked to this end.

Probably one of the greatest encouragements we can receive in our day from the life and ministry of George Whitefield is the reminder of the power of the Gospel to transform individual lives and to impact the broader society. Whitefield’s day, like our own, was dark on a number of fronts. Spiritually, the church was apathetic a...

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