Editorial: Learning From John Owen -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 20:4 (Winter 2016)
Article: Editorial: Learning From John Owen
Author: Stephen J. Wellum


Editorial: Learning From John Owen

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 PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he is the author of numerous essays and articles and the co-author with Peter Gentry of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012) and God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2015), and the co-editor of Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Crossway, 2015 with Gregg Allison), and Progressive Covenantalism (B&H, 2016 with Brent Parker), and author of God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of the Person of Christ (Crossway, 2016) and Christ Alone—The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior (Zondervan, 2017).

Why should we study people from the past, especially the distant past? Why not merely focus on current issues that the church faces, for after all, what do people from a previous era have to teach us today? Two responses can be given to these questions, one from Scripture and the second from experience.

First, as we study Scripture, it is significant to note how often we are told to learn from past people, events, and history. Many places teach us this, but probably the best place is Hebrews 11. In order to encourage the church to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel, the author unpacks the glory of Christ and his work from the OT, and then exhorts the church to run the race set before them with perseverance like the saints of old. That is why in chapter 11, the author walks through the great “hall of fame” of faithful OT saints, who persevered under unbelievable pressure as they took God at his Word, believed his promises, and lived their lives looking forward to the fulfillment of those promises centered in the coming of Christ. The author appeals to the example of these saints to encourage the church to do likewise in their day. From the examples of past individuals, the church is to learn

how to be faithful in the present era.

In fact, the author not only encourages present-day Christians from past examples, he also exhorts and challenges them to walk by faith in a greater way since now that Christ has come, we, who live post-resurrection, see more clearly how God has kept all of his promises in Christ, something OT saints never witnessed. Scripture’s appeal to people from the past, then, is for our instruction and as such, it gives us warrant and incentive to learn from those who have alr...

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