Awakening to the Most Compassionate Book Ever Written

by Dr. James Willingham

The most compassionate Book ever written was and is and ever shall be the Bible.  Even what seems to be its most repulsive parts have some caring, loving purpose involved, especially when viewed through the lens of some other verse or verses bearing on the same issue.  Consider Psalm 2:4: “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh:  The Lord shall have them in derision.”  Now view the same verse from the perspective of Luke 19:41, where Jesus “beheld the city, and wept (great wracking sobs, so I understand) over it.”

The whole affair involves the most abasing, abrasive, and abhorrent issue in all of Holy Writ, namely, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think of how the cross was regarded up to that date and even beyond.  Think also of how the death of that one man changed our perceptions of the cross: it is now the symbol of God’s loving willingness to identify with sinners in their desperate need.  The tree, as it is also called, seems to stand in opposition to every thing we would expect of God, and yet such is the case.  But it is the vent on the cross that is the reason for such a change.  There in that cruel display of unjust law, Jesus shed His blood as the atonement for our sins, shed His blood to redeem us from our sins, shed His blood to reconcile us to God, shed His blood that we might have new life, new hope, new love, and a new Lord.

All of the verses of the Bible were written to be an invitation to trust God.  Recently Southern Baptists experienced a controversy over a leader who made some remarks against using the sinner’s prayer (Luke 18:13), but I had to laugh.  Why?  Because my brother-in-law had been won to the Lord by a Sovereign Grace Youth Minister (some mistakenly refer to such people by the party spirit name of Calvinism), using, no less, the sinner’s prayer.  I also had to laugh, because I knew of an example from one work where a man was converted as a result of reading the genealogy of our Lord.  Shall we rule that the genealogies shall not be used to win people to Christ?  Of course, there are abuses in the use of the biblical passages to win people  to the Lord.  Even so, God can strike a straight blow with a crooked stick.  In fact, that is all He has today or any day, since the time of our Lord.

I have preached several times a sermon on Romans 9:13 which bore the title, “The Hardest Text in The Bible.”  My theme or truth derived from the text was that it is an invitation to be saved.  We are invited to receive God I. Who does not think like we do.  II. Who does not love like we do.  III. Who does not act like we do.  Twice, there were professions of faith,  A minister once stated that predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage.  That statement, in my opinion, applies to every subject and text in the Bible.

And  then we have eschatology.  Yesterday, a lady said to me that the end was surely near.  Well, it ends everyday for multitudes.  The question I ask is this:  “What does one do with a text like I Chron.16:15 which speaks  of a thousand generations or with our Lord’s statement about the angels gathering the elect from one end of THE heaven to the other (Mt.24:31)?” (note: the article before heaven in the original is definite).  It was a man who was accused of being the source of the doctrine of limited atonement that enabled me to grasp the idea of multitudes of planets being converted.  John Owen was the man, and he is quoted in Andrew Fuller’s Gospel Worthy Of All Acceptation.  God has a heart of compassion so big that it can deliver an innumerable  company of sinners (Revelation 7:9).  Such lies at the heart of the Bible, the most compassionate Book ever written.

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About dr. james willingham

B.S. Ed. Lincoln Univ., Mo., '67; M.A. (American Social and Intellectual History) (GPA 3.7) Morehead State Univ., Ky. '71; work toward a Ph.D. in American and Black History, 6 hrs. Univ. of South Carolina and 12 at Columbia Univ., NY, Spring and Summer of '71 respectively; M.Div. '74; D. Min. '76 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, NC; M.A. '88 Liberty Univ., Va, (counseling). Honors: Phi Alpha theta - the International Honor Society of Historians; Pi Gamma Mu - The National Honor Society of Social Scientists Graduate Assistant, Morehead State, '69-70; Lecture: The Stanley Elkins Thesis: A Critique. Summer Afternoon Lecture Series Columbia University, Summer '71; Instructor, South Carolina State College, 1970-72 (taught 4-5 sections in American History. taught one course in Philosophy, Spring of '71), Adjunct faculty" Richmond Community College, Rockingham, NC 1985, taught two quarters of Political Science. Thesis for M.A. in American Social & Intellectual History: "The Baptists & Ministerial Qualifications:1750-1850." Prospectus for Doctoral Dissertation at Columbia University, Summer of '71, "The Baptists and Slavery." Instructor Seminary Extension: Greater Gaston Baptist Association, Gastonia, NC, 2002-2004. Taught Systematic Theology, Baptist History, Church History, Preaching, Isaiah, Hebrews Introduction to New Testament Theology. Pastorates: Pilot Knob Baptist Church, Belle, Mo., '62-64; Elston Baptist Church, Elston, Mo., '65-66; Gum Springs Baptist Church, Moncure, NC., '72-83; Heritage Baptist Church, Rockingham, NC, '84-96; Interim, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Casar, NC, 1/2001-3/2001. Chairman, Historical Committee, Sandy Creek Baptist Association, '77=81; Chairman, Historical Committee, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, '85-86. Annual Sermon, Sandy Creek Association, 1981 Lecture: "The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses." BSCNC. Delivered as Chairman of the Committee Fall of '85. Play: The Mirror of Our Past. Visual History of Jersey Baptist Church
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