What are the lasting legacies of Jonathan Edwards? What relevance does an 18th century American New England pastor and theologian have for today’s believer in Christ? In a word; much.
First, Jonathan Edwards had a thorough understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He understood that the LORD was sovereignly responsible for the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
Edwards understood, in line with his Puritan heritage, that fallen sinners were dead in their trespasses (Eph. 2:1-4). However, he also understood that by God’s divine grace alone, He brings to life those who were spiritually dead. Through the preaching of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit monergistically regenerates the elect and they come to faith in Christ (John 3:1-8; 6:35-66; Eph. 2:4-9).
, “His (Edwards) extensive and thorough understanding of the gospel, for one, compels attention. Edwards begins with a vision of the holiness and wrath of God, coupled with his infinite love and mercy as seen in the cross, then moves to portray vividly and powerfully humanity’s desperate plight and utter need of a savior. He thoughtfully balances both a deep and abiding sense of our sin and lowliness alongside the exaltation of joy in Christ and delight in God. This approach serves well as an antidote to the often anemic and shallow presentations of the gospel today,” Dr. Stephen J. Nichols explains
Second, Jonathan Edwards understood the revelation of God is not only seen in the Word of God, but also the creation of God. Edwards embraced both biblical and general revelation.
“This led Edwards to view his engagement of the world in an entirely new way. He could learn of God in the Bible, to be sure, but as he watched the flying spider, for instance, he could see something of the pleasure of God, and as he rode through the picturesque Connecticut River Valley he marveled at God’s creativity and goodness,” Dr. Nichols states,
“The key to Edwards’ thought is that everything is related because everything is related to God,” Edwards’ biographer George Marsden observes. Understanding the world this way brings new perspective to the Christian’s work, the enjoyment of nature, one’s participation in the arts, and also engaging the culture.
Thirdly, Edwards illustrated the reality that a faithful man of God will encounter conflict in ministry. He encountered conflict throughout his ministerial career. Whether at Yale College, dealing with the reactions of the divine movement of the Holy Spirit during the Great Awakening, or his dismissal by the Northampton congregation, Edwards understood that great leaders will encounter great conflict (2 Tim. 3:12).
Finally, Jonathan Edwards appreciated and relished in his gifts from Almighty God. He passionately preached, and lived out, the truth that ultimately believers in Christ find true fulfillment in relishing God Himself. or as Pastor John Piper often says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
“Somewhat endemic to American identity is the pursuit of happiness. Enshrined by Thomas Jefferson, these words and what they mean are often the talk of American historians, and in many ways are often the goal of American citizens. Happiness and its pursuit was of no less interest to Edwards. He differed quite a bit from his contemporaries, however. Most notable in this regard is Benjamin Franklin, one of the key shapers of the meaning of those words. In Franklin’s hands, the pursuit of happiness largely came to mean self-fulfillment accomplished through self-reliance,” Dr. Nichols concludes,
“Edwards could not disagree more. Rather than seeing self-centeredness as the goal achieved through self-reliance, Edwards advocated God-centeredness achieved through dependence on him. There is, however, a great irony here. The irony is summed up in Christ’s words: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). To state the irony directly, self-centeredness through self-reliance leads to self-defeat, in the truest and fullest sense possible. When, however, God is at the center, the self is most realized, most fulfilled, and most happy.”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!
The His Word Today Weekly Podcast begins Monday, September 5 featuring expository messages from the Epistle to the Ephesians.