Concern for the Nations

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John Stott (1921-2011), Rector of London’s All Souls Church (1950-75) and Chaplain to the Queen (1959-1991), argues that the modern Church is in danger of believing that God no longer has concern for the nations. The biblical notion of covenant (first revealed to the Israelites) still requires Christians to realize that God’s glory and power do not begin and end only with individuals. Despite differences between the Old and New Covenants vis-a-vis stipulations for civic responsibility, Stott nevertheless warns that the mistakes of Israel can all too quickly become those of the modern Church.

[T]he living God is the God of the nations as well as of his covenant people. We Christians sometimes make the mistake which Israel made in the Old Testament when they concentrated exclusively on the God of the Covenant, who had chosen them out of all the nations to be the holy nation, and who had pledged himself to them, saying, “I will be your God and you shall be my people.” To be sure, this was a glorious truth. The notion of “covenant” is a major biblical theme; the biblical revelation is unintelligible without it. But it is a dangerous half-truth. When Israel overemphasized it, they diminished the living God. They reduced him to the status of a tribal deity, a petty godling. He became Yahweh the god of the Israelites, more or less on a par with Chemosh the god of the Moabites and Milcom the god of the Ammonites. They also forgot the other nations, or simply despised and rejected them.

But the Bible begins with the nations, not Israel; with Adam not Abraham; with the creation not the Covenant. And when God chose Israel, he did not lose interest in the nations . . . More than that, he has promised that in blessing Abraham and his posterity he will bless all the families of the earth, and that one day he will restore what the Fall has marred, and bring to perfection all that he has made.1


1 John R. W. Stott, Human Rights & Human Wrongs: Major Issues for a New Century, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 32.

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