In the introduction to the book Stott identified three main groups of people that he is trying to reach, and they are, “newly committed Christians, those preparing for membership, and those who are Christians of long standing.” (p. 5) I can appreciate his attempt to write to such a broad group of people, and I feel that he has accomplished his goal. However, at the beginning of the book he discusses salvation and even writes a sinner’s prayer for anyone who feels led to accept Christ. So, one could say that he has also written to a fourth category of people, those without Christ.
The book is separated into three sections, Christians Beginnings (briefly mentioned), Christian Belief, and Christian Behavior. The book clearly accomplishes the task of the title, a concise explanation of Christian Basics. It is not a theology or doctrinal book, but it does summarize well the basics. It would be a great resource for a Sunday school class or teen group, and at the end of each chapter there is opportunity for homework assignments. There are some noticeable differences in his theology and methodology, but nothing that cannot be sorted out with proper discussion. In fact, I enjoy reading other ideas because they help to refine my thinking and theology. Sunday school classes are great opportunities for such discussions; participants can discuss the differences and identify why they agree or disagree (stating biblical reason and/or verses). If participants are unable to do this, well, it would be obvious that some more teaching is would be helpful
On page thirty-one Stott writes, “The Father has accepted the Son’s sacrifice for our sins. he has publicly demonstrated his approval of it by raising him from the dead and setting him at his right hand. (p. 31) This confirmation that Stott has drawn can be used to encourage believers in the finished work of Christ. It also demonstrates the power of God, and placing Christ at the right hand reveals that Jesus is who He claimed to be.
It is always helpful when an author provides an outline and listing within each chapter. This helps each reader to understand what each section is about and leaves opportunity to return to meaningful sections of the book. While teaching in a class or Bible study the teacher can say turn to page eighty, point number three, “The session and return of Jesus.” One can recognize how the outline can be helpful for quick referencing in a teaching scenario.
There were a few meaningful passages that deserve recognition. On page seventy-five Stott writes, “Jesus was extremely self-centered in his words, but absolutely unselfish in his deeds. He sounded proud, but he was humble.” (p. 75) The Scriptures clearly demonstrate the humility of Jesus, but what a noted contrast. Jesus claimed greatness and power (rightly so), yet His actions demonstrate meekness and humility. What Stott has written is a great reminder of who we are following, and who we are to imitate.
The section on The Work of the Holy Spirit (p. 86-91) was an excellent read and brought comfort. Stott writes, “Jesus universalizes and internalizes the presence of Jesus.” (p. 87) The implication is that Jesus was limited to one location at a time, but now, as a result of the Spirit we are always in the presence of Jesus. A reality that Christians cannot afford to neglect. Stott continues, “the indwelling Spirit actively assures us of God’s love and fatherhood… the Spirit, our first installment of our salvation, assuring us that the fullness will in due course be ours as well… His ministry is not only to show Christ to us, but to form Christ in us… if the Holy Spirit is the primary author of Scripture, he is its primary interpreter to.” (p. 89-91)
Great stuff written by Stott, the Holy Spirit and His work are often neglected. The longer I am a Christian and the more I read God’s Word, the more grateful I am for the Spirit of God. It is an awesome reality, and we worship an awesome God. God’s truth is what motivates God’s children to persevere. Christian Basics is a summary of God’s truth and goodness, specifically relaying to readers the many blessings available to each believer. Is it possible for a child of God to read such things and not get excited? If so, therein lies a great lack of understanding. Getting to know God has been a great journey and I look forward to much more as the Spirit reveals truth and grants understanding.
Stott, John. Christian Basics A Handbook of Christian Faith. London: Hodder. 2014