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Reviews | Portrait of the Saint

Portrait of the Saint

John Marshall

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

112 pages

Portrait of the Saint

The Christadelphian review (from September 1968)

Portrait of the Saint

IN his “Portrait of the Saint” bro. John Marshall has set out to give an interpretation of the Letter to the Ephesians, rather than a detailed exposition of it. Indeed, in his Preface he expresses the hope that his work will complement the splendid and more detailed work of the late bro. John Carter. We are continually reminded of his viewpoint in the recurrence of the metaphor which bro. Marshall has chosen in his title: the Apostle Paul “develops”, “builds up”, “paints” and “fills in the details” of his picture of the saint in his personal, social and ecclesial life; and invites us to take a “long, close, penetrating look” at the portrait presented. And always the challenge is there for the reader, implicit or expressed in so many words: Do you see yourself in this light?

Although no formal statement of the structure of the Letter or detailed analysis is made, the author unfolds his interpretation in an orderly way, based upon the order of the letter itself. The introductory chapters point to the seven signs by which the saints can be clearly identified as sons of God, beginning with the active response to the call of God and its assertion of the fundamental and sevenfold doctrine: “One body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father.” An interesting comparison is made with the Fourth Gospel, which “discloses the incredible fact that the glory of the saint is parallel (though not equal) with that of Jesus, the Christ!” In the fifteen chapters of his book, bro. Marshall expands upon the theme of the first three chapters of the Letter—the divine and eternal principles of the saint’s inheritance with Christ, and gives practical advice upon the basis of the last three chapters which deal with the need for putting these principles into practice in every part of the life of the saint.

The Saint’s Responsibility

The second half of this book I found particularly helpful. The author writes with sympathy and understanding of human relationships, and of the greatness of the saint’s responsibility in community life. “More often than not saints in distress find it hard to think of anyone who could help: this is the measure of our inadequacy to realize in practice that we are members one of another.” Or again: “What ecclesia would have troubles if every member behaved like this (forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you)? With such a response one to another it should be possible to discuss doctrinal issues which otherwise become tangled and impossible of solution because of the suspicion present in the minds of opposing groups.” The chapters on “Husbands and Wives” and “Children and Parents” also repay careful re-reading, since the great spiritual responsibilities underlying these fundamental relationships are clearly brought out, and here is undoubtedly a message for our times.

This is, in short, a worthwhile book, presented in a readable style. If bro. Marshall has tended to repeat words like “amazing”, “astonishing”, “magnificent”, it is because the fact of God’s grace and the greatness of our privilege in being raised up with Christ and made to sit with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus has filled him with a sense of wonder he has sought to convey to his readers. And his recurrent use of the word “dynamic” in various parts of the book is suggested by the Apostle’s own emphasis upon the corresponding Greek for the “power that worketh in us” through him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Nor can there be any doubt “what power there would be in the prayers of the whole body for this (to receive and preserve the spirit of His wisdom); and if we prayed in faith, what holiness the world would see in us”.

A. H. NICHOLLS

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