On May 25, 2016, one of the most important theologians of my time passed into Glory. John Webster, a British Anglican, was a theologian, preacher, lecturer, and disciple of Jesus Christ. Webster is not widely known. He does not sell books at a popular level. His sermons are not podcasted thousands of times around the world every week. However, Webster’s unwavering commitment to the Holy Scriptures, Trinitarian faith, the exclusivity of Christ, and many more important points of doctrine shone through his work. For Webster, publishing and preaching were not tools to create a platform, but rather, the mode through which he aimed to serve God faithfully and humbly.
Confronted by Grace is a collection of Webster’s sermons, touching on a variety of themes from the doctrines of grace, to Christian perseverance, to hearing God. The subtitle of the book is key: these are sermons wrought from the meditations of a theologian. We know, therefore, that behind these words are decades of Bible study, prayer, and experience.
Webster preaches in Confronted by Grace that, despite his theological acuteness, is comprehensible to laypeople everywhere. Most of us, for example, understand that there is indeed a “lie of self-sufficiency” that exists, though some of us may struggle to find the language to express this phenomenon. Webster, in the first sermon of the book, poses a simple question: “Why do we tell lies?” There are a variety of answers that could rightly answer this question. Webster shares his thoughts below:
“We invent lies because, for whatever reason, we want to invent reality. And the false reality which we invent, the world we make up by our lying, has one great advantage for us: It makes no claims on us. It demands nothing. It doesn’t shape us in the way that truth shapes us; it faces us with no obligations; it has no hard, resistant surfaces which we can’t get through. A lie is a made-up reality, and so never unsettles, never criticizes, never resists, never overthrows us. It’s the world, not as it is, but as we wish it to be: a world organized around us and our desires.” (5)
All of the sermons in Confronted by Grace reflect this sort of wisdom: deeply insightful, yet plain, and simple to grasp. Webster’s preaching is powerful, gospel-centered, and a balm for those in need of God’s grace. Thanks to Lexham Press for publishing this great set of sermons from a great theologian of our day and age. He continues to be missed by many.