When I sit down to read a Christian book, I’m looking for one key factor. One thing that, above all, makes it a wonderful book.
I want it to make much of Christ and point me to Him. These are the books that keep me reading, because they bring me joy, they stimulate my mind, and supremely, through the work of the Spirit, they change my heart. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many today, when it comes to it, merely talk doctrine, ecclesiology, or hermeneutics. They talk religion and not Christ.
Created to Draw Near is a treasure of a book because on each page it is dripping with the rich, carefully articulated, presentation (and application) of the remarkable privilege that can be ours: a relationship with almighty God.
Ed Welch takes us on a guided tour through Scripture, drawing out the theme of people as God’s royal priests. While this may sound like it’s going to be a heavy read, Welch skilfully ensures every sort of reader can be carried along on the journey.
The chapters are short and therefore accessible. He rarely quotes others (there are only 25 references for the whole book), and there aren’t many illustrations. But it’s the sort of book that when you finish one chapter you think, “Just one more.”
The book has 3 parts.
- Our Past
- Jesus our Tabernacle
- Almost Truly Human
As we journey through this book, we are shown who we are and what we have in Christ. Though fallen, sinful beings, all are invited to come to Christ and, through repentance and faith, enter a new relationship with him. As we do, we take on a new role.
“We are angled mirrors,” writes Welch, “capable of reflecting his glory to the world, we assume that we need his presence; otherwise there is nothing to reflect. With our eyes on him, we learn his ways and then imitate him.” (27) With this new status comes new clothes. Adam and Eve dressed themselves, but God comes in and beautifully clothes His royal priesthood. “Beauty is part of the priestly package. If we are close to God, it can be no other way.” (30)
Sin drives us apart, but God draws near—back to how it was . . . and into something better. And as He draws near, He is active. Welch outlines God’s actions for us as He works through our past. We’ve seen already how He saves the priests and clothes them. But He also blesses them, makes them holy, brings them into community, feeds them, gives them roles and responsibilities . . . and the list goes on.
Perfected by Christ
Welch shows us how God imparts these things, but then as he takes us into part two of the book, he also shows how Jesus perfects each one. Welch shows us the glory of the greatest High Priest. This section builds on Welch’s previous point that we are to reflect Christ. Welch himself leads by example, and the 35 pages of section two are a beautiful smorgasbord of Christ’s character and work.
In the final section Welch digs down into what we as Christ’s royal priesthood are to look like today, in the ‘now and not yet’. Welch writes: “Devotion to the Lord is worked out in the details of everyday life.” (186) How we work together as the body of Christ, using our gifts, without jealousy or envy, with humility, gentleness, humility, and love. We serve (wash) and we worship (aroma)—and as we do, we reflect our Saviour.
Though we are familiar with many areas of the priestly duty, Welch teaches us that priests were always called to be sent out: they were to go from the temple into the world (191). They were to be missional and, in that, do battle, discern, pray, and bless. The work of the priest is to help people draw near. To help them find forgiveness, reconciliation, and purpose as they encounter God. What a charge to us as we seek to be priests and reach out to the lost.
For me, the Epilogue is a rich, grounded, and well-applied end to an excellent book. I like the way in which Welch brings his depth of understanding, gained through diligent study, to bear on his own heart and person. He humbly shows his reader how he too is a work in progress and is growing in knowledge and understanding of what it is to reflect Christ and live out his priestly calling amidst the nitty-gritty of life. This is one of the best books you’ll read in 2020.