An excerpt from the Revd Pickles book, Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, pages 24-25
“Only against the backdrop of my sinfulness and God’s holiness, do I really see the glory and splendour of the cross and the gospel of grace. Following on from the Confession in the Communion service, there are words of absolution that reassure us that God has ‘promised forgiveness of sins to all who truly repent and then we come to the so-called ‘comfortable words’, verses of Scripture that speak words of gospel grace about the Lord Jesus who came into the world to save sinners. Such a biblically-soaked liturgy serves to magnify the cross and the grace and love of God:
“Above all things you must give humble and hearty thanks to God—for the redemption of the world by the death and passion of our Saviour Christ, both God and man who did humble himself even to the death upon the cross for us miserable sinners who lay in darkness and the shadow of death, that he might make us the children of God and exalt us to everlasting life. And to the end that we should always remember the exceeding great love of our Master and only Saviour Jesus Christ, thus dying for us and the innumerable benefits which by his precious blood-shedding hath obtained to us …”. BCP Holy Communion, Third Exhortation
“If this is our condition, hopeless and helpless then we need a Saviour who does more than meet us half-way but who does for us everything that we could not do in order to accomplish our salvation.
“The so-called ‘Comfortable Words’ in the BCP Communion service following on from the Confession serve to reassure and draw the worshipper near to God in full assurance of His gracious acceptance on the basis of the perfect, sufficient provision for sin in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ashley Null in his book, Divine Allurement puts it this way on pages 8, 10-13, and 13.
“The red thread that runs throughout Cranmer’s writings is this simple truth: the glory of God is to love the unworthy—Jesus himself is the one who stands by our side. He is the one who answers for us when we are accused of being sinners! Here is the heart of the revolution in the understanding of Jesus that the English Reformers wanted to proclaim. For believers, Jesus is not our judge. He is our defence lawyer—Cranmer sent out Scripture’s Comfortable Words—as a falcon, flying forth in a spiralling gyre, grounded in the human condition but gradually looping higher and higher towards the lofty of the divine, holding humanity and the Trinity together in a dynamic mutual dialectic, funnelling love from above into the hearts of the beloved below so that they at last have the power to love God and one another on earth as it is in heaven”.
The Revd Dr Mark Pickles is the Director of the North West Partnership and was the Director of Anglican Ministry Training at Oak Hill College, London. Used with permission of the author.