I first met Elwyn Davies in Cardiff in 1958. I was 20 and he was 13 years older. He wore a double-breasted overcoat with a belt. He looked warm and old-fashioned, but in those black and white photos of that time, we all look positively Dickensian; students in their sports coats and ties with Crusader badges in their lapels. I met Elwyn in his capacity as travelling secretary for the IVF (Inter Varsity Fellowship) in Wales. Each term he visited Cardiff university and filled his diary with appointments to hear and counsel mainly male students while Mary Clee of Swansea talked to the women. Elwyn was a wonderful listener and a chairman of discussions. He was to write a reference for me as part of my application to Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, three years later. Elwyn had been a preacher in Blaenau Ffestiniog and under his ministry there, my wife, Iola’s parents came to trust in the finished work of Christ, as well as both Iola and her sister. Elwyn preached on 1 Corinthians 13 at our wedding and we stayed together in the home of Hannah Griffiths the night before our wedding day. He was reading Hendriksen’s commentary on the gospel of John in bed. I don’t think I read anything.
Elwyn Davies was pre-eminently a preacher and his preaching was always on the big themes, that is, he majored in the majors of redemptive revelation. There were certainly two occasions when his preaching permanently affected me for good. The first was in January 1959 when at a pre-terminal conference in the Gower he spoke to 30-40 Cardiff students on the meaning of justification by faith. His text was ‘Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption’ (1 Cor. 1:30). He especially opened up the fact of God making Jesus Christ our righteousness, that the righteousness of every Christian is in heaven at the right hand of God, and that God has imputed the spotless righteousness of the God-man to our account. Elwyn explained the imputation of our sin to Christ — the other part of the great Golgotha transaction — with the help of a black pocket Bible. Putting the book on his open hand, he said, ‘Imagine that this book is your sin, all the sins of omission and commission, of emotion, thought, word and deed. God has taken all that guilt and he has laid it on the Lamb of God who has taken it away. That is what he is doing in Calvary.’ Then he removed the black book from one hand and put it on the other, as all our trespasses laid on Christ. So I saw myself as freed from the guilt and dominion of sin. But positively more: I was clothed in the righteous life, the holy obedience and the love of Jesus Christ for God and his neighbour. My sin to him, and his righteousness to me as I put my trust in him. Justification through faith in Christ was never more clearly and powerfully presented to me, and I embraced it with joy.
A year later Elwyn, in the same venue, to a larger group of students, taught us a more challenging subject — ‘What is our chief end in life?’ Our purpose in life was to glorify and enjoy God in all we were for ever, because from Christ, and through Christ, and to Christ was to be everything we had and did. It was a magnificent picture of the life of the mere disciple of the Lord Jesus, who might be a housewife and mother, or a father and husband, or a schoolboy, a binman, someone locked away in prison, an elderly person, whoever it might be, earthed in all the mundane duties of much of daily living, facing the tasks of every day but as a follower of the Lamb doing whatever his hand touched for God’s glory. So drudgery can become divine. Those times hearing Elwyn Davies were golden hours.
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