Stanley Jones – Ambassador of the Kingdom of God

My father Simon Tofters turned 27 on February 14, 1935. By his brother Petrus, he got the book STANLEY JONES – “Who he is and what he wants”, written by the Dane H. Saermark.

Petrus had been a missionary in Congo, but illness broke him down. He had to return home to Sweden and never became healthy. Simon was a printer and bookbinder, and very involved in the Christian work in the mission church in Östervåla, Sweden.

Simon made a fine band of the book with gold print on its back and read about Stanley Jones. For Simon, all his life was in the Kingdom of God service in the congregation, business, society and family. In particular, he was engaged in music.

Unlike my uncle Petrus, who was briefly on the mission field, Stanley Jones stayed 66 years as a missionary in India. And his field of activity extended to all continents through 29 books, many revival campaigns, counseling, and political leader talks (US, India, China, Japan).

As Paul preached the Kingdom of God and taught with great boldness the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31), Stanley Jones did.

By Stanley Jones, Simon learned that God’s kingdom is the rebuilding of all human life. And that was what Simon did in practice. In his father’s print shop, Simon as a 10-year-old had begun working with his brother Petrus. Simon continued in the same company for 75 years, then finally in his children’s printing business. The vision of God’s kingdom here and now makes us work, being faithful and enduring.

What the whole world needs

During the 1930s, communism grew, Stanley Jones studied it and wrote the book Christ’s Alternative to Communism. Stanley Jones became critical of both communism, fascism/nazism and capitalism. And to President Roosevelt’s attempt to bring America out of the great material crisis of the early 1930s with the aid of a plan society and plan-management.

Father Simon read in his book that Stanley Jones wrote: “I am convinced that what the whole world needs, and through all the various trials, is the kingdom of God on earth . . . With this as the basis, the ultimate social order should and must be built. I am convinced that communism will make us rediscover Christian faith, it will force us to create an alternative to purely material communism. What ultimately saves us all from a material and spiritual downfall is the Kingdom of God on earth.”

Stanley Jones traveled a lot and visited Sweden several times. The first time in 1934 he was welcomed to the university town of Lund by the professor and the dean Yngve Brilioth. Brilioth presented Jones as a prophet and an evangelist. “We have the pleasure of greeting one of the men of the present, who, in front of others, deserves the name of the evangelist, or perhaps more correctly, who is endowed with the high mission of an evangelist. Stanley Jones has opened more gospel doors as few others in our time. The only solution to the world’s common problems is the gospel, unshaven, in full, radical – it is our Lord and Savior Himself.” Yngve Brilioth then became Archbishop of the Church of Sweden in 1950 – 1958.

Open gospel doors

20 years after his first book on Stanley Jones, my father Simon bought the book “E. STANLEY JONES – A Modern Ambassador of the Kingdom of God” – by Karl Jäder (published in 1954).

During those 20 years, Stanley Jones had deepened and widened his Kingdom work. The book is a fascinating description of his life, but Stanley Jones had another 20 years in the service of the kingdom of God.

Stanley Jones also tells of the deep crises with broken health he went through, which led to a higher life plan. Strangely, Stanley Jones on many occasions spoke to Hindus and Muhammadans in conversation and collaboration, which also led to conversion to Christian faith. He had in India a close friendship and cooperation with Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru. Swedish mission expert Professor Bengt Sundkler wrote: “Dr. Jones has, as Archbishop Brilioth a few years ago pointed out, as no other ability to open doors for the gospel.”

Stanley Jones was very clear in his life and work. One of his last books was “The Unshakeable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person” (1972).

The reason Stanley Jones was a missionary he could sum up in a single word: CHRIST!I am determined not to know anything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. My position became firm when I made Christ both the starting point and the goal of my ministry.” For Stanley Jones, the Person Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God were the same. He was Christ centered in his proclamation and engaged by the message of the kingdom of God.

Stanley Jones attended the International Mission Conference in Tambaram-Madras in 1938, where he pointed out that the conference claimed the Church idea too strong, while the Kingdom thought was pushed into the background. Instead, Stanley Jones emphasized that they should have taken God’s kingdom as priority to conference work.

It was Jesus’ starting point and goal. The kingdom of God is God’s absolute order, which meets people’s needs. Jesus used the phrase hundreds of times, while only twice using the phrase congregation or church. To him, the kingdom of God was the concept, which in itself gathered everything, something absolute, which could be set up as the goal. The Church is only a means of achieving this goal. Admittedly, the best means but only one means. For God also uses other means to promote his kingdom.

The churches have limited tasks. But the kingdom of God extends its demands to life – personal life, edification, economic, social, international – everything comes under its control. The kingdom of God is both present and coming . . . We both work for it and await its coming.”

However, the Church was important to Stanley Jones. One of his last books was “The Reconstruction of the Church – On what Pattern?” He wanted the Church to renew itself and proposed a nine-point program based on the Church in Antioch (Acts 13: 1-3). Important is Peter’s confession: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This confession (not the person Peter) is the rock, foundation on which Jesus builds his church. “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Stanley Jones was grateful that the church was not built on the man Peter, each time he falters we should falter with him.

An ambassador of the Kingdom of God

In the book about Stanley Jones, which my father bought and read, Stanley Jones told about a coincidence with a French diplomat, who haughty presented himself: “I am a diplomat“. Stanley Jones was able to tell afterwards: I was the ambassador of God, and I got my dignity and rank of the one I represented. The Frenchman received his dignity from the country he represented. Mine was a universal kingdom, his fell apart. The kingdom of God remains forever.” This was Stanley Jones’ life duty and ministry. “We are therefore ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20).

As a missionary, Stanley Jones learned that even people’s external conditions should be improved, not just the interior. Individual Christianity is intimately connected to social Christianity, radically aimed at the transformation of society as a whole. And the kingdom of God is both now and then. The Kingdom extends beyond time, and yet it seems in time. Our task is to help prepare the kingdom of God now, and to give all our strength for this purpose.

Stanley Jones’ Kingdom Thought had its strong foundation in the Gospels and especially the Sermon on the Mount.

In the Sermon on the Mount, he does not see the basic drawing of the ethics of the coming kingdom, but rather principles of the solution of the complexity of time, and shows us out of the chaos of time and into the sphere and order of the kingdom of God.”

1932 Stanley Jones wrote the book “Christ of the Mount”. Before printing he used the manuscript in an Ashram in Sat Tal at Himalaya. During 20 days the participants could discuss the writings. Stanley Jones shows in his book that Christ´s message on the mount is Kingdom living. “We are created to the life affirmative and freedom-loving message of the mount.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

Jesus principle program for the new kingdom he served for is in Luke 4: 18-21:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the message of joy to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and sight to the blind, to give the oppressed freedom and preach a year of grace of the Lord.”

Holistic

It was not a “social gospel” Stanley Jones promoted, but “the Gospel of the Kingdom”. A social gospel deals only with social issues, while the gospel of the kingdom of God depicts Jesus Christ, sin and grace, salvation, and life transformation – individually and socially – a new order for the individual, for society, for interpersonal community. Jesus came to the earth and proclaimed that the kingdom of God had come. He showed that we should discover the fullness of life when we organize our lives around the Kingdom. Stanley Jones points out that during the centuries, we have lost the Kingdom, as a clearly defined and functioning system of order and influence in our daily lives. We have reduced the Kingdom to placing it in narrow frames, a sanctuary now, a current security, a future hope. Everything but Jesus preached: God’s total response to man’s total needs now! It is high time to regain the message of God’s Kingdom. 

All this Stanley Jones develops in the book “The Unshakeable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person” (1972). “Stanley Jones shows us how to claim our spiritual heritage and the abundant life promised by embracing the Kingdom and Person of Jesus. He suggests how our experience with God and His Kingdom should be taught and shared in the life of the individual, in the life of the church and in the nations of the world.” (Amazon).

Kiell Tofters

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