Book Review: Created to Draw Near: Our Life as God’s Royal Priests (Edward T. Welch)

Crossway provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program. I’m under no obligation to post a positive review.

As I write this review our world is gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the title of this book seems almost dangerous. If our society has a motto right now, it’d be something like “Instructed to Stay Away.”

But there’s a reason we’re all struggling so much in self-isolation. We were, indeed, created to draw near. As Welch writes in the opening sentences of his introduction: “Our independent streak runs deep. Our desire for closeness runs deeper.”

The subtitle gives us the dominant image of this book: Our Life as God’s Royal Priests. As Spirit-filled followers of Jesus we have been made into God’s “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Welch explores the idea of priesthood through the whole Bible, helping us to understand the immense privilege and meaning of this title we bear by grace. To summarise, priests are those who can draw near to God.

Welch structured his book according to the storyline of the Bible, showing how God’s intention all throughout redemptive history was to bring us near to him. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed a close relationship with God who walked among them. But when they sinned, humanity became unclean and separated from God. The rest of the Bible tells the story of our Father drawing us ever closer, back to himself. And we look forward to the eternity ahead where we will walk right beside God again.

I have a richer understanding of the Old Testament after reading Created to Draw Near. I’m sure when I next read the Pentateuch in particular, I’ll better be able to trace the threads that lead me to Jesus. This is no dry theology book—it made me want to draw nearer to my Saviour. It restored my sense of joy and privilege that I’m able to come near to my holy God, who is not distant or stingy with his love.

This book is about us as God’s priests, but it’s really about Jesus. Welch rightly presents Jesus as the main course, the centrepiece: “When Jesus came to us in human flesh, the priestly story converged on him.” We can only come near to God because we have been washed by Jesus’ blood, and are now united with him. In each chapter Welch reveals more of our great high priest for us to adore, and lifts our hearts up in exultation.

Welch also helped me to understand sin better, and desire holiness. Sin is not merely a strike on our record, something that leaves us objectively guilty. Rather, it violates the very core our being. It separates us from the God who we were made to be close to. When I think about sin as breaking this relationship, I am repulsed by it. Obedience looks beautiful and desirable in comparison.

You can tell that Ed Welch is a biblical counsellor, because his theology is deeply practical. His words are directed at our hearts, and his aim is true. It’s clear that he has been shaped by these truths himself. He provides examples throughout the book of what this theology looks like in practice, as well as response questions at the end of every chapter to help us apply it to our own lives.

I recommend this book to anyone who struggles to rejoice in their relationship with God. Being a priest is not a burdensome duty. Welch helps us to see the joy we are invited into:

“The heart of the priestly job description is fellowship with the Lord, enjoying his hospitality and protection, living in his house. May we never think that dour obedience is the essence of life in Christ. Lavish meals, satisfaction, peace, and pleasure are the lot of God’s priests. It could be no other way when we are invited to live at the junction of heaven and earth.”

The day after finishing Created to Draw Near, I found myself coming before God with greater joy. Part of the Bible passage I was reading stood out to me and I was able to draw on the truths of this book as I read it: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

We have been brought near to God, and one day we will see him face to face. In this era of social distancing, we have the assurance that our Saviour will never cast us away from him or fear to come near to our hearts. Let’s rejoice in this privilege together.

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