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A tribute to Dr Leon Morris (1914-2006)

January 2007 | by Brian Ellis

Dr Leon Morris passed into glory on 24 July 1006 in Melbourne, Australia. I did not really know him personally, although I did have the privilege of speaking to him years ago. However I knew him well through his books – he was one of my favourite authors.

I first encountered Leon Morris while studying ‘the person of Christ’ at Bible school in Scotland in the early 1960s. Leon Morris’ little book The Lord from heaven was required reading – it opened up the doctrine of the two natures in one person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pivotal doctrines

The next year we studied ‘the saving work of Christ’ and had to read the book for which Dr Morris is perhaps best known, The apostolic preaching of the cross. Here he defends admirably the historic teaching of the substitutionary atonement. His two chapters on ‘propitiation’ cannot be bettered for explaining Christ’s great work in taking the wrath of God upon himself in the place of sinners.


Likewise, his chapters on ‘justification’ should be mandatory reading, as they expound a pivotal gospel doctrine – under attack today by the so-called ‘new perspective’ on Paul.


Other books spring to mind. Leon Morris’ Spirit of the living God is simple and practical, but profound. His Testaments of love begins with the chapter ‘Loved with everlasting love’. He expounds the great love of God for his people. This love ‘is not simply a beautiful but detached emotion – it is a love that pays the price. The cross is the measure of this love’.


Around 1970, Dr Morris visited the Philippines and gave daily Bible expositions at the Philippine Congress on Evangelism. I was free to attend each morning and heard him speak on the first chapters of Acts over the two weeks of the congress.
He was not a dynamic speaker but his content was excellent. He came over as a gracious, godly man, who loved the
Saviour.

Commentaries

Perhaps nothing he wrote exceeded his commentaries, especially that on the Gospel of John in the New International Commentary series.


Then there was his helpful Tyndale commentary on the book of Revelation. If someone wants to understand the Revelation, I encourage them to read the short introductions that Dr Morris gives to each section of his book. I have often thought these should be combined into a booklet – they would make an excellent overview and introduction to the last book of the Bible.


In November I shall be teaching a course in Grace Ministerial Academy on 1 Corinthians and shall be keeping Dr Morris’ Tyndale commentary close at hand! These are only a few of his many commentaries on the New Testament.


Leon Morris will be greatly missed as a theologian of the old school, who sought nothing more than to exalt his Saviour through sound scholarship and a mind fully submitted to the inspired, authoritative Word of God.


He will be missed personally, no doubt, but his books will continue to be highly valued by preachers giving themselves to that greatest of all tasks – proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ.

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