His Fundamentals

“The issues which, for Bruce, were non-negotiable,” said Bruce’s biographer Tim Grass, “may be summarized as the reliability of the New Testament, the person and work of Christ, the Christian life as one of forgiveness and liberty as befits those who are being led by the Spirit, and the right and duty of every believer to use whatever gifts God has given them.” (F.F. Bruce: A Life, p. 217)

There were certainly other issues important to Bruce. One cannot help but be struck by his commitment to holy living. In commenting on 1 John, for instance, he said, “orthodoxy of doctrine is no substitute for righteousness of life. ‘Truth in the inward being’ (Psalm 51:6) is what God desires in His people, and where that is present, it will manifest itself in all the ways of life.” He then added, “If my reputation, my ‘public image,’ matters more to me than the glory of God or the well-being of my fellows, the ‘pretentiousness of life’ has become the object of my idol-worship.”

And Professor Bruce had a profound commitment to the integrity of God’s Word, not to theological presuppositions, so that he did not have to view the biblical text through a theological lens. When “one’s only commitment is to truth, one is free to follow the evidence wherever it leads,” he said, “in an atmosphere of free enquiry.” This is why he could say, “Since my field of study and teaching is text and exegesis, not dogmatic theology, I have always found it possible to maintain an objectivity of treatment. . . If I am asked to say what the biblical text means, my answer will be the same no matter who asks me. This is not a question of following the apostolic example of being all things to all men; it is a matter simply of being myself to all men.”

Reliability of the New Testament

There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament. The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical writers, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning.” – The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

By the singular care and providence of God, the New Testament text (and the Old Testament text too, for that matter) has come down to us in such essential purity that even the most uncritical edition or the most incompetent translation cannot obscure the Word of God which the Bible proclaims or neutralize its saving power. But we are so eager to let that Word be heard with its full saving impact that we must strive to remove every obstacle of scribal inaccuracy and of translational defect so that Bible readers may hold in their hands and cherish in their hearts the most authentic text attainable of Holy Writ. — Understanding Biblical Criticism

Person and Work of Christ

To deny that Jesus is the Christ is to deny that He “is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5) or that He “has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2). This denial is deadly, because only in the Christ, the Son of God, who came in the flesh is eternal life to be had (1 John 5:11). – The Epistles of John

In Jesus the promise is confirmed, the covenant is renewed, the prophecies are fulfilled, the law is vindicated, salvation is brought near, sacred history has reached its climax, the perfect sacrifice has been offered and accepted, the great priest over the household of God has taken his seat at God’s right hand, the Prophet like Moses has been raised up, the Son of David reigns, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, the Son of Man has received dominion from the Ancient of Days, the Servant of the Lord . . . has accomplished the divine purpose, has seen light after the travail of his soul and is now exalted and extolled and made very high. – The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes

If the death of Christ is the chief demonstration of the love of God, the chief demonstration of his power is the resurrection of Christ. And it is especially important that believers should know the power of God, because the power by which he raised Jesus from the dead is “the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20), the power by which we are enabled to repudiate the dominion of sin and walk with Christ “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4-14). — The Epistle to the Ephesians

The truth of Christ’s supremacy over all the powers in the universe is one which modern man sorely needs to take to heart. He is oppressed by a sense of impotence in the grasp of forces that he can neither overcome nor escape. And to modern man in his frustration and despair, the full-orbed gospel of Christ, as Paul presents it to the Colossians, is the one message of hope. Christ crucified and risen is Lord of all. All the forces in the universe are subject to Him. To be united to Christ by faith is to throw off the bondage of hostile powers, to enjoy perfect freedom, to gain the mastery over the dominion of evil because Christ’s victory is ours. – Paraphrased letters of Paul, introduction to Colossians

A Christian life as one of forgiveness and liberty

The Gospel is a message of forgiveness. It could not be otherwise because it is the Gospel of God, and God is a forgiving God. . . . It is to be expected, then, that those . . . .who call Him their Father, will display something of His character and show a forgiving attitude toward others. – The Hard Sayings of Jesus

Christian holiness is not a matter of painstaking conformity to the individual precepts of an external law code. It is rather a question of the Holy Spirit’s producing His fruit in the life, reproducing those graces which were seen in perfection in the life of Christ. — The Epistle of Paul to the Romans

When the question of God’s attitude to men and women was concerned—especially to men and women who had gone wrong—Jesus did not speak in abstractions; he told the story of the Prodigal Son.
Up to a point, we can perhaps understand the father’s forgiving reception of the black sheep of the family when he came home in disgrace and destitution. But to celebrate his homecoming by throwing a party, with all the neighbors invited, with the local band hired, and no expense spared—no, the hearers must have felt that was going just too far. They—and we—could readily sympathize with the elder brother’s resentment.
But, whatever others may feel, Jesus insists that that is what God is like, that is how God treats sinners who turn to him. — From a magazine article, “Is it really true?

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen” (1 John 4: 20).

Brotherly love characterizes the children of God. . . . love for the unseen One [Christ] will be attested by love for His people whom we do see. Much verbal expression of devotion for the person of Christ can coexist with remarkably un-Christian attitudes towards the people of Christ, and John’s comment on this inconsistency is sharp and undisguised. In this he is at one with his Master, who declared that in the judgment, behavior towards His brethren will be counted as behavior towards Himself (Matthew 25:31-46). Those whose lives are marked by lack of love in this regard may well have a sense of trepidation as they look forward to the day of review. – The Epistles of John

Every believer should use the gifts God has given

Membership in a local church and involvement in the activities of a worshipping community helps the academic theologian to remember what his subject is all about and keeps his studies properly “earthed.” One constantly hears complaints nowadays of the widening gap between scholars’ understanding of Scripture and the use made of it by “ordinary” Christians. The gap would not be so wide, I am sure, if more scholars were to involve themselves in the day-to-day life of a local church and communicate the fruits of their scholarship to their fellow church members in a form which the latter could assimilate. I have known some distinguished scholars who did this, to their own enrichment as well as the enrichment of the others. — In Retrospect

Bruce’s biographer Tim Grass made a comment about The Pauline Circle. “It was during Bruce’s retirement that his views regarding women in church life came to fullest and most outspoken expression”—views that gave women a greater role in church leadership than was common among the Brethren of that day. Grass says that Bruce mentioned in The Pauline Circle a “variant reading of Acts 18:26 which put Aquila rather than Priscilla first, [and said] that the [manuscript] editor ‘may have felt that it was unfitting that a woman should take the lead in a teaching ministry. Today some would put that editor down as a male chauvinist.’ And of Euodia and Syntyche, Paul’s fellow laborers to whom he appealed in Philippians 4:2-3, [Bruce] wrote, ‘Whatever form these two women’s collaboration with Paul in his gospel ministry may have taken, it was not confined to making tea for him and his circle—or whatever the first-century equivalent to that activity was.’”
It would be easy to read these comments in The Pauline Circle today without realizing the importance of what F.F. Bruce was saying at the time. Grass also points out, “Bruce’s assertions regarding the full equality of women were borne out by his conduct”—another insight into the man who was F.F. Bruce.

To hear the voice of God in Holy Scripture oneself, and to help others to hear it, is a worthy cause to which to devote one’s resources; to be commissioned to devote them to this cause is a sacred trust, not to be undertaken lightly, not to be refused irresponsibly, but to be fulfilled thankfully. – In Retrospect