Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Cross of Christ - John Stott

I have just completed reading the book, The Cross of Christ, by John Stott. It is a book that Ligon Duncan calls "essential reading" and "classic" with respect to historical significant books on the Atonement. The book was moderately difficult to read, one in which I could not read casually, but had to focus on most often reading without distractions such as music.

Stott places his chapters into four points of the cross: 1) Approaching the Cross, 2) The Heart of the Cross, 3) The Achievement of the Cross, and 4) Living Under the Cross. Stott is quick to interact with various and conflicting theological views throughout the book such as different views concerning the atonement. While not addressing the question of the extent of the atonement, I agree with Ligon Duncan that this work is "a robust and rousing defense of a real, penal, substitutionary atonement."

I especially enjoyed the Conclusion which consisted of an overview of the Book of Galatians with respect to the cross. He concludes with the following statement which I feel is a good summary of the book:

First, the cross is the ground of our justification. Christ has rescued us from the present evil age (Gal. 1:4) and redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). And the reason why he has delivered us from this double bondage is that we may stand boldly before God as his sons and daughters, declared righteous and indwelt by his Spirit.

Second, the cross is the means of our sanctification. . . . We have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). We have crucified our fallen nature (Gal. 5:24). And the world has been crucified to us, as we have been to the world (Gal 6:14). So the cross means more than the crucifixion of Jesus; it includes our crucifixion, the crucifixion of our flesh and of the world.

Third, the cross is the subject of our witness. We are to placard Christ crucified publicly before people's eyes, so that they may see and believe (Gal. 3:1). In doing so, we must not bowdlerize the gospel, extracting from it its offense to human pride. No, whatever the price may be, we preach the cross (the merit of Christ), not circumcision (the merit of man); it is the only way of salvation (Gal. 5:11; 6:12).

Fourth, the cross is the object of our boasting. God forbid that we should boast in anything else (Gal. 6:14). Paul's whole world was in orbit around the cross. It filled his vision, illuminated his life, warmed his spirit. He "gloried" in it. It meant more to him than anything else. Our perspective should be the same.

If the cross is not central in these four spheres for us, then we deserve to have applied to us that most terrible of all descriptions, "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil. 3:18). . . . Self-righteousness (instead of looking to the cross for justification), self-indulgence (instead of taking up the cross to follow Christ), self-advertisement (instead of preaching Christ crucified) and self-glorification (instead of glorying in the cross) --- these are the distortions which make us "enemies" of Christ's cross.

Indeed a very serious warning. May we never be enemies of the cross.

Book Information

Title: The Cross of Christ - 20th Anniversary Edition
Author: John R. W. Stott
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 380
Dust jacket: Yes
Indexes: Name, Subject, and Scripture
Publisher: InterVarsity Press (IVP)
Year: 2006
ISBN: 10083083320X

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