Part five of ten today. So far we’ve looked at the event of the cross, i.e. what happened. The next three chapters examine its consequences and what it achieved. These chapters form the third section of the book, titled The Achievement of the Cross.
So what did the cross of Christ accomplish? The New Testament gives three answers: salvation, revelation and conquest. God rescues us, discloses himself and overcomes evil. Stott dedicates a chapter to each of these themes; chapter seven therefore deals with salvation. [For the sake of brevity I have left out content relating to scholars, etymology, word use in the Greek and Hebrew, historical facts, etc. Hopefully, I have not sacrificed clarity as well.]
7. The Salvation of Sinners
Christ’s salvation is portrayed using different images like propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation. Each of these presents a different facet of our salvation. Propitiation introduces us to rituals at a shrine; redemption to transactions in a market-place; justification to proceedings in a court of law; reconciliation to the experiences in a home or family. Substitution is the foundation of them all, for without it none of them has any validity.
The term appears in the following NT passages: Romans 3:24-25, 1 John 2:1-2, 1 John 4:10. To ‘propitiate’ is to appease or pacify the anger of another. Does this means that offerings and rituals can placate God’s anger? That notion sounds a lot like paganism. To distinguish biblical propitiation from pagan ideas, there are three points to be considered: a) why is a propitiation necessary? b) who is making it? c) what is it? Continue reading →
Wow. I’m beginning to feel that I bit off incredibly more than I could chew with this book. It is so full, and trying to summarise it is no small feat. Nonetheless, seeing as I’m more than knee-deep in it I shall just have to plough on, today with chapter six.
6. The Self-Substitution of God
To get to know our substitute and to understand the notion of his substituting himself, we need to first consider the Old Testament sacrifices as they were preparatory for the sacrifice of Christ. As the book of Hebrews says, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is the perfect fulfilment of the Old Testament ‘shadows’. So, what did these sacrifices signify, and did they have substitutionary meaning?
Despite being fairly different, the forms of sacrifice described in the Old Testament shared two complementary notions: 1) the sense human beings have of belonging to God; 2) the sense of our alienation from God because of sin and guilt. Both these notions are recognitions of God’s grace and are expressions of dependence on it.
The Old Testament sacrificial system provided for daily, weekly, monthly, annual and occasional offerings. It included five types of offering: burnt, cereal, peace, sin and guilt offerings. Only the cereal offering wasn’t a blood sacrifice, and was therefore made in association with one of the others. Continue reading →
Today morning I listened to Cross: God Dies, a sermon which draws some material from The Cross of Christ. Warning: if you found The Passion‘s depiction of violence over the top, this sermon isn’t for you. It may be easier to skip over the icky bits in the sermon notes. Especially insightful is the last section in the notes under the title Doesn’t the cross contradict God’s love?
Back to the task at hand… Chapter five.
5. Satisfaction for sin
It is hard to understand why God needed some kind of ‘satisfaction’ before he was prepared to forgive, and that Jesus Christ acted as our ‘substitute’ and endured the punishment we sinners deserved. How do we reconcile these two ideas without smearing God? For starters, one’s view of satisfaction depends on the understanding one has of the obstacles to forgiveness that need to be removed. Stott identifies four “types” of satisfaction that have been held to throughout church history: Continue reading →
The Heart of the Cross is the second section of the book comprising three chapters, which I shall treat individually, starting with chapter four.
4.The Problem of Forgiveness
God commands us to forgive one another, and warns us of the consequences if we don’t. Why can’t God practise what he preaches and be equally generous? Why does this forgiveness have to involve a gruesome death?
If anybody imagines that God can simply forgive us as we forgive others, that person hasn’t considered a) the seriousness of sin and b) the majesty of God. When our perception of God/holiness and man/sin is skewed, then our understanding of atonement is bound to be distorted as well.
The question we should ask, therefore, is not why God finds it difficult to forgive, but how he finds it possible to do so at all.
To explore the seriousness of sin and the majesty of God, Stott looks at four concepts:
This is the first part of a ten-part series. For more information, see the introduction.
Approaching the Cross
The first of four sections of the book is titled Approaching the Cross. Stott lets us dip our toes, as it were, into the cross-shaped pool we’ll explore more deeply later in the book. He does so in three chapters, which I have summarised as follows:
1.The Centrality of the Cross
Christians used a number of symbols before settling on the cross, the best-known of which is probably the ichthys, or fish. Not until around 200 AD did the cross appear as a symbol for Christianity (the crucifix, i.e. a cross with the figure of Christ attached, did not appear until the 6th century). The choice of this symbol is surprising, considering the ancient world’s view of crucifixion. In Roman culture, one couldn’t even mention it in polite company. The Jews, of course, considered it accursed (Deut 21:23). Continue reading →
One of the characteristics of having a blog is that it indulges your sense of self-importance. You get to set the agenda, however obscure or unpopular—although it certainly helps if it isn’t. I would therefore like to share with you a book I found quite helpful (that is a little of an understatement), The Cross of Christ, by John Stott.
I started reading it last February, and was hoping to be through by Easter—in time to meditate on the sacrifice made on the cross with a deeper understanding. I finished it in August; it is probably the deepest theologically-oriented book I’ve ever read. I determined to read through it again, making notes, and that’s where this blog comes in. I shall make my notes here in a series of posts (I haven’t worked out how many, but definitely more than four). I shall make my notes here in a 10-part series. It is my hope that both you, the reader, and I shall be newly affected—in heart and mind— by the Cross of Christ.
“What is your theological worldview?” is a test I took way back in January this year and have just rediscovered among my Google Notebook clippings. The test was not very easy for me, because I’d never thought of a lot of that stuff before. I can’t vouch for the test’s accuracy, but here’s what it told me:
You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God’s grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.
Reformed Evangelical: 79%
Neo orthodox: 71%
Roman Catholic: 36%
Modern Liberal: 32%
Classic Liberal: 21%
Influenced by John Wesley and the Methodists? That’s news to me. I do admit to enjoying his brother Charles’ hymns, though. Maybe I’ve been influenced by people who’ve been by others who’ve been influenced by him—indirect influence, that is.