The Cross of Christ: Part V

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.

Propitiation

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

The Cross of Christ: Part IV

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

The Cross of Christ: Part III

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 Cross of Christ: Part II

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:

  • the gravity of sin
  • human moral responsibility
  • true and false guilt
  • the wrath of God Continue reading

The Cross of Christ: Part I

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

The cross of Christ

Cover image courtesy LibraryThing.com
Cover image courtesy LibraryThing.com

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.

Post # Section title (in book) Chapter title (in book)
One Approaching the cross
  • The centrality of the cross
  • Why did Christ die?
  • Looking below the surface
Two The heart of the cross
  • The problem of forgiveness
Three The heart of the cross
  • Satisfaction for sin
Four The heart of the cross
  • The Self-Substitution of God
Five The achievement of the cross
  • The Salvation of Sinners
Six The achievement of the cross
  • The Revelation of God
Seven The achievement of the cross
  • The Conquest of Evil
Eight Living under the cross
  • The Community of Celebration
  • Self-understanding and Self-giving
Nine Living under the cross
  • Loving our enemies
  • Suffering and glory
Ten The pervasive influence of the cross

My theological worldview is…

Evangelical Holiness/ Wesleyan.

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.

  • Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan:86%
  • Reformed Evangelical: 79%
  • Neo orthodox: 71%
  • Fundamentalist: 61%
  • Emergent/Postmodern: 54%
  • Charismatic/Pentecostal: 39%
  • 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.

Beauty and the Bible- Part 2

It has been over 10 days since Part 1 of this post: I had other priorities to take care of first. As promised, I’m now going to share as briefly as I can the  nuggets in the two audio messages I mentioned in that post.

Rediscovering Femininity and Modesty– Carolyn Mahaney

  • Femininity has its roots in Genesis 1&2. Woman was God’s idea; we are created feminine, it isn’t a matter of cultural conditioning.
  • As regards the cultural view of beauty, we women should ask ourselves, “Does the way I think about and attend to my personal appearance reflect a cultural standard or a Biblical standard?”
  • Culture promotes a love of self, the Bible promotes a love of God.
  • Resolutions to make:
    • Whom should I please in my pursuit of beauty? Single women are to please God alone (1 Cor 7:35). Married women are to please both God and husband.
    • We should accept the appearance and bodies God gave us (Here she told the story of missionary Gladys Aylward, who was the only one among her friends who  was short and had dark hair. She complained about this until she arrived in China as a missionary, and found that they looked a lot like her!)
    • We should recognise that our body isn’t our own (1 Cor 6:19-20)
    • We should replace vanity with a pursuit of godliness
  • The question to ask ourselves is this: Am I trying to draw attention to myself or to God?

The Vanity of Worldly Beauty– Mary Mohler

Biblical beauty:

  • Is pure and clean (good hygiene)
  • Is unique (no two people are exactly alike)
  • Is modest (Prov 11:22, 2 Tim 2:9)
  • Is polite and gracious (Phil 4:5, Col 4:26)
  • Is a reflection of the inner beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit

How to show the world Biblical beauty:

  • Undergo a daily internal beauty treatment—spend time in the Word to cultivate that quiet and gentle spirit
  • Know what’s Biblical and what isn’t— be on guard
  • Remember godliness with contentment is great gain. There are aspects of our lives and appearance we can’t change, so move on.
  • Do not shun beauty
  • Remember our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit—fuel them properly and exercise
  • Don’t jump to wrong conclusions—good looks can be deceiving
  • Keep a delicate balance between not caring enough and caring too much about physical appearance
  • Ask the right questions. Not, “Am I lovely?”, but, “Isn’t it wonderful that God would save a wretch like me?” Not, “Am I captivating?”, but, “Am I captivated by knowing God and making him known?” It isn’t about me!
  • Some other good questions to ask:
    • How can I use the temple God’s given me to glorify Him and point people to Christ?
    • What can I do to enhance my appearance to honour my Creator?
    • Will I remember to pray daily that God’s beauty be upon me even as I realise that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made?

That’s it. If my summary is too much of a summary, there are two options. The first is to take up the issue with my high school English teacher. The second, and undoubtedly much less of a hassle, is to click on the links and have a listen for yourself…

The life of a saint

I’m a hymn-lover. Alright maybe not all of them, but if given the choice between my favourite hymns and my favourite contemporary worship songs, it’s not a choice I’ll need a lot of time to think through. So I wholeheartedly recommend these videos on the lives of hymn writers who lived some centuries ago (with the exception of Johnny Cash, who, to the best of my knowledge, didn’t write any hymns. He also lived comparatively recently). The videos’ original container was a sermon series entitled The Rebel’s guide to joy (that I shall have to check out some time in the near future).

In parentheses after the writers’ names is one of the hymns they wrote—just to help associate the person and their work.

Robert Robinson (Come Thou fount)

William Cowper (There is a fountain filled with blood)

Charlotte Elliot (Just as I am)

Horatio Spafford (It is well)

Phillip Bliss (Man of sorrows)

Johnny Cash

John Newton (Amazing Grace)

Charles Wesley (And can it be)

Isaac Watts (When I survey)

Fanny Crosby (Blessed Assurance)

Beauty and the Bible

This is a post I’ve been ruminating on for close to two months now, but as they say, “Better late than never!”

The wheels in my brain started turning when I heard a conversation between two of my lady friends, K and N (obviously not their real names :). N was going to her home country for a visit and was asking K for beauty tips–N would be seeing her husband for the first time in a year. K was really excited, and said something to the effect that married women should look physically stunning (I know for sure that she mentioned stiletto heels). At this point I jumped into the conversation, totally uninvited. I said that it wasn’t necessary for married women to undergo a complete transformation to the extent that the husband wonders “Who is this woman?” There were no men present to comment on my comment. There were two other ladies present, though, one of whom has been married over five years. I turned to her and asked her to verify my claim. She just smiled enigmatically. I continued doing what I’d been working on as K and N went into territory unfamiliar for me–my idea of dressing up is putting on earrings. But I wondered to myself what the Bible had to say about this issue of beauty.

Later that week or the next week, I don’t recall, I was listening to a message given at a women’s conference in which the speaker pointed out that any time beauty is mentioned in the Bible it is almost always associated with trouble (why didn’t I have that ammo to throw at K and N some days prior?).  I made a mental note to check out that statement, not so much to test its veracity as to learn firsthand.

My research yielded another message given at another women’s conference in which the speaker looked briefly at the lives of women in the Bible described as being beautiful. That meant I had only to look up the men, who were thankfully not many. So here follows my “research”, entirely from the Old Testament:

Eve: There isn’t a direct reference to her beauty; however Genesis 1:31 tells us that God looked at everything He had made, and it was very good. It can therefore be reasonably concluded that she was a belle. Trouble: she fell for Satan’s lie.

Sarah: Twice her husband passed her off for his sister, fearing that he’d otherwise be bumped off unceremoniously.( Gen 12:11-13, Gen 20:2)

Rebekah: She was very beautiful (Gen 24:15-16), and dutiful. Trouble: she played favourites with her children, and ended up deceiving her husband.

Rachel: Her sister Leah had weak/delicate eyes (whatever that means), but she was lovely in from and beautiful (Gen 29:17).

Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel were all beauteous– and barren.

Moses: His mother saw he was “a fine child” (Exodus 2:1-2). No word on whether he grew into a fine-looking man.

Saul: He is described as “an impressive young man…a head taller than any of the others” (1 Sam 9:2). Trouble: his pride got him booted out of the kingship.

David: “He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.” (1 Sam 16:12) Trouble: Bathsheba, his children (see below).

Abigail: “She was an intelligent and beautiful woman.” (1 Sam 25:3) Brains plus beauty! Trouble: that husband of hers, Nabal.

Bathsheba: “She was very beautiful” (2 Sam 11:2-3). Trouble: she got caught up in King David’s schemes, which led to the deaths of her husband and child. However, it was her son, Solomon, who was chosen to succeed David as King.

Tamar: 2 Sam 13:1-21 records her story. Trouble: her half-brother Amnon lusted after her and raped her. Her brother Absalom kills Amnon.

Absalom: He was highly praised in all Israel for his appearance (2 Sam 14:25). Trouble: In addition to fratricide, he organised a coup against his father. He died a bizarre death when his hair got tangled in thick branches. He had a daughter named Tamar (like his disgraced sister),  and “she became a beautiful woman” (2 Sam 14:27).

Esther: She underwent twelve months of beauty treatment— she has my respect and admiration! Esther 2:17 says “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women.”

The Shulammite woman in Song of Songs and her lover: Like any respectable lovebirds, they tell each other how beautiful/handsome the other is. A case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Maybe, maybe not…

And that’s it for the Old Testament.  Typing this out has taken longer than I thought, so next time I shall wrap things up, sharing some of what I learned from the aforementioned messages from women’s conferences.