The final and longest post in this series!
The concluding section of the book is about how the influence of the cross spreads outwards until it pervades the whole of Christian faith and life. We cannot do away with the cross in our thinking and living. Stott examines the book of Galatians which is one of the first, if not the first, of Paul’s letters. It contains seven assertions about the death of Jesus, each of which highlights a different facet of it. When put together, they give a comprehensive view of the influence of the cross.
The Pervasive Influence of the Cross
1. The cross and salvation (1:3–5)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Continue reading
We continue looking at the way the cross shapes our relationships with others, and how to biblically view evil and suffering.
12. Loving our Enemies
In our relationships, we are to display the same blend of love and justice which God showed at the cross. In all honesty, this is easier said than done.
Conciliation and discipline
Christians are called to be peacemakers and to seek and pursue peace. Following is a condensed version of Stott’s thoughts:
- Peace-making isn’t one-sided. It may at times prove impossible to live in peace.
- We are called to mirror our Father’s peace-making. The peace that he secured for us wasn’t cheap, but costly. We shouldn’t expect any less. If we are the offending party, the cost may take the form of humbling ourselves, apologizing and making any necessary restitution. In other cases, we may have to listen to both sides and witness the mutual bitterness; or to have to offer reproof or rebuke and thus risk losing a friendship. Continue reading
Here we are at the fourth section titled Living Under the Cross which concerns itself with how the cross alters all our relationships. It comprises four chapters which I shall tackle in pairs.
10. The Community of Celebration
Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. His purpose wasn’t just to save isolated individuals, but to create a new community of people who would belong to him and love one another. Having been brought into being by the cross, this community should have its perspective and behaviour governed and transformed by the cross. Continue reading
My, oh my. Part seven of ten. Part of me thought I’d be here sooner, and another part of me thought I’d never get here. If I had to describe this experience in one word, it would be humbling. And before I go off on a tangent, here’s chapter nine.
9. The Conquest of Evil
The New Testament contains a lot of language that conveys victory, conquest, triumph, overcoming. It is clear that this victory was owed to the Lord Jesus Christ. By his death Christ saved us not only from sin and guilt, but also from death, the devil and all evil powers.
The victory of Christ:
This can be said to have taken place in successive steps:
After a one-week break, I’m back! During that time I did a number of other things, including celebrating Thanksgiving (was invited by my pastor and his wife) and braiding my hair (which I have done every winter since 2003). On to chapter eight, then.
8. The Revelation of God
Through the cross, God was speaking to the world. What did the cross proclaim about God?
a) The glory of God
In the gospel of John, Jesus often referred to his death as the event through which he and his father would be glorified, e.g. John 12:20-28, 13:30-32, 17:1.
b) The justice of God
A question that has perplexed humanity for centuries is, “Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?” If God was truly just, this wouldn’t be the case.
The Bible gives two answers to this problem. The first, prevalent in the Old Testament, looks forward to the final judgment, e.g. Psalm 73. The second, frequent in the New Testament, looks back to the judgment that took place at the cross. Continue reading
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