dord (dôrd), n. density of mind; chiefly exhibited by one who attempts to demonstrate supposed knowledge --adj. dord'ish


Book Review: The Cross of Christ

I've heard John Stott's The Cross of Christ recommended more times than I can remember. Now, having read it, I can say that it is so frequently recommended for good reason. The dilemma I now face pertains to how I am going to review it. I've come to the realization that including too much in a book review is likely to cause it to be skipped over, rather than making the recommendation more convincing. For that reason, I'll give a quick overview of the book, highlighting a couple the chapters that impacted me the most.

The Cross of Christ is divided into four sections. The first three chapters serve as an introduction. Stott begins by examining the centrality of the cross in New Testament theology, then addresses the age-old question, Why Did Jesus Die? The opening section concludes with an examination of the following question: "What was there about the crucifixion of Jesus which, in spite of its horror, shame and pain, makes it so important that God planned it in advance and Christ came to endure it?"

The second portion of The Cross of Christ covers the necessity of Christ's substitutionary death for the forgiveness of sins, from the gravity of sin and human moral responsibility, to the holiness and righteous wrath of God. In chapter five, Stott covers several historical perspectives on what it means that Christ's death provided "Satisfaction for Sin." Various theologians over the centuries have argued that Christ had to pay a ransom price to the Devil, or that the Law itself had to be satisfied in a mechanistic sense, or even that God's honor and justice must be defended. Stott stresses, however, that "Satisfaction is an appropriate word, providing we realize that it is [God] himself in his inner being who needs to be satisfied, and not something external to himself." I found this chapter to be especially well written, having seen how easy it is, especially in evangelistic conversations, to misrepresent the necessity of Christ's substitutionary death by trying to fit too neat of an analogy with a judge's responsibility to punish an offender of a civil law (which exists independently, and under which the judge himself must live).

Another theme in this section, which I have neither the space nor the ability to sufficiently recap for this review, is the crucial importance of the fact that it was God in Christ, fully God and fully man, who came as our substitute.

The third section of the book covers "the achievement of the cross," with chapters focusing on salvation, God's self-revelation, and the conquest of evil. These chapters are ones which I plan on returning to often for review. As an example, chapter seven, (which I have referenced in a previous post), provides a thoughtful examination of four words which together illustrate what the Bible means when it speaks of our salvation: propitiation, redemption, justification, and reconciliation. While we may be able to roughly define these words, looking at their full Biblical significance is well worth the time.

The fourth and final section of The Cross of Christ pertains to our response, as Christians, to the doctrines examined in the rest of the book. Topics range from contrasting Protestant and Catholic perspectives on what it means for us to sacrifice (in light of Christ's atoning sacrifice), to a Biblical understanding of the meaning of self-denial and self-acceptance.

The aspect of The Cross of Christ that I most appreciate is the combination of scholarly insight and genuine pastoral care with which Stott writes. Stott provides historical perspectives and careful Scriptural exegesis, but he also writes as a man who firmly believes in the One he writes about.

Rating: Highly Recommended



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