John Stott, The Cross of Christ, A Book Review

April 27, 2015 at 10:35 am | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

I just finished reading John R. W. Stott’s amazing book, The Cross of Christ.  When he passed away a few years ago, I was reminded how much I have appreciated his writing and remember reading this book in the past and thinking it was the best thing I’d ever seen from Stott.  Soon after I saw a copy in a used book sale, so I latched on to it.  It took some time to get to it, and it took some time to get through it; the book is not light reading, but boy is it good stuff — well worth the time it takes to read.  Stott covers a wide range of questions about the cross and does it in a way most lay people can understand.

He begins with the centrality of the cross in Christian history, in the mind of Jesus, and in the NT writers.  He goes on to many theological questions that have been discussed the past 2000 years, summarizing various views and giving sound reasons for the traditional orthodox beliefs about what Jesus accomplished both for and in his people.  He ends with a section on how the cross affects lives today.

His two chapters on God’s Self-Satisfaction and God’s Self-Substitution are masterpieces every believer should read and understand.  Many Christians’ misunderstandings of the Gospel, and many doubts that arise in their minds, are due to a misunderstanding of these matters.  Stott not only explains what the Bible teaches, he also explains why it has to be that way.  The cross is the only possible answer to God’s perfect justice and his unfailing love. As a song we’ve recently sung in church puts it, “To the cross I look, to the cross I cling, Of its suffering I do drink, of its work I do sing. For on it my Savior, both bruised and crushed, Showed that God is love and God is just.” (Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle)

Here I offer a few quotes to give you an appreciation for John Stott’s articulate explanations.  In his section on the centrality of the cross in the NT writers, Stott offers this conclusion of Revelation.  “John is telling us nothing less than that from an eternity of the past to an eternity of the future the centre stage is occupied by the Lamb of God who was slain.” (p.40)

Living under the cross, according to Stott, means that we live in a community of believers, and one of the clearest indentifying signs of that community is celebration.  Jesus’ followers are in a community of celebration, precisely because of what was accomplished on the cross.  That celebration almost always involves joyous singing.  In fact, “singing is a unique feature of Christian worship.”  All the other “great faiths” of the world, Muslim, Buddhist, do not sing.  “By contrast, whenever Christian people come together it is impossible to stop them singing.  The Christian community is a community of celebration.” (257-258)

Finally, in a section about the cross as the object of our preaching, one that obviously hits home with me, Stott contrasts the importance of integrity to the message of the cross in spite of what popularity we may lose because of it.  Commenting on Galatians, Stott says,

The alternative for the Christian evangelists, pastors and teachers is to preach either circumcision or the cross.  To preach circumcision is to preach salvation by the law, that is by human achievement. . . .  To preach the cross is to preach salvation by God’s grace alone.  Such a message is a stumbling block, because it is grievously offensive to human pride; it therefore exposes us to persecution. . . .  All Christian preachers have to face this issue.  Either we preach that human beings are rebels against God, under his judgment, and that Christ crucified who bore their sin and curse is the only available Saviour.  Or we emphasize human potential and human ability. . . .  The former is the way to be faithful, the latter the way to be popular.  It is not possible to be faithful and popular simultaneously. (347)

Wow powerful stuff!  May I be faithful to preach Christ crucified.

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