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Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Cross of Christ - Chapter 8

Last week, Stott introduced a new section outlining the achievements of the cross in his book, The Cross of Christ. The most obvious achievement, "The Salvation of Sinners," was presented in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 looks at another result, "The Revelation of God." Stott writes, "Just as human beings disclose their character in their actions, so God has shown himself to us in the death of his Son." In short, this chapter investigates the "way the cross was a word as well as a work." What has the cross of Christ revealed to us about God? Which of mankind's most frequently asked questions were answered at the cross?
"The Revelation of God"

The Justice of God
Men and women of moral sensitivity have always been perplexed by the seeming injustice of God's providence. ... It is one of the recurring themes of the Wisdom Literature and dominates the book of Job. Why do the wicked flourish and the innocent suffer? ...

The Bible responds ... in two complementary ways, first by looking on to the final judgment and secondly (from the perspective of NT believers) by looking back to the decisive judgment which took place at the cross. As to the first, this was the standard OT answer to the problem, for example in Psalm 73. Evil people prosper. They are healthy and wealthy. In spite of their violence, their arrogance and their impudent defiance of God, they get away with it. ...The psalmist admits that by envying their freedom to sin and their immunity to suffering, he had almost turned away from God ... but then he 'understood their final destiny'. The place on which they stand so self-confidently is more slippery than they realize, and one day they will fall, ruined by the righteous judgment of God.

The second part ... is to declare that the judgment of God has already taken place at the cross. ... The reason for God's previous inaction in the face of sin was not moral indifference but personal forbearance until Christ should come and deal with it on the cross.
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets [i.e. OT Scripture], even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;  for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  [Romans 3:21-26]
If God does not justly punish sin, he would be 'unjust to himself' ...He would cease to be God ... He would destroy himself by contradicting his divine character as righteous Lawgiver and Judge. ...And he has done this publicly ... in order not only to be just but also to be seen to be just. ...The cross demonstrates with equal vividness both his justice in judging sin and his mercy in justifying the sinner.

The Love of God
Personal tragedies, floods and earthquakes, accidents which cost hundreds of lives, hunger and poverty on a global scale ... disease and death, and the sum total of the misery of the centuries - how can these horrors be reconciled with a God of love? Why does God allow them?

Christianity offers no glib answers to these agonized questions. But it does offer evidence of God's love, just as historical and objective as the evidence which seems to deny it, in the light of which the world's calamities need to be viewed.
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us... [1 John 3:16]
Most people would have no difficulty in telling us what they think love is... John would disagree with them, however. He dares to say that, apart from Christ and his cross, the world would never have known what true love is. Of course all human beings have experienced some degree and quality of love. But John is saying that only one act of pure love, unsullied by any taint of ulterior motive, has ever been performed in the history of the world, namely the self-giving of God in Christ on the cross for undeserving sinners. That is why, if we are looking for a definition of love, we should look not in a dictionary, but at Calvary.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [1 John 4:10]
John takes the propitiatory nature of the cross ... as the manifestation of God's love. Because we were sinners, we deserved to die under the righteous anger of God. But God sent his only Son, and in sending him came himself, to die that death and bear that wrath instead of us. It was an act of sheer, pure, unmerited love.

The Wisdom & Power of God
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."  [1 Corinthians 1:30-31] message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.  [1 Corinthians 2:4-5]
By human standards not many of them were wise or powerful. In fact God deliberately chose what the world regards as foolish and feeble people, in order to shame the wise and the strong; he chose even the lowly, the despised ... to nullify what exists. His goal in this was to exclude human boasting. Boasting was entirely out of place, because it was God who had united them to Christ, and Christ who had become their wisdom (revealing God to them) and their power (bringing them justification, holiness and the promise of final redemption). The gospel of the cross will never be a popular message, because it humbles the pride of our intellect and character. ... For the cross is God's way to satisfy his love and justice in the salvation of sinners. It therefore manifests his power, too, 'the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes' (Rom.1:16).

[Challies' review of Chapter 8]
[Selections from Chapter 1; Chapter 9]

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