These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.
Here we are to investigate how the cross was a word and a work. And we ought to listen attentively.
The Glory of God: According to John, Jesus referred to his death as a glorification, and event through which he and the Father would be supremely glorified or manifested. The Bible tells us that heaven and earth are filled with his glory. The flowers in the field had glory exceeding Solomon’s, God showed his glory in delivering the people from Egypt (Ps 19:1, Isaiah 6:3, Matthew 6:29).
We had a glimpse of his glory at the transfiguration, and was manifested in the miracles or signs. John tells us that we have seen his glory. The cross appeared to be shame, but it proved to be glory. The synoptic gospels tell us that suffering is the pathway to glory. His coming death was his hour of glorification:
- Some Greeks came to see Jesus, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” and then talked about his death (John 12:23).
- Judas leaves the upper room, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31).
- In his high priestly prayer, Jesus says, “Father the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).
In the cross there is a clear and public demonstration of God’s justice (Romans 3:25-26) and his love (Romans 5:8).
The Justice of God: There is seeming injustice in God’s providence: Abraham’s plea with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, the entire book of Job, and Psalm 73 where evil people prosper.
Romans 3:21-26 – the reformers interpreted “a righteousness” to mean a righteous status which is of God; it is bestowed by him. We read about the sacrifice of atonement was to demonstrate God’s justice.
- The first look is to the past (all sins in the past had beforehand been unpunished, Romans 3:25), and it looks to the present and future (so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:26).
- Why had he not judged sinners according to their works? Although self-restraint might postpone justice, he could not allow a backlog of sins to mount up indefinitely.
- The cross shows both his justice in judging sin and his mercy in justifying the sinner.
The Love of God: How can the horrors of the world be reconciled with the love of God? Why does he allow them?
- This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Apart from Jesus, we know nothing about love.
- This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). The words, “live” and “propitiation” betray our severe need. Because of sin, we deserve to experience death and to die under the righteous anger of God. But Jesus bore the wrath instead of us.
God poured out his love (Romans 5:5) and he demonstrated his love (Romans 5:8).
- God gave his Son for us. He did not send another being or creature, but himself.
- God gave his Son to die for us. The incarnation was the beginning of his self-giving, having emptied himself, humbled himself and became obedient to death, on a cross.
- God gave his Son to die for us. For underserving sinners who have missed the mark.
Three marks of false love:
- Mark of limitation (something is withheld)
- Mark of control (someone is manipulated)
- Mark of detachment (we remain self-sufficient, unimpaired, and unhurt)
Three marks of authentic love:
- Characterized by limitless self-giving.
- Characterized by risk-taking with no guarantee of success.
- Characterized by vulnerability that is easily hurt.
Both the Father and the Son suffer the cost of their surrender, though differently:
- The Son suffers dying; the Father suffers the death of the Son.
- The grief of the Father is just as important as the death of the Son.
- The fatherlessness of the Son is matched by the sonlessness of the Father.
Is there more emphasis on God’s love over the cross? Is there repentance and salvation without the cross? Some stories illustrate God’s forgiving mercy and contain nothing about the need for an atoning sacrifice.
- Did Paul corrupt church dogma and make the cross necessary for salvation?
- Islam claims that the boy is saved without a Savior. The incarnation, the cross and the resurrection are all unnecessary. If God is truly great, he can forgive without all of these things.
- Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector: one was justified (Luke 18:9-14)
- Parable of the unmerciful servant: the king freely forgave and cancelled the debt (Matthew 18:23-35)
- Parable of the Prodigal Son: welcomes him back and reinstates him (Luke 15:11-24)
Middle Eastern understanding: the prodigal was returning in disgrace. Punishment was inevitable. The father bears the suffering rather than inflicting it. The father ran (his age ran nowhere under any circumstances), cultural humiliation, taking on the shame. This is the humiliation of the incarnation and the shame of the cross on our behalf.
Wisdom and Foolishness of the Cross: (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5) – Jews demand miraculous signs and the Greeks demand wisdom. We preach Christ crucified which is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. Paul came without a message of human wisdom, or his own strength. Instead he brought the foolish, revealed message of the cross. He had to overcome his own weakness, fear and trembling and relay on the power of the Holy Spirit.