The Truth of the Cross

3 05 2008

On the plane ride back from Together for the Gospel I read The Truth of the Cross by R. C. Sproul.  It was among one of the many books given to us at the conference (Wow!  They gave us a lot of books!) and it looked the least formidable of all the titles I had to choose from.  Further influencing my decision to read through this book was that the sermon R. C. Sproul so powerfully preached at the conference was taken from chapter 8 of this work. 

As I finished the book (probably somewhere over Montana) I was really glad that this was the book I selected because it caused me to ask this question: How often do I think about the Cross? 

Most of us probably focused on the Cross a lot when we first believed, when we were first brought to that place of true repentance and embraced the saving truths of the Gospel.  However, over time maybe we’ve fallen away from that place of fascination and awe.  Now, we might only think about it during communion, or when we sing an old hymn of the faith, or in that moment when, in brokenness, we repent of our latest transgression. 

Honestly, how often do we dwell on the Cross?  Do we really spend time seeking to plumb its depths and really understand the mystery and the majesty of what was occurring in the pinnacle moment of all human history?

Sproul’s book reminded me that I don’t think about the glorious foundation of my faith or examine its riches nearly enough.  Why don’t I?  After reading Sproul’s book and rejoicing in what took place on the Cross, the only conclusion I could come to is “because I’m a fool!” 

Meditation on the work of the Cross is a source of joy, assurance, blessing, comfort, and conviction.  It reminds me of the cost of my sin, the character of my God, and the place I occupy in His unfathomable mind and glorious plan.  It is a discipline to be pursued and a delight to be shared with others. 

So, I’m sharing it with you. 

Here are just a few highlights from the book:

On why the church needs to be passionate about preaching the Cross:

The prevailing doctrine of justification today is not justification by faith alone.  It’s not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works.  The prevailing notion of justification in Western culture today is justification by death.  It’s assumed that all one has to do to be received into the everlasting arms of God is to die. (10)

On the nature of Sin:

Sin is cosmic treason… in the smallest sin we defy God’s right to rule and to reign over His creation. (32)

When sin is characterized as a crime, we see that Christ is the One Who actually comes under judgment in the drama of the atonement.  He functions as the Substitute, the One Who stands in the place of the true criminals- you and me. (43)

On the meaning of Salvation:

When we talk about salvation biblically, we have to be careful to state that from which we are ultimately saved.  The apostle Paul does just that for us in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, where he says Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come.”  Ultimately, Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God.  We simply cannot understand the teaching and the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth apart from this, for He constantly warned people that the whole world someday would come under divine judgment. (78-79)

On the reason for Christ’s unique person as the agent of our Justification:

Here, then, is the crux of the problem: how can an unjust person stand in the presence of God?  Or, to put it another way, how can an unjust person be made just, or justified?  Can he start all over again? No.  Once a person commits one sin, it is impossible for him ever to be perfect, because he’s lost his perfection by his initial sin.  Can he pay the penalty for his sin?  No- unless he wishes to spend an eternity in hell.  Can God simply overlook the sin?  No. If God did that, He would sacrifice His justice.

Therefore, if man is to be made just, God’s justice must be satisfied.  Someone must be able to pay the infinite penalty for man’s sin.  It must be a member of the offending party, the human race, but it must be one who has never fallen into the inescapable imperfection of sin.  Given these requirements, no man could qualify.  However, God Himself could. (90-91)

On Christ’s suffering in our place:

If Christ was not truly forsaken by His Father during His execution, then no atonement occurred, because forsakeness was the penalty for sin that God established in the old covenant.  Therefore, Christ had to receive the full measure of that penalty on the cross. (120)

Thousands of people have died on crosses, and others have had even more painful, excruciating deaths than that.  But only One received the full measure of the curse of God while on a cross.  On the cross, [Christ] was in hell, totally bereft of the grace and the presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father. (135)

There are many more quotes I’d like to cite, but I hope this gives you a taste of the power of this little book.  I’d encourage you to get a copy and commit to reading through it much slower that I did.  Take time to really dwell on what is being said and allow the truths of the book to fuel your prayer life and to be frequent in your conversations.  Let it drive you to further study and to search for other books that make much of the Cross.  Such study is so foundational and so exhilarating; it is a real wonder why we often neglect it for far lesser things.  

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