Theology of the Cross

Burk Parsons:

One of my greatest fears for the church today is that we will become bored with the cross of Christ. I am concerned that any mention of Christ and Him crucified is leading many professing Christians to say to themselves: “Yeah, I know all about Jesus dying on the cross for my sins—let’s move on to something else. Let’s get past the basics, and let’s deal with bigger theological issues.” I firmly believe that Satan is set on trying to destroy us, but he’ll settle with just getting us to lose our astonishment regarding Christ and Him crucified. Such loss of astonishment usually begins in the pulpit, and it quickly trickles down into the hearts and homes of those in the pew. When pastors stop preaching about the cross or mention it only when they have to, the people of God can easily begin to see the cross as a perfunctory matter that only needs to be considered occasionally.

All professing Christians know that the cross is important, but we often fail to grasp the all-encompassing significance of it—that the cross is not only at the heart of our faith, but it encompasses the entire existence of our faith, our life, and our worship. In order for us to possess a proper theology of the cross, the reality of Christ and Him crucified must possess us in all that we believe and in all that we do. The cross should not just be at the top of our theological priority list; it should be at the center of all our theological priorities. If we become bored with the cross of Christ, and if we lose our astonishment of Christ and Him crucified, we will quickly begin to lose the entirety of Christian doctrine and practice.

The question is, then, Why is it that many Christians do not hear much about the cross of Christ? Why is it that some preachers do not dig into the depths of the theology of the cross? Some preachers do not spend much time addressing the cross because if they do, they will have to talk about sin, the wrath of God, the holiness of God, and God’s eternal condemnation in hell of all those who do not repent at the foot of the cross. Rightly, we do well to focus on the love of God demonstrated at the cross, but if we don’t grasp the wrath of God not just against sin but against sinners, then we cannot grasp the love of God for sinners. If we fail to understand what God is saving us from—namely, wrath, judgment, and hell—we will never understand His mercy. If we are not confronted with the wretchedness of our sin, we will not be able to rest in His amazing grace. For it is only when we grasp that we in our sin put Jesus on the cross that we can begin to see what God did for us at the cross.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.