The Difference between a Theologian of the Cross and a Theologian of Glory Carl Trueman: One of the things that is so striking about the current revival of interest in Reformation theology, broadly conceived, is the absence of perhaps the most glorious contribution of Martin Luther to theological discourse: the notion of the theologian of the cross. At a meeting of the Saxon Chapter of the Augustinian Order in the city of Heidelberg in 1518, a monk called Leonhard Beier presented a series of theses which Luther had prepared, whilst Dr Martin himself presided over the proceedings. The Heidelberg Disputation was to go down in history as the moment when Luther showcased his radical new theology for the first time. At the heart of this new theology was the notion that God reveals himself under his opposite; or, to express this another way, God achieves his intended purposes by doing the exact opposite of that which humans might expect. The
Sinclair Ferguson: God has promised to work everything together for the good of His people. If God is for us, it follows that, ultimately, nothing can stand against us. That is logical. Otherwise, God would not be God. If something could rise up against God and overcome Him, that other thing would be God. God would then prove to be a false god—no God at all. But on the contrary Paul is saying that in the last analysis, nothing can be against us if God is for us. But this raises the million-dollar question: “Is God for me?” Perhaps even more pointed is the personal question: “How do I know that God is for me?” Well, do you know that? How do you know? Satan is very insistent about this—indeed, he has been insistent on this question from the beginning. He asked it in the Garden of Eden. In fact, his first recorded words are an assault on God’s gracious character (will we never
Jonty Rhodes: The Full Canvas We’ve all been there, whether as a preacher or listener. The drama of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den builds throughout the sermon. The conviction of sin as you walk through the Ten Commandments grows almost overwhelming. The depths of emotion expressed by the psalmist as he cries out for deliverance stirs and unsettles your soul. Where are we going? Will we leave inspired by the courage of Daniel, crushed by the law of God, disturbed by the misery of the psalm? But no—here it comes. Sound the klaxon: it’s time for “The Jesus bit.” We all knew it was coming. We knew we had to get there. Every bit as surprising as Tuesday following Monday, the final five minutes of the sermon remind us again of the penal-substitutionary death of Jesus. I’ve heard hundreds of sermons like this and preached nearly as many. And, frankly, thank God for each and every one
Brian Rosner: Why did Jesus die? Historically, from a human perspective, the answer is straightforward enough. The Jewish leaders plotted against him, Judas betrayed him, Herod and Pilate tried him, and the Roman soldiers executed him. A number of individuals and groups were responsible for his death. As Luke puts it, “Wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). But there’s another angle to consider. As Acts 2:23 also says, Jesus was “handed over by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” To get to the heart of the question of why Jesus died, we have to think from God’s point of view. Theologically, from God’s perspective, we may mention two main reasons. 1. Jesus Died to Bring Us Near to God Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Pet. 3:18) The purpose of bringing us to God implies that, prior to Jesus dying, we were far
R.C. Sproul: One image, one aspect, of the atonement has receded in our day almost into obscurity. We have been made aware of present-day attempts to preach a more gentle and kind gospel. In our effort to communicate the work of Christ more kindly we flee from any mention of a curse inflicted by God upon his Son. We shrink in horror from the words of the prophet Isaiah (chap. 53) that describe the ministry of the suffering servant of Israel and tells us that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Can you take that in? Somehow the Father took pleasure in bruising the Son when he set before him that awful cup of divine wrath. How could the Father be pleased by bruising his Son were it not for his eternal purpose through that bruising to restore us as his children? But there is the curse motif that seems utterly foreign to us, particularly in this time in history.
Jonathan Gibson: 1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death. The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite in its nature—his death really does atone for sin. 2. Definite atonement has courted controversy in the Christian church.
Nicholas T. Batzig: Octavius Winslow once famously said, “Who delivered up Jesus to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy—but the Father for love.” 1 We could just as easily edit this statement in the following way: “Who put Jesus on the cross? Judas, for money; Pilate, for fear; the Jews, for envy; and you and me, for enmity.” This is a truth we should never tire of hearing and to which we must often return. Our understanding of the nature of our depravity is essential if we are to rightly understand the nature of the death of Jesus. In short, the doctrine of human depravity helps us better understand who delivered Jesus up to the death on the cross. When considering the nature of sin, many professing Christians have a tendency to focus on the horizontal relationships they sustain with those around them. In a very real sense, all of us have been culturally
David Mathis: Christian Hedonists aim to make the pursuit of joy in God our life’s work. Which is not at odds with devoting our lives to God’s glory — because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. But Christian Hedonists must, in time, say more about the object of our joy than simply “in God.” Not any so-called “God” will do. Our souls will not be deeply and enduringly happy, and our purpose in this life (and forever) will not be fulfilled, if we do not find our heart’s satisfaction in the true God, the God who is, the God who has revealed himself as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:3, 17; Colossians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). But how do we know this God’s defining features? What is it about the Christian God that distinguishes him from the false gods to which billions globally bow the knee? Does our God, the true God, have
By Michael Lawrence: For centuries, the church has affirmed that penal substitutionary atonement stood at the heart of the gospel. Yes, the cross also demonstrates the love of God, his hatred of sin, and his commitment to ransom his people. But behind all of these ideas stands the logic of the cross, in which an innocent substitute is offered in place of the guilty, bearing both their guilt and shame, suffering their punishment and rejection, and so securing their forgiveness and acceptance by God. But lately, penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) has fallen on hard times. It’s come under fire as a cold, dry theological construct, inspired more by Western legal concepts than the biblical God of love. It’s been rejected as a monstrous distortion of the Father as a cosmic child abuser. And it’s been crowded out by more appealing stories of the cross as our ransom or our model of sacrificial love. These critiques have a lot of emotional power.
By Stephen J. Wellum: The doctrine of penal substitution is under attack today—and that’s an understatement. From voices outside of evangelical theology to those within, the historic Reformation view of the cross is claimed to be a “modern” invention from the cultural West. Others criticize the doctrine as sanctioning violence, privileging divine retributive justice over God’s love, condoning a form of divine child abuse, reducing Scripture’s polychrome presentation of the cross to a lifeless monochrome, being too “legal” in orientation, and so on. All of these charges are not new. All of them have been argued since the end of the 16th century, and all of them are false. Yet such charges reflect the corrosive effects of false ideas on theology and a failure to account for how the Bible, on its own terms, interprets the cross. Given the limitations of this article, I cannot fully respond to these charges. Instead, I will briefly state four truths that unpack the
J.D. Greear: Many people think that if Jesus paid it all, we now have this divine Visa card with an unlimited balance. We can just flash it whenever we want to cover whatever sin we choose. And as the Apostle Paul anticipated, some people will even justify their actions by saying, “Hey, if God gets more glory by showing grace, doesn’t my sinning give him more space to be glorified?” Paul answers those claims with the strongest negation possible: “By no means!” (I like how some of the older translations handle this phrase: God forbid!) Why is Paul so opposed to this line of thinking? He writes, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2 CSB) But that raises an interesting question in its own right, doesn’t it? What does he mean when he says we’ve died to sin? What Paul doesn’t mean is that we have lost all interest in sin. Certain streams of Christian thought have, in fact, taught that
Conrad Mbewe: The longer I pastor, the more I’m convinced that pastors should regularly preach the unsearchable riches of Christ not only for the salvation of the lost but also for the believers’ growth in grace. But sadly, when dealing with the Savior’s work in saving us from sin, we preachers so often say very little. Because of this, something frightening happens over time: those who listen to us fill in their own meanings to the common words “Jesus died on the cross”—and those meanings can be far from what the Bible actually teaches concerning the death of Christ on the cross. Here’s an example. In Africa, where the blood of birds and animals is used as a charm of protection from witchcraft, it’s become popular, even among Christians, to see a bumper sticker that declares “Protected by the blood of Jesus.” Pulpits are to blame for this serious confusion. When the death of Christ is merely mentioned as
Stephen Wellum: The doctrine of penal substitution is under attack today — and that’s an understatement. From voices outside of evangelical theology to those within, the historic Reformation view of the cross is claimed to be a “modern” invention from the cultural West. Others criticize the doctrine as sanctioning violence, privileging divine retributive justice over God’s love, condoning a form of divine child abuse, reducing Scripture’s polychrome presentation of the cross to a lifeless monochrome, being too “legal” in orientation, and so on. All of these charges are not new. All of them have been argued since the end of the 16th century, and all of them are false. Yet such charges reflect the corrosive effects of false ideas on theology and a failure to account for how the Bible, on its own terms, interprets the cross. Given the limitations of this article, I cannot fully respond to these charges. Instead, I will briefly state four truths that unpack the
Sam Storms: If you plan on being in Oklahoma City on Friday, April 18, I want to invite you to join us for our traditional “Good Friday” service at 6:30 p.m. in our auditorium. I would also encourage you to invite friends and family members who may not know Jesus and his saving love. This will be a wonderful time for them to hear a short and pointed presentation of the gospel. So, why do we speak of the Friday when Jesus was brutalized and crucified as good? It would almost seem as if there could hardly be a day that is worse! In one sense, you are correct. Jesus was unjustly tried, lied about, scourged, and sadistically crucified. But in a far more ultimate sense this was immeasurably good. It was good for two reasons. First, the crucifixion of Jesus, as horrible and unjust as it was, fulfilled God’s plan. Peter declared this in Acts 4:27-28 by reminding us that, in crucifying
Kevin DeYoung: There are many biblical ways to describe Christian salvation. Salvation can be understood ritually as a sacrifice, as the expiation of guilt through the death of Christ on the cross. Salvation can be understood commercially as redemption, as a payment made through the blood of Christ for the debt we owe because of sin. Salvation can be understood relationally as reconciliation, as the coming together of estranged parties by means of Christ’s at-one-ment. Salvation can be understood legally as justification, as the declaration that sins have been forgiven and that the sinner stands blameless before God because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. There is, of course, more that can be said about salvation. But each description above captures something important about the nature of Christ’s saving work. And each description holds together because the death of Christ is—not over and above these images, but inherent and essential to these images—a propitiation. Propitiation is used in the New Testament to describe the pacifying, placating, or appeasing of God’s wrath. The easiest
Jared Wilson: Like many others, I have been moved over the last several years to repeatedly reassert the biblical emphasis on Christ’s propitiating work on the cross in what is typically called the “penal substitution” view of the atonement—for instance, devoting an entire chapter to it as the “sharp edge of the atonement” in my book Gospel Deeps and another whole chapter defending it from recent critiques in a forthcoming book (2020) with Thomas Nelson. But penal substitution is of course not the whole of the atonement. The gospel is more multifaceted than that, and one of the least considered facets is Christ as our ransom. Psalm 49 establishes a dilemma of direst condition: Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice . . . (49:7-8) The condition of man since the fall is one of bondage to sin and corruption from death. Having
Tim Chester: Did Jesus heal our diseases at the cross? When you read Isaiah’s great song about the servant of the LORD the answer seems pretty straight-forward: Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering … the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5) Did Jesus heal our diseases at the cross? Yes. Our pain, our suffering, our wounds are all healed through the cross. The problem But there’s an obvious problem with this: our diseases are not all healed. Colin is claiming this promise for his cancer. ‘By his wounds we are healed,’ he says, ‘and therefore God will heal my cancer – I just need to believe.’ I admire his confidence. Or is it desperation? I’m not sure. I do know I’ve been a pastor too long to share his confidence. I’ve seen too many people who were convinced God had promised to heal them only for
Here, Robert Kolb gives a brief description of the theology of the cross that Martin Luther developed through reading the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians. The theology of the cross directs us away from all attempts to speculate about God as he is hidden behind nature or the clouds of our imagination. The theology of the cross directs us to God in human flesh, God on the cross, God raised from the dead. To all the modern questions about what truth might be and what kind of claim truth might have on us, the God who is revealed in crib, cross, and crypt seizes us anew as we present him to those who have lost their way. We introduce our God on his cross. We witness to God revealed as Jesus, on the cross. For people who are dissatisfied with their old identity, the cross helps explain why they do not “feel good” about themselves. The theology of the
Nicolas T. Batzig: The Scriptures give us a robust revelation about all that Jesus accomplished on the cross. As we go about seeking to categorize all of the various dimensions of the cross, we discover that there are both vertical and horizontal dimensions to Jesus’ work. The vertical dimensions are foundational; the horizontal are consequential. The vertical dimensions include Jesus’ defeat of Satan (Gen. 3:15; John 12:31; Col. 2:15), His propitiating the wrath of God (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:7; 1 John 2:2; 4:10), His atoning for our sin (Heb. 1:3; Rom. 4:7–8), His breaking the power of sin (Rom. 6:9–14), His securing the new heavens and new earth (Heb. 2:5–11), and His overcoming the world (John 12:31; 16:33). The horizontal dimensions include His becoming the example of self-sacrificial living (Rom. 15:2–3; 1 Peter 2:21) and His reconciling men to one another, thereby making peace for those who formerly lived in hostility with one another (Eph. 2:14). When men pervert or deny the biblical teaching concerning the vertical nature of the
Mark Thompson: At the heart of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ and the great salvation he has won for us. Christians are not satisfied with a vague and nebulous notion of God or a utopian vision for the human race. We also reject the reduction of our faith to a set of rules or a pattern of moral behaviour. The Christian faith is much more particular than that. It is centred on God’s rescue mission, a mission that makes very clear what God is like and what are his plans for us. This means that at the heart of everything we believe is a particular person and a particular set of events: the person of Jesus Christ and the work he came to do. We know what God is like and we know what God intends for us because Jesus has come and made this clear. Jesus himself went to great lengths to make his disciples aware of why