Friday, September 4, 2009

Book review – The Truth of the Cross

What gives the old rugged cross such a “wondrous attraction” to believers? It is by that cross of Jesus alone that we can be saved. The cross captures the greatness of our sin, the greatness of God’s love, and the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice.

I’ve read a handful of books on the cross, but I pray with each passing year the subject will grow nearer and dearer to my heart. My latest reading on the cross was a little hardback by R.C. Sproul called The Truth of the Cross.

Early on, Sproul notes the spiritual apathy he has observed, even among many Christians: “People are not concerned about an atonement. They are basically convinced they have no need for it. They aren’t asking: ‘How can I be reconciled to God? How can I escape the judgment of God?’ If anything has been lost from our culture, it is the idea that human beings are privately, personally, individually, ultimately, inexorably accountable to God for their lives” (p. 8).

The author begins by explaining how God’s justice and man’s sinfulness make an atonement absolutely necessary. In the chapters that follow, he unpacks the different ways the Bible describes Christ’s work on the cross. The Lord paid for our debt, mediated our peace, and was punished for our crime (ch. 3). He purchased our redemption (ch. 4), satisfied God’s wrath (ch. 5), and stood condemned in our place (ch. 6). Christ suffered as foreseen in the Old Testament (ch. 7) and became a curse for us (ch. 8). Chapter 9 takes a short glance at the limited atonement debate, and the final chapter answers some very intriguing questions (e.g. “Is it accurate to say God died on the cross?”).

Sproul is a gracious and masterful teacher. He tackles contemporary issues while pooling effortlessly from two thousand years of church history. He’s clear and easy to read even when introducing big words like “propitiation,” “justification,” and “expiation.” Sproul lacks the practical application of Mahaney’s Living the Cross-Centered Life, but he handles the theology of the cross a bit more fully.

Because of its size and style, I believe The Truth of the Cross would be an excellent primer for any Christian to gain a deeper appreciation for Christ’s work on that old rugged cross. Only when we more fully understand what Christ did can we adequately thank Him for it, and then tell others what He has done.

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