I just finished a book review of The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott for my Systematic Theology class at NOBTS. So, I thought that I would post a shortened version for your enjoyment. In the book Stott discusses the central Christian doctrine of the atonement of sinners on the cross. It is through the cross that sinners are forgiven and restored to fellowship with God the Father.
The best chapter in the book is chapter four entitled “The Problem of Forgiveness.” Many people have a problem with forgiveness. They wonder why God cannot just simply forgive sin. Stott reminds the reader that if God were to merely forgive sin without satisfaction for sin he would not be a good and just God. One reason why people do not understand the cross is because they do not understand the gravity of sin, nor the holiness of God. Humans are morally responsible for the sin they commit. The just punishment for sin is for the wrath of God to be poured out on the sinner. Yet, God in his love for mankind has chosen to make a way of salvation and forgiveness. In order for God to forgive there had to be someone to be a substitute in the place of sinners. Jesus Christ is the perfect substitute for sinners, because he fulfilled the law without sin. On the cross, God the Father poured out his wrath on Christ, thereby propitiating it from sinners.
Stott does an excellent job of insuring that his description of Christ’s atonement is biblically based and analyzed through the lens of Christian history. The atonement of Christ is the central doctrine that holds the Church together. Throughout the history of the church it has widely been accepted by Christians that Christ died on the cross for sinners. Christians may disagree on many other points of theology, but are unified on this point. If a person ceases to believe the doctrine that Christ’s atonement brings forgiveness of sin and restoration of fellowship with God, they cease being Christian. Stott painstakingly insures to keep the unity of basic Christian doctrine throughout the book.
The Cross of Christ is a blessing to the church universal. The bride of Christ differs on many points of theology, yet she is unifed by the cross. Stott is right when he “[Christ’s] death was central to his mission” (pg. 23). In coming to earth Jesus’ one desire was to glorify the Father and restore the fellowship between him and sinners. The Cross of Christ serves as an excellent reminder of what Jesus has accomplished for his Church. It is not a book for everyone to read because of it’s technical language and exhaustive content. The average church member might get lost in the academic nature of the book and neglect the beauty of what Stott is trying to convey.
In the end, The Cross of Christ may not be a book for every beleiver, however, it is definitely a book for the Church. Pastors and other church leaders need to read this book and remind themselves of the beauty of the cross. It is at the cross that the sinner remembers where they have come from and is reminded of where the grace of God can take them. Church leaders and proclaimers of the gospel must keep the cross in the forefront of their lives and ministry. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV).