Friday, May 8, 2009

There is a Cross

Third, without the holiness of God the cross would be emptied of all meaning. Christ was not a social reformer, or a do-gooder for whom things got out of hand. These are the old liberal ideas, but they are not biblical thoughts. The cross was not an accident. It was planned in eternity, and it was for this, Jesus said, that he had come. He had come to die. And in his moment of death the holiness of God and our sin collided. This is what called forth his cry of dereliction. It is an impertinence, at the very least, to say, as Steve Chalke and Alan Mann do in The Lost Message of Jesus, that this view makes God guilty of “cosmic child abuse,” that the cross needs to be purified of its violent images. This may appeal to a postmodern constituency, and to its Arminian counterpart, but it is remote from the way the Bible thinks about Christ’s death and distant from the way the church, own through the ages, has thought about it. The truth is that Christ’s death is simply incomprehensible if we do not start with the demands of God’s holiness, which cannot tolerate sin’s violations.

Without the holiness of God, then, there is no cross. Without the cross there is no gospel. Without the gospel there is no Christianity. Without Christianity there is no church. And without echoes of the holiness of God in those who are Christ’s, there is no recognizable church. What is it about this chain of connections that the evangelical church today is not understanding that is leading it to soft-pedal, overlook, or ignore the holiness of God?

Let me now say this positively. What we see at the cross is the white-hot revelation of the character of God, of his love providing the price that his holiness requires. The cross was his means of redeeming lost sinners and reconciling them to himself, but it was also a profound disclosure of his mercy. It is, in Paul’s words, an “inexpressible gift” that leads us to wonder and worship, to praise and adore the God who has given himself to us in this way. This is what has led people to give themselves away, too, to give of themselves in service to others, to go to the mission field. IT is what has impelled Christian believers to give of their substance, and to reach out in acts of mercy to those who need it, and in acts of courage against the injustices in society. [Page 129]

Source: The Courage to be Protestant (Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Modern World) by David Wells, William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2008.

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