Tag Archive for 'Christ crucified'

Book Review: The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

In my first book review on this blog I’d like to start out with a passage of Scripture and a quote from the book.

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2 NKJV).

he [Paul] told the Corinthians he had determined to know nothing except Christ crucified. Clearly Paul was determined to know all kinds of things besides the person and work of Jesus. He wanted to teach the Corinthians about the deep things of the character and nature of God the Father. He planned to instruct them about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, about Christian ethics, and about many other things that go beyond the immediate scope of Christ’s work on the cross. So why, then, did he say this? The answer is obvious. Paul was saying that in all of his teaching, in all of his preaching, in all of his missionary activity, the central point of importance was the cross.

Those are mentioned on pages 3 and 4 and serve as a good basis for the book.

Generous use of Scripture is utilized including exposition of longer passages like Genesis 18 and rules about slaves and marriage in Exodus, which to me is a bonus. We even get some lessons in history like learning a bit about Anselm of Canturbury and how limited atonement was first widely articulated by Augustine. Useful but short personal anecdotes are used sparingly with Scripture taking center stage.

The book serves a wide audience. He uses theological terms but always defines them for those who may not have a wide vocabulary in that area.

Some other interesting topics he goes into:

  • three distinct ways in which sin is described: debt, enmity, crime
  • expiation and propitiation
  • what blessed and cursed means in the OT (Gal 3:13)
  • the sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat and how Christ fulfilled both parts of the sacrifice
  • misunderstandings of limited atonement (a hot issue for some)

just to name a few of those that especially interested me.

I would like to have seen him go more into original sin. Maybe it wasn’t in the scope of this book.

This was the first book of R.C. Sproul’s that I’ve read. I thoroughly enjoyed his writing and teaching style and look forward to reading more of his books.


Other reviews:

Making the Gospel Seeker Sensitive

There have been volumes written against making the gospel more palatable for those who are “seekers”, whatever that means, and contextualizing the gospel, for which there are many definitions.

I think it can be narrowed down to this:

1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

I would gather that seeker-sensitive preachers and evangelists don’t want to make the the gospel sound like foolishness. But if we make it more palatable and use logic and worldly wisdom so that people will accept it on an intellectual level without truly believing, they are putting some of them on rocky soil right from the start. Is that what we want to do to people?

2 Peter 2:21 NRSV
For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them.

Jesus and Paul didn’t make it easy enter the kingdom. (Matt 7:13-14, Matt 19:21-22)

Regarding the cross as foolishness, here are some quotes from commentators:

Longenecker, Galatians:

Today, after almost two millennia of the cross as a sacred symbol, it is difficult for Christians to appreciate the repugnance and horror with which the cross was viewed among both Jews and Gentiles in the first century. The only things comparable in our day would be venerating an electric chair or wearing a hangman’s noose around our necks as a symbol of our religious devotion. Indeed, as Paul says in 1 Cor 1:23, the proclamation of ‘Christ crucified’ was ‘a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.’

Garland, 1 Corinthians:

He [Paul] does not say that he preached the resurrected Christ, but the crucified Christ. Crucifixion and resurrection belong together as part of the gospel story (1 Cor 15:3-5), but the cross was repugnant to ancient sensibilities and assailed the world’s self-centeredness and self-destructive ways. It was not yet the ‘old rugged cross’ sentimentalized in hymns, embalmed in stained-glass windows, perched on marble altars, or fashioned into gold charms.

Christianity was cradled in what looks like disastrous defeat, and the unspeakable stigma of the cross exposed the preacher of this message to woeful contempt. Paul, however, did not refer to Jesus’ death with embarrassment or skip over the awkward facts.

…the message of the cross is an antidote to human self-glorification.

Paul left…yielding, to the persuasion of the Spirit.