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Thursday
Aug182011

The Cross of Christ: The Centrality of the Cross

Today was the first day of the most recent Reading Classics Together at Challies.com. This time around, we’re reading John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, and the assigned reading was the first chapter, The Centrality of the Cross

So far, this is one of the most orderly and easy to follow books I’ve read in a long time. Stott writes methodically, and I like that. He starts this first chapter with a section on the cross as Christianity’s symbol. The use of this symbol is early, from the second century at least, and persists to the present day, despite the fact that the cross was widely considered to be “the most humiliating form of execution.” That the cross

became the Christian symbol, and that Christians stubbornly refused, in spite of the ridicule, to discard it in favor of something less offensive can have only one explanation. It means that the centrality of the cross originated in the mind of Jesus himself.

Stott goes on to show that this is exactly what we find in scripture. Jesus knew and taught that dying was his central mission. Jesus knew he was going to die for these three reasons:

  1. Because of the hostility of the Jewish leaders. Jesus knew that they would eventually succeed in killing him.
  2. Because that’s what scripture said would take place. Jesus understood from scripture that “vocation of the Messiah was to suffer and die…”
  3. Because of his own choice. He was resolved to do the work given him by the Father.

So then, although he knew he must die, it was not because he was the helpless victim either of evil forces arrayed against him or of any inflexible fate decreed for him, but because he freely embraced the purpose of his Father for the salvation of sinners, as it had been revealed in Scripture.

Next Stott surveys the teaching on the cross in the New Testament, starting with early sermons of the apostles recorded for us in Acts and on through the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John, to show us that the cross of Christ was also central to the apostles the teaching on the cross in the New Testament. Paul, for example, puts the cross of Christ as a matter “of first importance.” It’s in 1 Peter that we find the words, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” In Revelation, John tells us “nothing less than that from an eternity of the past to an eternity of the future the center of the stage is occupied by the Lamb of God who was slain.”

It’s doubly fitting, then, that the cross should be our symbol and sign, for it was central to both Christ and his apostles. It’s our tradition, yes, but it’s a tradition that is faithful to the priorities disclosed in scripture. 

To Christians, the cross of Christ is a glorious thing, but this is not a view shared by everyone. Writes Stott: 

There is no greater cleavage between faith and unbelief than in their respective attitudes to the cross. Where faith sees glory, unbelief sees only disgrace.

The world in general finds the true Christian teaching of Christ and his cross ridiculous, but believers are compelled, still, to insist on it’s centrality to our faith. “Christian integrity consists … in personal loyalty to Jesus, in whose mind the saving cross was central.”

Thursday
Aug182011

Thankful Thursday

 

This week I’ve been particularly aware of God’s provisions for my family and I’m thankful for all of them, big and small. I’m thankful for time to catch up on some jobs I’ve been neglecting. I’m also thankful for the energy to keep up with things during a few very busy days. 

I’m thankful for the help of my youngest son, who scraped the flaking paint of the railings on the back deck this afternoon, trimmed my May day tree, and is right now finishing up the mowing. Tomorrow, if it doesn’t look like rain—but I’m not holding my breath—he’ll paint the deck railings.

I’m thankful for open windows and fresh late summer air.  I’m thankful for my comfy bed and the anticipation of restorative sleep.

I’m thankful that God reigns. 

Throughout this year I’m planning to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving each Thursday along with Kim at the Upward Call and others.

Tuesday
Aug162011

Theological Term of the Week

the Apostles’ Creed
An early creed of the Christian church that serves as a summary of the apostles teaching and emphasizes the true humanity of Christ.

  • Text of the Apostles’ Creed as it is recited today: 

    I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
       the Creator of heaven and earth,
       and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

    Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
       born of the Virgin Mary,
       suffered under Pontius Pilate,
       was crucified, died, and was buried.

    He descended into hell.

    The third day He arose again from the dead.

    He ascended into heaven
       and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
       whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
       the communion of saints,
       the forgiveness of sins,
       the resurrection of the body,
       and life everlasting.

    Amen.

  • From Exposition of The Apostles’ Creed by the Rev. James Dodds:
  • It is sometimes urged as an objection to this Creed that it is not a sufficiently comprehensive summary of Christian doctrine. Those who object to it on this ground should consider the purpose of creeds. They were not meant to cover the whole field of Christian faith, but to fortify believers against the teaching of heretics. The Apostles’ Creed was not intended, and does not profess, to state all the things that Christians ought to believe. There is no reference in it to Scripture, to Inspiration, to Prayer, or to the Sacraments. It sets forth in a few words, distinct and easily remembered, the existence and relations to men of the three Persons of the Godhead—those facts and truths on which all doctrine and duty rest, and from which they find development.

    It is especially objected that there is no reference in this Creed to the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, though not directly expressed, this doctrine is really and substantially contained in it. The Creed is the confession of those whose bond of union is common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. The articles which treat of Him and of His sufferings and work are intelligible only to those who believe in the reality and efficacy of the Atonement.

    ….

    In estimating the value of creeds in the early ages of the Christian Church, it is important to bear in mind that the converts were almost wholly dependent on oral instruction for their knowledge of Divine truth. Copies of the Old and New Testaments existed in manuscript only. These were few in number, and the cost of production placed them beyond the reach of the great majority. A single copy served for a community or a district in which the Hebrew or the Greek tongue was understood, but in localities where other languages were in use the living voice was needed to make revelation known. It is only since the invention of printing and the application of the steam-engine to the economical and rapid production of books, and since modern linguists have multiplied the translations of the Bible, that it has become in their own tongues accessible to believers in all lands, available for private perusal and family reading. It was therefore a necessity that Christians should possess “a form of sound words,” comprehensive enough to embody the leading doctrines of Christianity, yet brief enough to be easily committed to memory.

Learn more:
  1. Justin Holcomb: The Apostles’ Creed
  2. James Orr: The Apostles’ Creed
  3. Greg Uttinger: The Theology of the Ancient Creeds Part 2: The Apostles’ Creed
  4. Ligon Duncun: The Apostles’ Creed (Series)
  5. R. C. Sproul: What does the Apostles’ Creed mean when it says that Jesus descended into hell?
  6. James E. Kiefer: The Apostles’ Creed Versus Gnosticism (pdf)
Related terms:

Filed under Creeds and Confessions.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

Monday
Aug152011

Round the Sphere Again: Gone to the Dogs

Forbidden Foods
I used to give my dogs grapes for treats until I learned that grapes are poisonous to them. You’d have to feed a big dog a lot of grapes to do real harm, but still, it’s not a good idea to let them eat them, even though they love them.

Here is a list of eight things, including grapes, that your pets shouldn’t eat (Real Simple). Surprisingly, lilies don’t make the list, even though a nibble or two on a lily plant can kill a cat.

Capital Conventions
for dog breeds (Grammar Girl). It seems easy enough: Neither word in golden retriever is capitalized, but German in German shepherd is.

Update, August 16: Heimlich Help
Dogs can choke, too, you know (The Art of Manliness).

It’s bound to happen sometime. Your pooch swallows a bone and starts choking. Lucky for you the Heimlich maneuver works on dogs, and you can take action to save your best friend.

For detailed instructions, see the linked article. HT: Kingdom People.

Monday
Aug152011

A Catechism for Girls and Boys

Part II: Questions about The Ten Commandments

43. Q. What does the first commandment teach us?
        A. To worship God only. 

(Click through to read scriptural proof.)

Click to read more ...