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The Cross of Christ: Why Did Christ Die?  

This week’s reading for Reading Classics Together at Challies.com was the second chapter of John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, Why Did Christ Die? In a nutshell, Stott says the same thing as Peter does in Acts 4:27-28

…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 

Stott, of course, goes into more detail than that, explaining exactly who bears the blame (and why) for Jesus’ death on the cross. There are

  • the Roman soldiers 
  • Pilate
  • the Jewish people
  • the Jewish leaders
  • Judas

And this list should include be me, too. 

[W]e ourselves are also guilty. If we were in their place, we would have done what they did. Indeed, we have done it. For whenever we turn away from Christ, we “are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Heb. 6:6)…. [T]here is blood on our hand. Before we can begin to see the cross as  something done by us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance).

Yet it’s not really as simple as that. Yes, Jesus’s death was caused by human sin and we all share the blame for it, but there’s another way to see it, too. Jesus gave himself up for us; he died voluntarily and according to God’s plan. Stott writes:

On the human level, Judas gave him up to the priests, who gave him up to Pilate, who gave him up to the soldiers, who crucified him. But on the divine level, the Father gave him up, and he gave himself up, to die for us. As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both, “I did it, my sins sent him there,” and “He did it, his love took him there.”

And it’s at this second way of looking at the cross that the next chapter will examine. What makes the crucifixion so important that God planned it and Christ voluntarily submitted to it?


A Pauline Parallel in the Parable

From 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, by Thomas R. Schreiner, in the answer to the question, “Does the Pauline teaching on justification contradict Jesus’ message?”

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector clearly functions as an antecedent for Paul’s theology of justification (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee was convinced that God was pleased with him because of his devotion to the law, which went beyond what was expected. He expected to be justified because of his moral excellence, which elevated the Pharisee far above the tax collector. The tax collector, however, was deeply conscious of his sins and pled with God to have mercy on him as a sinner. And it was the tax collector who “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14) rather than the Pharisee. Those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous (Luke 18:9) are condemned. Those who exalt themselves are humbled (Luke 18:14). The only pathway to justification is to follow the example of the tax collector in saying, “God, be merciful to me, as sinner” (Luke 18:13). It is hard to imagine a closer parallel to the Pauline teaching on justification.

And there is much more evidence in the gospels to show that Jesus

emphasized that life comes from putting one’s faith in him, that human beings are spiritually impoverished, and that life comes from believing in Jesus rather than working for God. Hence, it is not too bold to conclude that Paul derived his message of justification from the historical Jesus.


Round the Sphere Again: Curiousities

Unsolved History
An intriguing sixty-year-old cold case from Australia:

What we can say is that the clues in the Somerton Beach mystery (or the enigma of the “Unknown Man,” as it is known Down Under) add up to one of the world’s most perplexing cold cases. It may be the most mysterious of them all.

(Past Imperfect at Smithsonian.com)

Paper Peculiarity
Why Bible readers might need cigarette smokers (Bible Design Blog).


Theological Term of the Week

the Nicene Creed
A statement of the orthodox faith of the early Christian church, first adopted at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) in response to the Arian heresy, which denied the full deity of Jesus Christ; and later revised at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople (381 A.D.) as a response to the Macedonian or Pneumatomachian heresy, which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

  • Text of the Nicene Creed as it is recited today: 

    We believe in one God,
          the Father almighty,
          maker of heaven and earth,
          of all things visible and invisible.

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
          the only Son of God,
          begotten from the Father before all ages,
               God from God,
               Light from Light,
               true God from true God,
          begotten, not made;
          of the same essence as the Father.
          Through him all things were made.
          For us and for our salvation
               he came down from heaven;
               he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
               and was made human.
               He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
               he suffered and was buried.
               The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
               He ascended to heaven
               and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
               He will come again with glory
               to judge the living and the dead.
               His kingdom will never end.

    And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the Lord, the giver of life.
          He proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
          and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
          He spoke through the prophets.
          We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
          We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
          We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
          and to life in the world to come. Amen.

  • From The Undivided Three by Michael Haykin:
  • Among the greatest achievements of the early church is the forging of the doctrine of the Trinity. It received classical expression in the fourth-century creedal statement known to history as the Nicene Creed, in which Jesus Christ is unequivocally declared to be “true God” and “of one being (homoousios) with the Father” and the Holy Spirit is said to be the “Lord and Giver of life,” who “together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.”1 Some historians have argued that this document represents the apex of the Hellenization of the church’s teaching, in which fourth-century Christianity traded the vitality of the New Testament church’s experience of God for a cold philosophical formula. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The Nicene Creed served to sum up a long process of reflection that had its origins in the Christian communities of the first century. As Douglas Ottati, an American professor of theology who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, has recently put it: “Trinitarian theology continues a biblically initiated exploration.”2 Or, in the words of an earlier twentieth-century orthodox theologian Benjamin B. Warfield: the “doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be scriptural, but only comes into clearer view.”3


    Not only does the New Testament then provide clear warrant for the direction that theological reflection upon the nature of God took in fourth-century orthodoxy, but it should also be recognized that the men who stood behind the Nicene Creed were not primarily philosophers. They were active pastors in the church of their day, men who sought to be faithful witnesses to the teaching of the Scriptures.

Learn more:
  1. Theopedia: Nicene Creed
  2. GotQuestions.org: What is the Nicene Creed?
  3. James E. Kiefer: Note and Comments on the Nicene Creed
  4. Justin Holcomb: The Nicene Creed
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.


Round the Sphere Again: Good Advice

For Growing Older
“Is it possible that God could use you even more in your latter years than in the earlier ones?” Here are some suggestions from Jim Elliff for preparing to be a believer who finishes well (HT: Jam and Books).

When Guilt Lingers
Shift your focus to Christ and his work.

[R]emember where Jesus is and where he’s been. He has been upon the cross, where he spoiled all that can ruin us. He’s now upon the throne of heaven, as our advocate and mediator. His state in glory doesn’t make him neglectful or scornful of the guilty sinners he died to redeem. He has the same heart now in heaven as he had upon the cross. 

Quoting from The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington at The Gospel-Driven Church.