Quotables from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ”: Concerning (1) the value of God’s cross-love, (2) the forgiveness of sins exclusive to Christianity, (3) Christian sacrifices, (4) Pride, (5) the Cross and Discipleship, (6) the Cross and Mission, (7) the Cross and Change through Suffering, and (8) the God who identifies with us in our Suffering

1.  On the cross and the value of God’s love:

The value of a love-gift is assessed both by what it costs the giver and by the degree to which the recipient may be held to deserve it.  A young man who is in love, for example, will give his beloved expensive presents, often beyond what he can afford, as symbols of his self-giving love, because he believes she deserves them, and more.  Jacob served seven years for Rachel because of his love for her.  But God in giving his Son gave himself to die for his enemies.  He gave everything for those who deserved nothing from him.  ‘And that is God’s own proof of his love toward us’ (Rom 5.8 NEB). . . .

2. On the cross and the exclusivity of the Christian message of forgiveness of sin:

W. M. Clow was right to draw our attention to singing as a unique feature of Christian worship, and to the reason for it: ‘There is no forgiveness in this world, or in that which to come, except through the cross of Christ.  “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.”  The religions of paganism scarcely knew the word. . . . the great faiths of the Buddhist and the Mohammedan give no place either to the need or the grace of reconciliation.  The clearest proof of this is the simplest.  It lies in the hymns of Christian worship.  A Buddhist temple never resounds with a cry of praise.  Mohammedan worshippers never sing.  Their prayers are, at the highest, prayers of submission and of request.  They seldom reach the gladder note of thanksgiving.  They are never jubilant with the songs of the forgiven. . . .

3.  On the Christian’s sacrifices “of laud” consequent of Christ’s atoning sacrifice:

What spiritual sacrifices, then, do the people of God as a ‘holy priesthood’ offer to him?  Eight are mentioned in Scripture.  First, we are to present our bodies to him for his service, as a “living sacrifice.”  This sounds like a material offering, but it is termed our “spiritual worship” (Rom 12.1), presumably because it pleases God only if it expresses the worship of the heart.  Second, we offer God our praise, worship and thanksgiving, “the fruit of lips that confess his name.”  Our third sacrifice is prayer, which is said to ascend to God like a fragrant incense, and our fourth “a broken and contrite heart,” which God accepts and never despises.  Fifth, faith is called a “sacrifice and service.”  So too, sixth, are our gifts and good deeds, for “with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  The seventh sacrifice is our life poured out like a drink offering in God’s service, even unto death, while the eighth is the special offering of the evangelist, whose preaching of the gospel is called a “priestly duty” because he is able to present his converts as “an offering acceptable to God” (Phil 2.17; 2 Tim 4.6; Rom 15.16).  These eight are all, in Daniel Waterland’s words, “true and evangelical sacrifices,” because they belong to the gospel, not the law, and are thankful responses to God’s grace in Christ. . . .

4.  On pride:

There once was a nymph named Narcissus, Who thought himself very delicious; So he stared like a fool – At his face in a pool, And his folly today is still with us. . . .

5. On the cross and the Christian’s decision between comfort and suffering:

The spirit of James and John lingers on, especially in us who have been cushioned by affluence.  It is true that inflation and unemployment have brought to many a new experience of insecurity.  Yet we still regard security as our birthright and ‘safety first’ as a prudent motto.  Where is the spirit of adventure, the sense of uncalculating solidarity with the underprivileged?  Where are the Christians who are prepared to put service before security, compassion before comfort, hardship before ease?  Thousands of pioneer Christian tasks are waiting to be done, which challenge our complacency and call for risk.  Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross.  What daring adventures the incarnation and the atonement were!  What a breach of convention and decorum that Almighty God should renounce his privileges in order to take human flesh and bear human sin!  Jesus had no security except in his Father.  So to follow Jesus is always to accept at least a measure of uncertainty, danger and rejection for his sake. . . .

6. On the cross and mission:

Douglas Webster has written, “Mission sooner or later leads into passion.  In biblical categories . . . the servant must suffer. . . . Every form of mission leads to some form of cross.  The very shape of mission is cruciform.  We can understand mission only in terms of the cross. . . .”

7. On the view of human suffering in light of the cross and eternity, and how God changes us through what we suffer:

“We may wish, indeed,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “that we were of so little account to God that he left us alone to follow our natural impulses  – that he would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our natural selves: but once again, we are asking not for more love, but for less . . . To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God. . . .”

8. On the God of the cross who identified with us in our suffering, the God to believe upon:

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross.  The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the cross.”  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.  But each time after a while I have had to turn away.  And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness.  That is the God for me!  He laid aside his immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.  There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering.  “The cross of Christ . . . is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours. . . . “The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.”

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 210, 251, 257, 268, 280-81, 283, 315-16, 326-27, respectively.

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3 Responses

  1. What a great assest this book has been for the body of Christ. It should be required reading for evey Christian.

    Thanks for sharing some great quotes from this book. Would you agree that almost every page has a golden nugget?

  2. i’m assuming by the number of quotes that you enjoyed the book! i found it quite incredible as well. how did it compare to the other stott book that you read this semester? i’m interested to dig into his commentary on the sermon on the mount. one of our elders just challenged me to get that and read through it since i liked this book so much. i think he has a man-crush on stott, so don’t be ashamed if you do as well…

    • I did like the book overall. I thought the intensity of my liking increased as the book went along. His practical understanding of the cross is wonderful. I did not agree with a couple of things in the more theological understanding of the cross as it related to the extent of the atonement. I’m not saying that it was heretical or anything, just a little bit different than how I understand it. Aside from that, his theological portion was also very thorough and precise.

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