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Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12)

One of the core distinctives of Christianity, especially in the culture of secular America, is the claim of exclusivity. The Lord has established one means for separated sinners to become reconciled to God. There is one God and only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Only by repenting of sins and putting faith in the atoning work of Jesus is one forgiven of sins and given eternal life. If one does not adhere to this singular way then they are lost.

How can such a claim be made!? Such a claim is charged with the height of arrogance. Would not this make us a mean, hateful, and boastful people? Taking our claim and lifting our heads above all those who, “don’t have what we have.” How can we believe such a thing?

Against this, I believe that when we look at the cross we can understand Christ’s call of exclusivity.

When we look at the cross we see the greatest demonstration of love towards those who did not deserve it. “But God demonstrates His love towards us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). And this demonstration of love comes with the greatest pain. The perfect Son torn from the the most glorious and enjoyable relationship (the Son and the Father) on account of wrongs He did not do.

The absolute truth of Christ’s death, when believed rightly, makes loving people. It makes those who would still love in the face of wrongs done against them. It makes people who love in the face of opposing ideas. If Christ is so loving then the more I trust in His work and His character the more I am going to demonstrate His love. The lack of love that can come from Christians is not because of Christ but because of the lack of Christ. Thus, to magnify the cross is to dethrone pride and arrogance.

But to come around to the flip side, because Christ’s death is the great demonstration of love it would be an insult to say that it was pointless. The exclusivity of Christ’s death, that there was no other way which it could be done, is the reason that it was the greatest demonstration of love. If Jesus’s death on the cross is not the only way that sinners become right with God then Jesus was a sad fool who gave up everything for nothing. Think about it. If I could obtain God’s pleasure and eternal life by my good works or sincere worship of something else then Jesus’ death is completely pointless. For why would it be needed? And since it is not needed it is not love but ignorance (at best) which took Jesus to the cross. Why would He need to die for me if I get everything through something else besides the cross? It is to insult the act of love its self to suggest that there is another way.

Jesus is either the only way or only a fool. But since Jesus’ death was of love it is the only way.

The center of Christianity…is the dishonorable, foolish, gruesome, and utterly glorious reality of the tortured God-Man, Jesus Christ. More and more, He must become the issue. Not a vague, comfortable, pleasant Jesus that everybody likes but the one who is a “stumbling block” to Jews and “foolishness” to Gentiles. The closer you get to what makes Christianity ghastly, the closer you get to what makes it glorious.

-John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, xi.

By His death, Christ purchased all the grace and glory that the God of all grace had designed for us. That is clear in Scripture: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 9:14). Alas for us poor creatures! For a long time after we are sanctified, we remain imperfect, lacking all and everything in comparison. How, then, are we perfected? Because Jesus Christ, by that one offering, perfectly purchased all that ever shall make up our perfection. It is finished in that sense. He so abundantly procured all by His death that He needed to offer Himself but once. If there were anything necessary to perfect a saint that Christ did not purchase, His offering must have been imperfect. 

-Thomas Goodwin, Ephesians; Works 1:170, 173 quoted in A Habitual Sight of Him by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, 91.

O all ye who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?

Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but shaper that confound;
Reproaches, which are free, while I am bound.
Was ever grief like mine?

Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down.
Atlas I did so, when I left my crown
And father’s smile for you, to feel his frown:
Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there doth consist
All salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safety in my sickness doth subsist:
Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two thieves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robbery suffereth.
Alas! what have I stolen from you? death:
Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finished.
My woe, man’s weal: and now I bow my head.
Only let others say, when I am dead,
Never was grief like mine.

~George Herbert, Sections from “The Sacrifice.”

The intensity and immensity of God’s concern for a fallen humanity is nowhere more visible than at the cross of Christ…The cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) is undoubtedly one of the most incredible expressions ever uttered. That the Father would (and could!) forsake the Son—all to bring restoration to a forsaken humanity—is surely the epitome of the expression of God’s inexhaustible love.

The God of the Bible seeks relationships with those whom he has freely made, and the cross of Christ serves to implore us never to think lightly of the intensity of this desire within the heart of God as expressed supremely here. God went to the greatest lengths possible to satisfy his wrath against sin and bring fallen humans back to himself.

The depth of his desire to be related anew to his rebellious creatures is, as manifest above all in the cross, truly beyond all human comprehension.

Bruce A. Ware, God’s Greater Glory, p. 54

The most significant and appalling demonstration of God’s holiness that the universe ever beheld , infinitely distancing ever other, is the suffering and death of His only and beloved Son! The cross of Calvary exhibits God’s hatred and punishment of sin in a way and to an extent which the annihilation of millions of worlds, swept from the face of the universe by the broom of His wrath, could never have done!

…Go, my soul, to Calvary, and learn how holy God is, and what a monstrous thing sin is, and how imperiously, solemnly, and holiy bound Jehovah is to punish it either in the person of the sinner, or in the person of the Surety. Never was the Son of God dearer to the Father than at the very moment that the sword of divine justice, flaming and flashing, pierced to its hilt His holy heart!

~Octavius Winslow

From Ray Ortlund’s blog,

“Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression?  The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past.  Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ.  Never look back at your sins again.  Say: ‘It is finished, it is covered by the blood of Christ.’  That is your first step.  Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, 1965), page 35.

 

Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sov’reign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
and shut its glories in,
when God, the mighty maker, died
for his own creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
while his dear cross appears;
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of tears can ne’er repay
the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
’tis all that I can do.

~Isaac Watts

HT: Justin Taylor

The audio is up from the Andrew Fuller Conference which I attended about a month ago. Sadly I was not able to attend all the lectures due to school classes happening at the same time. But what I did hear was really good.

The conference is both historical and denominational in its topics. All Andrew Fuller Conferences discuss how Baptists have understood different doctrinal positions throughout history. This year the topic was on Baptists and the cross, how Baptists have historically understood and preached the substitutionary death of Jesus.

I was able to listen to the three beginning Plenary Sessions and the sixth Plenary Session. The first two are mainly theological in their dealings. Schreiner deals with texts in the Pastoral and Petrine epistles that refer to the extent of the atonement. Wellum talks about a over arching view of the Bible that one must have to rightly view atonement. Both are very beneficial. The last two are historical overviews. They are beneficial as well if you want a better grasp of history.

Here is the list of lectures in full. Hopefully you will find something of interest among them.

MONDAY| August 30, 2010

9:00 a.m. Plenary Session 1: Tom Schreiner (SBTS)
“The Atonement in the Pastoral Epistles, the Petrine Epistles, and Hebrews”

10:25 a.m. Plenary Session 2: Stephen Wellum (SBTS)
“Baptism and Crucicentrism”

11:45 a.m. Plenary Session 3: David W. Bebbington (Professor of History, University of Stirling)
“British Baptist Crucicentrism from the Eighteenth Century Onwards”

2:30-4:00 p.m. PARALLEL SESSIONS

Group A: 17th Century British Baptists (Chair: Steve Weaver)

  1. Roger Duke, “The Blood in the Lesser Known Writings of John Bunyan”
  2. Ryan West, “Christopher Blackwood—Unpopular Dissent and the Cross in Cromwellian Ireland”
  3. Steve Weaver, “‘A Patient Wearing of Christ’s Cross’: Hercules Collins and a Baptist Theology of Persecution”

Group B: 18th Century Baptists (Chair: Paul Brewster)

  1. Allen Mickle, “ ‘Binding his Ass’s Colt to the Choice Vine’: John Gill (1697-1771), Isaiah 53, and the Atonement”
  2. Josh Carmichael, “Anne Steele on the Atonement”
  3. Peter Beck, “An Early Baptist in the Land of the Free: Samuel Stillman, the Depravity of Man and the Freedom of the Cross”

Group C: 19th Century Baptists (Chair: Jeff Robinson)

  1. John Gill, “Alexander Carson on the Cross”
  2. Cody McNutt, “Condescension and Substitution: Christ’s Cross in the Preaching of Robert Hall, Jr.”
  3. Chris Chun, “Andrew Fuller on the Atonement: Was Fuller’s approach nearer to that of Jonathan Edwards or the Younger?”

Group D: Theological Reflections (Chair: Joe Harrod)

  1. David Schrock, “Baptists, the New Covenant, and the Efficacy of the Atonement”
  2. David Pitman, “Baptists and the Iconography of the Cross: An Historical and Theological Survey”
  3. Jason Duesing, “Humphreys/Patterson—1987: A Southern Baptist Debate on the Atonement”

7:00 p.m. “Baptists and the Cross:  A Hymnfest” (Nathan Platt)

8:00 p.m. Plenary Session 4: Glendon Thompson (President, Toronto Baptist Seminary)
“Preaching the Cross”

TUESDAY| August 31, 2010

8:30 a.m. Plenary Session 5: Maurice Dowling (Professor of Church History, Irish Baptist College, Queens University)
“Spurgeon and the Cross”

11:30 a.m. Plenary Session 6: James Fuller (Professor of History, University of Indianapolis)
“19th Century Southern Baptists and the Cross”

2:30-3:40 p.m. Plenary Session 7: Danny Akin (SEBTS)
“The Cross and Pastoral Ministry”

4:00-5:00 p.m. Special LifeWay Booksigning Event:  “Book Discussion with Michael Haykin and David Bebbington”

Justin Taylor complied a massive list of really good sermons and papers. The first four are his top sermons to read. Then Justin asked several pastors to give their lists as well.

Justin Taylor

Bryan Chapell

Graham Cole

Mark Dever

Dever also mentioned three books:

Kevin DeYoung

Stephen J. Nichols

Ray Ortlund

John Piper

David Powlison

  • B. B. Warfield, “Imitating the Incarnation“  (“The last page and a half offers the most riveting description of the goal of Christian living that I’ve ever read.”)

Fred Sanders

R.C. Sproul

Carl R. Trueman

Bruce Ware

  • R.C. Sproul, Lecture on “The Locus of Astonishment” (A brief summary is available here. For a similar talk, listen to “When Towers Fall.”)

Donald Whitney

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