The essential background to the cross, therefore, is a balanced understanding of the gravity of sin and the majesty of God. If we diminish either, we thereby diminish the cross. If we reinterpret sin as a lapse instead of a rebellion, and God as indulgent instead of indignant, then naturally the cross appears superfluous. But to dethrone God and enthrone ourselves not only dispenses with the cross; it also degrades both God and man. A biblical view of God and ourselves, however, that is, of our sin and of God’s wrath, honours both. It honours human beings by affirming them as responsible for their own actions. It honours God by affirming him as having moral character. (110)
John Stott spends the early chapters of his book The Cross of Christ setting himself up for the 5th and 6th chapters which he explains the foundations of Christ’s work on the cross. A foundational explanation for the work of Christ on Calvary by Stott is as follows: “divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution” (159). That is, the two concepts which explain the saving death of Christ are satisfaction—the divine necessity to deal with sin—and substitution—God bearing our penalty so we can receive his pardon.
The quote at the top of this post explains summarily how Stott arrived at satisfaction and substitution (FYI, this Sunday’s sermon is on satisfaction and the following Sunday’s is on substitution). Stott suggests that satisfaction through substitution is necessary because of who we are and who God is. That is, we are people who sin and our sin is a grave, grievous affront to the infinitely holy and majestic God.
In light of this, it occurred to me that a helpful question for myself to contemplate would be, “In what ways do I reinterpret sin so as to diminish its devastating evilness?” The consequences of diminishing my sin is a diminishing of the work of Christ (at least in my own appraisal of it). God forbid.
Similarly, another good question to consider: “In which ways do I perceive God that would be a devaluing, or even dethroning, of the Most High?” To diminish God is also to diminish the cross and Christ’s work upon it. Again, God forbid.
Over the weeks leading up to Easter, these two self-reflective questions will help you appreciate the cross more and, in response, adore the Saviour more. Why not pose the questions to yourself as you prepare to celebrate Easter. I intend to.