There’s a very important article by David Gibson on ‘Beginning with Moses’ called ‘Assumed Evangelicalism’. Gibson starts by retelling the stories of two movements – the Mennonites and the UK Student Christian Movement:
The first generation of the Mennonite Brethren movement believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailments.
In its earliest days the SCM believed and proclaimed the atoning blood of Jesus. The next generation assumed it but did not make it central. The following generations have rejected and denied the apostolic gospel.
Gibson defines ‘assumed evangelicalism’ as a church, organisation or movement which:
believes and signs up to the gospel. It certainly does not deny the gospel. But in terms of priorities, focus, and direction, assumed evangelicalism begins to give gradually increasing energy to concerns other than the gospel and key evangelical distinctives, to gradually elevate secondary issues to a primary level, to be increasingly worried about how it is perceived by others and to allow itself to be increasingly influenced both in content and method by the prevailing culture of the day.
Tim Keller discusses a similar drift in emphasis:
Both the Bible and church history show us that it is possible to hold all the correct individual biblical doctrines and yet functionally lose our grasp on the gospel… operationally stop preaching and using the gospel on ourselves through dead orthodoxy or through doctrinal imbalances of emphasis. Sinclair Ferguson argues that there are many forms of both legalism and antinomianism, some of which are based on overt heresy but more often on matters of emphasis and spirit. (Centre Church, p. 21, emphasis added).
So, in the interest of emphasis and spirit, here is a review by Esther Chebet of John Stott’s classic The Cross of Christ, which is required reading for all iServe Africa apprentices:
The Cross of Christ is a very rich book in terms of the doctrine of the cross. Stott divides his book in four main sections. In the first section he deals on how we should approach the cross whereby he gives an explanation on why the cross is central to the lives of Christians. The first part especially challenges us to see ourselves in Pilate, the Pharisees and the scribes and Judas Iscariot who opposed, betrayed and handed over Jesus to the Roman authorities. We like them have rejected Jesus in our hearts and we resent His commandments and intrusion into our privacy. However, he summarizes this section by making it clear that Christ voluntarily went to the cross to die since his death was central to his mission so as to bring us closer to God.
In the second section, Stott deals with the heart of the cross. He gives a very good explanation of why forgiveness for human sins by God had to cost Him His own Son. He explains in depth about God’s holiness and wrath in relation to human sin. Stott helps us to see the gravity of our sin, the great problem of God being both just and the justifier of the ungodly and warns against us thinking that God is easy going concerning our sins. He opens our eyes to see that God indeed is a moral God and cannot deny Himself by ignoring the sins of the world. Salvation is seen as a means of satisfying God’s justice since He has to uphold the honor of His own dignity .He also expounds the fact that God offered a substitute in His Son Jesus Christ and how we must see God in Christ reconciling the world back to Himself.
In the third section, he looks at what Jesus’ death on the cross has achieved for us as Christians. This includes the revelation of God’s character, salvation of sinners and the conquest of evil.
Stott’s last section explains how we are supposed to live under the cross as believers. Believers are supposed to view themselves as a community of celebration due to what Christ has done for them on the cross. The cross also leads to self understanding and self giving. The cross should define who we are in Christ and dictate how we now live in Christ by denying ourselves and following Him wholeheartedly. The cross also shapes our conduct to our enemies-which should be guided by love. Finally, the cross gives us a new perspective on suffering which is to make us to be more like Christ, leading to eternal glory.
Stott concludes by summarizing how the cross should be so central in our lives that it changes everything concerning our lives. The cross should persuade us to preach Christ, to live holy lives, to face persecution with courage and to boast only in the cross.
This book is very captivating and gives an answer to most philosophical and theological questions concerning God and the cross. It enables us to have a deeper understanding of our main Christian foundational beliefs. I would recommend this book to every believer who wants to delve into a deeper meaning of their faith in God through Jesus Christ.