Unsatisfactory Satisfaction (Part 3)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 5: Satisfaction for Sin

Check out the first and second parts of this chapter if you haven’t already.

At the end of part 2, I issued the question:

What is satisfied at the cross if not the devil?
What is satisfied at the cross if not the law?
What is satisfied at the cross if not God’s honor and justice?

The answer is almost painfully simple.

4. The cross satisfied God Himself.

Yes, the cross satisfied the law–but only because the law is an expression of God Himself. Yes, the cross satisfied God’s honor and justice–but only because those are attributes of God Himself. Those statements can only be true inasmuch as we recognize that what must be satisfied is God’s own character.

God is not bound by some external being or concept, whether by satan or by law or by justice. He is bound to one thing and one thing only–He is bound to ever be Himself. God must always act as Himself, in a way that is consistent with His own unchanging nature.

God judges sin, not because He is bound by the law, but because it is His nature to be holy and absolutely intolerant of sin. He acts for His name’s sake, for His own sake.

Stott summarizes his thesis in these words:

“…The way God chooses to forgive sinners and reconcile them to himself must, first and foremost, be fully consistent with his own character. It is not only that he must overthrow and disarm the devil in order to rescue his captives. It is not even only that he must satisfy his law, his honour, his justice, or the moral order: it is that he must satisfy himself. Those other formulations rightly insist that at least one expression of himself must be satisfied, either his law or honour or justice or moral order; the merit of this further formulation is that it insists on the satisfaction of God himself in every aspect of his being, including both his justice and his love.
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Too often, we think of God’s justice and His love as being two opposing forces held in tension. Yet this is not so:

“For God is not at odds with himself, however much it may appear to us that he is….True, we find it difficult to hold in our minds simultaneously the images of God as the Judge who must punish evil-doers and of the Lover who must find a way to forgive them. Yet he is both, and at the same time. In the words of G.C. Berkouwer, ‘in the cross of Christ God’s justice and love are simultaneously revealed,’ while Calvin, echoing Augustine, was even bolder. He wrote of God that ‘in a marvelous and divine way he loved us even when he hated us.’ Indeed, the two are more than simultaneous, they are identical, or at least alternative expressions of the same reality. For ‘the wrath of God is the love of God‘ Brunner wrote in a daring sentence, ‘in the form in which the man who has turned away from God and turned against God experiences it.'”
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

(See more notes on The Cross of Christ here.)


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