The date today is January 18, 2023.
I began writing on the teachings of John Stott on October 25, 2020. I have never commented on two books by one author at the same time, but I did that with John Stott. The Cross of Christ was Stott’s crowning achievement, a book highly regarded by theologians, a dense discussion of the symbol at the heart of the Christian faith, the cross of Jesus Christ. Basic Christianity was a book written early in Stott’s career, a book defining the fundamental claims of the faith. I found Basic to be a book that dealt with those fundamentals in a solid and intellectually satisfying manner. I needed that discussion when I became a born-again believer. Over the past two and a half years, I have written 126 posts on both books, section by section, transitioning from the simpler book to the more complex book until I am where I am today: writing the last post I will ever write about the writing of John Stott. Stott concludes his book [The Cross]with the seventh affirmation from the Book of Galatians. Those seven affirmations were Stott’s way of wrapping up all of the main points of The Cross of Christ.*
The seventh affirmation concerns the cross and boasting [Galatians 6: 14]. The Scripture reads: “May I never boast except in the cross of Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”
What does this mean? The key word here is boast and we often don’t think of that word in a good light. In his effort to define it, Stott says we have no English equivalent for the Greek word kauchomai. He uses the terms glory in, trust in, rejoice in, revel in or live for. He thinks “to boast in” means to “fill our horizons, engross our attention and absorb our time and energy.” Paul’s use of boast may mean he feels he is obsessed with something. Stott then turns to his interpretation of Galatians and states “Pauls’ obsession was with Christ and His cross” . Should Paul be obsessed by the cross? Stott says that the cross was certainly the most important thought on the mind of Jesus and the cross has always been central to the faith of the Christian church.
My guess is that Stott believes Paul was justified in his obsession.
Stott presents two reasons he feels that Paul’s obsession is not really harmful. The cross is man’s way of acceptance with God. It is the only means we have of standing before a just and holy God. Some may think they do so much holy work that they don’t have to rely on Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, but to trust in our own merits is a mistake. We can’t earn our way to heaven without God’s grace. Secondly, to boast in the cross is to see life as “the pattern of our self-denial.” What this means is that Christ crucified the world when He went to His death [He denied the values of the world [materialism, vanity and hypocrisy]. Jesus preached that we should turn from these kinds of values. We need to take up our own cross, not live with what Scripture calls “desires of the flesh.” As He practiced self-denial, we should do likewise.
I find it interesting that Stott makes his closing comments on The Cross in theological order, not chronological. The cross is the “ground of our justification.” Christ has rescued us from the “evil of the present age” and redeemed us from the curse of the law. The cross is “the means of our sanctification.” We have been crucified with Christ, our fallen nature has been crucified and the world has been crucified to us. The cross is “the object of our boasting.” As previously discussed, Paul’s world was “in orbit” around the cross. “It filled his vision, illumined his life, warmed his spirit.” Stott writes “our perspective should be the same” .
I find it interesting that Stott feels that if the cross is not central in these four spheres to us, “then we deserve to have applied to us that most terrible of all descriptions, ‘the enemy of the cross of Christ.’” . He points to four very negative attitudes we can have: self- righteousness, self-indulgence, self-advertisement and self-glorification. These personal “distortions” make us enemies of the cross.
Stott turns to Paul and his writings in Galatians because Paul is a devoted friend of the cross. Stott characterizes Paul as closely identifying with it and suffering physical persecution for it. In Galations 6: 17 he writes “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
Maybe this is the main point of the whole book [The Cross of Christ ], that as Christians we should bear some wounds and scars.
In that way, the world will know we are authentic slaves of The Father.
*The last post from Basic Christianity was October 6, 2022: “Thanks Professor Stott: You Answer so Many Questions.”