John Stott would have turned 96 years old two weeks ago today. Sadly, the paragon of evangelical Anglicanism passed away in July 2011. Over the course of his long life he made an enduring mark on the Protestant and Evangelical world.
The prolific Anglican pastor authored more than fifty books from the 1950s through 2010, spoke extensively around the world, and served as the “chief architect of the Lausanne Covenant.” Crossing paths with larger-than-life figures ranging from Elizabeth II (as the Queen’s Chaplain) to evangelist Billy Graham to minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he worked alongside some of the most important figures of his day.
“Lauded as the closest thing to an evangelical pope, Stott was the leader we wish our theological opponents would emulate,” wrote Gospel Coalition Editorial Director Collin Hansen for Christianity Today in February 2012. “Indeed, Stott transcended divisions like few others in post-war, trans-Atlantic evangelicalism.”
Upon Stott’s passing, Billy Graham noted: “The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisers.”
One of Stott’s best remembered and most influential books was The Cross of Christ, originally published by InterVarsity Press in 1986. This treatise carefully expounding on Christ’s sacrificial death, fleshing out the core doctrine of Evangelicalism, indeed orthodox Christianity as a whole. Recommending The Cross of Christ on his blog, Crossway Executive Vice President Justin Taylor noted the palpable “earnestness and realism about the message and the ministry of this masterpiece.”
Stott illuminates the various theological facets of the cross in the book, providing a clear and complete view of what Jesus Christ accomplished through his death. But Stott went even further. He also explained the ramifications of the cross for topics including how Christians should pursue discipleship, live within the Church community, relate to society, and understand suffering in the world.
Although intellectually hefty, The Cross of Christ remains a profound tome, worth investing the requisite time and energy to read. There exists no more important doctrine within Christianity than the salvific work of Jesus Christ, and few Christian scholars have been so well equipped to tackle this topic.
Below are 10 essential quotes from The Cross of Christ by John Stott to freshly inspire your faith in Jesus Christ! (Note: All quotes and page references are from the 20th anniversary edition of The Cross of Christ published by IVP Books in 2006.)
1.) “From Jesus’ youth, indeed even from his birth, the cross cast its shadow ahead of him. His death was central to his mission. Moreover, the church has always recognized this.” (pg. 23)
2.) “The fact that a cross became the Christian symbol, and that Christians stubbornly refused, in spite of the ridicule, to discard it in favor of something less offensive, can have only on explanation. It means that the centrality of the cross originated in the mind of Jesus himself. It was out of loyalty to him that his followers clung so doggedly to this sign.” (pg. 31)
3.) “God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sins, guilt, judgement and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that.” (pg. 85)
4.) “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.” (pg. 111)
5.) “Moved by the perfection of his holy love, God in Christ substituted himself for us sinners. That is the heart of the Cross of Christ.” (pg. 165)
6.) “It would be hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the changes that have taken place as a result of the cross, both in God and in us, especially God’s dealings with us and in our relations with him. Truly, when Christ died and was raised from death, a new day dawned, a new age began.” (pg. 165)
7.) “If the cross is to mark our Christian life in the home and the church, this should be even more so in the world. The church tends to become very preoccupied with its own affairs, obsessed with petty, parochial trivia, while the needy world outside is waiting. So the Son sends us out into the world, as the Father had sent him into the world.” (pg. 283)
8.) “The cross calls us to a much more radical and costly kind of evangelism than most churches have begun to consider, let alone experience. The cross calls us to social action too, because it summons us to the imitation of Christ…” (pg. 284)
9.) “On the cross, by both demanding and bearing the penalty of sin and so simultaneously punishing and overcoming evil, God displayed and demonstrated his holy love; holy love of the cross should characterize our response to evil-doers today.” (pg. 302)
10.) “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” (pg. 326)