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The Work of Christ

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As Christians we make a big deal of the death of Jesus and rightly so because it is only through his death that we can be saved from our sin. But if all Jesus needed to accomplish before God was his death on the cross, he could have come to earth as an adult on the evening of Good Friday, he could have died, and still be the one to save us from our sin. But had he done all of this, we would still have a problem. There is a reason that before Christ died he had to truly live. This is the subject of R.C. Sproul’s new book The Work of Christ.

Sproul says: “In order for [Jesus] to qualify as our Redeemer, it was not enough for Him simply to go to the cross and be crucified. If Jesus had only paid for our sins, He would have succeeded only in taking us back to square one. We would no longer be guilty, but we still would have absolutely no righteousness to bring before God.” We would be free of guilt before God, but we would have no righteousness. This is what Christ merited for us in his life.

Our Redeemer needed not only to die, but also to live a life of perfect obedience. The righteousness that He manifested could then be transferred to all who put their trust in Him. Just as my sin is transferred to Him on the cross when I trust in Him, His righteousness is transferred to my account in the sight of God. So, when I stand before God on the judgment day, God is going to see Jesus and His righeousness, which will be my cover.

The purpose of this book is to give a brief overview of the time Christ spent in this world to show that he was here to fulfill a mission. Sproul looks at the incarnation, the infancy hymns, Jesus in the temple, baptism, and so on, in each case showing that all along the way Jesus was executing a mission. This book bears all the marks of R.C. Sproul, from careful teaching to wise application to theological nuance to a remark or two on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though Sproul has elsewhere written extensively about the life and death of Jesus Christ, this book focuses narrowly on this one area of the theological implications of Christ’s life.

Let me say a word about the book’s format. The Work of Christ is the first of several books that will be released in a new partnership between Sproul, Ligonier Ministries and David C. Cook Publishers and this partnership has resulted in a unique format. Each of the book’s eleven chapters is about ten pages or so and then followed by an extensive study guide. The study guide for each chapter contains an introduction, learning objectives, quotations, a thorough outline of the chapter’s contents, Bible study questions, a discussion guide, a couple of points of application, and some suggested reading for further study. All told, the study guides are just about the same length as the chapters. This brings a lot of value to those who appreciate assistance in understanding and applying a book; this kind of a thorough companion to a book usually comes with an extra cost. Those who do not enjoy study guides will want to be aware that only about half of this book’s pages are actual content.

The Work of Christ is a powerful book that can serve as an ideal companion to The Truth of the Cross–one book to focus on Christ’s active obedience in living a sinless life, and one book to focus on Christ’s passive obedience in facing the Father’s wrath on the cross. I highly recommend it.

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