RCT4: The Problem of Forgiveness

Reading Classics Together
This morning brings us to our next reading in John Stott’s classic work The Cross of Christ. This week’s chapter, chapter 4, looks at “The Problem of Forgiveness.” After last week’s “look below the surface” of Christ’s life, some may have wondered why our forgiveness would have to depend on Christ’s death. That is where Stott turns this week.

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The Problem of Forgiveness

Some weeks I use this post as an opportunity to provide a synopsis of the chapter. This week I am going to simply provide a list of great quotes. Even if you have not read the chapter, I think you’ll find a lot of benefit in simply reading these quotes and maybe taking a few moments to ponder some of them.

“It is when our perception of God and man, or of holiness and sin, are askew that our understanding of the atonement is bound to be askew also.”

“For us to argue ‘we forgive each other unconditionally, let God do the same to us’ betrays not sophistication but shallowness, since it overlooks the elementary fact that we are not God. We are private individuals, and other people’s misdemeanors are personal injuries. God is not a private individual, however, nor is sin just a personal injury. On the contrary, God is himself the maker of the laws we break, and sin is rebellion against him.”

“The crucial question we should ask … is not why God finds it difficult to forgive, but how he finds it possible to do so at all.”

“The reason why many people give the wrong answers to questions about the cross, and even ask the wrong questions, is that they have carefully considered neither the seriousness of sin nor the majesty of God.”

“If human beings have sinned (which they have), and if they are responsible for their sins (which they are), then they are guilty before God. Guilt is the logical deduction from the premises of sin and responsibility. We have done wrong, by our own fault, and are therefore liable to bear the just penalty of our wrongdoing.”

“The Bible takes sin seriously because it takes humanity seriously. … Christians do not deny the fact–in some circumstances–of diminished responsibility, but we affirm that diminished responsibility always entails diminished humanity. To say that somebody ‘is not responsible for his actions’ is to demean him or her as a human being. It is part of the glory of being human that we are held responsible for our actions. Then, when we also acknowledge our sin and guilt, we receive God’s forgiveness, enter into the joy of his salvation, and so become yet more completely human and healthy. What is unhealthy is every wallowing in guilt which does not lead to confession, repentance, faith in Jesus Christ and so forgiveness.”

“God’s holiness exposes sin; his wrath opposes it. So sin cannot approach God, and God cannot tolerate sin.”

“All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and humanity.”

Next Week

For next week please read chapter 5, “Satisfaction for Sin.”

Your Turn

The purpose of this program is to read these books together. If you have something to say, whether a comment or criticism or question, feel free to use the comment section for that purpose.

More in The Cross of Christ:

  1. RCT: The Cross of Christ
  2. RCT2: Why Did Christ Die?
  3. RCT3: Looking Below the Surface
  4. RCT5: Satisfaction for Sin
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