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The Truth of the Cross by R. C. Sproul

October 21, 2008

In a day and age in which the Cross has been down played entirely or simply used as a band aid to patch every want and need imaginable, R. C. Sproul has written a timely and concise book dealing with the subject of the Atonement. This book is rich in theology while at the same time it remains easy to understand. Dr. Sproul tells us why he chose this time period to write this book when he says “I doubt there has been a period in the two thousand years of Christian history when the significance, the centrality, and even the necessity of the cross have been more controversial than now.” This is no small concern considering he has been in the ministry for well over thirty years. If this is indeed true-and I believe it is-than this book is right in time and it will go a long way in helping to regain what has so tragically been lost in American Christianity, the Cross of Christ. Dr. Sproul goes on to tell us that there are basically three types of view on the atonement: those that believe it is absolutely unnecessary, those that believe it to be only hypothetically necessary, and the classical, orthodox view that it is absolutely necessary; he states that “If we are defective in understanding the character of God or understanding the nature of sin, it is inevitable that we will come to the conclusion that an atonement was not necessary.” (p 15) This statement is made in the first chapter after R.C. has made a very solid case for the necessity of the Atonement.

Dr. Sproul continues by moving to the next chapter entitled The Just God. Here R.C. clarifies one the most overlooked aspects of God’s character, that being that God is  just , saying “God is loving, but a major part of what He loves is His own perfect character, with a major aspect being the importance of maintaining justice and righteousness. Though God pardons sinners and makes great provision for expressing His mercy, He will never negotiate His justice. If we fail to understand that, the cross of Christ will be utterly meaningless to us.”(p 19) It is here that this book begins to go from good to great, because Pastor Sproul doesn’t just give us his opinion, he opens up the Bible and begins to teach from it, beginning in Gen 18 and expositing all throughout Scripture Dr. Sproul leaves no stone unturned in helping us understand the truth of the Cross and all its beauty. This book is truly written in a way that will benefit Christians of every maturity level.

There are only two other issues that I have with this book the part I liked most and the part I feel could have been left out. Beginning with the part that could have been left out and that is the chapter on limited atonement. While I fully believe and am growing in my understanding of the Doctrines of Grace, the L is the one petal on the TUILP flower that I truly have more to learn about. The only reason I feel this chapter could have been left out is the fact that it does tend to divide the body bitterly, however the more I thought about it the more I realized that if he had removed this chapter then he would not have given us the complete truth of Cross but only a shorten version of it. Even in this chapter we are shown how great of a Bible teacher he is and how he can take such a complex issues as this and explain them in laymen’s terms. For example he states “The real heart of the controversy over limited atonement is this question: what was God’s intent or His design in sending Christ to the cross? Was it the purpose of the Father and the Son to make an atonement that would be made available to all who would put their trust in it, with the possibility that none might avail themselves of its benefits? In other words, was God’s purpose in sending Christ to the cross simply to make salvation possible? Or did God from all eternity plan to send Christ to die a substitutionary death in order to effect an actual atonement that would be applied to certain elect individuals?” and then explains it like this ” People have trouble with that, particularly if I use those words to describe the doctrine. What if I say Jesus went to the cross to make an atonement for believers, and only for believers? In that statement, I declare that it was God’s design that Jesus should die not for everybody indiscriminately, but only for those who would believe. If you accept that, you see that only the elect are believers and that only believers are the elect. I’m not saying anything different when I say that Christ died only for the elect. Can you conceive of people who are believers who are not elect, or of people who are elect who are not believers?” He continues to explain this out of the text of Scripture and at the very least gives the reader a basic understanding of their Calvinist brothers.

My favorite chapter in this book is easily the last one here Dr. Sproul answers nine questions about the atonement that went a long way in answering some of nuances of the Cross for me. For instance the first question is what is the significance of the shedding of blood on the Cross? Well you’ll have to buy the book to get the answer to this and the other questions in this chapter. I strongly recommend this book to anyone that would like to understand the Cross better.

Read what others are saying about it Tony Reinke and Tim Challies. Also if you would like to a small and free insight to what this book is about than listen to this sermon by Dr. Sproul.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 28, 2008 6:31 am

    Great review Don, I am excited about buying the book. I think you answered your question about the L, the gospel would not be fully represented without an explanation of.

    In Christ,


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