31.3.10

Windows on the Cross


What did Christ accomplish on the cross? What did he do and how did he do? These are the questions atonement theology addresses. The most basic answer typically given in my own context is that He 'died for our sins.' Nothing wrong with that. But we can say more; much more in fact.

I am currently reading Cruciformity by Gorman. I am not finished yet, but he lists 13 windows on the cross, and I wanted to share them here. So, what follows is Gorman's list, taken from pages 82-85, with my own paraphrased brief explanations of what he means by them. These 13 windows do not contradict one another, and they can be taken together to create a full picture of Jesus' work on the cross. The point is that we usually emphasize one or two of this while forgetting about the rest.

1. Obedience/Righteousness/Faith(fulness): When Christ died he was following the will of God. Clearly presented in: Phil. 2:8; Romans 5:18-19; Gal. 1:4. Ambiguously present (due to Greek grammatical uncertainty) in: Romans 3:22, 26; Gal. 2:16, 2:20, 3:22; Phil. 3:9.

2. Love: Christ died as a demonstration of God's love. Gal. 2:20; Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:14.

3. Grace: Christ's death is unmerited by those it benefits (us) and generous. 2 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 5:15, 5:6-10.

4. Sacrifice: This is a commonly expressed explanation, that Christ died as a sacrifice for sin. 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4; Rom. 3:25, 4:25, 5:9, 8:3.

5. Altruism/Substitution: Another commonly used theme. Christ died in place of people, for them, taking on their sin/punishment as a substitute. It is important to have both halves here; Christ died for people, not only for their sins. 1 Thess. 5:9-10; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Cor. 8:11; Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 8:9; 1 Cor. 1:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:6, 5:8.

6. Self-giving/giving: Christ's death was his surrendering of his self and a gift from God. Gal. 1:4, 2:20; Phil. 2:7-8; Rom. 8:3, 8:32, 4:25.

7. Voluntary self-humbling/abasement: Christ's death was an act of humility, or a descent in status. Phil. 2:6-11; 2 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 15:3.

8. Culmination of a story that includes incarnation and suffering: The cross is often presented as a high point in the story, but perhaps not the climax (that is the resurrection; see point 13). Still, the cross represents the path Jesus walked. Phil. 2:6-11; 2 Cor. 8:9.

9. Paradoxical power and wisdom: Pretty obvious; the cross doesn't make sense to an outsider looking in. Why worship a man who suffered and died? Crucifixion = failure. and so on. 1 Cor. 1:24-25; 2 Cor. 13:4.

10. Interchange: Christ's death effects an exchange of our sin for his righteousness, his wealth for our poverty. 2 Cor. 8:9, 5:21.

11. Apocalyptic victory and liberation for new life and transformation: That's a mouthful, eh? This is the Christus Victory theme, but by another, longer, and more explanatory name. In Christ's death he has defeated the reigning powers of this world and thus freed us from their tyranny and inaugurated the new age of the kingdom of God wherein we look forward to the full coming of the new heaven and new earth and are transformed in anticipation of that day. Gal 1:4; Rom. 6:6, 9-10; 14:9; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Thess. 5:9-10.

12. Reconciliation and Justification: Another common theme. Through Christ's death we are reconciled with God and justified in His presence. Gal. 2:15-16; Rom. 3:22, 4:25, 5:18-19.

13. Prelude to resurrection/exaltation: The conclusion of the story is the resurrection, thus the crucifixion leads up to it. Death and resurrection joined at the seam by the story of Jesus. 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 1:4; 4:25; Gal. 1:1; Rom. 6:4,9; 8:17.; Phil. 2:9-11; Gal. 2:20.


What an amazing thing Jesus did! As exhaustive (exhausting?) as this list is, I doubt that even it fully explores all possible windows on the cross.


1 comment:

David Warkentin said...

Thanks Andrew! You offer a helpful summary of just how dynamic the work of Christ is. And the idea of "windows" being plural is important. No one metaphor or description is complete.