The Centrality of Christ Crucified in the Gospel Message
"The heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach this truth preach the gospel in whatever else they may be mistaken; but they who preach not the atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance of the divine message."C. H. Spurgeon, "The Heart of the Gospel," July 18, 1886
Men tell us we should preach Christ as an example. We do preach him as an example, and rejoice to do so; but we can never allow that view of our Lord to overshadow our preaching of him as a sacrifice for sin. He suffered in the room, and place, and stead, of guilty men, and this is the gospel. Whatever others may preach, we preach Christ crucified. We will ever bear the cross in the forefront. The substitution of Christ for the sinner is the essence of the gospel. We do not keep back the doctrine of the Second Advent; but, first and foremost, we preach the pierced One; for this it is that shall lead to evangelical repentance, when the Spirit of grace is poured out. O brethren, whatever else you preach, or do not preach, preach Christ crucified! Jesus Christ my Lord as crucified is my main topic, and shall be till I die. I trust you feel a pleasure in thinking of the Lord Jesus in any character in which he is revealed, but yet the cross is that whereon he is most lifted up, and this is the chief attraction for sinful men. Though it be to the Jews a stumblingblock and to the Greeks foolishness, it is still the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.C. H. Spurgeon, How Hearts Are Softened, September 18, 1887
Why did Paul thus glory in the cross? You may well desire to know, for there are many nowadays who do not glory in it, but forsake it. Alas that it should be so! but there are ministers who ignore the atonement; they conceal the cross, or say but little about it. You may go through service after service, and scarce hear a mention of the atoning blood; but Paul was always bringing forward the expiation for sin: Paul never tried to explain it away. Oh the number of books that have been written to prove that the cross means an example of self-sacrifice, as if every martyrdom did not mean that. They cannot endure a real substitutionary sacrifice for human guilt, and an effectual purgation of sin by the death of the great substitute. Yet the cross means that or nothing. Paul was very bold: although he knew this would make him many enemies, you never find him refining and spiritualizing: the cross and the atonement for sin is a plain matter of fact to him. Neither does he attempt to decorate it by adding philosophical theories. He pronounces an anathema on all who propose a rival theme But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.C. H. Spurgeon, The Cross Our Glory.
"Note, that the mark of the blood was rendered as conspicuous as possible. The Israelites, though they ate the Paschal lamb in the quiet of their own families, yet made no secret of the sacrifice. They did not make the distinctive mark upon the wall of some inner chamber, or in some place where they could cover it with hangings, that no man might perceive it; but they smote the upper part of the doorway and the two side posts of the door, so that all who passed by the house must see that it was marked in a peculiar manner, and marked with blood. The Lords people were not ashamed to have the blood thus put in the forefront of every dwelling: and those that are saved by the great sacrifice are not to treat the doctrine of substitution as a hole-and-corner creed, to be secretly held, but not openly avowed. The death of Jesus in our room and place and stead is not a redemption of which we are ashamed to speak in any place. Call it old-fashioned and out of date, our critics may; but we are not ashamed to publish it to the four winds of heaven, and to avow our confidence in it. He that is ashamed of Christ in this generation, of him will Christ be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father, and all his holy angels with him. There is a theology abroad in the world which admits the death of Christ to a certain indefinable place in its system, but that place is very much in the rear: I claim for the atonement the front and the center, the Lamb must be in the midst of the throne. Atonement is not a mystery scarcely to be spoken of, or if spoken of at all, to be whispered. No, no, it is a sublime simplicity, a fact for a child to know, a truth for the common people to rejoice in! We must preach Christ crucified whatever else we do not preach. Brethren, I do not think a man ought to hear a minister preach three sermons without learning the doctrine of atonement. I give wide latitude when I say this, for I would desire never to preach at all without setting forth salvation by faith in the blood of Jesus. Across my pulpit and my tabernacle shall be the mark of the blood; it will disgust the enemy, but it will delight the faithful. Substitution seems to me to be the soul of the gospel, the life of the gospel, the essence of the gospel; therefore must it be ever in the front. Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is the Alpha, and we must keep him first and before all others. I charge you, Christian people, do not make this a secondary doctrine. Keep your perspective right, and have this always in the foreground. Other truths are valuable, and may most worthily be placed in the distance; but this is always to be in the foreground. The center of Christianity is the cross, and the meaning of the cross is substitution."C. H. Spurgeon, "The Blood of Sprinkling and the Children" (October 23, 1887)
"The supreme business of God's servants is to preach Christ. Now to do this, there must be a Scriptural setting forth of His glorious person, as the eternal Son, the Maker of heaven and earth. There must be an exposition of His two natures: His absolute Deity and His holy humanity. There must be an explanation of His offices: a Prophet to reveal the will of God, a Priest to offer Himself a sacrifice to God, and a King to rule over the people of God. There must be a declaration of the two states in which He exercises His offices. First of humiliation: His condescension in becoming flesh, the reasons for this, and the glorious consequences of it. Second, His glorification: His exaltation to the right hand of God, His headship over the Church, His intercessory ministry. But supremely, there must be the preaching of His obedience to the Law, His perfect righteousness, His vicarious death, the all-sufficiency of His merits to those who trust in Him.
"I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). We are not only to open up the mystery of His Person, the manifold glories of His many offices, the perfections of His character, but, above all, we are to expound the meaning of the Cross. It is only by dwelling much on the varied significations of Calvary that the truth can be fully told out, whether the sinfulness of man's sin, or the greatness of God's love. To illustrate the various aspects of the sacrificial work of the Redeemer, a close study needs to be given to and then a free use made of the Old Testament types.
But it is not sufficient to barely "preach" Christ, there must also be an application made of what is revealed in Scripture concerning Him to the use of God's people, that their hearts may be drawn out to Him, and that they may see their interest in Him. To "preach" is to woo. The servant of God is not only an Advocate pleading his Master's cause, refuting the objections of opposers, but he also is a witness, telling out of his own experience the preciousness of Christ. Thus, he is to attract, allure, and win souls to Him. That which best fits any minister to "preach" Christ is to himself walk and commune with Him! A part of some of the typical sacrifices was reserved as a feast for the offerer and his friends. So we must teach the saints to look away from self to Christ, to feed on Him, to live by Him, to be occupied with Him and His perfections."Arthur W. Pink, "The Satisfaction of ChristStudies In The Atonement," from the chapter, "The AtonementIts Proclamation"
"Studies in the Atonement" By Dr. Robert A. Morey
"The Scriptures reveal that the central concern and mission of Christ was to accomplish the work of atonement. "For thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. It is a worthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (Matt. 1:21; Luke 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15). Jesus Christ did not come as a Marxist revolutionist or as a humanistic moralist. He came to accomplish a saving work for sinners.
This line of thought brings us to the following conclusions:
1. To the degree we understand the atonement is to the degree we understand the person and work of Christ.
2. To the degree we understand the person and work of Christ is to the degree we understand the Scriptures.
3. To the degree we understand the Scriptures is to the degree we understand the history of redemption.
4. Therefore, ignorance of the Biblical doctrine of the atonement means ignorance of the work of Christ, the Scriptures and the history of redemption.
These conclusions force upon us the importance and necessity of studying the Biblical doctrine of the atonement. The atonement should be the constant object of study, worship and praise by all the people of God and not just by professional theologians. To a great degree, the low level of sanctification in the 20th Century Church is due to the appalling ignorance concerning the saving work of Jesus Christ. May God use this study to cause the light of the Person and work of Christ to shine into the hearts of the people of God. To Him be the glory forever and ever."Dr. Robert A. Morey, from the Introduction to "Studies in the Atonement"
["Studies in the Atonement" by Dr. Morey is an excellent book on this subject. It is thorough, but the average person will find it easy to read. Serious Bible students and sincere lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:24, 1 John 4:9-10) are encouraged to get a copy and read it. The book is available on Dr. Morey's website, Faith Defenders, through their bookstore, Click Here.]