I want to continue along this ‘confessional’ line I’m pursuing. I’d originally proposed to say something about the cross next. And that is still very much my intention. But I’d first like to sink another peg in the ground about my Reformed — and creedally orthodox — sympathies:
The context in which we must understand the cross is the person of Jesus.
The one who came ‘for us and our salvation’ was none other than the Lord, the only Son of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father, through whom all things were made.
The importance of this is particularly stressed by John Calvin in Book II of the Institutes. There, Calvin grounds everything he says about the work of Christ on the cross in the reality of who Jesus is.
Famously, Calvin inserts a chapter on the ‘threefold office’ of Christ — as prophet, king and priest — between his exposition of Christ’s person and his exposition of his work. This chapter links the two sides of the exposition by focussing on Jesus as a person-in-action, tying together his whole incarnate ‘career’ as a coherent whole and anchoring it all in the Bible’s grand narrative — with Jesus as its climax.
But it’s not only a structural thing. Calvin pursues this strategy at a more ‘micro’ level too. When he’s wrestling with the NT language of Jesus bearing/becoming sin, for example, he resists the surface logic that tugs in the direction of saying ‘God punished Jesus for our sins’. Calvin’s focus on the unity of Christ’s person and work tunes him into the deeper logic of the unbroken unity between the Father and Son (and Holy Spirit) in the work of redemption. Which is surely at least part of what it has to mean to maintain that Jesus is fully God as well as genuinely human.
Why am I making such a big deal about this? Well, because over the next few posts I’m going to try to let the reality of who Jesus is shape what I say about what the cross achieved. In particular, I’m going to speak about:
- The Creator’s cross,
- The Sustainer’s cross,
- The Ruler’s cross,
- The Judge’s cross, and
- The Redeemer’s cross.