This season is a time for renewal. People everywhere rejoice as the gloom and chill of winter gives way to the warmth and freshness of spring. There is no question that this annual climate change has been orchestrated by God to be a creative parable for redemption. For instance, Richard Sibbes, the great 16th and 17th century Puritan theologian, once said: "As the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory." It is no wonder, to us who celebrate Resurrection Day, that death and resurrection also apply metaphorically.
Philip Graham Ryken's latest book, "Salvation by Crucifixion" (Christian Focus Publications), has arrived just in time for Easter. This short book is based on a series of evangelistic sermons given at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA. Ryken and the late James Montgomery Boice revived an old tradition of preaching during the lunch hour in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Day, and this book is the fruit of that ministry.
The books consists of seven chapters, which are sermons on the cross of Christ. Each sermon explains a characteristic or result of the crucifixion of Jesus. Ryken seeks to show the reader why "the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most important event in human history." (p. 13)
In the first chapter, the author tells us of the necessity of the cross-that it was necessary to fulfill God's plan, pay for sin, and to save sinners. Chapter two speaks of the "offense" of the cross. It was an abomination to the Romans and a curse to the Jews, but it is also insulting to any "moral" person. (pp. 35-37) "The Peace of the Cross" is the title of the next chapter. Here, Ryken writes of the enmity between humanity and God and the reconciliation that Christ has provided in His cross-work. The fourth chapter is similar to the second, in that the shame of the cross (Heb. 12:2) is closely related to its foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). The author spells out the power and wisdom of God in the saving cross of Christ. Chapter five is probably my favorite exposition in the book. Entitled "The Triumph of the Cross," it speaks of the debt acquired by our sin and its cancellation upon the cross. Jesus "disarmed the powers and authorities [and]... made a public spectacle of them," (Col. 2:15) which has wrought victory over death for those united with Christ. In the sixth chapter, Ryken shows us the humiliation of Christ in His incarnation and (active/passive) obedience. He was humble in life and even unto death-by willingly being nailed to a vile cross in obedience! The reader can't help but ask, "How should I then live?" Finally, in chapter seven, the author concludes by helping us understand the "unusual obsession" of boasting in the cross of Christ. (pp. 86-87) This boasting is unusual because it is other-focused, rather than self-centered. The Christian knows he has not brought anything to the salvation equation except for his sin, and so his boast is in the cross that saves.
"Salvation by Crucifixion" is a wonderful little book. It's helpful for preachers and teachers in that it shows what an evangelistic, cross-focused sermon is supposed to look like. It's an encouragement to Christians everywhere because the gospel is laid bare and the doctrines of salvation are clearly explained. And since the content is evangelistic, it is an excellent resource for outreach. The book is small and short, so one could very easily hand them out while witnessing to others. I recommend having a few on hand for the purpose of distribution.
I received a free copy of the book for the purpose of review. I was in no way coerced or encouraged to write a favorable review.