I have now read two books by Donald Macleod, Shared Life and Christ Crucified. Both of them were very good. He brings the clarity of John Stott with a little bit more edge. Christ Crucified was a great book on the atonement of Jesus. Macleod argues for the classic substitutionary view of the atonement using terms like propitiation, expiation, substitution, and redemption. Here are ten of my favorite quotes from Macleod’s book.
Here he is quoting Martin Luther. All the rest of the quotes are his.
He [Jesus] bore the person of a sinner and of a thief-and not of one but of all sinners and thieves…And all the prophets saw this, that Christ was to become the greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, robber, desecrator, blasphemer, etc., that has ever been anywhere in the world.
For a moment [in the Garden of Gethsemane] he stands with millions of his people who have found God’s will almost unendurable, shrunk from the work given them to do, shuddered at the prospect of the race set before them and prayed that God would change his mind. But solidarity is not the main thing here. This is not a road less trodden. It is a road never trodden, before or since: the cup of the one man, the Son of God.
Yet such criticisms [of the cross], whether from the twelfth or the twenty-first centuries, perform one invaluable service: they remind us that there is a real problem at the heart of the story of the cross. We cannot walk blithely by it as if there were nothing disturbing here. There is; and if we are not initially shocked and repelled by it, we shall never understand it. It has to be a ‘scandal’ before it can become good news.
We need to be clear where the scandal of the cross lies: not primarily in such concepts as expiation and propitiation, but in the prima facie absurdity that a crucified first-century Jewish criminal is the Savior of the world, and that his cross was the actual instrument of that salvation. Side by side with that lies another scandal: the assumption that all human beings, from Francis of Assisi to Joseph Stalin, are sinners in need of salvation in the first place. And, as if this were not enough, the further scandalous idea that God is not all-indulgent love, but is dreadfully provoked by sin and needs to be pacified.
When Pompey and his soldiers entered the Holy of Holies in AD 63 they were scandalized to find no image there: not a ‘god’ in sight. The scandal of Christianity is even greater. Its holy of holies is a cross where its Savior hangs, bloodied and beaten, between two thieves.
It was because God is righteous that sin required expiation; it was because he is love that he provided it.
In a very real sense, then, the proof of the doctrine of propitiation stands or falls with the doctrine of the anger of God. Any Biblical view of salvation must take this anger seriously; and propitiation must be a central moment in the work of the Redeemer.
Mankind lives in a state of chronic revolt against their Maker. Any meaningful concept of reconciliation must, therefore, include the removal of this enmity, replacing hatred with love and blasphemy with doxology.
Reconciliation, as Paul sees it, means the non-imputation of our sins to us (II Cor. 5:19); conversely, Christ’s being made sin means the imputation of our sins to him.
He was not cursed because he was hanged. He was hanged because he was cursed: under a divine imprecation as the one who was carrying the sin of the world. Indeed, he was the sin of the world.
They [the rulers of this world] thought that if they could bring about his death neither he nor his movement would ever be heard from again. In reality, by crucifying him they disgraced themselves and released forces which neither the Jewish leaders nor the imperial might of Rome would ever be able to control. But deeper still was the disgrace of the devil himself, destroyed by what he thought was his masterstroke. Confident that the cross would secure his victory, he was outwitted by the wisdom of God: neutralized and conquered by divine weakness.