The Cross and the Resurrection | Part I

For a number of years now—actually, as long as I’ve been a part of Sovereign Grace— I’ve often been asked questions about our emphasis on the cross: Is it balanced? Is it biblical? Does it de‐emphasize the resurrection? I’ll attempt to answer a few of the more common questions I’ve received in a brief, FAQ format.

[series note] Each day this week the blog will feature a discussion of one such question and Jeff's response. These posts are meant to inform our worship and fuel our gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. Think deeply and worship well as you consider this truth.

Question 1: Sovereign Grace churches and leaders often use the phrase “cross-centered.” Doesn’t this phrase lead to an overemphasis on the cross and a neglect of the resurrection? (Issue: neglecting the resurrection)

Phrases are no substitute for systematic theology, and I don’t think any of us would want our doctrine diluted down to a single adjective. However, this particular phrase reflects a common New Testament pattern in which “the cross” functions as shorthand for all the various facets of Christ’s atoning work—life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Paul in particular often speaks this way as he describes what it is that informs and animates his life and ministry: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14), and “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). In 1 Corinthians 1:17, the cross and the gospel are virtually equated. That’s why theologians for centuries have referred to Christ’s “cross‐work” in speaking of the whole complex of his redemptive acts. So the use of the phrase “cross‐centered” is neither biblically inconsistent nor historically innovative.

I suppose one could deal with “the cross” in such a way as to neglect the resurrection, but I suspect that in doing so one would be preaching a different kind of cross—for the cross and the resurrection are inextricable. The absence of one either drains or distorts the meaning of the other. In our circles, I think the use of this phrase is simply an attempt to keep the gospel central in our thinking and preaching, and hopefully our living as well.