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Bainton on Luther on the Cross

Roland Bainton's statement about the center of Luther's theology is worth noting. He writes,
The center about which all the petals clustered was the affirmation of the forgiveness of sins through the utterly unmerited grace of God made possible by the cross of Christ, which reconciled wrath and mercy, routed the hosts of hell, triumphed over sin and death, and by the resurrection manifested that power which enables man to die to sin and rise to newness of life.

The noteworthy thing about that statement (and Luther's theology!) is how comprehensive his understanding of the cross was. Luther understood:

  • That in his gracious gift of the cross, God secured for us justification and the forgiveness of sins;

  • That in Christ's propiatory sacrifice on the cross, God's righteous wrath was reconciled with his mercy;

  • That in the triumph of the cross, Satan, sin and death were defeated; and

  • That in the power of the resurrection, God unleashed the Spirit's transforming power into our lives, resulting in sanctification and new creation.

The legal, sacrificial, kingdom, and transformative dimensions of the cross are all there, and all rooted in God's grace. In an age where there is much confusion about the gospel and the nature of the atonement, these kinds of succinct, yet comprehensive statements are very helpful.

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