The “other Billy Graham,” the most influential non-American preacher of the last century was Englishman John Stott (died 2011). Here are some of his thoughts that show why:
“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”
Our body has not only been created by God and will one day be resurrected by him, but it has been bought by Christ’s blood and is indwelled by his Spirit. Thus it belongs to God three times over, by creation, redemption and indwelling. How then, since it does not belong to us, can we misuse it? Instead, we are to honor God with it, by obedience and self-control. Bought by Christ, we have no business to become the slaves of anybody or anything else. Once we were slaves of sin; now we are the slaves of Christ, and his service is the true freedom.
Truly, when Christ died and was raised from death, a new day dawned, a new age began. This new day is “the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2), and the blessings of “such a great salvation” (Heb 2:3) are so richly diverse that they cannot be neatly defined. Several pictures are needed to portray them. Just as the church of Christ is presented in Scripture as his bride and his body, the sheep of God’s flock and the branches of his vine, his new humanity, his household or family, the temple of the Holy Spirit and the pillar and buttress of the truth, so the salvation of Christ is illustrated by the vivid imagery of terms like propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation . . . .
“They are not alternative explanations of the cross, providing us with a range to choose from, but complementary to one another, each contributing a vital part to the whole. As for the imagery, propitiation introduces us to rituals at a shrine, redemption to transactions in a marketplace, justification to proceedings in a court of law, and reconciliation to experiences in a home or family.”
First, each highlights a different aspect of our human need. Propitiation underscores the wrath of God upon us, redemption our captivity to sin, justification our guilt, and reconciliation our enmity against God and alienation from him. These metaphors do not flatter us. They expose the magnitude of our need.
Second, all four images emphasize that the saving initiative was taken by God in his love. It is he who has propitiated his own wrath, redeemed us from our miserable bondage, declared us righteous in his sight and reconciled us to himself.
Third, all four images plainly teach that God’s saving work was achieved through the bloodshedding, that is, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ.. . . So substitution is not a “theory of the atonement.” Nor is it even an additional image to take its place as an option alongside the others. It is rather the essence of each image and the heart of the atonement itself. None of the four images could stand without it. I am not of course saying that it is necessary to understand, let alone articulate, a substitutionary atonement before one can be saved. Yet the responsibility of Christian teachers, preachers and other witnesses is to seek grace to expound it with clarity and conviction. For the better people understand the glory of the divine substitution, the easier it will be for them to trust in the Substitute.
Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.
It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.