Salvation by Crucifixion by Philip Graham Ryken
Former Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and President of Wheaton College, Philip Graham Ryken is well equipped to deliver a message on the crucifixion that is powerful and timely. This new book, Salvation by Crucifixion is a brief foray into the meaning and application of the crucifixion of Jesus for the church. Written with keen insight, historical background, and theological intensity, this book is a sure work to turn to when you want to know more about the crucifixion. The unique thing about his book is Dr. Ryken’s emphasis that on the cross Jesus accomplished our salvation, thus he captures this point through looking at different lenses like the power, the offense, and triumph of the cross. Often, as is the case here, the most slender of volumes carry the weight of a large tome.
In seven short chapters, Dr. Ryken looks at the cross from its necessity to it the boast of the cross. In the first chapter on the necessity of the cross, Philip brings up a point concerning the cross that is sorely needed in our age. He writes, “But how could He deal with this sin without sacrificing His love or His holiness? This was the problem. God could not simply overlook our sins. This might have been loving, but it would not have been holy. Justice would not have been served. Our sins would have been paid for.” (23) In some theologies of the cross, love is the measure of all things and trumps all other attributes or characteristics of God’s character. But, Dr. Ryken rightly frames the argument in terms of God’s love and His justice being evident in the cross. We rejoice in this fact because not only has God not left us in our sins, but that he has paid for them right down to the last penny in the cross.
I am reminded of the power of God for salvation in Ryken’s writing on the offense of the cross. He writes, “The cross also says that we are helpless. It says that we cannot get into heaven on the strength of our own record. We need someone else to offer his perfect life on our behalf. This is one difference between Christianity and every other religion.” (36) In the confusing world of religious pluralism and relativism, we miss the utter uniqueness of Christianity. Here, in the cross, we find a solution to sin that counters every Johnny Be Good notion that our culture speaks of, and instead, offers us to bring ourselves as beggars on our knees with nothing in our hands to bring. For modern man, believing in the goodness of man, this notion of helplessness is a sign of weakness and cowardice. Yet, for the Christian, the very act of humbling oneself means that we receive new life in Christ at our lowest point. This idea is offensive because it speaks clearly that nothing that we aim to do will coerce God’s hand into letting us into heaven.
Beautifully written and biblically faithful, Dr. Ryken has given us a wonderful book on the cross as a means to understand our glorious salvation. May this book be read by many.
Thanks to Christian Focus Publications and Cross Focused Reviews for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.