Yesterday, July 27, 2011 at 1515hrs GMT, that quiet lion of the gospel John R. W. Stott, left this frail flesh behind and entered into the glory of Christ. About the time he was leaving the Church militant for the Church triumphant, I was journaling through Romans 12.1-2 with his commentary (in the Bible Speaks Today series) in my hand. In some ways he reminds me of that other great Anglican evangelical, Charles Simeon. Like Simeon in Cambridge, Stott lived his life and ministry in one place within eight blocks of All Souls, Langham Place, London W1B. Yet Uncle John pointed generations of Christians, pastors, teachers, and the world itself to his savior Jesus Christ. In no small part due to the substance and clarity of his preaching and teaching ministry which we still have in his books.
I think the first book I read of his was in 1974, a little volume called quite unpolitically correct, Men Made New, an exposition of Romans 5-8. I was a committed Christian of just a few months. That book’s influence stayed with me, even through all my years in the wilderness. When I picked-up a copy about a year ago and reread it, it was still as fresh and clear as I remembered.
If you have never read any of Stott’s books or never even heard of him and wondering why I am making all this fuss, I want to encourage you to consider reading Stott’s The Cross of Christ, republished a few years ago by InterVarsity Press in a 20th anniversary edition. I have read the book and later listened to it as an audio book on the eliptical in the early hours at LA Fitness. I am going to call it my “desert island” book. Along with the the Holy Scriptures, it is a volume I could spend many happy years reading and rereading. The Cross of Christ was a life-changer for me.
Endorsers can sometimes sound a bit hyperbolic, but you can tell from the commendations below, taken from the new edition, that there is an earnestness and realism about the message and the ministry of this masterpiece:
“John Stott rises grandly to the challenge of the greatest of all themes. All the qualities that we expect of him—biblical precision, thoughtfulness and thoroughness, order and method, moral alertness and the measured tread, balanced judgment and practical passion—are here in fullest evidence. This, more than any book he has written, is his masterpiece.”
—J. I. Packer, Regent College
“Rarely does a volume of theology combine six cardinal virtues, but John Stott’s The Cross of Christ does so magnificently. It says what must be said about the cross; it gently but firmly warns against what must not be said; it grounds its judgments in biblical texts, again and again; it hierarchizes its arguments so that the main thing is always the main thing; it is written with admirable clarity; and it is so cast as to elicit genuine worship and thankfulness from any thoughtful reader. There are not many ‘must read’ books—books that belong on every minister’s shelf, and on the shelves of thoughtful laypersons who want a better grasp of what is central in Scripture—but this is one of them.”
—D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“As relevant today as when it first appeared, The Cross of Christ is more than a classic. It restates in our own time the heart of the Christian message. Like John the Baptist, John Stott points us away from the distractions that occupy so much of our energies in order, announcing, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”
—Michael Horton, Westminster Seminary California
“Biblical, clear and cogent are the words that came to mind on first reading this book. The passing of time has also made it indisputable that this book is a classic which is profound in a way that few evangelical books have been in recent years. It is compelling in its simplicity and comprehensive in its grasp of the way in which God conquers our sin, our rebellion, our ghastly evil through the person of Christ. Here is truth which is true, not just because it works for me, but because it is grounded in the very being and character of God, revealed and authenticated by him, worked out in the very fabric of our history, and therefore it is truth for all time.”
—David F. Wells, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
“I have no hesitation in saying that this is the most enriching theological book I have ever read. I read it slowly and devotionally over a period of several months. I found that it edified and challenged me, thrilled me with the glory of the cross, and equipped me to answer some of the questions non-Christians and skeptics ask about the cross. I am happy that a new thrust is being made to introduce this great book to a new generation of Christians.”
—Ajith Fernando, Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka
John R. W. Stott a quiet lion of the gospel, but when he roared the world heard of Christ.