By Luke Stamps –
Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, the season in the traditional church calendar between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Lent is a forty-day preparation (excluding Sundays) for the celebration of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. It is observed by Roman Catholics and many Protestant denominations around the world. While most evangelical Protestants do not observe the traditional church year in its entirety, most will celebrate Holy Week and Easter Sunday in some way (just as they celebrate Advent and Christmas). And while the ambient culture does not celebrate Easter with quite the same fervor as it does Christmas, the Easter season will still be on people’s minds over the next several weeks, if only in the form of bunnies and painted eggs. So, why not take advantage of this time of year as an opportunity to reflect on the depths of our sin and the heights of our Savior’s work?
(Don’t worry, fellow regulative principle proponents. I’m not saying that churches must require celebration of these special days. Our Puritan forebears were especially reluctant to celebrate special days, excepting the 52 or so Lord’s Days each year. Still, I do think these special days can be beneficially observed and in a way consistent with the regulative principle. For more on this topic, check this out.)
There are many ways to observe the Lenten season: fasting, praying, giving, reading the Gospels, reading the Scripture lessons from a common lectionary, and so forth. But one thing you might add to your Lenten preparation this year is a good book on the work of Christ. There are many great ones out there. If you’ve never read John Stott’s classic, The Cross of Christ, this Lenten season would be the perfect time to pick it up. Robert Letham’s The Work of Christ is another helpful treatment of the doctrine from an evangelical perspective. A more difficult, but richly rewarding, option would be John Owen’s magisterial The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied or Richard Gaffin’s Resurrection and Redemption would also be profitable. The list could go on and on (feel free to give your suggestions in the comments).
This Lent, I am reading Robert Peterson’s new book, Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ. In it, Peterson emphasizes not only the death and resurrection of Christ, but a total of nine saving “events” in the work of Christ:
But, as Peterson argues, “events are not self-interpreting, not even God’s events” (16). So, Peterson goes on to explain six biblical “pictures” by which God interprets the saving events of Christ’s ministry:
Christ our reconciler
Christ our Redeemer
Christ our legal substitute
Christ our Victor
Christ our second Adam
Christ our sacrifice
Reading good theology helps us become better interpreters of God’s word, which in turn helps us become more enraptured by the grace of God displayed in the gospel. Why not utilize this Lenten season as an opportunity to engage your mind and heart with the“mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16): the work of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Luke Stamps is a Ph.D. candidate at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in systematic theology. Luke is a weekly contributor to the Credo blog and also blogs at Before All Things. Luke is married to Josie, and they have three children, Jack, Claire, and Henry. Luke is a member of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.