The Theology Of The Cross -- By: Robert D. Preus

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 08:1 (Winter 1999)
Article: The Theology Of The Cross
Author: Robert D. Preus


The Theology Of The Cross

Robert D. Preus

Part 3 The Living Word1

But how can I become a theologus crucis, a theologian of the cross, a preacher of the cross? How can I come to believe this message of foolishness, a message which tells me that God is terribly angry with me, and at the same time loves me and gives His Son for me? It is through the Word, the infinite power of the Word. The Augsburg Confession makes this point crystal clear (AC V):

In order that we might attain this faith, there has been instituted the ministry of teaching the gospel and dispensing the sacraments. For through Word and sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith when and where it pleases God in those who hear the gospel.

Luther puts the matter even more succinctly. Everything Christ has won for us on the cross is summarized in the one word forgiveness; for “where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation.” Luther says:

We treat the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But He has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in

the Supper or sacrament. There He has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once and for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world.

Christ on the cross and all His suffering and His death do not avail, even if, as you teach, they are “acknowledged and meditated upon” with the utmost “passion, ardor, heartfeltness.” Something else must always be there. What is it? The Word, the Word. Listen, lying spirit, the Word avails. Even if Christ were given for us and crucified a thousand times, it would all be in vain if the Word of God were absent and were not distributed and given to me with the bidding, this is for you, take it, take what is yours.

If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Carlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel, the Word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives me that forgiveness which was won on the cross.2

But where is this Word of God which brings us all the benefits of the cross? If “to know Christ is to know His benefits,” as Mela...

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