How could the life, let alone the death, of one man 2,000 years ago be the salvation of the human race? The biblical explanation is the atonement: the crucified one was the Son of God, acting and suffering in cooperation with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is presented in all four Gospels, and occupies considerable space in the overall narrative. The death of this one person has universal, inclusive and cosmic significance, because in him the Creator acts and suffers. This is the primary answer to "the scandal of particularity." There is also a special relationship between Christ and humanity—he was "with" us, and he was "for" us. The grandeur of the cross lies in the fact that the incarnate Son of God offered himself in our place, bearing the penalty for our sin.
Donald Macleod considers seven key words Christians have used through the centuries to describe what happened on the cross: substitution, expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, satisfaction, redemption and victory. No single one of these tells the whole truth, nor do all of them together exhaust the meaning of the cross. Macleod shows that these concepts are interrelated and interdependent, and that together they give a coherent picture of the salvation wrought by Jesus at Calvary.
"This powerful book on the atonement is deeply informed by classic theological categories, but it lets biblical exposition take the lead. Macleod focuses on Scripture's presentation of the death of Christ, and shows his readers—I nearly said audience, because this is the best sort of preaching—the full sense and significance of Christ crucified."
"Those who have heard Donald Macleod preach or who have read his writings will know that the crucified Christ is, of all theological topics, his forte. He has dazzling insight matched by a way with words which together serve to bring out aspects of the person and work of Christ with memorable beauty. Thus it is a pleasure to be able to commend this book. If you are familiar with Donald?s work, you know what to expect and know that you will be challenged and edified. If you have never read him before, you are in for a treat."
"Donald Macleod has written a welcome and convincing apologetic of the cross of Christ. He skilfully blends biblical exegesis and engagement with systematic theologians to produce a robust defense of the classic evangelical view of penal substitution which anticipates objections, places it in a wide framework and implicitly rebukes sloppy thinking. His clear style makes this book not only a 'must-read' on this topic but a joy to read and an educative treat."
"Donald Macleod's work is always stimulating, sometimes provocative and never less than excellent. This is a contribution to thought on the atonement that is both timely and incisive. It should be required reading for students, theologians, ministers and anyone interested in learning more about the stupendous atoning work of Christ."
"Macleod's volume is eminently readable (no small compliment), and is certainly suitable for the theologically interested readership of the church. It would also serve very well as a textbook for related theology courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. With its engaging prose and heartfelt concerns, this reviewer found it both illuminating and uplifting."
Part 1: The Way of the Cross
1. A man of sorrows
2. From the third to the ninth hour
3. The divine paradox: the crucified Son
Part 2: The Word of the Cross
4. Substitution: the man for others
5. Expiation: covering our sin
6. Propitiation: averting the divine anger
7. Reconciliation: God?s way of peace
8. Satisfaction: enough to justify forgiveness
9. No other way?
10. Redemption: setting the prisoners free
11. Victory: disarming the powers
For further reading
Index of names
Index of Scripture references