The Message of the Cross
This is the third book in IVP's splendid The Bible Speaks Today: Bible Themes series. Its author, Derek Tidball, is one of the editors of the series and is Principal of London Bible College. The book is scholarly and makes a proper demand on the reader, but it is not inaccessible and will repay the commitment made to its study. Here are devotional and spiritual riches waiting to be mined by those who dig into Tidball's words and into the Word.
The eighteen chapters are spread over four Parts: 'The cross anticipated' explores key Old Testament passages. The author's method is well illustrated in the helpful chapter on Psalm 22:1-31 'My God, my God, why?' In introducing this he writes: 'Before we seek to apply it to the crucifixion, however, we must endeavour to understand the psalm in its own right. To do so will lead to a richer and deeper appreciation of the light it sheds on the cross'. This illustrates his method and intention; Tidball ensures that the reader has a clear understanding of the passage and only then is he freed to look at the cross through the window he has opened.
Other Parts are entitled 'The cross experienced', which has chapters based on passages from the four Gospels; 'The cross explained' which focuses on Pauline theology - clearly written, it provoked some hard thinking, but then there's nothing new in anything Pauline doing that! The final part, 'The cross applied', bases its chapters on the later New Testament books.
A useful study guide is found at the end of the book, offering questions for thought and conversation on every chapter. Questions are all related to page references and the readers must be careful to express their own ideas and not just those referred to. This book will challenge and hopefully stimulate readers to deepen their own understanding and take their own thinking forward.
When you have read it all, turn back to the beginning and read the introduction again. it's called 'The cross in evangelical spirituality and theology today'. Here Tidball reminds us that 'the object, of course, is not to engage in theorizing about the cross, but to reap its benefits, live its life and proclaim its gospel...Our aim as we survey the wondrous cross must be to deepen our appreciation of the miracle of God's grace and strengthen our resolve to preach the goodness of Christ crucified...with all its implication for creation as well as for individuals'.