Reviews - What do customers think about The Cross in the New Testament?
Precious Blood: The Total Witness Of Scripture Mar 26, 2009
'The fact of the atonement underlies the whole.' p 13
Morris' extended reach included the key doctrines of justification, imputation, reconciliation, salvation, adoption - profitably making his contribution ineradicable to posterity. Showing remarkable interaction with the most important works of his day made the comparative study all the more valuable as a defense for the church.
Morris declined to question the canonicity of the New Testament, stating ruggedly 'that I have of set purpose eschewed the discussion of such questions.' The subject matter is presented topically in the same arrangement as the NT books - beginning with the gospels, then the Pauline epistles, Hebrews, the catholic epistles and Revelation. I can only endeavour to concisely set out the synoptic gospels.
'The gospels are not biographies.' p 14 In keeping with convention, Morris believed that they revealed the truth of Christ crucified, and attempted to highlight the theological aspect of their narratives as centered on the cross, and sanctioned by the promises of the Father. Morris placed Mark and Matthew in the same chapter for reasons of similarity in structure and narration. Reflecting on the opening of Mark, Morris noted that 'The gospel of Jesus Christ signifies that it is mediated through Christ, and that His action is central to the content of the good news.' p 16 The immaculate conception is viewed as a real miracle wrought by God. As to repentance, 'But unless repentance is linked with a forgiving act of God it effects nothing, and can effect nothing. Nowhere do the gospels countenance any such view as that repentance is meritorious in itself.' p 17
The right ratio of mercy to judgment is also maintained by Morris. He brings to the fore impending judgment: 'An important feature of this part of the evangelists' message is their frequent warning of the peril in which the nation, the people of God, and more especially its religious leaders, stood.' p 24. Matthew 3:9, 'and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father', for even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.' Dispensationalism objectionably teaches that at a certain stage the Jews rejected Christ's offer of a kingdom, yet here, at a very early stage in the gospels we find scriptural evidence of the opposite occurrence: divine judgment spoken against the Jewish expectation rejects their designs outright, and strikes up the antithetical nature of Christ's mission. 'In some sense the mission inaugurates the kingdom.' p 36
Anticipating with remarkable foresight the modern views of Steve Chalke's 'cosmic child abuse', Morris avers 'Sometimes in the history of theology the atonement has been described in such a way as almost to imply that Jesus was saving men from the Father. This can only dismissed as a caricature. This is not the picture that is found in Scripture.' p 27, to which Morris obliges us with his correct view: 'He did not only suffer: He suffered vicariously, substitutionarily. Small wonder that from NT times on Christians have found in the Servant a satisfying conception for the setting forth of the meaning of Christ's death.' pp. 32-33 Not without importance does he quote Matthew 26:28, 'This is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins', and resiliently furthers, 'He is shedding His blood that men's sins might be forgiven. It is to ascribe atoning value to His death.' p 52
Turning to the gospel of the historian, Luke, Morris brushes over an important, yet frequently overlooked prophecy on the Baptist, in Luke 1:17, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children'. In Morris' view, the patriarchs were the fathers who were against their offspring, but now the prophetic fulfillment of the reversal of that condition had come. This indicates early on that the lost sheep of Israel would be affected by John's preparatory work, and the atonement Christ made, after a Jewish manner, indicated covenantal implications. Christ readily confirmed this when stating, 'Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.'
Morris further brings out Luke's ideas to their logical conclusion quite well: 'This whole gospel makes it abundantly clear that Jesus was not interested simply in the correction of social abuses. He was deeply concerned to bring in the kingdom of God.' p 66 A day will come when 'many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.' And again, 'Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees', again thrusting into the fore the imminence of divine judgment on the Jewish status quo. And for Jerusalem the day of reckoning is near 'because thou knew not the time of thy visitation'. The sovereignty of God is readily apparent in the thought of Luke: 'Luke has many references to the things which Jesus must do. It is never said in so many words whence this necessity arises, but no one is left in any real doubt but that it is the divine will.' p 84
Luke also records a unique saying of Christ, often the prelude to a parable, 'Which of you...' found eight times in his gospel - and never in rabbinic lore. And so we find Christ penetrating the heart, ever preparing it for personal salvation, but most specifically preparing the apostles' hearts to be witnesses and ministers of the Word post-ascension. Their redemptive calling far exceeds the social gospel: 'The divine way is not the human way, not even the human way dusted up a little.' Morris extends a divine olive branch, 'God delays punishment while every resource of mercy and grace is exhausted.' p 70 God has provided a way of salvation, a salvation with a divine reference, but will men hear? 'God's gracious purpose, declared as long ago as the days of the great patriarch and father of the people, was now coming to its climax. And Luke is telling us that in Jesus He has brought it to pass.' p 75
This gospel also records the trilogy of parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son. 'Together they give an unforgettable picture of the infinite divine mercy by which men alone are saved.' p 77 Christ's casting of God as actively searching out a lost sheep is new to redemptive narrative, having no precedent in Judaism. 'We cannot dispense with the thought of the divine initiative.' pg 78 In the prodigal son narrative Morris insightfully notes, 'Nor is there any reference to a repugnance to sin on the part of the Father.' p 79 Applied to a similar situation, I find preachers who contend that God despises our prayers if we sin, out of character with this parable. 'The parable is there to teach us one lesson: it emphasizes God's readiness to forgive.'
Remarking on the nature of the kingdom, Morris concurs with amillennialism, 'In the person and the ministry of Jesus the kingdom has come near to men, Luke 10:9-11.' Exegesis assists this notion when he concludes that 'for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom', Luke 12:32, and he stipulates: 'notice that it is not something that men bring about, but rather something that they receive as a gift from God.' pp. 82-83 and 'there is no doubt in Luke's account of the story. He is writing about a king.'
Of Christ's answer to the accusation that He was demon-possessed, Morris raises a most pertinent point, stating that 'The coming of the kingdom has precipitated a struggle. Satan and all his cohorts are ranged in opposition to Christ. Then Jesus pointed out the consequences of recognizing the divine origin of His exorcisms: 'But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.' Luke 11:20, pp. 95-96
'Jesus did not come to preach a merely revised version of Judaism. His message was so radically new that it could never be accommodated within such a system.' p 82 Here Morris links Jesus' break with Judaism to Luke's parable of the new wine that does not go into old wineskins.
Reviewing the Passion of our Lord and the Last Supper, Morris re-affirms the theological import of the occasion, that 'It is enough for us to notice that thoughts of the Passover were certainly in Jesus' mind as He thought of His death. All the Passover prefigured and symbolized, Jesus perfectly fulfilled.' p 99 He finds Luke's attempt at historicity praiseworthy, and sees an important correlation between Luke's and Matthew and Mark's vivid portrayal of the atonement, which has fallen on hard times 'for in some theories of the atonement confidently advanced in modern times there is more than the suspicion that it is our ways more than God's which receive attention. Luke would not agree. He sees God as acting according to the norms of His own holy nature, and man has no reason for thinking that God's norms are his.' p 105
Luke's Emmaus narrative brought about a new revelation in relation to the redemptive event, according to Morris: 'Revealing, too, are the words he records of those who walked to Emmaus. They did not appreciate the fact or the significance of the resurrection.' pg 88 Their short-sightedness was fortunately very brief. 'They will have a share in resurrection itself.' Luke 20:35-37, p 98
Leon Morris' harmonizing work is a very learned, yet time-honored defense of the sinless life and vicarious death of our risen Lord and reigning Christ that agrees with redemptive history.