"Salvation Brings Imitation": Piper on Christus Exemplar

One of the important doctrines I have studied recently with the feeling that orthodox theologians have ignored in the doctrine of the atonement is Christus Exemplar. I reject the Moral Influence Theory of the atonement (birthed by Abelard centuries ago) that says Christ died to give us an example of how much he loves us and how we are to love others. In Abelard’s theory, there is no objective purpose of the cross. It is purely subjective. This view has been adopted by liberals theology and is nothing more than heresy.  Christus Exemplar is not that.

I will not go into great detail here into defending it, but Scripture is clear that the root work of the cross is substitutionary, but that does not mean that the only motif or purpose of the cross is substitution. Christus Victory, when properly understood, is valid as is Christus Exemplar. If we deny substitution, Christus Exemplar becomes nothing more than Abelard’s heresy.

I have found as a pastor the power of this doctrine. The work of Christ on the cross redeems us and at the same time we as Christians are to never to leave the cross and resurrection. Christus Exemplar assures that we do just that.

I want to quote John Piper in a book he wrote called Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die (read online here).  One chapter is dedicated To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love.  He quotes from 1 Peter 2:19-21, Hebrews 12:3-4, and Philippians 2:5-8.  Piper writes:

Imitation is not salvation. But salvation brings imitation. Christ is not given to us first as model, but as Savior. In the experience of the believer, first comes the pardon of Christ, then the pattern of Christ. In the experience of Christ himself, they happen together: The same suffering that pardons our sins provides our pattern of love.

In fact, only when we experience the pardon of Christ can he become a pattern for us. This sounds wrong because his sufferings are unique. They cannot be imitated. No one but the Son of God can suffer “for us” the way Christ did. He bore our sins in a way that no one else could. He was a substitute sufferer. We can never duplicate this. It was once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous. Divine, vicarious suffering for sinners is inimitable.

However, this unique suffering, after pardoning and justifying sinners, transforms them into people who act like Jesus—not like him in pardoning, but like him in loving. Like him in suffering to do good to others. Like him in not returning evil for evil. Like him in lowliness and meekness. Like him in patient endurance. Like him in servanthood. Jesus suffered for us uniquely, that we might suffer with him in the cause of love.

Christ’s apostle, Paul, said that his ambition was first to share in Christ’s righteousness by faith, and then to share in his sufferings in ministry. “[May I] be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ . . . that I may . . . share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:9-10). Justification precedes and makes possible imitation. Christ’s suffering for justification makes possible our suffering for proclamation. Our suffering for others does not remove the wrath of God. It shows the value of having the wrath of God removed by the suffering of Christ. It points people to him.

When the Bible calls us to “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:10), it means that our imitation of Christ points people to him who alone can save. Our suffering is crucial, but Christ’s alone saves. Therefore, let us imitate his love, but not take his place. (92-93)

Did Jesus Descend to Hell: Interacting With Grudem and Bird – Part 1

One of the great theological mysteries of Christianity regards what happened between the death and resurrection of Jesus. Theologians of all stripes fall on different sides of this debate and recently I wanted to explore a few respected theologians, Wayne Grudem and Michael Bird, both conservative theologians, who offer opposite answers to the above question and explore who offers the best answer.

When the Descent to Hell Becomes Heretical

Before we begin exploring Grudem and Bird’s argument for/against Jesus’s spiritual descent to hell between his crucifixion and resurrection, we need to draw the line of when we go too far on the positive side of this formula. A number of prominent voices (I hesitate to refer to them as theologians) within the prosperity gospel movement have turned the view that Jesus’s descended into hell as the means by which we are saved. Thus they have, heretically I believe, taken the focus off of the cross and onto the descend of Jesus.

Consider a number of examples. First, in his book Ever Increasing Faith Messenger (first published in 1980) Fred Price wrote the following:

Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God. Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence. (163)

Likewise, Kenneth Hagin argued in El Shaddai:

I’m certain that all the devils of hell raced up and down the back alleys of hell rejoicing, “We’ve got the Son of God in our hands! We’ve defeated God’s purpose!” But on that third morning, the God who is more than enough said, “It is enough! he has satisfied the claims of justice.” (7)

Kenneth Copeland has argued the same:

Jesus was the first man to ever be born from sin to righteousness. He was the pattern of a new race of men to come, Glory to God.” You know what he did? The very first thing that this reborn man did, see you have to realize that he died, you have to realize that he went into the pit of hell as a mortal man made sin, but he didn’t stay there. Thank God he was reborn in the pit of hell.” (source)

This is not the only time Copeland made this suggestion. In “The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail,” Copeland claims:

The power of the Almighty God began to stream down from heaven and the break the locks off the gates of hell. . . . Jesus began to stir. The power of heaven penetrated and re-created His spirit. He rose up and in a moment of super conquest, He kicked the daylights out of the devil and all those who were doing his work. . . . Then Jesus came up out of that place of torment in triumph, went back through the tomb, into His body, and walked out of there.

The arguments laid out here are problematic for a host of reasons. As usual, the prosperity heretics reveal their tendency to allow their imaginations to shape their theology more than Scripture. Consider the final quote from Copeland. Where in Scripture is Jesus described as kicking “the daylights out of the devil and all those who were doing his work?” Even more troublesome, in the same quotation, is the assertion that “The power of heaven . . . re-created His spirit” and mirrors the first Copeland quote given above. This is nothing short of rank heresy.

In addition to these one will note that for the prosperity heretics, their Christology, soteriology, and understanding of the atonement is woefully in err. The emphasis for them is not on what Christ, the unblemished God-man, accomplished at the cross (“It is finished!”) but on what he accomplished in the tomb. Regardless of where one lands on the question of Jesus’s descend into Hades, no doubt transferring the focus of salvation from Jesus’s work on the cross to the grave is troublesome to say the least.

So before exploring both Grudem and Bird, we need to start here. Holding to Jesus’s descend is not heretical barring certain conclusions. The focus must remain on the cross and the resurrection and not on the descend.

Not Entirely: Why Most Illustrations Don’t Fully Explain the Cross

When I worked at a Christian bookstore while in seminary, we sold a short film that told the story of a father who worked at a train station and on this particular day had his young son with him. The son eventually went on his own and began playing on the track. Without his knowing, a train was coming and the father had to either spare his and allow the people in the train die or sacrifice his child to save the passengers. He, like God the illustration goes, chose to sacrifice his son.

Here is the short film.*

Why is this is a horrendous illustration of the atonement? Mark Dever suggests.

It ignores [the] element of Jesus choosing to laying down his life. Its right in saying it is very costly. Its right in pointing to the cost there was to God the Father. Its right in all of those ways. But its deeply wrong in presenting that little boy just laying there on the tracks being killed without even knowing about it. Because the presentation biblically is one of Jesus laying down his life for His sheep. –Atonement in the New Testament

In an article entitled Nothing But the Blood published in Christianity Today, Dever again highlights this common illustration:

For example, there is the story of the railroad operator who learns that the bridge ahead is out, so he prepares to switch the tracks to save the lives of hundreds on a fast-approaching train. But at that moment, he sees his son playing in the gears, and he pauses to reconsider. Here, many a preacher has meditated on God’s love in ways that border on the grotesque—we’re told that the man decided to go ahead and sacrifice his son’s life in order to save those on the train. Such an unwitting sacrifice has led to the charge that the Atonement is divine child abuse.

. . .

Substitutionary Atonement has indeed been misapplied. The railroad analogy above, for example, is inadequate because it does not include the Holy Spirit. But even more to the point, Christ willingly offered up his life; he was not blindsided by the Cross. 

I think Dever is right. The New Testament repeatedly argues that Christ was a willing sacrifice who voluntarily carried His cross (see John 10:17-18). This in no way denies that God sent His Son or that Christ was obeying the will of the Father, but it is simply wrong to portray the cross as “divine child abuse” (as modern detractors repeatedly suggest).

Instead, what the above film illustrates is the story of Abraham and Isaac. The promised son in Genesis 22 did not volunteer to be a sacrifice nor did Abraham volunteer to give his son over for sacrifice.

The point of all of this is to argue that one must be careful in trying to explain the cross through simple illustrations. Illustrations for the atonement are similar to that of the Trinity. Most illustrations used to explain the Trinity are actually heretical (usually modalistic). Likewise, most illustrations used to explain the cross are at best dangerous and misleading.

*The original film was not interrupted with text.

Free eBook – "Blood Work" by Anthony Carter

Today, the good folks at Crossway Books are offering the book Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation as a free digital download as we quickly approach Resurrection Sunday. I have written a full review of the book and you can read it here.

Evangelical Christians often sing and preach about the blessed blood of Christ and the wonderful things it accomplishes for believers. To the uninformed ear, such language can convey the idea that Jesus’ blood had semi-magical qualities. Actually, Jesus’ blood was normal human blood, but the Bible refers to it in metaphorical terms to portray the many benefits that come to Christians because of Jesus’ death. In Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation, Anthony J. Carter traces this theme through the New Testament, showing how the biblical writers used the powerful metaphor of the blood of Jesus to help Christians grasp the treasures Jesus secured for them in His death on the cross. In doing so, he provides a fresh perspective on the atonement Jesus made.

You can download this free ebook here.

Michael Bird on Christus Victor

In his book Evangelical Theology, Dr. Michael Bird offers the following on the subject of Christus Victor.

Let’s get Paul right here. Jesus’ death is not only a transaction of my sin being placed into Jesus’ account; there’s much more to it. Jesus lets the powers do their worst to him, he takes the full brunt of sin, he drinks the dregs of judgment, and he allows death to hold him in its clutches. Then in the midst of a powerless death emerges a divine saving power to forgive, redeem, and renew. The festering cancer of sin has at last heard news of its cure. In the apex of death, life rises with healing in its wing. Satan’s force is spent and his worst was no match for the best of the Son of God. The fatal wound of Jesus deals a fatal blow to death. The powers of this present darkness shiver as the looming tsunami of the kingdom of God draws ever nearer. the despots of the world live in denial as much as they live on borrowed time. This is Paul’s atonement theology; this is the victory of God. (394-395)

I applaud the above. It is eloquent and shows why theology produces doxology. But to be clear, Bird affirms (and I with him) that Christus Victor can only be properly understood as the result of penal substitution. A few pages later, Bird writes:

Thus, the Christus Victor view cannot stand alone. The victory of God in Jesus’ death needs to be explained with some other mode of the atonement hat shows how Jesus’ death cancels sin, overcomes death, and vanquishes Satan. More likely, the victory of Jesus’ death is achieved because his death is an atonement for sin, it is a substitutionary death, and it renders the devil’s work of accusation as impotent (see Zech. 3:4; Rev. 12:10). (397)

For more from Michael Bird:
The God of the Gospel: A Review of Michael Bird’s Theology Proper
The Goal of Theology: To Be Gospelized
The Gospel is From, About, and of God
Is God Impassible?
Is Karl Barth a Good or Bad Guy
Michael Bird on Why Eschatolgoy Matters
“Evangelical Theology” by Michael Bird Out Today
Humanity in Humiliation No Less: Michael Bird on Kenotic Christology

"The Cross of Christ" by John Stott: A Review

There are some doctrines every Christian should cherish, study, and rejoice in. The cross of Christ is one of them. There are some books most Christians and every pastor should read. The late John Stott’s The Cross of Christ is one of them. I have been told and now concur that this is one of the best and most important books on the cross of Jesus Christ and how we are to understand it.

Stott opens the book asking a simple, yet important, question. In search of a symbol, and every movement and religion has one, why did Christianity settle on the cross? There were, after all, multiple options; the ichthus, empty tomb, Noah’s Ark, creation, the manger, etc. Yet at the end of the day, the church chose a Roman cross – an instrument reserved for the worse of criminals – as their symbol. The reason is simple: their is no Christianity without the cross. Their is no gospel without the cross.

The book is broken down into four parts, but it is parts 2 and 3 that get the most press and rightfully so. It is here that Stott the theologian does his best work. Stott seeks to unravel what the cross means and why it was necessary. Stott is an ardent defender of penal substitutionary atonement. To defend this thesis, the writer slowly walks the reader through some of the dominant atonement theories in history and argues that the atonement must be one of substitution and satisfaction. Thus Anselm was on to something with his satisfaction theory (with emphasis on God’s honor), but falls just short. The cross satisfies God, but it does so as God in Christ stands as our substitute. Propitiation is made.

But to suggest that this book is just a good defense of penal substitution (as Tony Jones does on the back cover) is to fail to appreciate what Stott does. Stott defends in great detail penal substitution, but the atonement is not limited to that. The current debate over the atonement is really missing this point. Those who rightly affirm penal substitution are quick to reject any and all other theories. The same is true on the other side. Those who deny penal substitution as the root purpose of the atonement usually reject it outright. Stott shows, as I have argued before, that the cross does more and is more than this.

Think of the atonement as a rope with three strands each being important. Though penal substitution is the key purpose of the atonement, other theories are just as valid and ought to be embraced. These include Christus Victor and Christus Exemplar. Stott dedicates an entire chapter to these other two theories but clarifies what the Bible actually says about them. His chapter on victory is very good. His chapter on the cross as God’s revelation (Christus Exemplar) rightly rejects Abelard’s moral influence theory but does not deny that Scripture affirms that we are to look to the cross and follow Christ’s example there.

With all that is great about this book, there were a few things that are worth mentioning that are unfortunate. First, Stott makes a brief comment regarding creation. He notes that the fossil record indicates that predation and death existed in the animal kingdom before the creation of man (67). He then adds that God apparently had a different plan for humans. I am sympathetic toward old earth creationism (though I still remain a young earth creationist), but Stott fails to consider the implications of OEC. He says nothing regarding original sin, the historic Adam, the interpretation of Genesis, etc. in light of an old earth creationism conviction. Instead, we are to just assume that the earth is old without any theological qualms as a result.

Secondly, chapter 10 on the cross and community was a little weak. I feel that Stott really missed a great opportunity to emphasize the church. This is not to suggest that Stott undermines or ignores the importance of the church in the book, but that this would have been a great opportunity to emphasize it. Each stage of redemption – creation, fall, the passion, and consummation – deals with three aspects: the individual, the community, and the cosmos.  God establishes all three in creation, the fall distorts all three through, and cross redeems all three, and the eschaton renews all three. Thus when speaking of the cross and its work of redemption, it is imperative to highlight the church.

Finally, in his chapter on suffering, Stott heavily defends the passibility of God. I for one am stuck on the issue. Is God passible or impassible? Does God suffer or not? Stott gives an emphatic yes and I am not sure Scripture is clear enough on the subject and I’m not sure how Stott presents it is the best. For example, Stott uses the story of the execution of an innocent Jewish boy hung by the Nazis. “Where was God,” the onlookers ask. “There hanging” comes the answer. The implication, then, is that God suffers with us. Let me say that I am not necessarily against passibility, however it is a difficult philosophical and theological issue. Stott uses it as a key answer to suffering and I’m not sure Scripture takes us there so clearly.

With all of this said, there is no doubt that this is an excellent book and portions of it will be featured on this site moving forward. His chapter highlighting the four images of the cross, including redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, etc., is an excellent way to explain the effects of the cross and I would recommend the reader to return to it often. Overall, buy this book, read this book, and love this book.

For more on Stott and Penal Substitution:
Its Not Just a Theory: Stott on Penal Substitution
John Stott on the The Human Enigma
Theology Thursday | Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution: A Review of the Evidence
Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology:  From Cultural Accommodation to the Social Gospel
God as Butcher: McLaren on Penal Substitution  
The Postmodern Social Gospel:  Brian McLaren Proves My Point  
Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology:  From Cultural Accommodation to the Social Gospel
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution:  A Look at the Evidence
Death by Love” by Mark Driscoll 
Death by Love” by Mark Driscoll
“In My Place, Condemned He Stood
It is Well
“Precious Blood”: A Review

For more on the atonement:
Allison: A History of the Doctrine of the Atonement
“Salvation Brings Imitation”: Piper on Christus Exemplar
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary – Part 1 – Introduction
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary – Part 2 – Christus Exemplar and the doctrine of sin and depravity
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary – Part 3 – The History of Christus Exemplar
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary – Part 4 – Christus Exemplar and Humility
Sanctification Demands It: The Necessity of the Atonement
“The Cup & the Crucifixion” Spoken Word

"The Murder of Jesus" by John MacArthur: A Recommendation

Matthew includes a touching vignette that further displays God’s sovereign control of the events leading up to the crucifixion. It stands in stark contrast to the conspiracy being plotted in the palace of the high priest. There, men who hated Jesus plotted His demise. Here, a woman who loved Him prepares Him for burial. (15)

Here’s what was happening on the cross: God was punishing His own Son as if He had committed every wicked deed done by every sinner who would ever believe. And He did it so that He could forgive and treat those redeemed ones as if they had lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness. (219)

For several months I have been preaching verse-by-verse through Matthew’s account of the Jesus’ passion week. Though there are countless resources available for pastors like myself, one of the most important works I utilized was John MacArthur’s book The Murder of Jesus. On the personal side, The Murder of Jesus was one of the first major Christian books I read as a teenager and thus it has always had a special place in my heart. After reading it, I knew that I wanted to do, one day, what John MacArthur did. Later while in seminary I finally met Dr. MacArthur and had him sign my copy.

With that said, I want to recommend it to visitors of this site. The book was birthed from MacArthur’s own exposition of Matthew and even a cursory reading of this volume will show MacArthur’s heavy reliance on Matthew over the other Gospels. This is not to suggest that he ignores the other three Gospels – quit the contrary. Like all of his books, MacArthur weaves together the totality of Scripture rarely going outside of God’s Word for validation.

When writing or discussing the murder of Jesus, it is important to decide where to begin. MacArthur starts in Matthew 26 where the conspiracy to kill Jesus becomes more real (instead of idle talk) and Judas approaches the scribes while Jesus is being anointed in Bethany. By starting here, MacArthur is able to provide some of the necessary back story and information that plays a big part in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus in addition to the theology of Jesus’ murder (the anointing in Bethany is key to understanding that theology).

The strength of this book is the same strength of all of MacArthur’s books. He is the best exegete and bible teacher of our time. One cannot read a book of his without being confronted with biblical revelation. At the same time, however, this does create a real weakness to his books. Though assessable and saturated with orthodox doctrine, MacArthur rarely deals with outside issues.

Perhaps an example will suffice. One of the most difficult passages in Matthew’s Gospel is his claim that after Jesus’ resurrection “many” saints were raised and wondered around in the city. Certainly there are theological implications here and MacArthur points them out. Matthew wants the reader to see that Jesus is, literally, the first fruit of the resurrection. However, one cannot deny that some of the greatest defenders of Scripture have struggled with this narrative as it is found only in Matthew.  MacArthur barely dedicates a page to it.

With that said, though, this is an excellent read that remains as important today as it was when it was first published. I highly recommend every pastor to have a copy in his office and every Christian serious about Christianity and the gospel to pick it up as well.

I will give MacArthur the last word:

Why did Paul place so much emphasis on the death of Christ, rather than always stressing the triumph of the Resurrection above even His death? Because, again, without the atoning work Christ did on the cross, His resurrection would be merely a wonder to stand back and admire. But it would have no personal ramifications for us. However, “if we died with Christ,” – that is, if He died in our place and in our stead – then “we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). Because of the death he died, suffering the penalty of sin on our behalf, we become partakers with Him in His resurrection as well. that is virtually the whole point of Romans 6.

So don’t ever pass over the meaning of the death of Christ on your way to celebrate the Resurrection. It is the Cross that gives meaning to the resurrection life. Only insofar as we are united with Him int he likeness of His death, can we be certain of being raised with Him in the likeness of His resurrection (cf. Romans 6:5).

That is why “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” remains the very heart and soul of the gospel message. and in the words of the apostle Paul, every believer’s deepest yearning should be this: “That i may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). (242-243)

I Don’t Think This is What Good Friday Means

Brian McLaren seems to be on a role this week. Again, I don’t think this is what Christians mean by this. Here is McLaren on the meaning of Good Friday.

To be a follower of Jesus in this light is a far different affair than many of us were taught: it means to join Jesus’ peace insurgency, to see through every regime that promises peace through violence, peace through domination, peace through genocide, peace through exclusion and intimidation. Following Jesus instead means forming communities that seek peace through justice, generosity, and mutual concern, and a willingness to suffer persecution but a refusal to inflict it on others. To follow Jesus is to become an atheist in regard to all bloodthirsty, tribal warrior gods, and to become a believer in the living God of grace and peace who, in Christ, sheds God’s own blood in a manifestation of amnesty and reconciliation.

At the cross Jesus satisfies the Father’s wrath against sin. We are forgiven. At the cross, we are cleansed from all unrighteous. We are cleansed. At the cross and resurrection Christ crushes the head of the serpent. We are free from all accusation. At the cross and resurrection, Jesus succumbs and defeat death. Oh death where is your sting.

Therein lies our peace.

For more:
I Don’t Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God – Full Series
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren’s Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church – the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
“A New Kind of Christianity” – A 11 part review and critique of McLaren’s book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight’s Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction – What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God’s Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don’t Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone  

5 Books on the Cross and Resurrection

Obviously Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is a golden opportunity to reflect and meditate on the meaning of the cross and resurrection. I pray it is a daily exercise. Below are five books that I have read and found to be excellent resources in no particular order (except for the first one).

John Stott The Cross of Christ

This is a classic that should be read at least once by every Christian. This book inspired an entire sermon series on the various motifs of the cross such as the Temple, the Battlefield, and others.

Adrian Warnock Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything

Of all the books I have read on the reality and the doctrine of the resurrection this is by far the best. Warnock presents a strong case for the resurrection’s historicity as well as looks at its prediction in the Old Testament and the role it plays in the theology of the New Testament. This is an invaluable tool for every pastor certainly and it is written in a way that the average Christian could grasp.

N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God

Though this is more of an academic work, it remains as one of the most thorough and important works on the resurrection of Christ. Its a thick volume (numbering at 740 pages), but virtually no rock is left unturned. Wright, as a theologian, has his weaknesses, but when it comes to this subject, Wright proves himself to be quite the scholar.

Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced For Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal substitution

This is the book to read regarding the doctrine of penal substitution. The authors tackle the biblical evidence and survey what theologians of the past have said regarding the doctrine. Perhaps most helpful is their critiquing common arguments against penal substitution like the more recent “divine child-abuse” blasphemy.

Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Death by Love: Letters from the Cross

In my opinion, every pastor should be aware of the contents of the book (though the first chapter is admittedly weak and problematic). The reason is because it forces ministers to view all of pastoral challenges as remedied by the cross. Each chapter reflects a unique challenge Driscoll has faced and ministry. He then writes a letter to those he is ministering to pointing them to the cross. Throughout the book, the authors apply the doctrines of redemption, propitiation, expiation, Christus Exemplar, and many others. This is an important model for pastors to always follow. Preach. The. Cross.

Others worth mentioning: