The doctrine of Christ’s reconciliation, or His Atonement, is not a piece of mediaeval dogma like transubstantiation, not a piece of ecclesiastical dogma or Aristotelian subtlety which it might be the Bible’s business to destroy. If you look at the Gospels you will see that from the Transfiguration onward this matter of the Cross is the great center of concern; it is where the center of gravity lies. I met a man the other day who had come under some poor and mischievous pulpit influence, and he said, “It is time we got rid of hearing so much about the Cross of Christ; there should be preached to the world a humanitarian Christ, the kind of Christ that occupies the Gospels.” There was nothing for it but to tell that man he was the victim of smatterers, and that he must go back to his Gospels and read and study for a year or two. It is the flimsiest religiosity, and the most superficial reading of the Gospel, that could talk like that. What does it mean that an enormous proportion of the Gospel story is occupied with the passion of Christ? The center of gravity, even in the Gospels, falls upon the Cross of Christ and what was done there, and not simply upon a humanitarian Christ. You cannot set the Gospels against Paul. Why, the first three Gospels were much later than Paul’s Epistles. They were written for Churches that were made by the apostolic preaching. But how, then, do the first three Gospels seem so different from the Epistles? If course, there is a superficial difference. Christ was a very living and real character for the people of His own time, and His grand business was to rouse his audiences’ faith in His Person and in His mission. But in His Person and in His mission the Cross lay latent all the time. It emerged only in the fullness of time – that valuable phrase – just when the historic crisis, the organic situation, produced it. Jesus was not a professor of theology. He did not lecture the people. He did not come with a theology of the Cross. He did not come to force events to comply with that theology. He did not force His own people to work out a theological scheme. He did force an issue, but it was not to illustrate a theology. It was to establish the Kingdom of God, which could be established in no other wise than as He established it – upon the Cross. And He could only teach the Cross when it had happened – which He did through the Evangelists with the space they gave it, and through the Apostles and the exposition they gave it.

To come back to this work of Christ described by Paul as reconciliation. On this interpretation of the work of Christ the whole Church rests. If you move faith from that enter you have driven the nail into the Church’s coffin. The Church is then doomed to death, and is only a matter of time when she shall expire. The Apostle, I say, described the work of Christ as above all things reconciliation. And Paul was the founder of the Church, historically speaking. I do not like to speak of Christ as the Founder of the Church. It seems remote, detached, journalistic. It would be far more true to say that He is the foundation of the Church. “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” The founder of the Church, historically speaking, was Paul. It was founded by and through him on this reconciling principle – may, I go deeper than that, on this mighty act of God’s reconciliation. For this great act the interpretation was given to Paul by the Holy Spirit. In this connection read that great word in 1 Corinthians 2; that is the most valuable word in the New Testament about the nature of apostolic inspiration.