In Memory of John Stott (1921-2011)
This quote comes from his book The Cross of Christ.
To ‘preach the cross’ . . . is to preach salvation by God’s grace alone. Such a message is a stumbling-block (1 Cor. 1:23) because it is grievously offensive to human pride; it therefore exposes us to persecution. There are, of course, no Judaizers in the world today, preaching the necessity of circumcision. But there are plenty of false teachers, inside as well as outside the church, who preach the false gospel (which is not a gospel, Galatians 1:7) of salvation by good works. To preach salvation by good works is to flatter people and so avoid opposition. This may seem to some to pose the alternative too starkly. But I do not think so. All Christian preachers have to face this issue. Either we preach that human beings are rebels against God, under his just judgment and (if left to themselves) lost, and that Christ crucified who bore their sin and curse is the only available Saviour. Or we emphasize human potential and human ability, with Christ brought in only to boost them, and with no necessity for the cross except to exhibit God’s love and so inspire us to greater endeavour.
The former is the way to be faithful, the latter the way to be popular. It is not possible to be faithful and popular simultaneously. We need to hear again the warning of Jesus: ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you’ (Lk. 6:26). By contrast, if we preach the cross, we may find that we are ourselves hounded to the cross. (John Stott, The Cross of Christ pg. 347-348.)