Posted by: Billy Marsh | October 22, 2009

Zwingli: The Cross as the Act of Supreme Goodness

ZwingliOne of the works I had to read this week for my Reformation Reading Ph. D. Seminar was Zwingli’s An Exposition of the Faith. In it, he briefly sets forth the main tenets of his Reformed theology for the king in order to assure him of Zwingli’s and his stately companions’ orthodoxy and loyalty to a system of theology that would not create rebellion against the government.

At the beginning, he begins with God as Creator and shows how this truth, namely, that all created things find their meaning in the one uncreated being, is the foundation for all Christian theology. As he is closing out this section before he moves on to discuss Christology, he gives a powerfully eloquent summary of the gospel where he names God as Supreme Goodness who in turn gave the supreme gift. That supreme gift, however, is identified as “the most costly of all its treasures, namely itself, . . .” In other words, God as ultimate goodness could not give anything other than the absolute best; therefore, since he is the highest of all treasures, he gave himself, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God to be a sacrifice for sins on the cross.

This passage really ministered to me. I hope you are blessed by it and that you read it within the framework of the fact that above all else, the Reformers were about contending for the integrity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These men were truly captured by grace. That’s why I love reading them so much. Everything is so gospel-saturated to the core. Here’s the passage in full:

Therefore when supreme Goodness willed to give the supreme gift, it gave the most costly of all its treasures, namely itself, so that the soul of man which is always seeking that which is greater should not be able to wonder how it is that the sacrifice of angel or man can have sufficient value to avail for all, or how it is possible to put undisputed trust in any creature. Thus the Son of God is given to us as a confirmation of mercy, a pledge of grace, a requital of justice and an example of life, to assure us of the grace of God and to give us the law of true conduct. Who can sufficiently estimate the magnanimity of the divine goodness and mercy? We had merited rejection, and he adopts us as heirs. We had destroyed the way of life, and he has restored it. The divine goodness has so redeemed and restored us that we are full of thanks for his mercy and just and blameless by reason of his atoning sacrifice.

~ taken from The Library of Christian Classics, Zwingli and Bullinger, 250-51.



  1. Huah Billy, sounds like a great class. I have long admired Zwingli and should have, by this time, done some serious study of this great Reformer. The idea of beginning a systematic study of God with creation, sounds, well, er, biblical perhaps! And his idea of the Christian warrior is intriguing as well, though I guess it didn’t work out so well for him in the end.

  2. Yeah, Zwingli is an interesting character of the Reformation. Unlike Luther and Calvin, he did not produce as much writing. But works like this one are very good. What is clear from Zwingli is that he is interested in being faithful to Scripture. You can definitely see the authority of Scripture (sola scriptura) in his teaching.

  3. Thanks, very interesting note

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