THE CROSS OF CHRIST, PART ONE

THE WORD OF THE CROSS

The heart of Christianity is the Bible. The heart of the Bible is the Cross. The heart of the Cross is the heart of God. (James Smith)

The heart of God is a heart that is full of compassion for the one who is lost and living without hope. When we think about God’s concern for those living without Him, our minds go immediately to a verse of Scripture almost every Christian knows by heart:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Imagine the depths of love that compelled the Heavenly Father to offer His Son in atonement for our sin and guilt. The Cross is, at the same time, the most glorious and the most awful object ever seen by angels or men. 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us what the Cross is all about:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The “message of the cross” isn’t found in any single verse of Scripture, but throughout the fullness of God’s Word. This is why so many Christians don’t really understand the true “message of the cross.” It’s simply because they’ve never really heard it. Modern preaching has so fragmented it that, at best, the average church-goer has only heard bits and pieces of the great “message of the cross.” Even at that, there isn’t a Christian anywhere in the world who doesn’t grasp the eternal significance of the Cross of Christ. They may not grasp it in its entirety, but what they do know has resulted in their salvation. Such is the awesome power of the Cross!

It is a sign that you are perishing if you cannot see the infinite wisdom and power of God on display in the Cross of Jesus Christ. God’s word concerning the Cross is God’s message of love and grace to us through the Cross.

Let’s look at God’s word concerning the Cross and what that great word means to us today.

1. Holiness and sin

One message of the Cross is God’s own opinion concerning holiness and sin; that is to say, the holiness of the Son of God who suffered on the Cross and the utter wickedness of sin for which He suffered. The true wickedness of sin is revealed in what Jesus said out it John 8:34—

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

What an awful thing sin is! It seduces you, tricks you into becoming your friend, then it never, ever lets you go. James, the earthly brother of Jesus, understood all about sin:

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:15)

Back to John 3, after stating bluntly that sinners are enslaved by sin, Jesus poses a question a few verses later:

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? (John 8:46)

Jesus’ teaching on sin is plain: sin and slavery are inexorably linked. No human being can be free if they are not free from sin. The only free people are those who have placed their full faith and trust in Christ; who have broken the hold sin had on them.

However, Jesus Christ was completely sinless—He was guilty of no sin—for if He had slipped but a single time, He would not have been fit to be the Messiah; He would have been in the grip of sin. But our Lord knew what His mission was and He remained unfettered and out of sin’s grip.

Jesus Christ was holy, harmless, completely separate from sinners, even while living among them, revealing the invisible God to them. Thanks to the Cross of Christ, we are given a clear picture of our Heavenly Father’s love for sinful man. The holiness of God and the sinfulness of man collided on the Cross, in the Body of Jesus Christ. In the Cross, we see God at His best and man at his worst. Even while the vilest of sinners plotted to crucify Christ, our Lord bore their sins in His body.

But that is the only time holiness and sin have met together in one Person. The truth is, darkness cannot exist in the light. The unrenewed spirit of a man cannot have any fellowship with God on any level. The Word of the Cross is the word of victory because the holiness of Christ crushed the sinfulness of man.

2. Love and sacrifice

John 3:16 tells us that God gave His only son to save the lost. God gave His Son with no expectation that He would escape His death on the Cross. God the Father had no hope of saving sinful man apart from the awful death of His Son. Therefore, man has no hope of salvation without the Cross.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

God loved us so much that He offered His Son’s life in exchange for the ours. Imagine that kind of love! And the Son of God, loved us so much that He was willing to sacrifice Himself as an offering for us. Remember what Jesus taught:
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

The message of the Cross is not only a message of holiness and sin, but also a message of love and sacrifice.

…Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

Only God the Father could love us so much as to give His one and only Son over to the terrible death on the Cross to save them. Only God the Son could love us so much that even while we were still enslaved to sin; even while were were still His sworn enemies, He offered Himself as the prefect sacrifice for our souls.

As one scholar has observed:

The sufferings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the irrefutable proof and expression of the intensity of the love of God.

3. Righteousness and peace

There is aberrant theology that has been floating around since the days of the early church that teaches the redemption price offered by Christ was paid to Satan in order to free the souls of man. However, Satan has never had the right to any soul. In fact, we are told in Scripture that Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice to God. The Cross, then, contrasts the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man, stands for love and sacrifice, but it also makes possible peace with God through righteousness.

...and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:20)

The requirements of righteousness are infinite, and they are met only by the infinite value of the life and blood of Jesus Christ, who Himself is infinite.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13, 14)

Before Christ, everything stood between us and God and everything stood against us. The work of Christ took it all away! Every single thing that stopped us from approaching God, summed up in one word: unrighteousness, was taken to the Cross and removed from us as far as the east is from the west. Because our unrighteousness has been taken away and replaced by His righteousness, we are now completely free to approach God without any fear.

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. (Psalm 85:10)

On the Cross, righteousness and peace have met!

by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:15, 16)

There was no other way to make peace between God and man except by way of the Cross. Only Christ’s righteousness could accomplish this. There is no other way for any human being to be at complete peace with God except through the Cross of Christ.

4. Salvation and power

When we began this study, we quoted Colossians 1:18. Refer briefly back to that verse:

For the message of the cross … is the power of God.

The Cross is a magnificent symbol of God’s power to save. All who believe in what was accomplished on the Cross and all who understand the message of the Cross, are conscious of the saving power of God.

In the Old Testament, during the Passover, the Israelites were safe only as long as they remained in a house whose door posts had been sprinkled by the blood of the lamb. Similarly, as Christians we are safe only as long as we live within the shadow of the blood-sprinkled Cross of Christ. At the Cross Jesus gave His life for ours, so we must lose our lives in that same Cross if we are to truly live for Him.

The word of the Cross is the word of salvation to all who believe. It’s the way to a new life in Jesus Christ. The Cross is God’s instrument by which any sinner may be made a new person. There is not a sinner anywhere in the world who is beyond the shadow of the Cross. Anywhere and everywhere to anyone is available the power of the Cross.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The only way to experience new life in Christ, is by way of the Cross. The Word of the Cross makes no sense to those who are already dying. But to those who are looking for hope and purpose and salvation, the Cross is the power of God.

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