The cross of Jesus Christ is the most recognizable symbol of the Christian faith. To the casual observer, the cross has little or no meaning. To the believer in Jesus, the cross is the symbol of our trust and hope in the face of impending death.
It is wise for those who are not believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins to give heed to the explanation of the meaning of this symbol. It is my prayer that God would help my readers to know more of Christ by our study of His cross.
The cross of Jesus Christ is an umbrella phrase of a vernal event of twenty centuries ago. It is synonymous with the “death of Christ” or the “crucifixion of Jesus.”
Jesus of Nazareth — or as Pontius Pilate mocked with vicious scorn on his placard over the thorn-crowned head of the crucified, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” — is the most important person in human history because of His true identity revealed in the Holy Bible. This is the Son of God from eternity, who took on flesh (became a man, yet without sin) and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). As the God-man, Jesus Messiah (anointed one), came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21) and to re-establish the kingdom of God on the earth.
The adversary of God attempted to establish his own kingdom in this world. When God made Adam and Eve in His own image and placed them in the Garden of Eden, it was Satan, posing as a serpent who deceived our first parents and stole their dominion, enslaving them to himself and his world system of sin.
The Fall of man is also the Fall of Creation because of rebellion against the Creator. Pollution, ruin, and death have come because of sin. Sin is the transgression of God’s Law (1 Jn 3:4). Yahweh is our Judge, our Law giver, and our King (Is 33:22). By one man, Adam, sin entered the world, and in Adam all die as a result (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:22).
Death is the enemy of the living because it is appointed once for a man to die and then comes the judgment (Heb 9:27). Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18), in order to judge the living and the dead (2 Pet 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). This judgment will ultimately come on the Day of the Lord (1 Thess 5:1; Rev 19:11–21), when everyone ever conceived by God in the womb will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10), having been resurrected from the dead (Jn 5:28–29) and gathered by elect angels to appear before the judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25).
Because humanity is judged in Adam already (Jn 3:18), the Day of Judgment is a sentencing to eternal punishment into the outer darkness of fiery hell (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7). Men do not fear God, nor do they love Him (Jn 5:42). Rather, they hate God along with their father (Rom 1:30), the devil (Jn 8:44; 1 Jn 3:10), for whom hell was originally created (Mt 25:41).
The bad news of man’s plight and total depravity are far more extensive than what I have stated here. All men everywhere are commanded to repent of their sins and place their trust in Jesus and His work on the cross (Acts 17:30), which brings us to Jesus’ accomplishments on the cross.
In His fourth decade of life as a man, Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to a Roman cross at the Place of the Skull (Golgotha in Hebrew), outside the city of Jerusalem, by godless men, in the predetermined plan of God (Acts 2:23). Those who put Jesus to death by hanging Him on a cross (Acts 5:30; 10:39), carried out everything that was written concerning Him (Acts 13:29), including placing His body in a rich man’s tomb.
Jesus served God His Father and the holy nation of chosen people, given to Him by His Father before the foundation of the world. As the King of Israel, Jesus pardoned one of two thieves being crucified next to Him. As the merciful and faithful High Priest for His own (Heb 2:17), Jesus became sin for us, our sin bearer, even when He Himself had no sin at all (Heb 4:15).
God imputed the sins of His elect children onto Christ at the Cross. For the joy of having His church with Him for eternity, Jesus endured the cross, as the Lamb of God who took away all the sin of all His people, from all the world, in all generations. In love for these sheep of His pasture, a people for His own possession, He suffered humiliation to the point of a naked death on the cross, despising its shame.
Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Is 53:5). In this, the blood of Christ was poured out, so He might taste death for everyone who belongs to Him (Heb 2:9), as the substitute sacrifice that bore the wrath of God in the place of His beloved, to whom God has determined to show mercy (Rom 9:15, 18).
God has made peace with rebel enemies by granting them repentance and forgiveness of sins. In His sufferings, Christ has reconciled the ungodly to God, by a redeeming purchase of blood that fully atones those justified in Him.
When Jesus carried His own cross, He was going to lay down His life for His sheep (Jn 10:11, 15), a purchase that secured righteousness before God and that bought His church from the slave market of sin. The Law of substitution (sacrificial requirements) was fulfilled according to the foreknowledge of God who saved us (Acts 2:23; Tit 3:5).
Jesus, the Son of Man, God’s Chosen One, defeated sin, death, and the devil (Heb 2:14). He propitiated the wrath of God by canceling the debt of sin owed by His people.
Having made purification for sins, Jesus also interceded for His own on the cross, as He intercedes for His church, today. We join with our Lord in taking up our cross, daily. We follow in His steps of suffering, by preaching the Word of the Cross to those enemies of the cross who think it is foolishness (1 Cor 1:18; Phil 3:18).
Those who boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ place the Son of God before others as a stumbling block (Gal 5:11; 6:14). We believe and we preach what we know as the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16–17).
Some believe our report, by His grace who reconciles both Jew and Gentile into one body, His church, through the cross. Some do not believe our report, having not received the grace of God, because they are not Christ’s sheep (Jn 10:26).
The elect, redeemed, regenerate people of God rejoice in Christ’s obedience and His accomplishments on our behalf at the cross. We proclaim the excellencies of all Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Those who do not tell of His greatness do not believe, which is because the devil has blinded their minds from seeing all that Jesus has accomplished for His beloved on the cross. Can you see that?
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 23, 2021