What is the Cross to Those Who are Perishing?
Christians make a big deal of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, especially on Good Friday. The Cross, or the death of Christ, is considered to be the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18). What does this mean?
God is holy, righteous, and just. He must judge sinners, who transgress His holy Law. Unless one’s debt of sin is paid-in-full and cancelled (Col 2:14), God is obligated to punish each sinner, in order to maintain His own righteousness.
The Cross satisfies God’s Law requirements because the sins of His people were laid upon Jesus, who became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). The wrath of God, in judgment of those sins was poured out on Jesus, whose cry of dereliction was, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me (Ps 22:1)?” He bore our sins in His body on the Cross (1 Pet 2:24). He was pierced through for our transgressions (Is 53:5). As God has said, “My Servant will justify the many (Is 53:11).”
Many are justified by the blood of Jesus, but that means not all are justified. There is an entire group of people who benefit nothing from it. Who are these people outside the will and testament of God, as it pertains to salvation? They are those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18), “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him (Jn 1:11).”
The connection between unbelieving Jews (Jn 1:11) and unbelieving Gentiles is that they are not believing. Whosoever believes in Jesus shall not perish (Jn 3:16), but whosoever does not believe in the Son of God is already condemned and will perish (Jn 3:18). Some are appointed to eternal life, and they believe (Acts 13:48); others are not appointed, and do not believe.
Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29) given to those who believe (Gal 3:22), by God’s grace being granted to them (Acts 5:31). They receive Christ, by the will of God (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 9:16). Because it was His gracious choice to have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Rom 9:16; 11:5), the antithesis is true, too.
God hardens whom He desires (Rom 9:18). Classic, biblical examples of this are: Pharaoh (Rom 9:17); King Saul (1 Sam 16:14); and Judas Iscariot (Jn 13:2, 27). The Bible clearly states that God hated Esau (Rom 9:13), even as He does all workers of iniquity (Ps 5:5; 11:5). God’s hatred of sinners is demonstrated in His wrath being directed at them (Rom 1:18), culminating in the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10).
Jesus Christ, on the Cross, propitiates the wrath of God against those who shelter under Him (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). These guilty sinners find Christ to be a city of refuge, a place of protection, while their crimes are meted out on the Cross. It is a vivid contrast to have two guilty criminals on either side of the Cross of Christ. Let us consider their example.
At first, they both hurl protests at the dying Messiah (Mt 27:44). Grace visits one criminal, but not the other. As the one continues to question the veracity of Jesus’ identity, as the Christ, the other rebukes him (Lk 23:40).
Evangelical peddlers of easy believism press men to make decisions about Jesus’ salvific power, usually with minimal information. There was not enough information for the repentant robber on the cross next to Jesus. Jesus was not saying much (we have seven recorded sayings). By the time Jesus is promising paradise to the repentant one, that one has only heard, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk 23:24).” He could not possibly decide of his own free will on that statement alone.
The grace of repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18), granted by God to those who belong to Christ (1 Cor 3:23), does not need an extensive system of theology. The Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim 2:19), and if Paul was suffering for the sake of the elect (2 Tim 2:10), then, what was Jesus doing for them?
Truly, the Cross means absolutely everything to some and utterly nothing to others. There is no grey area whatsoever.
You either have the Son of God and the Spirit of adoption (Jn 3:36; Rom 8:15, 23; 1 Jn 5:12); or you do not have them. One has been given Christ’s Spirit and eternal life, while the other awaits the Day of Judgment and sentencing to eternal punishment, in the fiery hell of the lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).
The Cross is the wisdom of God in maintaining righteousness, while extending the mercy of forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28; Eph 1:7). The unforgiven consider it foolishness, and in their pride, they insult the wisdom of God and the power of God (1 Cor 1:24), bleeding and naked before them.
These traverse life in this world on the wide way that leads to destruction. They are goats, who do not belong to Christ (Jn 10:26). They are none of His, being vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22). They have no cross to shelter under, no blood to cover them, no hope, being without God (Eph 2:12).
O sinner, while it is yet called “today” take a second look from your exalted perch of boasting pride. Look at yourself pinned to your own cross, awaiting death and wrath. Sin put you there. Sin keeps you there. Now look again at the One who is the only hope of salvation. Why will you perish?
Jesus bleeds. He is redemption. He is atonement. He is reconciliation. He endures this Cross for the joy set before Him. It is His beloved bride for whom He suffers. He dies. It is finished. It is accomplished. He is victorious. He is buried. He is risen. He has ascended. He reigns. He is glorified. He loved us, and He saved us (Titus 3:5), but not those who are perishing. The Cross is nothing to them.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 26, 2022