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The Cross of Jesus -week 43 / October 22nd
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many”
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose
names have not been written in the Book of Life of
the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
The cross is the central theme of the Bible; it is pictured everywhere in types, symbols, rituals and reality. Jesus died on a Roman cross two thousand years ago and this death carries with it a significance and power that can change one’s life and destiny forever. It can be said that creation came about because, way back in eternity before time, space and matter existed, the second person of the Godhead gave His promise that He would come into the world and embrace the cross. This fact tells us that creation itself, in all its mystery and splendor, could not be put in place without the cross and this is especially true of a created family of men and women that would willingly submit itself to God and love Him. Without the cross creation would have been still-born! That is, it would have failed in the womb of God’s purpose. The cross of Jesus is the cornerstone upon which all of creation was built.
The creation account recorded in the first chapters of Genesis tells us that the pinnacle or grand masterpiece of God’s creative work is mankind. He is not only the great masterpiece of it but also the very center of it. It exists for him and it will respond to his place in it. This means that should the first man and woman fall from God’s will and desire for them, as they did, then the glory, wonder and beauty of the world around them would also fall and fail. Mankind’s rebellion against God did exactly this and subsequently the created order has fallen; is decaying and is polluted and yearning for the day when mankind will again take the position that God originally intended for it. Paul comments on this truth in Romans 8:19-22:
“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
- The truth
God could not create a true family for Himself without the fall of mankind. This is so because the creation of a being that could and would think independently from God, even though perfect, meant that such a being would need to know what was the alternative to serving the God that had made it. The Tempter or Serpent simply ignited this question in them by offering them the possibility that something better could be had. Our first parents took the gamble and the result was tragic and indeed, for God, fully expected. A once perfect man and woman would now have to be saved and the only means by which this could be done was the cross of Jesus. God knew this and planned for it before the world began. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
- The need
The God of creation and of the Bible is perfect in love and holiness (1 John 4:7). He is “holy-love” meaning that His character cannot abide selfishness or sin (Habakkuk 1:13). These cannot dwell in His presence and have to be banished and judged; the latter is an expression of His wrath (Romans 1:18). The need that God had and has is that, in dealing with mankind, He has to satisfy the demands of His character because, if He didn’t, He too would become selfish and sinful! Even human judges that fail to dispense proper judgment are accused of corruption and wrong doing; they become like the villains brought before them. God is no villain and therefore He had to find a way to be just (true to His character) and the justifier (the savior) of sinful and fallen humanity.
So, to sum it all up; the demands of God’s character are such that we, all rooted in Adam, had to be removed from His presence eternally and placed under His wrath or judgment because of our rebellion against Him. All this means that we could not find our way back to Him because:
- We cannot re-embrace His perfection no matter how hard we may try. Even our best efforts cannot bring us close to the glory of God’s character (Romans 3:23). Our good works will just not save us and thus, in terms of salvation, they become dead works that in fact have to be repented of (Hebrews 6:1-2)!
- We could not “get out of jail”, as it were, after serving our prison term because the term is eternal. In short we were children of wrath without hope and doomed (Ephesians 2:1-3).
The reality of all of this is that we can do nothing to save ourselves and if we live a good life, as we see it, we will still be separated from God’s presence forever (Ephesians 2:8) Also, we cannot find a champion amongst ourselves who will breach this chasm between God and mankind. When this truth dawned upon the Apostle John we are told that he wept (Revelation 5:1-4). The need that God has is to be true to His character and at the same time merciful to us. Even the angels, knowing well this dilemma, could not envisage a solution to it (1 Peter 1:10-12)
- The solution
A savior could not be found and cannot be found on earth from amongst mankind and yet God knew all of this would transpire before He made the world. He thus also knew, before the foundation of the world that He would have to become the solution to sin’s problem if He wanted to gain a family with which He could live eternally. He thus decided in Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, to come into the world and thereby be incarnated in a human body (John 1:14). This “New Adam” would be fully God and fully man and being without sin He could and did die for all of humanity as their representative. He died in our place and thus satisfied the demands of God’s character against us (1 Peter 3:18). His death was therefore a propitiation meaning that it fully satisfied and placated the character of God on our behalf. Paul put it this way:
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
All this being true the cross is changed from an awful instrument of execution to a glorious symbol of hope and salvation. Its meaning becomes greater than the events surrounding it and thus as Jesus cried out from it, “Tetelestai” meaning, “It is finished” or more correctly “it is paid”, we recognize that our debt has been paid in full and that God our Creator has found a way not only to save us but to demonstrate that He truly is holy-love and can be trusted for eternity (John 3:16) (1 John 4:10). We embrace this with joy and become what He desired us to be from all eternity; His children! Truly Jesus became our “kinsman redeemer” and because of His perfect and sinless life He could lay it down for us and pick it up again by the resurrection; a testimony to His divinity (Romans 1:3-4). Our good works are just like filthy rags before Him and our only hope is what He did for us on the cross (Isaiah 64:6)!
In essence God provided a new beginning for us in Christ, the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22). If we attach our lives to Him we become everything that God wanted us to be from eternity but if we remain attached to the old Adam we shall die with him. Paul expressed this truth in this way:
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”
The way home to God is only via the cross of Jesus and we rightly embrace it by repenting of our wickedness and trusting fully the finished work done upon it by Jesus on our behalf. There is no other way of salvation (Acts 4:12).
- The choice
Our choosing of God by exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross and by real heartfelt repentance for our rebellion against God means that God will declare us to be righteous just like He is righteous. That is, He will justify us meaning; we will be declared guilty but now fully forgiven and henceforth treated by Him as if we had never sinned. All our sins, past present and future, will be removed from us thereby freeing us from all condemnation and He will bring us into a living and real relationship with Himself by Jesus Christ. Romans five sets forth the blessings of being justified by God’s grace in Christ. Paul says that we are:
- Reconciled to God
- Have peace with Him
- Are filled with Joy…….and,
- Given real hope, even in great trials, by the Holy Spirit Who lives in us.
Our Savior fully satisfied the demands of God’s character on our behalf and thereby secured for each one of us the gift of God’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Bible states that He tasted death for every man and this is the glory and reach of the cross (Hebrews 2:9). No one need perish eternally (2 Peter 3:9) and to celebrate this truth the veil in the Temple was split from the top to the bottom when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51). God, in Christ, literally came down from heaven and filled our hearts with His love and blessing. The Bible calls the reception of this love and blessing being born again or regenerated by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; Titus 3:4-6). Those who embrace God’s saving grace in the cross will begin an eternal adventure with Him but those who reject this great saving work of the cross will be forever banished from the presence of God and have their abode in hell; a place initially only prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).