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The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
Galatians 6:14, 15: "God forbid that I should glory [boast], save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world was crucified unto me and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." - The Apostle Paul
What did Paul mean by this? He meant to declare strongly that he was determined to rest on nothing, lean on nothing, build his hope on nothing, place confidence in nothing, glory in nothing, or brag about nothing other than "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" for being the basis of unification with Christ and the cause of living accordingly.
The phrase “The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” is in reference to the complete and perfect sacrifice and transference that took place on the tree of Calvary. In short, “the cross” means Christ crucified. Paul new that being a new creation in Christ was due to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he knew that walking accordingly was also a product of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Philippians 3:8, 18: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for which I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as dung, that I may win Christ… Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of [enemies of what?] the cross of Christ):”
The context of Galatians 6 offers further insight as to the significance and meaning of verses 14 and 15. Boasting in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, as opposed to boasting in anything else, is presented therein as a countermeasure against falling into the trap of legalism. There are several warnings in Paul’s letters about people who desire to “make a fair show in the flesh” (see just three verses prior for example- Galatians 6:12), those who compare themselves to others, those who attempt to change themselves and others by the use of rules and regulations, those who judge, those who divide. They can be as sincere as sincere gets, and they are likely to believe they have just the right “spiritual insight” and “wisdom” from “God’s Word” to help you clean up your act, for helping you obtain a flow of moral reformation successes. However, God's way of successful growth and change for us is in Christ and is communicated by the terms of the New Covenant, which is a matter of gospel transformation not behavior modification.
In terms of our acceptance with God and our Christian walk-- God forbid that we boast in anything, save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Message of the Cross A.K.A. The Gospel of Christ
THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS is foolishness to them who are perishing [present participle], but unto us who are being saved [present participle]; it is THE POWER OF GOD [Power is "dunamis" in the Greek. This is potential power- manifested to the degree the message is believed].
For I am not ashamed of THE GOSPEL OF [concerning] CHRIST: for it is THE POWER OF GOD [Power is "dunamis" in the Greek. Again. this is potential power...] unto salvation to every one that believeth [present participle]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [this means everyone].
The Message of the Cross – The Gospel of [concerning] Christ - The Gospel of [from] God - The Promised Gospel - THESE ARE ALL TITLES OF THE SAME MESSAGE generally referred to simply as “The Gospel”. THE USE OF VARIOUS TITLES ARE SIMPLY A MATTER OF EMPHASIS AND ASPECT. The Message of the Cross places the emphasis on the aspect of Christ crucified. Christ and Him crucified are the most emphasized aspects of the gospel throughout Paul's letters, for without Christ and Him crucified there would be no good news, no reconciliation to God, no blessings in Christ... there would be little more than eventual doom for mankind. Mark these words from 1Corinthians 15:3, “I told you the most important part of the gospel exactly as I received it. That part is: Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say… and… and… and...,” ...and before the remainder of the chapter so eloquently expands into the greatness of Christ's resurrection and our identity with him therein, we first see had Jesus not paid for our sins on the cross we would still be dead in our trespasses in sin, without God, without hope - game over.
We cannot be too familiar with the New Covenant, especially the components of Christ crucified. The wisdom of men is too often disguised as the wisdom of God. We always do well remembering it was the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that ushered in the New Covenant. And when it comes to the new and old covenants, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. No, not at all, new wine must be put into new wineskins. This metaphor of wine and wineskins that Jesus used to make this point (Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22 and Luke 5:37) was drawn from contemporary culture. New wine would stretch the new wineskins as it continues to ferment. The new wineskins would eventually dry and harden in their stretched condition. If new wine was put into an old stretched-out and hardened wineskin, the fermentation would burst the skin. The new covenant has a great deal of power and activity associated with it. It explodes out of the boundaries of Old Testament revelation and continues to cross boundaries. It cannot be contained by precepts and ordinances.
- Colossians 2:20-23: "20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh."
- Hebrews 8:13: "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away."
- 2Corinthians 3:6-8: "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 27 But if the ministration of death [the Old Covenant], written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit [the New Covenant] be rather glorious?"
- 2Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Christ crucified! This is the price sufficient for satisfying the demands of God’s justice, thereby opening the floodgates for the outpouring of His blessings to His people. Christ crucified is the means by which God’s love reaches us. And it is that which secures the blessings of God. We learn who and what we really are in Christ and how much we really mean to God when our hearts are beating in tune with, “God forbid that I should glory in anything, save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul, with his ugly past as the “chief of sinners” (1Timothy 1:15), blaspheming God, persecuting Christ, presiding over the murder of Christians, a Pharisee of Pharisees, had been washed in the blood of Christ. Oh how God’s grace labored in our brother Paul. He knew that the wrath of God against his wretched and wicked past was poured out on Jesus at the cross. Paul knew that he himself did not get what he deserved, that he got the riches of God’s grace instead. And he knew that he could never merit such divine favor, that nobody could, save our Lord Jesus Christ. He didn’t even bother trying; figuratively speaking, he simply continued feeding, by believing the gospel, on Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Christ crucified was the meat and drink of his soul. This aspect of the gospel raises and nourishes champions-- for therein is the love of God revealed-- Christ and him crucified for our sins-- to reconcile us to God-- to open the floodgate of God's blessings upon His people.
The church epistles radiate with Christ crucified. And did you know that the cross of Christ occupies about fifty percent of “the four gospels?” Did you know that Jesus Christ, and him crucified is actually the centerpiece of the entire Bible? Did you know that Christ crucified is written in the stars as the central theme of all creation. The church epistles enlarge on the cross constantly. Paul returns to it continually. Christ crucified is the red thread that runs through the entire Bible. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is a prophecy of Christ crucified. The clothing of Adam and Eve with animal skins, Abel’s sacrifice, the story of Abraham, Isaac and that ram, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood at the altars, in the tabernacle, in the temple,—all these and much more were communications, reminders, emblems, tokens, patterns of Christ crucified.
And this is by no means about head knowledge. People can know precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato and Aristotle. Christians can confess that they are Christians until holy water runs out of their ears, sparks fly from their fingertips, and birds suddenly appear when they are near. I’m talking about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If they lack the mindset that Christ crucified is the foundation for everything else, their religion is like a planet without a sun, a lamp without oil, a compass without a needle, a car without wheels. Take away the cross, and the entire Bible is a dark book,—a bit like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, without the key that interprets their meaning,—intriguing, but of no real use.
Christians may know a good deal about Jesus Christ. They may know who Jesus of Nazareth was, where he was born and what he did. They may know his miracles and his sayings. They may know how he lived, how he suffered, and how he died. They may even know what the Bible says about their unification and identity in Christ (in a head knowledge sort of way). But unless they know the power of Christ’s cross, that his bloodshed at Calvary washes away their sins (past, present and future), that their new life and being in Christ is due to that grace of Christ (see Galatians 1:4-6), - unless JESUS CHRIST IS LORD be the banner of their heart, the potential power of God will remain dormant in their present condition. There are many sick and weakly among them, and many sleep. Oh no! What’s God’s remedy?
Please tell me, if someone does not see glory and beauty in the subject of Christ’s cross, or think it painful and degrading, if they do not see much profit in the story of his death and sufferings, if they rather turn from it as an unpleasant thing, "a distraction from the important stuff", what message are they hearing? It’s not the message of Paul’s Letters. His words and actions did not support such thinking. It’s a good thing to know and remember why Jesus was betrayed into the hands of wicked men, why they condemned him with the most unjust judgment, why they spit on him, scourged him, beat him, and crowned him with thorns; why they led him forth as a lamb to the slaughter, without his murmuring or resisting; why they drove those spikes through his flesh and raised him up on Calvary’s tree between thieves and robbers; why they pierced him with a spear, mocked him in his sufferings, and let him hang there in agony until he died.
All of Christ’s sufferings were fore-ordained, purposed and planned by God. They did not come on him by chance or accident, or by the sole will and doings of men and demons. They were all planned, counseled, and determined from before all creation, by the creator of it all. And it is on account of Christ that all things are created, things in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, thrones, dominions, principalities and powers; all things were created on the basis of Christ and the pouring out of his blood for the sins of mankind. The cross was designed by God for our redemption. Not one throb of pain did Jesus feel, not one precious drop of blood did Jesus shed, which had not been appointed long before the creation of man.
People forget that all of Christ’s sufferings on the cross were necessary for man’s salvation. He had to bear our sins, if ever they were to be borne at all. This was the one payment of our debt that God would accept. This was the great sacrifice on which everything else rests. If Christ had not gone to the cross and suffered in our stead, the just for the unjust, there would not have been any redemption for us. There would not have been a resurrection. There would be no hope. There would have remained a mighty gulf between us and God, which nobody ever could have passed. God’s grace bridged that gap through His only begotten son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
People forget that all of Christ’s sufferings were endured voluntarily and of his own free will. He laid down his life for us by his own choice. He willingly went to the cross to finish the work he was born to do. He might easily have summoned legions of angels and scattered the Jews, Pilate, Herod and all their armies, like chaff before the wind. But he was a willing sacrifice. His heart was set on the redemption of mankind. He was resolved to open that cleansing fountain for all sin and uncleanness by the shedding of his own blood, in that horrifying episode of enduring the cross.
When we look at Christ’s cross we see love and power, wisdom and redemption, righteousness and sanctification, peace and joy, hope and comfort. The more we look at the cross in our mind’s eye, the more fullness we discern in it, we become satisfied that there is more to be learned and appreciated at the foot of the cross regarding our present and future position and riches in Christ than anywhere else.
Where can I see the love of God most clearly displayed? Shall I read the biographies of Gandhi and Mother Teresa? Shall I search the Internet for pictures of Jesus hugging people? Shall I join Green Peace? Oh no! I can find a stronger proof of love than anything of that sort. I’ll look to the cross of Christ. There at the cross I see that God so loved me that He gave His only begotten son—gave him to suffer and die—to make me His own. God loves me! I cannot find a cause in myself, but I can see it manifested at the cross. Oh Saints, I might fancy this not to be true at times, but I cannot, must not, dare not, think it not true when I am looking at the cross. God loves me!
Shall I know what is meant by God is holy, holy, holy, and why sin is so abominable in His sight? If so, shall I turn to the history of the flood and read how sin drowned the world? Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? Shall I spend time observing how sin scattered the Israelites over the face of the earth? At the cross I see that sin is so black and damnable, that nothing but the blood of Jesus can settle the debt. Oh my, the mercy and grace of God! Holy, Holy, Holy indeed!
Can I trust that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1Corinthians 1:24)? If so, how can I obtain such faith? Shall I measure it against the fruit in my life? Shall I weigh it against the failures and successes of people who are ministers of Christ? Shall I chant “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God … Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God … Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” over and over until I finally believe it? No! No! No! I will look at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. I can find no greater evidence elsewhere. There at the cross is where I see that a full payment has been made for all of mankind’s enormous debt. The curse of God’s broken law - the consequences of separation from God - the wrath of God - the penalty for all of mankind’s sin; all came down on the one who suffered in our stead at Calvary. The just demands of God’s holy law have been once and for all satisfied. Complete payment has been made, once and for all, for all. It will not be required again. Perfectly planned - perfectly accomplished!
As we find more and more answers in the redeemers shed blood we become more and more confident and appreciative of what God has made us to be in Christ. It is from understanding the truth and significance of the cross of Christ that the affirmations of our unification, identification and authority in Christ become realizations.
Now, I might sometimes imagine that I act too awful to be forgiven - the tempter’s voice whispers that I am unworthy of God’s love and grace. But I will not fall prey to such foolish unbelief. And I find no balm for a sore conscience and a troubled heart, like the sight of Jesus Christ, and him being crucified for the sins of all mankind.
This is the message that most expeditiously breaks the shackles of living unto self. Shall we trust in the transforming power of God’s grace? Yes! Shall we meditate on who and what we are in Christ? Yes! Shall we take God at His word regarding our authority in Christ? Yes! Yes to all of these things. Yes! And we do so from the foot of the cross of Christ. We will boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thereby find refrain from submission to the legalistic tactics of behavior modification. There at the cross is where we become thankful that we are not our own, that we have been bought with a price. We have been set free from the slavery of sin. The cross is where we discover the righteousness of God that we have been made to be. At the cross we find God’s love and grace in Christ as the only means for having an intimate and effective walk with Him.
Look at Galatians 6:14 and 15 again, it is by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that the world has been crucified unto us and us unto the world, because in Christ Jesus, works of the flesh mean squat. We are a new creation in Christ, not because of anything we did, and not because of anything we do, not even because of anything we’re going to do in response, but because of what was accomplished at the cross. This message avails much, God forbid I boast in anything other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But how can I possibly be content and joyful under all the cares and anxieties of these present times? Shall I accept that I am just being negative and learn to look on the brighter side of life? Shall I look for solace in the words and rhythmic style of the Reggae tune “Don’t Worry, Be Happy?” Shall I study the subject of the sovereignty of God and learn to accept my lot in life? Shall I view the pressures of life as proof of my failure to believe truth, and buckle down on confessing who and what I really am and what I really have? It may be well to do so, but I have a better argument still. I will look at the cross of Christ. At the foot of the cross I believe that God, who spared not His only begotten son, but delivered him up to die for me will surely with him freely give me all things.
We can find tremendous boldness and confidence for accepting the promises of God at the foot of the cross. The blood of Jesus sprinkles our heart from an evil conscience and it cleanses our bodies (see Hebrew 11:19-23). Show me a person who does not view who we are and what we have in Christ through the message of the cross, and I will show you a person who cannot understand or appreciate who they are and what they have in Christ.
The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the crown jewel of our riches in Christ! There is a special comfort and power which belongs to nothing else; miserable and weak indeed are the religious teaching systems which contain little to nothing of the cross; a Christian ministry which teaches in this way might as well profess to explain the solar system, and yet tell the hearers nothing about the sun. Ministering Christ is always first and foremost a matter of proclaiming the message of the cross. Without it we are like soldiers without arms,—like an artist without his pencil,—like a pilot without his instrument panel,—like a surgeon without his scalpel. Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality. Let others hold forth their fables about the terrors of hell and their false imaginations about heaven. Let others be ever pressing upon their friends and family the sacraments of their counterfeit religion. Give me the cross of Christ. This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down and delivered men and women from the power of sin. And if this will not, nothing will.
The message of the cross is that preaching and teaching which God delights to back and bless. He simply cannot honor that which does not honor the cross – honor due Christ prohibits it. God forbid, we glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- John 12:32, 33: “32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die."
Christ crucified humbles proud hearts, comforts sad hearts, and strengthens fainting hearts. And there is no other message that can replace “the message of the cross.” And lest we forget, this phrase is in reference to the entire message of the gospel delivered unto Paul, with the aspect of Christ and him crucified being front and center. Other messages may amuse some. They feed none. Without Christ crucified being at the very heart of the message, the riches of the glory of the mystery cannot be effectively ministered or received. Attempts to minister the effects of Christ’s work without the cross are about as effective as a well without water, a barren fig tree, a silent trumpet. And any other version of the gospel is a twist of the genuine, a hot-bed for legalism, a joy to the devil, a slap to the face of Christ, and an offense to God. Whenever a ministry puts anything whatsoever in that foremost place which Christ and him crucified for the sins of mankind should always have, from that moment it ceases to be useful.
The first four chapters of 1Corinthians reveals the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ as the grand center of union for the members of his church. There is no doubt that our differences according to the flesh are many. But, after all, what shall we hear about these differences in heaven? Nothing; nothing at all, they will all be burned up. Union at the station on outward points is only union for a short time. Union at the cross on inward points is union for eternity. True unity of purpose and function is a production of God, realized by those who boast in nothing but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ as being the basis for unification with Christ and the cause for living accordingly.
Do you know someone who is mentally distressed? Are you being moved by God to help them? Is their heart pressed down with sickness, tired with disappointments, overburdened with cares? Proclaim the message of the cross. Hold the love of God before their eyes by showing them Christ crucified. Have you looked at 1John 4:10 and Romans 5:8 lately? Do you understand what they are saying? Of course you do. So talk about that sacrifice, that substitution, that price that was paid for them. You will be helping them understand, accept and appreciate the rest of the riches of God’s grace in Christ by doing so. And by all means, never shy away from the bloody details; there is power in that blood! But make sure this person knows why Jesus hung in agony on the cross! Invite them to the cross, Saint or sinner alike, makes no difference, they need the body and the blood! In times past and in times present, nobody has outgrown the need for hearing much about Christ crucified and the blessing procured by that demonstration of God's love for them.
- Romans 8:32: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Perhaps you’re desirous for the things of God and yet perplexed and brought to a stand-still by difficulties in the Bible which you cannot explain? Same solution, behold the cross of Christ. And if you find the church epistles difficult (Romans - 2Thessalonians) maybe Mark 1:1 would be a better place to start, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Or maybe you're finding your heart too readily pressured or pleasured away from God by earthly things? To you also, “Behold the cross of Christ.” View both how God sees you now and the promises to be fulfilled at the return of Christ as being based upon the accomplished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, not upon your own efforts or lack thereof. Think about what this means. Meditate on the realities of who you are in Christ and on the hope of his return from the foot of the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. You cannot look for long at anything from the foot of the cross without your mindset and actions getting affected by the power of God.
God considers the work of Jesus Christ and the results thereof as being very significant. As with Cain, our perspective and God’s are not always the same. God says "I gave my only begotten Son for you", but we say "something in my hands I bring". But as we continue looking at the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ and the results of his work, our perspectives come more and more into alignment with God’s. God forbid we boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:7)
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:13)
"He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of The Son of His Love, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13)
"For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matthew 26:28)
"... and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." (Ephesians 2:14)
"But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins ... By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:3, 10)
"... who himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed." (1Peter 2:24)
"... that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil..." (Hebrews 2:14)
"... and from Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the Dead, and the Ruler Over the kings of the Earth. To him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to his God and Father." (Revelation 1:5)
"For it pleased the Father that in him all the fullness should dwell, and by him to reconcile all things to Himself, by him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1:19)
"... he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself ... so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many." (Hebrews 9:26, 28)
"For even The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)