BIBLE & LIFE

Bible Teaching Newsletter

of Biblical Doctrine & New Testament Assembly Life

Volume 4, No 1 January 1, 1997


The Death of the Cross

by David Dunlap

     The death of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. The death of the Lord Jesus Christ stands at the forefront of all New Testament truth. It is of primary importance and one of the weightiest articles of faith. "For I delivered unto you as of first importance ... that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" ( 1 Cor. 15:3 NASV). It is fundamental, the theme of all the Bible. In type and teaching the reader of the Bible is time and again comfronted and challenged with this truth. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ should desire to be firmly grounded in this important New Testament doctrine.

     The importance of the death of Christ is evident by the place occupies in the New Testament. The gospel writers take care to go to length and detail communicating this truth. Consider the place of the cross in the writings of the New Testament. It is mentioned in every book, except three short epistles(Philemon, Second and Third John). The gospels devote more space proportionately to the death of Christ than to any other aspect of Christ's life. The evidence is forceful and overwhelming. Matthew related the cruciftxion in 141 verses, two whole chapters. Mark devotes 116 verses, again two chapters - the longest of the 16 in his gospel. The Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul are bursting with a wealth of evidence and proof that the message of the cross was the heart of the gospel.

     The New Testament's emphasis on the cross is preeminently about Christ bearing punishment for the guilty. When Christ died upon the cross, He died for others, and not for His own sin. The Word of God is clear that Christ in His life and death was impeccable, that is sinless. The Bible declares the Lord Jesus Christ was without sin, (Heb. 4:15), Christ did not sin, (1 Pet 2:22), and that in Christ there is no sin. (l Jn 3:5). Heaven gave its very best for the very worst of earth. It was for others that Christ died, and in their place upon the cross that He bore the wrath of divine punishment.

     On Calvary's hill they raised a cross. They nailed Him there and mocked Him in His pain. They wagged their heads and said, "He saved others but Himself He could not save." With bitter and hateful words they mocked and scorned Him, yet they heard Him lift up His voice to the Father praying, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:24). Though scorched with thirst, racked with pain, and reviled by robbers, yet He received one into the very paradise of heaven, who was not fit by law to live on earth. However, bearing the shame of the cross was not enough, only the Son of God bearing our sins on the cross of shame could be enough - all-sufficient.



The Old Cross and the New

by A. W. Tozer

     All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental. From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique - a new type of meeting and new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.

     The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.

     The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

     The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting for the Lord." To the thrill-seeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.

     The philosophy in back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross. The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.

     The race of Adam is under the death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.

     We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, or the world of sports, or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life he offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him.

     What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die. Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.

     To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Spirit gave witness to God's approval.

     Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power.

A. W. Tozer, The Old Cross and the New, Christian Publications, Camp Hill, PA



The True Meaning of the Cross

by David B. Long

     Among evangelical Christians to-day this Biblical term, the cross, seems to be either poorly understood or else completely misunderstood. Whether our hymnology is the cause of this or the result of it is an open question, but we would be wise in any case to take our theology from our Bibles rather than our hymnbooks. Clinging to "the old rugged cross to exchange it one day for a crown" or worse still "Carry your cross with a smile" may have emotional appeal and sentimental impact, but not one of the ideas will be found in scripture. Neither do they come close to touching its true meaning.

     It is also true that weighty volumes can be found, some of them issued recently and authored by very learned and esteemed men, in which the real meaning of the cross has been ignored entirely. Much of this is because the cross is seen merely as a synonym for the sacrificial and substitutionary work of Christ and nothing more. Yet the scriptures show it to be very much more.

     The emphasis of the "Cross" in the New Testament is that it is a symbol of man's total rejection of God's Christ. Man gave Him a cross; God gave Him the highest place far above all heavens, the name that is above every name, and the promise of the throne of the universe. The Jews wanted to have Christ degraded by crucifixion in order to destroy forever any thought of worth, and ensure that He would never become an object of faith and worship. How wrong they were has been proven by the ages from then until now.

     The disciples of our Lord, in obedience to His teaching, immediately took the cross.as the badge of discipleship. He had been rejected and nailed to a cross and it would now be the emblem of their identification with Him in that rejection and reproach.

Taken from- The Cross - Its True Meaning, John Ritchie, Kilmarnock, Scotland, 1994, 1,4-5

 


 

"I verily think that the cross of Christ would blush and think shame of these, who are so married to their pleasure that they are ashamed of the suffering of Christ. I desire not to go on sunny side of my religion ... my Saviour did not so for me, who in his suffering took the windy side of the hill."

Samual Rutherford, (1600-1661) Scottish Covenanter

 


 

"Jesus hath many lovers of this kingdom but few bearers of the cross ... all are disposed to rejoice with him, but few willing to suffer for His sake."

Thomas A Kempis, - from The Imitation of Christ.

 


 

"And when I think that God, his Son not sparing sent him to die, I scarce can take it in, that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin."

Carl Boberg (1859-1940)

 


 

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