"The cross of Christ."

1869 222 The cross is the place where all that was against us, our transgressions and iniquities — in fact, the things done, and the nature which did them — were laid upon Christ: "our old man is crucified with him." He bore the full judgment of God on their account in His sufferings on the cross. He carried them all down to death, under the wrath which He endured, that He might leave them in the place of ashes, having made atonement by the shedding of His own blood. God has there put an end to man in the flesh, to sin and sins, by the judicial death of Christ as our substitute; and Christ, having brought these things under the eye and hand of God to be thus dealt with, has for ever put them away from before God, and from us, by the sacrifice of Himself.

The cross, moreover, is the place where the nature of God has been vindicated; for the full claims of His holiness, and majesty have been met, and His glory established, by what Christ has borne, and the judgment that fell upon Him there. The penalties too, which divine righteousness inflicted on the man who fell, have been met, and endured, and set aside; yea, more than this, for Christ has "taken the cup" from the hand of God and drunk it to the dregs. What was contrary to God is gone for ever, and gone by death. Nothing remains but the blood in the prevalence of its own efficacy, shed where we were, and because of what we were, as sinners in our sins; but carried in where God is, in the supremacy of His holiness; and we are thus "reconciled to God by the death of his Son."

Again, the cross is the place where all that was contrary to us has been taken out of the way; the middle wall of partition, which separated man from his fellow (the Jew and the Gentile), has been there broken down. "Christ has abolished in his flesh the enmity … for to make in himself of twain, one new man, so making peace."

Besides this superiority in the flesh, of which the Jew properly boasted against the Gentile previous to the cross, there was also the corresponding "handwriting of ordinances," which maintained this difference, as long as Christ was known according to the flesh. But at the cross this religious superiority is also set aside, and Christ has taken that out of the way, and blotted out what was contrary to us as Gentiles, who were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."

Thus, in this threefold aspect of the cross, there is an end made of man in the flesh before God in Christ; and all that once separated a sinner from God has been for ever put away by the sacrifice and death of our Substitute, who was nailed to it. Again, we have seen how Christ destroyed the enmity between flesh and flesh which separated man from man, and broke down the middle wall of partition which Judaism sustained. Lastly, we have traced how religious ordinances, which favoured the Jew and were contrary to the Gentile, have been blotted out, and "taken out of the way, Christ nailing them to his cross."

How plainly may we see thus the breakdown of all that man was in the flesh, whether by his birth, circumcision, or religion, at the cross of Jesus Christ! Truly must God in righteousness judge, and set aside Jew and Gentile, who had thus condemned, cast out, and crucified the Son of His own love, sent in grace and mercy into their midst. How can He any longer recognize or sustain distinctions in the flesh, when the most distinguished of men were "the betrayers and murderers" of Christ? Where would righteousness be in a scene like the cross, if God did not put down for ever, not only distinctions, but the flesh itself, which had rejected Him in the person of His Son? This He has done in the double form of death by judgment on the old Adam, and by the introduction of another life, declared to be His free gift in the Second man. There is yet a further lesson from the cross for those who by grace can say, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I. but Christ liveth in me;" and it is this. The cross discovers to such what the world is — this busy, active, self-willed world, which has rejected and killed the Saviour, the Prince of glory, that it might be left free to pursue its principles and objects, in its own way.

Can there be a link then between it and one who is Christ's? Surely not, if there be any true-heartedness and loyalty according to God and to Christ, as the rejected One! No, the last link is broken, as the spirit of such a one (disentangled once and for ever from all that is of it and in association with it) says, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world." If the cross be this, as regards God and Christ — sin and holiness — the flesh and the world — death and Satan — Jew and Gentile, where can we learn the true character and measure of these things, except in the place where all that was our own was judged, condemned, and brought to an end? For example, can we discover the nature and heinousness of sin anywhere else, as we are taught it at the cross, where "he who knew no sin, was made sin for us;" and who could only put it away from the presence of God by the sacrifice of Himself? We may look into ourselves, and see and feel something of what indwelling sin is, as measured and estimated by a guilty conscience, or a terror-stricken heart, and say, "O wretched man that I am!" But is this to be compared for a moment with the cry of Him who said, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" We may think of the punishment of sin "where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched;" but can any discovery of the righteous desert of transgression, as borne by those who committed it, be compared with what sin must be to the nature and being of God who could not pass it by when imputed to His only begotten and well-beloved Son, who knew no sin?

We do well, as believers in Christ, to celebrate the triumphs of the cross as regards God and ourselves, and its victories and gain to Christ raised from the dead, and crowned with glory and honour on high; but where shall we learn the lessons it has to teach us respecting all that God has blotted out and cast behind His back for ever? Shall we forget that this same cross which has purchased our liberty, and is the witness of our eternal salvation, tells us that Christ "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works?" How can a Christian practically set himself in correspondence with the thoughts of God since the crucifixion, but by death — his own death — in the true confession of the darkness and death, under which the whole world has brought itself, by the rejection of Christ, and in which He has left it, who is the resurrection and the life?

Our way out from under the whole power and range of what once separated us from God is by death. "It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." The penalties which are exhausted by Christ on the cross, can no longer shut out and separate us from God; on the contrary, they are the open doors of faith's deliverance, as we follow our ascended Lord to the throne of the majesty in the heavens. "All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." The death which Jesus died enables us now to read without terror, that "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" — because we know Him who put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

It is of great moment for the believer to learn that our undisputed passage out of this world is by means of these very penalties which the righteousness of God inflicted on the man who sinned. "The wages of sin is death," and these wages have been paid (not avoided) by our Substitute, and we are free.

By man sin entered, death entered, and the law entered into the world; and these held their undisputed title and sway, when we were born into it. Moreover, each of these three mighty powers (being what they are in relation to mankind) had their respective dominions. Besides this, we know that because of what we personally were by nature, and on account of actual transgression we added to their power; but neither of them has a title to pursue us beyond the limit of death's dominions; and this very death has been accepted and paid by Christ, as our only discharge. We are "free" by death (not by life) though a Christian, in virtue of another life communicated, asserts his deliverance by his obedience. These three dominions of sin, death, and the law, are plainly treated in Romans 6:9, 14; Romans 8:1, and our deliverance is as fully declared to be from under each, by death. "Wherefore my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." Again, "knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead: dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him."

How different are the lessons from life unto death in the first man, and death unto life in the Second man! The first was a defeat, through the temptations of the devil: the second a victory, through resurrection from the dead "by the glory of the Father." And as to ourselves, "sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law but under grace." Finally, the cross is the vindication of the "throne of the majesty in the heavens" to those who dwell there, against all that outraged the government of God in the earth beneath. The great High Priest at "the right hand of God" is the guarantee to faith of the coming glory, which is God's answer to the cross, and of the travail of Christ's soul in death. In the meanwhile, God has sealed us as heirs, joint-heirs with Christ, by the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. Morally as men, and judicially as sinners, we are set right with God by the cross of Christ — "there is no condemnation." Moreover, the reproach of Egypt the world that we came from is rolled away from us," as we pass into the glory by ascension in the image of Him who died to bring us there. A further demonstration will thus be given of what the cross has introduced us to, as we settle in for ever in the mansions which He has gone before to prepare for us in the Father's house.

Here we might close, in the happy acknowledgment of what the cross delivers from, and establishes the believer in, were it not that (during the little while we are waiting for the Lord, and carrying on the testimony of present salvation in the world where the cross of Christ is still preached, through the long-suffering grace of God), the scriptures point out three dangers, where the crafty power of the enemy lies concealed.

The first is found in 1 Corinthians 1:17; "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not with wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." It is plain there is a double warning here — putting baptism, which is an ordinance (or, as is now affirmed, a means of sacramental grace) in the place of preaching the word, by demonstration of the Spirit, in saving power to him that believes; the other, pulpit oratory, as though the cross of Christ could gain anything in its effect on the conscience by excellence of speech.

The next danger is pointed out in Galatians 5:11, where Paul asks, "if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased." Here it is equally plain that something good in the flesh and the consequent improvement of the flesh (for this is what circumcision supposed) is the thing which makes the offence of the cross to cease; for the cross is the denial of man in the flesh, with all his pretensions. It is therefore an offence to man as such, by showing him that he is the betrayer and murderer of the Son of God, and that there is no salvation for him as a sinner, except through the blood of Christ, which proves his guilt.

The last danger presented is in Galatians 6:12 "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ." What is this fair show in the flesh, but an acceptance of the prevailing and established religion of the day, and so escaping persecution for the cross of Christ, which denies the formalism of mere outward and established pietism? In this instance, persecution (the natural accompaniment of the true confession of the cross) is separated from it; just as in the former examples circumcision did away with the offence of the cross, and excellency of speech made it of none effect. How little the pulpit and the churches of Christendom have attended to these warnings of the apostle is too notorious to require any comment. J. E. Batten.