The Cross of Christ has Multiple Purposes
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 17-18
“For I decided to know nothing among you accept Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2
The Apostle Paul made it very clear that the power of the Gospel was contained in the cross of Christ, and that this was the center of his message. He did not use eloquence of words or the wisdom of this world to enhance his communication of the gospel but focused solely on the crucifixion of Jesus.
When men accomplish a good work in their life and there is a secondary benefit or additional accomplishment, sometimes unintended, we like to use the saying, “He was able to kill two birds with one stone.” When God does something, I like to say that it is the equivalent of killing millions of birds with one stone. We can’t even recognize or understand all that God accomplishes when He does a work in our lives. Yet we are hesitant to let go and let Him do it. We are hesitant to entrust things to Him and wait on Him. Let it be known that the great and amazing God that we serve has multiple purposes in all that He does and accomplishes above and beyond what we are even capable of thinking or imagining.
The greatest event in the history of mankind was the death and subsequent resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and there were multiple accomplishments as a result of this event. It is important to fully recognize that the cross/resurrection event had multiple purposes. We like to think in terms of singular purpose. The cross is often preached in Christian circles as a means of forgiveness and redemption for a fallen world. As important as this purpose of the cross of Christ is, we are remiss if we focus on this purpose and accomplishment only. For there are many very important things that the cross represents for us and many purposes that we need to consider and implement in our lives. The power of the cross of Christ is in all of these purposes. This is what I would like to discuss; let’s look at the main purposes of the cross:
1) The Cross represents God’s merciful forgiveness and love for us
“But God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2: 4-7
Most Christians understand that the death of Jesus on the cross was a means for God the Father to extend forgiveness for our past sins so that we can be reconciled in our relationship with Him. This reconciliation was initiated totally from His side out of His mercy and His love for us. In fact, we were enemies of God and did not deserve to be forgiven, but God reached out to us and touched our lives, opening our eyes to His truth so that we could be restored in our relationship with Him. Our understanding of this undeserved favor and love towards us resulting in our total forgiveness is critical. It ignites a response of love in us towards Him. It also establishes our perspective towards others, as we must consider His mercy towards us when we look to forgive or show mercy towards others.
I won’t belabor this point since I believe it is a topic that most Christians have been taught well, but I will emphasize its importance and suggest that we all have need for a deeper understanding of the depth of God’s love for us.
“While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man – though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, though whom we now received our reconciliation.” Romans 5: 6-11
2) The Cross represents God’s justice and legal victory
“And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in Him.” Colossians 2: 13-15
The Scriptures have revealed to us that God has established a legal system, a government, in the heavenly, spiritual realm that applies to the spiritual principalities and powers that be. It has also been revealed that it is important to God that His character remains impeccable in the sight of all. Therefore, in order for Him to remain just, and for the legal requirements of His heavenly governmental system to be satisfied, there needed to be a legal payment made for our redemption. This payment was made by the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, and His blood represented the payment to justifiably redeem us from the penalty of our trespasses. Thus, God remains just and fair while mankind receives a means of reconciliation and restoration with God.
We will most likely never know the full extent of this redemptive act until we reach heaven and see the fuller picture of the situation. For now we need to know that God had a legal purpose in the Lord’s death and has fulfilled that purpose and gained an important victory over His enemies.
We must also recognize that we are totally acceptable to God the Father based on the blood of Jesus and we can enter boldly into His presence even now, and we can be confident that He will complete our salvation and fulfill His promise of eternal life to us in the future.
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until His enemies should be made a stool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are consecrated.” Hebrews 10: 12-14
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from and evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10: 19-25
3) The Cross is an example for us
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5: 1-2
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the living God, left His position in heaven and humbled Himself to become a man. He then lived a spotless life without sin, and when called by the Father, began an earthly ministry that was unparalleled by any other, filled with signs, wonders, miracles, and revelations in full obedience to the will of His Father. His obedience to the Father culminated in His suffering and cruel death on a Roman cross as an innocent man. His only “crime” was to stand for the truth and attempt to reveal this truth to the world. The details of His life are recorded in the Gospels. These records display His nature. His final act of suffering and death are the ultimate example of selfless love and obedience to God. This example should inspire us to walk in similar selflessness and love, with the same type of endurance in the face of evil and persecution from evil men.
We are without excuse if we attempt to see our situation, no matter what it may be, as impossible for us to overcome, or as impossible to endure while walking in love. Jesus set the high bar for us to emulate. We know love by His love. For Christians, there is no place for hatred, jealousy, strife, divisions, etc.
“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not wonder, brethren, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love remains in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3: 11-18
Christ’s suffering and death on the cross is an example for us to emulate. We can expect to encounter the same hatred towards us. We need to be prepared to suffer if necessary. We need to give of ourselves as He did to practice the same love as He did.
4) The Cross is a tool for our transformation
“But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6: 14
As Christians we understand that a transformation must take place in our lives. We must become new creatures. We must become spiritual, born of the Spirit. An internal transformation must take place that changes the way that we think, the way that we perceive our surroundings and situations. We must change our world view to one that is based on faith, and not on our own understanding and observations. So how does this change occur?
We must put the old nature to death. We are instructed by the scriptures to die with Christ on the cross, to crucify our old self., and the cross is the tool that we use to accomplish this. We die to our flesh and die to this world system. We consider ourselves as having died with Christ. This is an act of faith whereas we believe that our old carnal man has died and we have become a new spiritual creation.
“For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Romans 6: 5-8
It is important to realize that we are not just dying, but we are dying like He died, and this unites us with Him, bringing us into the promise of also being resurrected like He was.
5) The Cross and subsequent resurrection is a source of our Hope
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1: 3
I would have much to say about the hope that has been established by the cross and resurrection, but I will have to save it for a later writing. Suffice it to say that the promise of eternal life has been established by the event of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the focus of our hope. This is what we are waiting for. This is why we are storing up our treasures in heaven. This is why we are patiently enduring this life, patient in well-doing, and not growing weary in performing our good works, so that we can receive the promised reward of glory, honor, immortality and eternal life.
In summary, we, as Christians, can look to the cross to increase our love, establish our hope, transform our inter nature to become spiritual, and as an example of how we should walk in love, endure suffering, and face persecution. As the song writer has said, “I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it one day for a crown!” Amen.