The Cross of Christ

ELDER NEIL PHELAN JR.

DECEMBER, 1993

THE CROSS OF CHRIST

"FOR CHRIST SENT ME NOT TO BAPTIZE, BUT TO PREACH THE GOSPEL: NOT WITH WISDOM OF WORDS, LEST THE CROSS OF CHRIST SHOULD BE MADE OF NONE EFFECT." I CORINTHIANS 1:17 

                              

There have been many crosses in history and there have been many men and women who have suffered pain and death upon a wooden cross, but there is one cross which is all important to a sinner: the cross of Christ. There are many who have no feeling whatsoever for the cross of Christ "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" - I Cor 1:18  

The cross was an instrument of capitol punishment; it was a place to die.  It was more than that to Jesus.  To Jesus it was a place of self denial, a place to take a stand; a place to die to self for others in whom He loved.  It was a battle ground; it was a place of separation between Himself and His Father;  it was a place of humility.  It was the furthermost place from whence He came: from the pinnacle of glory to the despised and cursed position of a cross.  

Why a cross?  After all, the Old Testament shadows of Christ, the offering of the slain beasts, were sacrificed upon an alter.  Why did Jesus suffer upon a wooden cross?  Many reasons could be given I'm sure, but we know that an alter would be a place that would openly testify that a sacrifice was made.  It would be an admission by the Jews that Jesus was some kind of sacrifice and that there was a need for His personal involvement in their sacrifice for sin.  No, not an alter, but rather a cross "for he that is hanged is accursed of God" Deut 21:23b., or as Paul put it "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" Gal 3:13.  Yes, his accusers wanted a cross to hang Him on because this was the most despicable and degradable means of death to a Jew;  their law declared it. Why a cross?  Because this was the ultimate price.  It was the furthermost distance from the pinnacle of glory.  God's righteous demands of the law required the greatest price: the jewel of heaven placed in the lowest place on earth...  a Roman cross. 

The preaching of the cross of Christ is powerful business, especially to one who has been blessed to see all that transpired at this single greatest event in all of history.  This is the only time in history that there was darkness over the face of the earth for 3 hours.  This was the only time in history that there was a great earthquake which brought forth bodies of many of the dead Saints.  Yes, this was the greatest event in all of history for God witnessed this moment with signs and wonders as His mighty prince won a bloody battle.  How do you feel about the cross?

I remember when I was working one summer for the county we were assigned a task which I found to be very uncomfortable.  There had been a car wreck in a field the night before, and we were to look through the weeds for a dead body.  At that age I feared that task, for as I waded the weeds I dreaded the thought of possibly stumbling upon a dead body.  Fortunately, there was no body to be found in that place but there was another place that I did find one.  It was not planned as was this search.  Rather than the body of a stranger, it was the body of my best friend.  I knew not that he had died as he did and I later found out that as he died my name was upon his lips.  He was observed by two friends praying in a garden for me just before his death.  When I found him I mourned and rejoiced at the same time.  I mourned because I loved him so much and realized that it was my fault that he suffered so, but I rejoiced because I realized for the first time in my life just how much he loved me.  Had he not died as he did, my life would have been required.  The horrors of such an event are difficult to explain to one who has never experienced such but it is an event that I shall never forget as long as I draw a breath.  For me the prophecy became reality "and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." Zech 12:10b. Even though I tried to look away from the body, there was an attachment I found difficult to dismiss.  The eyes seemed to penetrate my very soul from a distance of 2000 years.  I tried to justify my position as before by comparing my actions with various friends of the world but the face seemed to say "look at me", compare your life with mine."  I found that I could look to no other source as His eyes silently taught "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else". Isaiah 45:22.  Looking to self and self achievements became dung.  As I view the cross of Christ I can readily say with many other Christians "I know the exact time and place where I was saved".  I was not saved by a preacher, by a church, by a witnessing servant nor by a tract or tape.  I was saved approximately 2000 years ago by my best friend upon a Roman cross.  He is the Son of God and since He is my elder brother He loved me before I was ever born.  

As I view the cross of Christ I do not feel sorry for the one that hung there for me; I admire and worship Him.  I love and appreciate Him as I recognize the joy His cross ultimately brought Him "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame" Heb 12:b. His joy was fulfilled as He accomplished that in which He came for, to save the elect family of God.   

Paul defines two ways that we may preach the cross.  One way is by the wisdom and power of God and the other way is by the wisdom of words.  I have heard the cross of Christ preached both ways.  When the cross of Christ is preached with wisdom of words it is readily observable that man is endeavoring to save man.  When the cross of Christ is preach by the wisdom and power of God, Jesus does the saving, and He saves sinners for "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." I Tim 1:15.  The wisdom of words portrays the cross as the place where Jesus Christ made salvation possible.  The wisdom and power of God declares "it is finished".  The wisdom of words paints a picture of a suffering martyr who has done so very much for every one of Adam's race that they all should in turn be willing to worship and follow He who suffered for them; if they ever find out about it. The wisdom and power of God allows a sinner of the dust to view the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as He defies all principalities and powers and overcomes Satan, death, hell and the grave in a signal victory, and it is as sure for those who have heard about it as it is for those who have not.  The wisdom of words promotes fear for those who do not respond appropriately to the cross. The wisdom of God demands that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear".  The wisdom of words accents man's ability to persuade other men and women. The wisdom of the Cross highlights man's inability to rise above his fallen state viewing the cross as his only hope of salvation.  

I do not attempt to scare my children with God, but rather demand that they know where and when they were saved, and most especially, who saved them. I do teach them to respect God and fear Him in a reverential way.  The cross of Christ is "made of none effect" when men water down what actually transpired on that day; when men say that Jesus did all He could and the rest is left up to the sinner;  when men say that heaven may or may not be populated;  when men say that Jesus is in heaven today peering over the portals of glory, shedding big tears because He is unsure who will make it to heaven; when men paint Jesus Christ as a suffering, weak, whimpy, man who knew not who He came for nor who He redeemed.  Modern religion is saturated with "wisdom of words" but void of the power of the cross.   

There are many who do not like to revisit the cross.  The cross is a place that exposes ones guilt.  It is a place in which all that claim an interest in it are equally claiming a need of it.  All who claim an interest in the cross of Christ become confessing sinners admitting they are imperfect, depraved, insufficient, and in vital need of a savior.  The cross is a place of humility; how else would a sinner approach a death pole.  The more a person is willing to confess that Jesus accomplished for them upon the cross, the more humble that person will become; the more honor Jesus will receive; they begin to cast their crowns at His feet.  If Jesus did half and man did his half then they are equal; no crowns are cast here.  If Jesus did most and man did some, Jesus is greater, but not much; no grace here.  A depraved nature likes to claim a portion of the victory.  An humbled nature gives it all to Jesus.    

When a sinner, weighted down with a load of sin, observes the cross in it's full power, it becomes a place of magnanimous freedom.  It is as the ocean to a fish or the heavens to an eagle.  To an interested sinner, the cross provides freedom from the eternal effects of sin;  freedom from the immediate guilt of sin; freedom to finally worship God; freedom to call upon God without fear;  freedom to tell others about Jesus;  freedom to read the Word without fear of everlasting condemnation; freedom to claim the promises of God; freedom to contemplate a future home in heaven; freedom to claim the cross intimately and personally.  

Yes,  if you are a child of God the cross was for you, intimately and personally.  Jesus Christ knew every soul personally and intimately that He saved upon the cross for "by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:11b.  Jesus knew why he came and who He came for.  So far as numbers are concerned he came for "Many", not all. Some believe that He made salvation possible but "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" Isaiah 53:4a.  "and with is stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5d.  The glaring truth of the cross of Christ is that Jesus knew you personally; it was all for you.  Your sins became His; your pain became His; your hell became His.  Why?  Because you were and are His.  The cross of Christ is personal business!  That is why it is so powerful. Can we confess that "Jesus paid it all, all the sin I owe".  If we can, we are casting our crowns at His feet; we are giving Jesus the honor He is due;  we are dethroning self and exalting God; we are worshiping the King.   

--Sonny

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