5. The Doctrine of the Cross
The most powerful and important doctrine in the whole Bible, is the Doctrine of the Cross. It is the foundation of our Christian faith. In 1 Corinthians 1:18we read, “That the message of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This message has the power to set us free from sin and completely change our lives.
The message of the cross is based on the principle that life comes out of death. Jesus said in John 12:24, “Unless a corn falls to the ground and dies it abides alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” We have many examples in the Bible. The first example of this principle is the creation of the world. When God created the earth we read that each day started in the evening and ended in the morning. First darkness then comes light. Death and darkness are often grouped together (see John 1). God moves from death and darkness into life and light.
We have the example of Moses who spent forty years in the wilderness, before he could lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Abraham had to be willing to offer his son as a sacrifice before he could become the father of many nations. We have many other examples such as Joseph, David and even Paul in the New Testament.
The greatest example is Jesus. He had to die and suffer on the cross before He could be raised from the dead and become Savior of the world. The same is true with us. We have to die to ourselves in order to experience the resurrection life of Jesus, we have to go down in order to go up, we have to give in order to receive and we have to serve before we can lead.
There are four sides to the message of the cross.
The first side to the doctrine of the cross is the exchange that took place at the cross:
It is our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross for us. Consider the following scriptures. 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him sin who knew no sin, that we may become the righteousness of God through Him.” Jesus took our sin on the cross and gave us His righteousness. We are righteous today, not because of our deeds, but because of our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Galatians 3: 13-14, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us … that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles.” Every curse that was legally ours, because of our deeds and the deeds of our ancestors, was placed on Jesus on the cross. In exchange all the blessings that God promised to Abraham, have now become our legally because of the cross. In Genesis 24:1 we read that “God blessed Abraham in all things.” Therefore in Ephesians 1:3we read that “God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.” We are blessed, not because we earned the blessing, but because we believe in what Jesus did for us on the cross. God blessed us 2000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross for us. Therefore we do not have to ask God to bless us, we only need to receive by faith that what Jesus has already given to us. He therefore took our curse and gave us His blessing.
Matthew 8:17. “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” In 1 Peter 2:24it says, that “By His stripes we were healed.” Jesus carried all our sicknesses and infirmities on the cross and gave us His health. Therefore we do not even have to ask God to heal us. We only need to receive by faith, that what Jesus gave us 2000 years ago on the cross. In Matthew 15:26, Jesus said that healing is the children’s bread. If we are children of God through faith in Jesus, then healing belongs to us! He therefore took our sicknesses and gave us His healing and health.
Ephesians 2:5. “When we were dead in our trespasses and sins, He made us alive together with Christ.”Every aspect of our dead sinful natures was carried by Jesus on the cross. In exchange He gave us His new resurrection life. We are spiritually alive, not because we have done anything, but because we believed in Jesus and what He did on the cross for us. He carried our death and gave us His life.
There are many other exchanges that took place on the cross. He took our sorrows and gave us His joy. He took our torment and gave us His peace. He took our rejection and gave us His acceptance etc.
The second side to the doctrine of the cross is our identification with Jesus on the cross.
This means that what Jesus went through on the cross, becomes our experience.In Galatians 2:20 Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”Paul is saying here, that when Jesus died on the cross, it was as if he died with Christ. In Romans 6:6he says “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him…”Our old nature has died with Christ on the cross. How do we know this? It is not because we feel it or even experience it, but because the word of God says so. Furthermore, verse 7it says, “For he who has died is free from sin.” What a blessing! Dead people cannot sin, they are free.
Let me give you an illustration. Once upon a time there was this family, a husband and wife and two daughters. The husband was a very evil man and used to beat up his family and swear at them, This was even worse, when they went to church. Every time they would return from church he would throw a temper tantrum, swear at them and beat them up. He was a drunkard, he smoked heavily and was addicted to pornography on the television.
However, one day this completely changed. They returned from church and noticed a huge difference. As they entered the house, everything was quiet and peaceful. They were not greeted with swearing and insults. He did not even hit them. He was sitting quietly in his chair but was no longer looking at pornography on the television. There was a glass of whiskey next to his chair but he had not touched it. He had completely changed! What happened? He died! Dead people are free from sin!
Therefore, God has provided a wonderful door of deliverance for us and if we go through this door, we will be completely free from sin. This door is called death. That is why Paul says in Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The cross is the most powerful weapon we have against sin. Every time the devil tries to tempt us, we can just simply say, “I am dead to this, you have no power over my life.” Paul says in Galatians 6:14“God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world.”
The third side to the doctrine of the cross, is the revelation of what Jesus experienced on the cross for us.
As we appreciate how much Jesus suffered for us on the cross, our hearts will become soft and open to God and it will increase our love and desire for Him. Mark 15:15, says,“He delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.”They tied Jesus to a pole and two Roman soldiers whipped him. In Jewish tradition they could only give thirty nine stripes. But there was no limit in Roman tradition. Often the people who were whipped died. Jesus was beaten over and over to the point of death. In 1 Peter 2:24it says “by his stripes we were healed.” The Greek word for stripes is the word “molopes” which means stripe. There were no stripes, because there was no skin left on His back. There was just one big stripe! Another translation says, “One quivering, pulsating mass of flesh.” We need to think about what happened at that whipping post and realize that he did it for us!
Mark 15:16-19: “Then the soldiers led Him away to a hall called the Praetorium and they called together a whole garrison.(A garrison is 600 soldiers) And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns (huge sharp thorns) and put it on His head…(Verse 19) And they struck Him on the head. (Another translation says “They hit Him on the head over and over until they were tired of hitting Him”) and spat on Him…”Can you imagine 600 cruel soldiers spitting on Jesus and hitting Him? They put a crown of sharp thorns on His head and hit Him on His head, over and over. The thorns would have gone into his skull and His head would have swollen to double its size. In Isaiah 52:14it says that “His visage was marred more than any man.”The people did not recognize Him. We need to stop and look at that chair, and realize that He did this for us.
In Mark 15:20 we read “They led Him out to crucify Him.”There is much we can say about crucifixion. Crucifixion originated with the Persians but the Romans perfected the method of crucifixion. It was to create the maximum pain over the longest period of time and was the cruelest and the most painful way to die. On average, it took 2 to 4 days before the victim would die. The nails were not driven through the palm of the hands, but through an open space in the wrists, called the “space of destart.” The main nerve that connects our arm to our brain goes through this space. The thick nail would pierce this nerve and cause pain beyond description, medical experts say the pain was like lightning, hitting the brain.
They also put a nail through His feet, which is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. We need to think about those nails! In Colossians 2:14it says that God nailed our sins to the cross. We need to thank Jesus for the cross. We must never forget how much He suffered for us. The Father also placed all our sins on Him, therefore, He did not only suffer in His physical body, but He also experienced all our horrible sins. The most unimaginable darkness and torment came over His soul. He hung on that cross for three long hours before He died. Therefore, the revelation of what Jesus did for us on the cross for us should change our lives and soften our hearts. If Jesus did this for us, then there should be no price too great to pay in order to follow Jesus.
The fourth side to the cross is the continual experience of dying to self as a way of life.
This is called the way of the cross. Jesus said in Luke 9:23-26. “If anyone wants to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” What does this mean for us today?
– It means we make a total surrender of our lives to Jesus. That we acknowledge Him to be Lord over every area of our lives. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:15. “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
– It means that we are not ashamed to tell others about Jesus and bear His reproach, even if we are rejected and persecuted for our faith. In Luke 9:26Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” In Acts 5:40we read, “So they (the apostles) departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” One of the ways that we continually die to self, is that we are not ashamed to tell others about Jesus.
– It means that we are humble enough to submit to God and to those God places over us in authority, even if it is difficult. Submission to others is a form of dying to self. When we submit to others, it means that we are also humble enough to take rebuke and correction. In Proverbs 1:23we read, “Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”
– Dying to self also means that we have the right attitude and reaction when we go through various trials and experiences. We have the example of Paul and Silas in prison in Acts chapter 16. They were severely beaten for their faith and in verse 25we read, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” To die to self means that instead of complaining we bless and praise. Instead of giving up even when it looks so negative, we continue to hope and believe. Instead of being angry, we humble ourselves and forgive. Instead of demanding our rights, we forgive and serve. It is not so important what happens to us, but how we react!
Finallyto die to self means that we obey God even if it is very difficult: We have the example of Abraham who was prepared to offer up his only son Isaac. In Genesis 22:16-18we read, “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants … In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
There is no limit to how much God will bless us and others through us if we apply the principles of the cross to our lives. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:12, “Death is working in us, and life in you.” As we die to self and put God first, then God will use us to influence many people through us. The “Message of the cross, is the power of God to us who are being saved.” Amen.