Volume 9, Issue 4: Stauron
Victory of the Cross
Before the foundation of the world God had a plan for the salvation of His creation. Since our fall in Adam we have been at war with Him, but through the cross He has destroyed our resistance and will eventually bring all of creation into submission under Christ's feet. Fallen men and angels are fighting for a cause doomed to failure by Christ's crucifixion. But modern Christianity has lost a great deal of respect for the power of the cross. We don't understand that Christ died to save the world, and not just to save us as individuals. God did not aim so low as that. When He sent His Son to the cross He was doing so to crush all opposition to Christ's rule.
The men who crucified Christ did not know what they were doing, and neither did they grasp what God was doing. Unfortunately we do not understand any more than they did. What did Christ's death accomplish? How did it save us?
Scripture tells us of five aspects of the atonement in the cross. These are: redemption, propitiation, justification, union, and reconciliation. If any of these concepts are over emphasized or ignored, heresy is the inevitable result. These are truths that stand together in the cross or not at all. These terms should not be considered to be merely theological concepts. They are chosen to describe what Scripture teaches concerning the significance of Christ's crucifixion.
What does it mean to redeem something? When we are redeemed, we are purchased. We have been paid for, and we belong to whomever has paid the price. That price was Christ's death. "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9). Christ gave His life for us - a life more than sufficient to redeem all the earth from its condemnation. We have been sold into freedom with blood.
Since we have been bought, it is legitimate to ask what we were purchased from. Hebrews 9:15 tells us that we were ransomed "from the sins committed under the first covenant." Galatians 3:13 says we are redeemed "from the curse of the law." We were under the curse of God's law as a result of our own rebellious sinfulness, it is therefore clear that we have been redeemed from the demands of God's justice. All men are sinners and are condemned to death. The cross is our pardon.
Romans 3:25 tells us that "God presented Him as the one who would turn aside His wrath, taking away sin through faith in His blood." Propitiation is the turning aside of wrath. Christ is our propitiation. Our sin had aroused the just wrath of God and we were doomed to His judgment. But instead of getting what we deserved we received mercy through Christ's propitiation. The only Man who could bear the curse of God without being utterly destroyed took the hit. God's justice was demonstrated through the judgment poured out on Christ in our stead and at the same time His overwhelming love and mercy were manifested in the fact that it was in our stead. The cross is our shield.
Justification is a forensic declaration of innocence. Without the cross we would stand before God's throne guilty as charged. As it is we stand before God's throne washed in Christ's blood and clinging to His righteousness, through faith, as our own. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:14). Christ's death destroyed the power of sin and as a result we have been given the gift of Christ's righteousness. Through Christ we are no longer guilty. The cross is our justification.
Scripture teaches that when Christ was crucified, we were in union with Him. It is not enough to merely acknowledge that Jesus died for us. We must also understand that when He died, we too died. "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died" (2 Cor. 5:14). Our union with Christ in His crucifixion is key because that is where our old man dies, and we are enabled to live in Christ's righteousness, free from sin. "For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:6-7). Unity with Christ in his death is unity with him in His righteousness. The cross is our execution and resurrection.
Reconciliation is defined as the establishment of peace with God. We were in rebellion against God and the cross has brought peace through Christ's victory. "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). God has brought a rebellious creation to Himself and the whole world will be at peace with Him. "By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear" (Is. 45:23). We have been reconciled to God through His Son's death. We are no longer separated from him but can fellowship with him. The cross is our ambassador.
The gospel is the message of the power of the cross. Christ's crucifixion was not a last ditch man the lifeboats operation. It was a victorious blow that broke the back of all opposition. The cross has conquered and reclaimed the world as God's. God has brought us to Him but more than that He has destroyed the power of sin and has subdued the whole world.
Christ is Lord. The cross is victory.