Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 1: The Person and Work of Christ
Four Spans in the Bridge of Salvation Crucifixion
Incarnation brought God to man but it could not bring man to God. The first span in the bridge of salvation demands a second.
In the incarnation God had not yet dealt with the sin question. He could go no further through the revelation of His own sinless, perfect life than to show men what they ought to be. Sin, the insuperable barrier between God and man, remained, and Satan, the archenemy of God, the tempter and deceiver of men, still held the human race in his control. Men did not even know how sinful they were; their darkened minds had no conception of God's real attitude toward sin, nor did they apprehend the awful certainty of its inexorable consequences.
The life and teaching of Christ Jesus had stirred the heart of a very few to desire something better and to seek Him as the Giver but the majority of those who saw and heard Him were indifferent to Him, and not a few even hated Him. Had He only lived His pure, holy life and died a natural death He would have been enshrined in the memory of but few of the choice, rare souls who appreciated His worth.
That something more than the life even of the holy Lord Jesus was needed to save men's souls is patent, something that would deal adequately with sin and all its consequences, something with power in it to defeat and to destroy the devil, something with the germinating seed of a holy, heavenly life. The world is full of leaders and reformers. Its fundamental need is a God-sent Saviour, One who can deal with sin in such a way as to bring satisfaction to God and salvation to man.
DEATH THE GOAL OF INCARNATION
The incarnation was not an end but a means to an end. In itself it had no redemptive value but it paved the way for His death which alone has redemptive value. It could never make an end of sin but it did give to the world a Saviour. Oviour. Our Lord Himself and every New Testament writer set forth the death of Christ as the goal of the incarnation. He was born not merely a Man but a Saviour. He came not alone to live but to save, and to save He must die.
Matthew 1:21, "And she shall bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."
Luke 2:11, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
The eternal Son became the incarnate Son that He might lay down His life as the crucified Son. He became the Son of Man that He might die for the race of men.
Matthew 20:28, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
He took a body in incarnation that He might lay it down in crucifixion. He entered into a body supernaturally prepared for Him, which no sin had tainted and upon which death had no claim that He might offer it as a voluntary sacrifice unto God, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil. "The body was prepared not so much for the birth as for the bruising" (Genesis 3:15).
Hebrews 1O:5, "Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me."
Hebrews 1O:1O, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Hebrews 2:14, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
Christ Jesus not only came into the world to die but He knew that He came for that purpose. From the very beginning of His public ministry the Son of Man had a brooding anticipation of "an hour" that was to come an hour which in some eventful way would be the culmination of His ministry. "The sense of something tragic in His destiny was present in the mind of Jesus." Let us trace His anticipation of this hour through John's Gospel.
John 2:4, "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come."
This word was spoken on a joyous occasion at the beginning of His public ministry, when He was popular, when the people were receiving and following Him.
John 7:6, "My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready."
A large multitude of those who had been fed with the loaves and fishes had followed Him as He went from Capernaum across the sea. He used the occasion to give the wonderful discourse recorded in John six where He claims to be the Bread of Life sent by the Father to give His life for the life of the world. Life out of death was possible for all but only actual in the life of the one who "ate his flesh and drank his blood." The message of the cross was foreshadowed in these words. It was a hard saying even for His own disciples and many of them went back and walked no more with Him. The claim of Messiahship and Saviourhood angered the Jews beyond measure and instilled such bitter hatred into their hearts that they sought to kill Him. But Jesus was unperturbed, simply saying, "My time is not yet come." He knew full well the time would come when their hate would expend itself on Him in cruel malignity.
Three times in John seven this expression is used. The Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand and the Lord Jesus was conscious of the plot on the part of the Jews to kill Him, so He says to the disciples,
John 7:8, "Go up to the feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come."
How significant are those words "full come." The shadow of the cross had already fallen over His life. From that time on He would walk in its ever deepening darkness.
At this feast the Lord Jesus was brought into open conflict with the Jews over the question of the authoritative origin of His doctrine. Again He made claims for Himself which so incensed them that we read,
John 7:30, "Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come."
The same thing was repeated as the Lord Jesus taught in the Temple (John 8:20). Jesus grew in popularity with the people. He makes even more daring claims to Deity and Messiahship and proved the truth of His words by the wonder of His works. The man born blind is given sight. Lazarus is raised from the dead. The religious leaders of the day are compelled to acknowledge the uniqueness of His power and they fear its influence upon the people. They frankly confess that "the world is gone after him" and openly declare that the thing must be stopped immediately. The hour draws nearer.
Just at this time when the Jews are most fiercely censuring and opposing Him a very significant thing happens. A deputation of Greeks, Gentiles, came to worship Him. Everything converges to show Christ that "the hour" He has so long anticipated is now near at hand. So when Andrew and Philip bring the message of the Greeks to Him, with majestic calmness and kingly control He replies, "The hour is come."
Up to this time He has not explained what He means by the oft repeated words "my hour." Several times He has foretold His death and resurrection but the disciples did not grasp His meaning. On this occasion, however, He speaks more explicitly.
John 12:23-24, "And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."
John 12:27, 31-33, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die."
The interval now was very short. Not a single event of that last week takes the Lord Jesus by surprise. He knows that His hour has come. In His last conversation and prayer with His disciples He anticipates His exodus from this world and His return to His Father in Heaven.
John 16:28, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father."
John 17:1, "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee."
When the Lord had spoken these words He went forth with His disciples unto a place called Gethsemane. There His soul began to be very sorrowful and oppressed, so much so that He left the companionship of the disciples and went alone with His Father to pray. Falling upon His face He cried,
Matthew 26:39, "0 my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."
Returning unto His disciples and finding them asleep, He, still overborne with sorrow, went away a second time and prayed,
Matthew 26:42, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done."
Again He came to the disciples and found them sleeping and again He left them to pray. Then He returned to them for the last time and said,
Death is the consequence of sin: it is the sinner who dies. And Jesus Christ died! The irresistible logic of these facts places before one two alternatives. Either Jesus was a sinner as all other men are and His death like theirs was the wages of His own sin, or else He died a death different from the death of all other men and for a reason entirely outside of His own life.
Was Jesus Christ a sinner? Did death come to Him as the penalty of His own Sin? Even His bitterest enemies in the time in which He lived and in all succeeding ages have never accused Him of sin. He said once to a group who were apposing and denying Him, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" But not one word of accusation did they bring against Him. Even Pilate said he could find no fault in Him. God testified to the absolute sinlessness and holiness of His life even before His birth in saying through the angel to Mary, "that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." After living in a world where He was continuously environed by sin and defilement God again testified through those who knew His character and conduct under all circumstances that He "did no sin" (1 Peter 2:22); "In him is no sin" (1 John 3:5); He "knew no sin " (2 Corinthians 5:21). In His character, conversation and conduct He was the holy One of God "without blemish and without spot." If then death is the wages of sin, it had no claim upon Jesus Christ.
Why then did Jesus Christ die? How foolish and futile to look anywhere else for the answer to such a question but to God's divine revelation. There an absolutely sufficient and altogether satisfying answer is given.
In every one of these passages "death" and "sin" are shown to have an inextricable relationship to each other but it is invariably the death of Christ and the sin of men.
Words could not make it clearer that Jesus Christ died not because of anything in Himself but because of something in us; that it was not the wages of His sin but of ours that He paid on the cross. It was our sin He put away; our sins that He bore; our iniquities which were laid upon Him. Death had no claim on Him; then the death He died was for the sake of others and to accomplish something for them which they were unable to accomplish for themselves. The death of Christ was obviously for the purpose of taking up the sin question and dealing with it in such a way as to bring salvation to man.
But would it also deal with it in such a way as to bring satisfaction to God? God has an unalterable, irrevocable attitude toward sin which is most clearly revealed in His judgment upon it. " The wages of sin is death." Death is the expression of God's implacable condemnation of sin. " Death is the man's liability in relation to sin." Did the death of Christ deal with this divine judgment upon sin in a way that was satisfactory to God? God says it did.
The sinner's twofold relationship to God, the divine Judge and God, the gracious Saviour, may be stated as follows,
Death is the racial doom. In Adam all die because in Adam all sinned. Death is God's judgment upon sin and it rests equally upon all men. From the execution of this divine judgment there is no escape because it is the decree of a holy God and is therefore unalterable. Sin and death are inextricably interwoven: the sinner must die.
But the holy God is also a loving God. While He cannot change His attitude toward sin and His judgment upon it without denying His own nature yet His love with perfect consistency can make some escape for the sinner providing whatever He does maintains unity in His own divine being. This necessitates meeting in full the requirement of His holy law. What, then, would that requirement be? That an adequate Substitute able to meet the full penalty of the law should voluntarily offer to take the sinner's place and die the sinner's death.
But where could such an adequate substitute be found? Only "a lamb without spot and blemish" could be accepted as an offering for sin. Only an absolutely sinless one could be the sinner's Substitute. It would require one who himself had fulfilled every demand of God's holy law to pay the sinner's penalty for a broken law. There was but one who had ever lived such a life on earth and He was the incarnate Son of God.
Would He voluntarily offer Himself as the sinner's Substitute and thereby assume all responsibility for the removal of the penalty, the power and the presence of sin in man knowing as He did that the penalty of sin was death, that the power of sin meant anguish of suffering consummating in crucifixion, and that the presence of sin involved even separation from God? Would He who never knew sin willingly be made sin on the sinner's behalf knowing full well that all the wrath of a holy God against sin would be spent on Him? (A very helpful treatment of this to which I am indebted is found in Armour, Atonement and Law).
Yes, He would do it. For the very purpose of becoming the sinner's Substitute the eternal Son had become the incarnate Son. But have we not discovered in this truth the secret of His dread of that "hour," His shrinking from the "cup"? It was not death He dreaded but the death of the cross which was "the wages of sin." What else could the thrice repeated pleading to the Father to remove "the cup" mean but that, in the death He was about to die as the sinner's Substitute, all the sin of the whole race of sinners with all its stain and stench would be upon Him? It is no wonder that the soul of the sinless Son of God cried out in an agony of suffering at the thought.
But the weight and wickedness of the world's sin was not all the "cup." Sin separates from God. God cannot stay in the presence of sin even when that sin is upon His own beloved Son. The Son of Man in the garden faces this awful consequence of Saviourhood. Could He assume this consequence of sin for the sinner's sake? Could He, who through all eternity in glory had rested in the intimate fellowship of the Father's bosom and who in His life on earth had enjoyed the vivid consciousness of His Father's abiding presence, consent to the inevitable even though momentary separation from His Father which the presence of the world's sin on Him would cause? Death is separation from God and separation from God is hell (2 Thessalonians, 1:7-9).
This, then, is "the cup" He could not drink were there any other possible way for the Father's will in man's salvation to be accomplished. This is "the cup" that caused the agony of soul in Gethsemane an agony so terrible that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground; an agony so awful it took Him back three times to the Father to cry out for release; an agony so intense that an heaven-sent angel appeared to strengthen Him. This is "the cup" that caused the intolerable anguish of spirit, which wrung from the sufferer upon Calvary that heart-breaking cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Could He drink that "cup"? Yes, even that if it were the Father's will and there were no other way in which sin could be dealt with to God's satisfaction and man's salvation. He who had been obedient to the will of His Father every moment of His earthly life would be "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
There evidently was no other way for "while He yet spake, lo, Judas one of the twelve came and with him a great multitude with sword and staves." In quick succession follow the betrayal, arrest and trial of the Lord Jesus and then the crucifixion of the Lord of glory.
The "hour" had come. The event foretold and foreshadowed for centuries had taken place; "the most stupendous event in the history of man, the only event in the history of God." The noon hour not only of time but of eternity had come; indeed it was the pivotal hour in the life both of heaven and of earth. "The Son of God has died by the hands of men. This astounding fact is the moral center of all things. A bygone eternity knew no other future; an eternity to come shall know no other past. That death was this world's crisis" (Sir Robert Anderson, The Gospel and Its Ministry, p. 12).
The death of Jesus Christ is the pivotal fact in Christianity. It is its very heartbeat; its life's blood. Without it Christianity would not be. His worth lay not in the life He lived but in the death He died. His death was not so much the culmination of the victorious, obedient, holy life as its coronation. His incarnation was but paving the way for death; His death was the goal of incarnation.
It is not merely the fact that Christ died that is vital but that He died the death of the cross. The prophecy of Genesis 3:15 foretold a bruising and it was in the bruising of the heel of the woman's seed that the promise of the sinner's salvation was to be found. The Old Testament sacrifices made for the sake of sins year by year required the blood of goats and calves. These sacrifices and this blood-shedding were the foreshadowing of the one perfect sacrifice of the Son of God as He poured out His life's blood on Calvary for the salvation of sinners. While the prophets of old did tell us something of the circumstances that would attend the birth of Jesus Christ yet the burden of their message was of One who would be "wounded," "bruised," "scourged," "oppressed," "afflicted." By the mouth of all the prophets God foretold that Christ should suffer. Over and over again the Lord Jesus told the disciples that He "must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and be raised again." On the way to Emmaus as He walked and talked with the two disciples who were recounting to Him the tragedy of His crucifixion He said unto them,
The theme of the entire Bible is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. "Cut the Bible anywhere and it bleeds; it is red with redemption truth." A suffering, crucified Christ was the Christ preached by the Apostles and to them His sufferings were a vital factor in the sinner's salvation because of their expiatory nature. Paul testifying before King Agrippa preached a suffering Christ.
Peter told us that it was through the victorious, atoning sufferings of Christ that men were brought back to God.
John taught that there was no cleansing power except in the blood of Christ shed on Calvary.
Respectable sinners will flock to the church today to hear ministers preach on the life of Jesus; many are even not averse to listening to an occasional sermon of the death of Christ, providing that death is preached only as the greatest example of sacrificial love, or as the culminating event in a life of obedience, or as an act of martyrdom in a good cause. But in this age there is a widespread refusal on the part of the man in the pew, and on the part of the man in the pulpit a conspicuous rejection of the Biblical, evangelical teaching regarding the death of the cross. The reason for this will grow more apparent as we proceed with our studies.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST THE GREAT DIVIDE
The cross of Christ makes a clean-cut cleavage between the two spheres, the sphere of death, darkness and disorder, and the sphere of life, light and liberty, and it challenges sinners to decide in which they purpose to live. The cross of Christ is the battlefield on which the conflict between Satan and God over the sovereignty of human lives is being waged and it compels men to take sides either for or against God. The cross of Christ marks the boundary line between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God and it calls subjects in the one to come out and to become subjects in the other. The cross of Christ finds men living on the plane of the natural and it opens a way for them to live on the plane of the spiritual and then appeals to them to enter the open door. The cross of Christ is the Great Divide: it separates men into two classes, the unsaved and the saved.
1 Corinthians 1:18, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
THE CROSS OF CHRIST A DOUBLE EXPOSURE
The cross of Christ is the place of exposure. There as nowhere else is revealed the hatred of man for God and the love of God for man. Sin is seen at its worst and love is seen at its best in the cross. Man's sin and God's love both reach a climax on Calvary. There the hideousness of the one and the glory of the other are brought out into sharpest relief.
The desperate, despicable wickedness of the human heart is uncovered at Calvary. All the rebellion, self-will and enmity of the natural man found vent in this one act. In the crucifixion of the Holy One sin came out into the open and disclosed its inwardness.
"Him ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Sin nailed the Saviour to a cross and by doing so exposed to the world its ugly hideousness. Sinners stained their hands with the blood of their Saviour and thereby revealed the length and breadth, the height and depth of the infamy of sin.
However, the sin of man could not outstrip the love of God. Nor could sin defeat God by taking Him unawares. Before that hydra-headed monster had raised its head in rebellion against God He had accomplished its defeat. " Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." In the eternal counsels of the Godhead the cross of Christ was set up in love before man was made or the world created. In the atoning death of the well-beloved Son on the cross of Calvary God was fully prepared to assume responsibility for sin and all its consequences. God, the Father, spelled out in capital letters on the cross His unquenchable love for sinners.
The cross of Christ reveals not only the love of the Father but the love of the Son as well. In the lament over Jerusalem, in the parable of the father's love for the prodigal, in the tender look at the denying Peter, and in the pathetic question to Judas the betrayer, Jesus Christ showed His sorrow for sin and the outreaching of His loving heart to the sinner. But only in the laying down of His sinless life in death as the sinner's Substitute do we see the perfect outshining of His infinite, limitless love. With the most perfect apprehension of what the sin of man was on the one hand, and of what the mind of God toward sin was on the other and of sin's due from God, there went up from the depths of Christ's sinless humanity a perfect amen to the righteous judgment of God against sin, and a willingness to bear that judgment.
The cross of Christ is the heart of God broken by sin. It tells you and me that the God who must judge and punish sin will save and forgive the sinner. It discovers to us the unfathomable depths of God's love.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST THE PLACE OF VICTORY
God has but one problem in His universe it is sin. All other problems of whatever nature emanate from this one. The sweat of grinding toil, the suffering of broken hearts, the sorrow of the world's crushing maladjustments, all have their beginning in sin. God has but one enemy in the universe it is Satan. All other enmities, whether among angels or men, have their ultimate source in him. To regain His rightful sovereignty over the world and in the human race God had a double victory to win. This twofold victory was won through the Saviourhood of Jesus Christ. Salvation from sin and all its consequences, deliverance from Satan and all his allies, were gained for the sinner at the cross.
The Old Testament classic which reveals Jesus Christ as the Sin-bearer is Isaiah 53.
The New Testament is full of the same truth.
Jesus Christ faced the problem which sin had created and solved it by taking upon Himself the whole responsibility for it. When He entered into human life and as the Son of Man became the connecting link between God and the ruined race, He pledged Himself to become responsible for sin and its effects.
Sin had brought upon man four terrible consequences for which Christ as Sin-bearer assumed responsibility. The first is guilt. The whole world is guilty before God (Romans 3:19). The whole of man is defiled and depraved. That this guilt might be removed God made Christ sin and then treated Him as sin.
The second is death. "The wages of sin is death." The sentence of death rested upon the whole human race. As the last Adam Jesus Christ assumed all responsibility for the first Adam's sin and its consequences. Therefore He executed the death sentence upon sinners by Himself dying.
The fourth consequence of sin is the wrath of God. God hates sin. God's holiness demanded that He take some action against it. So God was compelled to decree that sin would bar sinners from His presence through time and eternity. Here again Jesus Christ assumed responsibility for the presence of sin in men and on the cross of Calvary bore the full force of God's wrath against it even to the point of conscious separation from His Father's presence.
In becoming the Sin-bearer Jesus Christ fully met and solved the problem of sin. "In His death everything was made His that sin had made ours . . . everything in sin except its sinfulness" (James Denney, The Death of Christ).
The cross of Christ is God's starting point of victory over Satan and all his allies. God is the One who has been hurt most by sin. "Satan was putting the knife into God's heart through Adam's hand." So any effectual dealing with sin must go back to its first cause and any permanent victory for God must be a crushing defeat for Satan.
The first curse pronounced after the fall was upon the serpent. The serpent's curse and the Saviour's cross are inextricably interwoven. The prophecy containing the curse foretells a double bruising. "It shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel."
Men and women are being taught that the record of the fall in Genesis three is just a myth and that no scholarly person believes it today. This is indeed the devil's lie and he has a very good reason for telling it. By the death of Christ his head was bruised, his doom was sealed. The cross of Christ robbed that Satanic usurper of every vestige of rightful claim to the world and of all dominion over any man or woman who fully trusts in the atoning blood of the Saviour and who yields to the Lordship of Jesus. Christ's cry of victory from Calvary's cross "It is finished" was Satan's death knell. The victory over the devil commenced in the wilderness, continued in Gethsemane, culminated on Calvary. The hour of Christ's death was the hour of Satan's defeat.
The death of the cross deprived him of his power and rendered him inoperative.
The death of Jesus Christ meant an open and decisive victory for God over all the principalities and powers in rebellion against Him. It severs the believer from the powers of darkness.
The devil has two active, aggressive allies in his diabolical work of keeping sinners living in self-will and rebellion toward God. They are the "world" and the "flesh." For the defeat of both of these God has made ample provision in the cross of Christ.
In the cross of Christ the sinner who truly desires it may find complete deliverance from the evil one and all his entanglements. Satan's reign over him may end there if he seeks release through the cross.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST A DIVINELY PROVIDED MEETING PLACE
Sin made every man unrighteous in God's sight, (Romans 3:1:12) and by so doing it created an impassable chasm between a righteous God and an unrighteous sinner. It did more than that, it totally disqualified man for doing anything to bridge this chasm thus placing upon God the whole responsibility of making a way of access into His presence and of providing a meeting place between Himself and the sinner.
But how could a righteous God be just and the justifier of sinners (Romans 3:26)? How could God maintain His holiness in His dealing with sin and at the same time manifest His graciousness in mercy toward the sinner? How could God provide such a meeting place and not deny Himself through compromise?
Before God was a Law which was holy and right. It was the expression of His own character; the essence of His own nature. To ignore or condone man's rebellion and disobedience as evidenced in that Law broken would be to deny Himself. God could not do that; He must be true to Himself so He must treat sin as sin and deal with it as such. It must be condemned and its merited punishment meted out. "Even God cannot change the character of righteousness by altering, or lessening to the slightest degree, its holy demands. What is done for the satisfaction of His love in saving any one whom His righteousness condemns must be done in full view of all that His righteousness could ever require" (L.S. Chafer, Salvation, p. 27).
Before God was not only a broken Law but a broken relationship, a broken bond of love which had united Him to the human race. Before Him, too, was the desperate need of those whom He loved with an everlasting love, the undone condition of those who were precious in His sight. Before Him was His own broken heart made desolate by the prodigal's departure into the far country.
Viewing the sinner in his relationship to God his fundamental need is a way of access and acceptance with God despite his guilt. Viewing God in His relationship to the sinner His fundamental necessity is a way of granting favour and fellowship to the sinner despite His holiness. A meeting place between a righteous God and an unrighteous sinner is the demand made upon the righteousness of God. But it is equal to even this necessity for in His death upon Calvary's cross Jesus Christ became the propitiation for the sins of the world.
To the spiritually minded Christian who has a realization of the awful chasm sin had made between him and his God the truth that centers around the word "propitiation" is inexpressibly precious. But to the natural man living still in pride, rebellion and self-satisfaction, it is insufferably offensive.
"Propitiation" means a mercy seat or covering, a divinely provided meeting place. In Old Testament times on the Day of Atonement the great high priest took the blood of the sacrificial lamb into the Holy of Holies and with it sprinkled the Mercy Seat. Within the ark under the cover of the blood was the broken Law. The blood-sprinkled mercy seat provided a meeting place between God and the sinner where the guilty one could come to God without remembrance of his past offences and without fear of judgment and where the Holy One could receive the sinner without compromise and yet without condemnation. "A holy God could righteously meet a sinful man and a sinful man could fearlessly meet a holy God."
God set forth His well-beloved Son to be such a propitiation for all the guilty sinners in all the world. Through the shedding of the precious blood of the Lamb of God on the cross of Calvary such a covering for sin and for broken Law was provided. In His death Jesus Christ honours God's holy Law by bearing in full the punishment meted out to the sinner for breaking it. Thus in the crucified Lord the sinner has found a meeting place with God and a way of access into His favour and fellowship.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST A DIVINELY PREPARED TURNING POINT
A double barrier separates God and the sinner. Sin has caused man to be offended toward God as truly as it has caused God to be offended toward man. The cross of Christ shall have failed to deal adequately with sin if it only removes the cause of offence in its Godward aspect and does not equally remove it in its manward aspect.
And this is exactly what the cross of Christ does. "We love him because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). "By grace are ye saved through faith." The grace of God built the bridge of salvation before ever a single sinner made a start toward crossing it. Grace took God into the garden in the cool of the day to seek the first two sinners and to offer them the gracious promise of salvation through a Saviour even before He dealt righteously with their sin in pronouncing upon them the judgment of the curse. Even in the prophecy-promise given in Eden, God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. God took the initiative in effecting reconciliation by giving His Son to die.
The Son of God endured the suffering and the shame of the cross that thereby He might tell a world of sinners who have turned their backs on God that God loves them with an everlasting love. When the sinner sees the Saviour suffering, the just for the unjust, when he sees Christ crucified by his sin, dying his death, enduring his punishment, then his heart is melted, his rebellion is removed, his whole attitude toward God is changed from enmity to love, from estrangement to fellowship, from indifference to devotion, from fear to faith, from shame to peace.
In Christ crucified God has provided such propitiation and reconciliation as has made possible the removal of the barrier of separation between God and man, and has opened a merciful yet righteous way of access and acceptance; thus giving to every man who will avail himself of God's grace the opportunity for full restoration to God's favour and fellowship.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST THE END OF THE OLD CREATION AND THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW
Through propitiation and reconciliation accomplished in the death of Christ adequate provision has been made for a change of relationship between the sinner and God which effects a radical change in the sinner's position before God. But is there provision for a change in his condition also? The natural man is a slave, "sold under sin" (Romans 7:14).
Where sin abounded grace did much more abound. God's boundless grace was undaunted by the sinner's helpless, hopeless condition. God's right to proprietorship through creation still remained but it had been lost to Him through man's surrender of himself to the sovereignty of another. But God would Himself go down unto the slave market of sin and buy back that which was His own. He would then take the sinner out of the sphere of Satan, out of the slave market of sin, and set him free in the glorious liberty of a new life in Christ.
Such redemption demanded a ransom. It required a life for a life. "The life is in the blood." To redeem the race from the bondage of sin involved the paying of a price which was nothing less than the precious blood of the spotless Lamb of God. To buy back His own for a possession God paid the costly price of His own blood.
But God did not go into the slave market of sin only to buy the captive sinner but also to bring him out from that old sphere of bondage and set him free in a new sphere of liberty. Not alone would He lead him out of Egypt but He would bring him into Canaan. Christ Jesus would become not only the sinner's Saviour but He would be the believer's Lord and Life. In the cross of Christ God rejected the old order of fallen, sinful humility "sold under sin" through the first Adam's disobedience that He might raise up a new order of holy, heavenly beings redeemed from sin through the last Adam's obedience.
The death of Christ upon the cross not only redeems but it recreates; it not only provides complete emancipation from the old life but abundant entrance into the new.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST THE PLACE OF DECISION THAT DETERMINES DESTINY
"The cross of Christ has measured out the moral distance between God and man and has left them as far asunder as the throne of heaven and the gates of hell" (Sir Robert Anderson, The Gospel and Its Ministry, p. 25). Scripture bears ample testimony to the solemn truthfulness of these words.
But praise God it is equally true that the cross of Christ has measured out the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God in the gift of a Redeemer who closed the gates of hell and opened the gates of Heaven for all who will believe.
As sin through Adam had been universal so salvation through Christ must be made potential to all. Where sin abounded grace did much more abound and opened a way back to God for every sinner. The bridge of salvation provided a way out of the old sphere into the new for all who will acknowledge themselves sinners needing a Saviour.
In tenderest compassion God broods over every sinner and bleeds for his sin. His great yearning heart of love reaches to the uttermost corner of His universe and seeks to draw each heart unto Himself through His Son.
That all men might have an adequate opportunity to know God's way of salvation He commanded the disciples to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth preaching it to every creature.
God commands every sinner who hears the Gospel to repent and turn to Him.
God invites all sinners to come to Him and promises eternal life to all who truly believe and receive His Son.
Countless sinners throughout the ages have refused the grace of God manifested in His salvation and have rejected Christ, the Saviour, but the death of Christ on the cross of Calvary opened a way back to God for all men everywhere. "No man is lost for want of an atonement, or because there is any other barrier in the way of his salvation than his own most free and wicked will."
Dear reader, on which side of the cross of Christ are you living? Your relationship to the crucified Christ will determine your destiny. (See Diagram 6.)