|Photo by AntonO 2014|
Patterns of three in Scripture reflect God’s Triune nature, as exemplified in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It surprised me, however, to discover that the root word for crucifixion, namely “crux,” from the Latin word for cross or torture, also has three definitions.
According to Merriam-Webster, these are:
1. A puzzling or difficult problem: an unsolved question2. An essential point requiring resolution or resolving an outcome
3. A main or central feature (as of an argument).
How appropriate these three definitions are when we consider the role of the cross in Christianity! The paradox of the cross is in fact one of the most puzzling or difficult problems of all time. How could God lower Himself to leave Heaven’s throne, wrap Himself in human flesh (John 1:2), and subject Himself (Luke 9:51) to the cruelest punishment man has ever devised?
Why would He come to earth not to be revered as King of Kings, obeyed as Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14; 19:16), and worshipped as our Holy High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15), but to be despised, betrayed, and rejected? (Isaiah 53:3)
Why would Holy God the Son, Who knew no sin, take on all of mankind’s sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), allowing Himself momentarily to be separated from God the Father (Mark 15:33-34) to pay our sin debt in full (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) while we were still His enemies? (Romans 5:10)
Which brings us to the second definition: the cross is the essential point demanding resolution. How each of us responds to the puzzling problem of the cross determines our relationship to God, the resolution of our sin problem, and our eternal destiny.
We can deny the importance of what Christ did for us on the cross, trusting wrongly in our good deeds to outweigh our sin and to earn our way to Heaven (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). We can ignore the cross, but sadly, ignorance is not bliss, and a wrong belief system does not free anyone from the consequences of the truth. Those who deny or ignore the cross are condemned to the same fate – eternal punishment in hell (John 3:18).
Only by trusting in Christ’s completed work on the cross (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:10-14) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) can we receive eternal life (John 3:16, 5:24). Faith in this changes us from God’s enemies to God’s children (Romans 8:16); from guilty to forgiven (Ephesians 1:7; 4:32; Acts 13:38; 26:18); and from condemned to eternal death in hell to redeemed to eternal life with Christ in Heaven (Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:13; Revelation 5:9).
Therefore, the cross is the main or central feature of Christian doctrine – the first and essential condition of the triad of His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This is the heart of the Gospel, or Good News. Without believing it in our heart we cannot be saved from the penalty of our sin (Romans 10:9), born again (John 3:3-8) into the family of God, and destined for eternity with Christ and our loved ones in Him.
On Calvary’s hill that fateful day were three crosses: that of Jesus between those of two thieves (Matthew.27:38; Luke 23:33). These three represent the entire relationship of God with man: Jesus Christ the Savior; those who accept Him and His completed work on the cross; and those who reject Him (Luke 23:39-43).
The thief who recognized Christ as Lord was promised that he would be in Paradise with Jesus that very day, but the unrepentant thief who angrily denied His power is still suffering in hell. Sadly, many indifferent passersby in the crowd were jaded by the crucifixions that were commonplace in that time, and ignored the suffering of our Lord on the cross (Matthew 27:40). Unless they came to believe in Him later, like the centurion and others who experienced the earthquake after His death and then realized that He was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54), they too would be condemned.
On the cross, Christ tasted death for us (Hebrews 2:9) so that we would not need to face that consequence of our sin (Romans 6:23). He paid in full the debt He did not owe and that we could not pay, to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-21; Hebrews 2:17).
The cross bridged the great gulf between our sin and God’s perfection, purity and holiness. From before the foundation of the world, Triune God knew that Adam would disobey, bringing the curse of sin, separation from God, and eternal death upon all mankind (Genesis 3). But God had an amazing plan of salvation (Hebrews 4:3; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8).
The Son would become flesh (John 1:2), suffer and die on the cross to pay the sin debt, and rise again to prove His divinity and give eternal life to all who trust Him. He laid down His life willingly so that He could take it up again (John 10:15,17; 15:13; 1 John 3:16), giving us victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) over Satan, sin and death!
Because of the cross, Christ’s followers have the blessed hope of eternal life and of His glorious reappearing (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3). One day we will have glorified bodies like His (1 Corinthians 15:49-54) that will never die, sin, or experience the corruption of pain, sickness or aging!
If you haven’t already, I implore you to consider the puzzling problem of Christ’s cross, to resolve once and for all in your mind and heart what He did for you there, and to make it the crux of your daily life, your relationship to God, and your eternal destiny! May we all take up His cross and follow Him!
© 2016 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives