Statement of Faith Current Teaching Teaching Index
The Three Crosses
Part One

September 2014            A woman who constantly complained about her life's burdens received instructions from an angel in a dream.  She was taken to a place where there lay myriads of crosses, and told that she might exchange her own for any she chose.  She laid aside her own, and took up a jeweled cross, but soon she began to totter under its great weight; and was glad to lay it down, and take up another of chased gold.  This was even heavier than the other so she also laid it down and chose another.  This time she chose a cross of flowers; but its thorns pierced her flesh and became unbearable.  She said to the angel; “Why do I need any cross?  The angel answered her and said,” No cross, No crown.”  She soon discovered a plain cross, with the word “Love” engraved upon it in gold; she took it up joyfully, saying, “I can bear this.”  She soon found that she had chosen her own old cross again:  It fit her exactly, and she was convinced it was the best for her to bear.

The Center Cross

            Alexander McLaren (1826-1910) was one of Great Britain's most notable and famous preachers. While pastoring the Union Chapel, Manchester (1858-1903), he was known as "the prince of expository preachers," he said of the cross of Christ that; “it is an object of such incomparable brightness, that it spreads a glory round it to all the nations of the earth, all the corners of the universe, all the generations of time, and all the ages of eternity.  The greatest actions or events that ever happened on earth filled with their splendor and influence but a moment of time, and a point of space; the splendor of this object fills immensity and eternity.  If we take a right view of its glory, we shall see it contemplated with attention, spreading influence and attracting looks from times past, present, and to come, heaven, earth, and hell, angels, saints, devils; we shall see it to be both the object of the deepest admiration of the creatures and the perfect approval of the infinite Creator;  we shall see the best part of mankind, the Church of God, for four thousand years looking forward to it before it happened; new generations yet unborn rising up to admire and honor it in continual successions, till time shall be no more; innumerable multitudes of angels and saints looking back to it with holy transports to the remotest ages of eternity.  Other glories decay by length of time; if the splendors of this object changes, it will be only by increasing.  The visible sun will spend its beams in the process of time, and, as it were, grow dim with age; the cross however has a rich stock of beams which eternity cannot exhaust.”            Jesus’ cross was not the only one on Golgotha that day.  This is not to say that the cross of Christ is not central to the salvation of man, but the other two crosses have a serious and important message for us as well.  This month and perhaps next we will examine the three crosses that were standing on Golgotha that dreadful and glorious day.  The center cross we will call the “Cross of Redemption.”  The cross on the left we will call “The Cross of Rejection,” and the cross on the right we will call “The Cross of Reception.”  We will start our study with the central pillar of Christianity, “The Cross of Redemption.” 

            There is a picture painted by a leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood entitled “The Shadow of Death” (left).  The leaders name is Holman Hunt.  It depicts the inside of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.  Stripped to the waist, Jesus stands by a wooden trestle on which he has put down His saw.  He lifts His eyes towards heaven, and the look on His face is one of either pain or ecstasy or both.  He also stretches, raising both arms above His head.  As He does so, the evening sunlight streaming through the open door casts a dark shadow in the form of a cross on the wall behind Him, where His tool-rack looks like a horizontal bar on which His hands have been crucified.  The tools themselves remind us of the fateful hammer and nails. 

            In the left foreground a woman kneels among the wood chippings, her hands resting on the chest in which the rich gifts of the Magi are kept.  We cannot see her face because she has turned it to see her son’s shadow on the wall.  We can not see her face but we know that it is Mary His mother.  Though the idea pictured is known to be historically fictitious, it is also theologically true.  From Jesus' youth, indeed even from His birth, the cross cast its shadow ahead of Him.  His death was central to His mission.[1] 

            This picture's story, the story of the cross, was central to Christ's mission?  Ask yourself, what is there about the crucifixion of Jesus which, in spite of its horror and cruelty makes it so important that God planned it from the beginning of time and Christ left all the spenders of heaven to endure it?  And finally what is the serious and imperative message of the other two crosses.  The answer to these questions comes in four parts.

1.   God created all things and declared it “very good.”  No sin, no death, no evil whatsoever.

2.   Man took God’s creation and distorted it.  Sin, death, and all forms of evil entered God's perfect creation.

3.   Man needed an escape from the bondage and curse brought upon him by sin, death and evil.

4.   God’s love and mercy provided a perfect sacrificial offering for man's sin, in Christ's atonement.  As a         

      result of the perfect sacrificial offering sin, death and evil have been defeated and we now have an open  

      door policy with God and we have been given His “power of attorney” over all His creation.

         Let’s examine each of these four part answer in more detail. 

1.      God created all things and declared it “very good.”  After six 24 hour periods of time (days) God had completed His work but, before He rested, He first inspected it all and pronounced the whole creation “very good.”  Six times before, He had inspected what He had made and He pronounced it “good”; but now that it was complete, man now being the main part and with every part in perfect harmony, He looked upon it with great joy and said that it was in the Hebrew called “exceedingly good.”

            In God’s own omniscient judgment everything in the universe was exceedingly good. There could have been nothing that was wrong in all creation; no struggle for existence, no disease, no pollution, no natural calamities (earthquakes, floods, etc.); there was no imbalance or lack of harmony, no disorder, no sin and above all, no death, simply put, the universe and life on earth was perfect!           

            Chapter two of Genesis gives a much more detailed account of the creation of man and woman and their role in God’s perfect world.  Adam was created specifically to fit into God's perfect created paradise.  The Garden of Eden was created, and then man was created and placed into it.  Man was then placed in control of everything, but only under the auspices of God.  Then man was given a choice.  A choice that would demonstrate if Adam, which means “man” in the original, would love God enough to follow Him willingly.

            God created man with the freedom of choice, because God’s perfect love must be reciprocal.  He must have man’s love freely given in return.  True love cannot be given to an inanimate object, though man has often used the term love in this distorted context.  To express God's perfect love in its fullness it must be mutual.  A perfect God could not accept anything else.  On the other hand however, if Adam was free to love God on his own initiative, he was obviously free not to love God as well.  Because God is perfect love (1st John 4:8) He chose to create a morally free spiritual being, made “in His own image.”  This choice also runs the risk of His creation rejecting Him and His love as well.  Perfect love must also involve a probationary period, to allow man time to make a free decision.  In Genesis chapter three we see that man freely chose not to love God but rejected Him and His precepts. This then brings us to the second part of our answer.

2.      Man took God’s creation and distorted it.  As stated earlier man and woman were created perfect, with a free will to accept or reject God’s perfect love.   They were placed in a perfect environmentally friendly garden, with every need supplied for.  He did not have an inherited sin nature, as we do today; so he was fully capable of resisting any external pressure brought about by temptation.  So there was not the slightest reason why he should sin if he was so tempted.  Adam did not choose to love God when the temptation of sin showed itself; instead he disrespected God by rejecting His command.  

            We must come to the understanding that all creation was specifically made for Adam to rule.  Adam was then placed into the garden to dress it and keep it.  Adam was then given a help meat (Eve) and was told to name all living creatures.  The only restriction given to Adam was that he could not eat of the one tree that God placed in the midst of the Garden; then God’s creative work was completed.  So the question now becomes, why did Adam choose to disobey God when temptation came?       

            There is one opinion that says that Adam willfully sinned because of his love for Eve.  He would have preferred to suffer the sin and shame of her sin with her, rather then let her suffer it alone.  As noble as this motive might sound, the Biblical record nowhere makes the choice of sinning a noble one.  Adam’s sin was deliberate, willful, eternally disastrous and inexcusable. All future life on this planet would suffer because of the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12-16, 1st Corinthians 15:21-22).  “Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned: for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is the type of Him who was to come; but the free gift shall not be also like the offense. For if by the offense of the one many died, much more the grace of God, and the gift in grace; which is of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many" (Romans 5:12-16).  And 1st Corinthians 15:21-22 "for since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For as in Adam all die, even so also in Christ will all be made alive."

            Another opinion is that the serpent promised them something that they could not refuse.  He promised them that they would become as gods, they would obtain priceless wisdom, the wisdom of knowing good and evil.  Then he closed the deal by appealing to her senses.  "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Genesis 3:6).  Please notice that the temptation came in three forms. 

1)      “Good for food.”  It appealed to the physical. 

2)      “Pleasant to the eyes.  It appealed to the emotions. 

3)      “Desired to make one wise.”  It appealed to the mind, and spirit, ones pride of knowledge and spiritual insight.  

            Notice the distinct parallel with 1st John 2:16 which states; "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."  James calls the wisdom offered by this temptation “earthly, sensual, and devilish" (James 3:15).

            When one looks at the three forms this temptation took and compares it to what is going on today, is there anyone with an open and honest heart and mind that cannot see the parallel?  Man has been lured into the worst imaginable and horrid actions by the lust for physical desires, or by the beauty of a woman, or a beautiful fragrance, or by rage, lust, anger, fear, frustration, anxiety and many other temptations and emotions.  Are we not today lusting after money, power and knowledge?  A perfect example is the expansion and growth of the internet.  A system designed to bring increased knowledge to the entire world and thereby making the world a smaller more unified place where there is nothing that cannot be accomplished if we all work together.  Though it can and is used for many wonderful purposes, the major problem is that this knowledge is being equally used for evil.  That's right we still have a free choice to love and honor God with this knowledge and ability or disrespect Him by doing evil with the knowledge and ability we obtain.  Do you not see the parallel with that of Adam's?  Honor God or honor self!  

            Whatever the reason for Adam’s sin, the tragic fact is that he did sin, and thereby brought the curse of sin and death into the entire world. 1st Timothy 2:14 states that Adam was not deceived, Adam was fully aware that he was willfully disobeying God.  The verse goes on to say that the woman “Eve” was the one deceived.  Adam willfully chose to disobey God’s commands and choose the wishes of the woman over God.  Therefore, Adam became the prototype of all who sin and come short of the glory of God.  Adam brought God’s curse of death into the world.

            When the death sentence was imposed on Adam it became a main characteristic and distinct attribute of his physical being.  All men who came from Adam inherited the sin nature (c.f. Psalm 14:3; Micah 7:2; Romans 3:23; 1st John 1:8).  This sin nature brought with it death, spiritual and physical.  Man became a deliberate sinner because of his sin nature.  Therefore, death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned.

When a child is birthed that child starts to lose his life force, it automatically starts to grow old, decay, parts begin to break down and it eventually dies.  This natural tendency to grow old, break down and die is inherited by all mankind and by all of creation as well.  Scientists call this natural tendency the "2nd Law of Thermodynamics" which is also known as the "Law of Increased Entropy."  "Entropy" is defined as a measure of unusable energy within a closed or isolated system (the human body or the universe for example).  As usable energy decreases and unusable energy increases, "entropy" increases.  Entropy is the amount of chaos within a closed system.  As usable energy is irretrievably lost, disorganization, randomness and chaos increase and regarding all things inanimate they decay and in the case of living things they grow old and die.

            The curse placed upon man when Adam sinned came in six parts;

1)      All things that were under Adam’s kingdom authority were cursed as well.  This means all things decay and die (Genesis 3:17). 

2)      Sorrow, which stems from the entire creation now being out of harmony with Adam and the command of God to take care of it (Genesis 3:17). 

3)      Pain and suffering which is implied by the introduction of thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18). 

4)      Hard toil which is shown by the fact that he would now sweat in order to produce food (Genesis 3:18). 

5)      Physical death with its following decay (Genesis 3:19). 

6)      Spiritual death, seen in the fact that man hid himself from God, and no longer was the fellowship with the creator one of mutual love, but it had become one born out of fear (Genesis 3:8). 

            God no longer walked in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve, nor were they allowed to stay in the Garden of God any longer (Genesis 3:22-24).  Adam died physically and spiritually!  Death became the invincible foe that overtook all mankind.  We cannot outsmart it or outrun it; eventually it is victorious over all our efforts to defeat it.  We will all eventually die physically! 

            This now brings us to the Third and Forth part of our answer.

3.      Man needed an escape from the curse brought upon him by his sin. 

4.      God’s love and mercy provided a perfect sacrificial offering in Christ.  Man’s need and Christ’s love and mercy lead us directly to the heart of the cross.  The heart of the cross leads us to examine the achievements gained by Christ’s self-less work on the cross, not to the consequences that brought Christ to the cross!  Moved by perfect unending love and “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father, wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Galatians 4:4-7).

            So what are the achievements gained by Christ’s atonement, His self-less, self-sacrificing work on the cross?  The answer to that question can be summed up in these three words “salvation”, “revelation”, and “conquest.”  What God did through the self-less act of His Son was to rescue us from our sin nature, reveal Himself to us, and conquer all the power of the enemy.  Christians call this work the "Atonement" which produces salvation and brings us into fellowship with God and produces in us eternal life!

1)      Atonement (ATO'NEMENT, n) means: 

a.       Agreement; mutual accord; reconciliation, after enmity or controversy (Romans 5). 

b.      Expiation; satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing or suffering that which is received in satisfaction for an offense or injury; in the New Testament this expiation of sin was made by the obedience and personal sufferings of Christ.  "And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement" (Romans 5:11).

            Because of man’s fallen nature he could do nothing to appease God’s anger.  There could be no effort coming from the fallen nature of man that could placate God or change that fallen nature.  That is the reason for Christ having come to earth.  Only a perfect life, a perfect willing sacrifice would do.  Hence Jesus’ atonement!  Look at Ephesians 2:1-10.  It says this; “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved (salvation)); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (revelation): That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (conquest). Now add to that 1st John 3:7-9 “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil (conquest).  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

            The cross of Christ is central to all Christianity for without it nothing that believers hold so dear would exist.  Mankind would be bound to a life of utter misery and abandonment, with no hope for the future, no peace in the present and no direction found in the past. Mankind would be sentenced to an eternity filled with absolute and total hopelessness and despair.  But thank God the cross did and does exist for all to come to and find eternal life, hope, peace and love.  However, because it does exist we have a hope for the future, a peace in the present and direction found in the past, and all believers are sentenced to an eternity filled with hope in Christ.

            In an attempt to do justice to the true centrality, popularity and awesome power of the cross in every sphere of the Christian life we will offer this four part summation.

1)      The cross is the ground of our justification;

            a.         Christ on the cross has rescued us from the present evil age (Galatians1:4)

            b.         Christ on the cross has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).

2)      The cross is the way of our sanctification;

            a.         We are crucified with Christ we no longer live but it is Christ (Galatians 2:20).

            b.         We have crucified our fallen natures (Galatians 5:24).

            c.         The world has been crucified to us (Galatians 6:14).

3)      The cross is the subject of our witness.

            a.         We should openly pronounce to the world Christ crucified, because he was publicly crucified, so                         we might see and believe (Galatians 3:1).

            b.         We must preach the cross as the only way of salvation (Galatians 5:11; 6:12).

4)      The cross is the object of our boasting.

            a.         God forbid that we should boast in anything else (Galatians 6:14).

            If the center cross is not central to a believer’s life and that believer lives a life outside the spheres presented above, Paul describes that believer as an "enemy of the cross, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame and who mind earthly things" (Philippians 3:18-19).

            With earnest and sincere hearts let us all go about doing the work of Christ.  Time is short and the harvest is full but the laborers are few.  Jesus is coming; let us all be doing His work when He returns!

            Next month we will look at the other two crosses, the cross on the left, the cross of rejection and the cross on the right, the cross of reception. 


[1] Stott, John W; The cross of Christ; Inter Varsity Press; 1986

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