By J. Wiley Adams
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
Webster defines the word “wonder” as “a cause of surprise or astonishment; a marvel; prodigy. A miracle. The emotion excited by novelty, or by something strange or not well understood; astonishment.” Perhaps the word ” prodigy” more aptly fits our topic than the other definitions. Webster defines “prodigy” as “something extraordinary, or out of the usual course of nature.” Surely this is what will be under consideration as we explore the “wonders” of the cross of Christ.
The cross is the central theme of God’s redemptive system. It was planned “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). Jesus knew if mankind were to be redeemed from sin that he would have to face the cross (Jn. 18:4).
What gospel preacher has not at times begun a sermon or a series of sermons by reference to 1 Corinthians 2:14 as he, along with Paul, announced his resolve to preach “Christ and him crucified.” To do more or do less would negate the purpose of the cross. Let us now consider several wonders” of the cross of Christ.
A paradox is a seeming contradiction, but only “seeming” as we shall employ the term. The cross is truly the greatest of paradoxes. It was history’s most tragic event, the saddest spectacle man ever beheld, Satan’s greatest victory, Christ’s greatest defeat, God’s greatest manifestation of hatred of sin, the darkest hour of history, the appalling bloodthirstiness of the wicked, man’s sinfulness, and God’s holiness. On the other hand the cross was the most wonderful event of history, the source of the greatest joy, Satan’s greatest defeat and Christ’s greatest victory, God’s supreme proof of his love for sinful man, the time of the world’s greatest light, divine forgiveness portrayed (“Father, forgive them”), human weakness and Divine strength. Is it any wonder as we contemplate these things that we like to sing songs such as “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”?
Many men have died on a Roman cross. History is replete with accounts of such. Some of them deserved the death penalty. No doubt some did not. But, all were sinners, nevertheless. Not so with Christ. He was the only truly innocent person ever to live on earth. No guile was found in his mouth as he went about doing good (1 Pet. 2:22; Acts 10:38). He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
We often sing “What a friend we have in Jesus” and how true this is. He was compassionate even toward those who crucified him (Luke 23:34). He died a voluntary, vicarious death for you and me (1 Pet. 2:21). He lived his life on earth for others and not for himself. He owned no property, he healed the sick, he raised the dead, he made the blind to see, and taught the sinners the way of salvation. On the cross he had regard to the appeal of the thief beside him (Luke 23:43) and to the care of his mother (Jn. 19:26,27). He even plead for his executioners.
Though innocent, his death was for the guilty. He was falsely accused, beaten, spit upon, reviled, and mocked (Luke 23:35; Mt. 27:26,29). He bore his own cross, he was nailed to it, suspended between earth and heaven with a malefactor on either side, bearing the burden of the sins of mankind upon him. The pain was excruciating, the loneliness and despondency of the moment bleak and desolate, forsaken by heaven and earth. Why did he not call ten legions of angels? He could have. But he did not. It was the only way man could be redeemed from sin. So he did it for you and for me. Praise God, what a Savior!
How can we conceive of Deity being under necessity? Yet, if man was to be redeemed from sin it was a divine “must.” Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn. 3:14).
Why this necessity? When man sinned the cross became a necessity (Gen. 3:15). Since all sin, no one can save himself. Therefore, if man is to be saved, a divine substitute was the only answer (1 Pet. 2:24).
God’s righteousness and justice demanded it. God’s justice required penalty for sin. His love required consideration for the sinner. Through the cross God was both “just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Without the cross the prophecies of the Old Testament would have been without meaning. The law of Moses could not have been fulfilled without the cross (Col. 2:14).
Our salvation depended on the cross. Christ’s mission on the earth was to save (Luke 19: 10). That being true, Christ gave himself to that end (Eph. 5:25; Mark. 10:45).
Is it any wonder that the redeemed of all ages was portrayed as singing “Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
Its Divine Demonstration
Jesus had made many claims as to his divinity. As a result he was accused of blasphemy (Jn. 8:12,16-18,21-22). The cross would fully substantiate every claim of Jesus. “When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am he” (Jn. 8:28). This is the challenge of the cross.
At the cross Jesus exemplified in his death what he had announced in his life. Even the Roman centurion confessed, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54). All the efforts of the Roman powers, as well as that of the Jews, could not keep Jesus in the tomb (Mt. 27:67; 28:4).
When Christ said, “It is finished” on the cross, God said “Amen” to it when Christ was raised from the dead, thus showing his approval of Christ’s work of redemption.
The magnetism of the cross is reflected in the statement of Jesus in John 12:32: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me.” The attraction is not seen in the manner in which Christ died but rather in regard to the person of Christ and his purpose on the cross.
At the cross we see the most beautiful character ever portrayed (Jn. 21:25), the greatest demonstration of God’s grace ever made known toward man (2 Cor. 8:9), the greatest power ever beheld by man (Rom. 1:16), and the greatest salvation that could ever be contemplated (Heb. 2:3; 7:25).
Its All Sufficiency
The apostle Paul gloried only in the cross (Gal. 6:14) and thus urged the same thing on us. He knew its sufficiency to save, not only himself (Eph. 3:8), but others as well (1 Cor. 2:14).
The cross is sufficient to meet every human need (2 Pet. 5:7; 1 Cor. 12:7), and is the only way to be saved (Acts 4:12). All must come, as it were, to the cross where only there is reconciliation (Col. 1:20).
Its Glorious Hope
The hope brought to us by the cross is so utterly profound in its complexities and scope, thus reflecting its Divine source, yet, at the same time, its end result which is salvation and peace with God is so utterly simple as to be within the grasp of every man.
The cross provided “peace of mind … .. peace with God” and the “peace of God” (Col. 1:20; Phil. 4:6-9). It provides assurance in death, knowing that “to be with Christ, is far better” (Phil. 1:23). It provides a glorious eternity for the soul. Our bodies will be changed and we will be like Christ (1 Jn. 3:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:51-58).
The cross provides a beautiful abiding place, or mansion (Jn. 14:1-3) eternal in its nature with God and Christ forever. What a blessing it will be to have eternal companionship with the Divine Trio, where there will be no more tears, death, sorrow, pain or suffering. How beautiful Heaven must be! What a blessed future awaits the faithful of God!
Behold, the wonders of the cross! Let us all live so that we will not let salvation slip away from us. What a waste that would be!
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 20, pp. 637-638
October 15, 1987