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The Cross of Jesus Christ - Part One

The Cross in Colossians

The cross is central to Christianity and the studies on it are numerous. I thoroughly recommend Leon Morris's "The Cross In the New Testament" for a deep and thorough understanding of this topic. This month we shall focus on the cross of Christ as presented in the book of Colossians.

Colossians has two main references to the cross. In chapter one verse twenty Paul writes of the cross in cosmic terms. The cross reconciles all things to God -whether those things are on earth or on heaven. This gives us the basis for missionary work because we know that every ethnic group is included in this reconciliation. It also gives us the basis for personal holiness built on the foundation of a far-reaching reconciliation with God. In chapter two verse 14 Paul writes of the cross as erasing the record of our sins and thus destroying the basis that the evil powers and principalities had to accuse and destroy us. Paul goes on to show that this action on the cross removes all the basis for having to observe rituals in regard to food, drink, festivals, new moons and Sabbaths etc. Now lets look at these interesting references in more detail.

(Colossians 1:19-23 NRSV) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, {20} and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. {21} And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, {22} he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him-- {23} provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

These verses point out the following four things about the cross.

1.That Christ was a perfect and pleasing sacrifice to God.In Him all "the fullness of God" was pleased to dwell.

Jesus was fully God and fully man. Perfect in every way. Because of His perfection God was pleased to use Him as the agent of reconciliation for all things. Being fully God meant that His reconciliation extended to all things in the heavenlies as well as all things on earth. Since the sacrifice was fully God, then ir was infinite in scope. Jesus was able to be a substitute for all the sins of all the people for all time. The fact that Jesus was fully God also means that the sacrifice was sinless, perfect, and totally acceptable.

2. That the reconciliation is extensive and all-embracing.God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.

No class of being is left out of the possibility of salvation. Kings can be saved, poor people can be saved, Jews can be saved, Gentiles can be saved, slaves can be saved, and so can their masters. There is no group at which we can point the finger and say "this group cannot experience salvation, Christ did not die for them, they are beyond redemption". The cross is effective for all classes of people. This verse does not mean that all individuals will be saved regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. It is not an indicator that all will, somehow, go to heaven. This has sometimes been argued from this and other verses. For a concise rebuttal of universalism read Millard J. Erickson's Christian Theology pages 1018-1022.

3. That the cross results in peace."making peace through the blood of his cross".

The sacrificial death of Jesus ends the war between man and God. Paul describes us as "once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,". In other words both our inner and outer beings were at cross-purposes with God. When peace is made we move from being enemies of god at cross-purposes with Him to becoming obedient sons and daughters performing His will. This results in his blessing resting on our lives and this produces a state of blessedness known as "peace" or "Shalom" - the well-being, prosperity, abundance and joy of God. To enter into this peace the blood of the cross like the blood on the doorposts in Exodus has to be personally applied. The model in Exodus was that the lamb was slain, its blood collected in a bowl, then applied to the doorposts with a bunch of hyssop. This prevented the wrath of God's destroying angel visiting that house. The blood in the bowl protected no-one. It only became effective as it was applied with the bunch of hyssop. Christ is the perfect Passover lamb and the reconciliation purchased by His blood is only available to those who apply it to their lives through faith. (Exodus 12:6, 12-13, 21-23; 1 Cor 5:7) According to the philosopher and Bible teacher Derek Prince this peace applies to six areas of our lives:

  • The blood of Christ brings redemption out of the hand of the Devil.(Eph 1:7, Psalm 107:2)
  • Through the blood of Christ all your sins are forgiven. (Eph 1:7)
  • The blood of Jesus God's Son, is cleansing you now and continually from all sin. (1 John 1:7-10)
  • Through the blood of Jesus Christ you are made righteous, justified, "just-as if I'd" never sinned. (Romans 5:9, Proverbs 28;1, Isaiah 32:17)
  • Through the blood of Jesus Christ you are sanctified, made holy, set apart for God. (Hebrews 10:29, 13:12 ; Colossians 1:12, 13 Romans 8:2)
  • Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit , redeemed, cleansed, sanctified by the blood of Jesus, therefore the devil has no place in you and no power over you. ( 1 Corinthians 6: 13, 19-20, 1 John 5:6, Eccl. 4:12)

    The peace with God that comes through the blood of the cross affects every area of our lives bringing them into wholeness of body, soul, and spirit.

    4.That the purpose of the cross is so that God may purchase for himself a holy and blameless people, His church."....He has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him"

    This is confirmed in the epistle to the Ephesians where Paul writes(Ephesians 1:3-4 NRSV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, {4} just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.Jesus objective is to "present you holy and blameless". He wants to produce people that are spotless in every respect. Sometimes we see nothing further than forgiveness. As wonderful as forgiveness is we cannot rest there but must press on in the light of that forgiveness to lead holy lives. The cross works in our lives to give us the power to be holy. As you accept this transforming power and harness it by faith you will be made holy from within.

  • The second of the Colossians passages looks at the cross in the light of false religions and philosophies and show how Christ is vastly superior to all other spiritual powers and philosophical systems.

    (Colossians 2:13-22). {13} And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with Him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, {14} erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. {15} He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. {16} Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. {17} These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. {18} Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, {19} and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.A further four points about the cross can be extracted from this short passage they are:

    5.The cross gives life to the spiritually dead.And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with Him, when he forgave us all our trespasses,
    The point at which we are "made alive" is the point when we accept the work of the cross in our lives and are forgiven all our trespasses. Our life is not an independent life but comes from being "with Him". The spiritual deadness of the unbeliever is total. To put it bluntly some corpses may be warmer than others and some may be very decomposed indeed but they are all corpses. They cannot come alive by their own power. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast. Life for the spiritually dead flows from God through the cross to all who believe.

    6.The cross ends the power of rules and regulations over the life of the believer.{14} erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. {15} He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. {16} Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. {17} These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
    The total forgiveness of us purchased on the cross ends the power of rules over the life of the believer. Lets look at it this way. Rules in the spiritual realm are either from God or the Devil. The cross has defeated the Devil and so his rules have no power. The cross has also purchased forgiveness for breaking God's rules. The cross has freed us from them into a lifestyle where we are led by the Spirit and not under a law code for approval from God. The cross has thus abolished the rules about food, drink, and festivals that are from God and destroyed the rules about food, drink and festivals that the Devil tried to impose. Thus there are no laws of this nature that the believer has to obey. They were once useful as "tutors to lead us to Christ" but they are the ‘shadow' not the ‘substance'. Christ is the "real thing" and rules are now a thing of the past.

    7. The cross is a final and permanent end to Satan's ability to accuse us erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands.He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. {15} He disarmed the rulers and authorities...
    When Satan wants to dig up our sins and fling them at us we can say to him. "I'm afraid you will have to go the cross and find them - they have been nailed there by God" . Crucified criminals had their crimes nailed above the cross so people could know why they died. On Christ's cross is a board with all the sins you and I have ever done nailed to it. They were nailed to Christ's cross and he took the punishment for them. He bore all the charges in one massive hit - and rose from the dead. It was as if Jesus stood in court with literally millions of charges against His name and pleaded guilty to all the sins you and I had committed (out of love for us so that we could go free). Then the Judge (God) said "You will serve all these death sentences concurrently - on the cross". (They had to be served concurrently - you cannot keep executing someone). Since the penalty for the crimes had been paid Satan had no further basis for accusing believers before God. . Their charge sheets were all nailed to the cross! With "penalty paid in full" written on them! Satan was out of ammunition! Paul describes this as "disarming the principalities and powers.." and "triumphing over them". It was a victory indeed!

    8. The cross gives Christians the confidence they need to break with the domination of their lives by spiritual powers, taboos and superstitions.He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

    The Colossians like many Christians now came from a culture which had strict taboos related to spirit-worship and other customs. This part of the gospel message was and is very freeing to them as they no longer have to abide by the countless fear-filled rules of their culture. Some of these taboos can be very cruel -especially toward women. Before the missionaries came to the Gogodala tribe (in which I worked for a short while ) the women were required to require wear large heavy cane baskets that covered their heads and most of the length of their bodies for three months after the death of any clan member. This meant that most women were permanently encased in these cruel baskets out of fear of what the spirits would do if they broke with this taboo. The spiritual powers that are behind these taboos and which make them work are defeated by the cross of Christ. All the taboos have been broken down and the demonic powers have no ground of attack. They have in fact been publicly humiliated and stripped of their power. The Gogodala are now a very Christian tribe that sends out evangelists to other tribes. The cane baskets are long forgotten as the light of the gospel has broken forth into their hearts. The cross ends any need to fear or obey the spirits of darkness (even as a precaution). No Christian needs an amulet, a charm, an incantation, a potion, statue, spell, secret writing, mantra, special diet, or any other thing to ward off evil spirits. We have the cross and the blood of Jesus and that has rendered the spirits powerless, humiliated and made us victors "triumphing over them through the cross".

    Conclusion

    The cross of Jesus Christ gives us the confidence and assurance we need to progress in God. We know that we are part of a work of God on a cosmic scale where the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed to reconcile everything on heaven and on earth to God and bring us peace and forgiveness of sin. The cross enables spiritually dead people to be made alive in Christ and empowers those with new life to become holy and blameless and without accusation. The cross is also our protection against all the attacks of the demonic world. It has disarmed Satan and removed his ability to accuse us and means we no longer have to live in fear of breaking taboos or incurring curses and spells. As a result we need no longer be bound by obscure rituals, pointless obligations, religious dietary requirements and festivals designed to appease the spirit world. The cross is our defence and our refuge and gives us the ability to triumph over all spiritual powers. Thus we are freed from human observances into the liberty of the Spirit through the cross of Jesus Christ. Praise be to God!

     

    This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.