1. THE DEATH ON THE CROSS: AN EXPERIENCE FOR US
I [Paul] determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I Corinthians 2:2
What we all need today is to know in experience the salvation to the uttermost that is ours through Christ's atoning death on the Cross. The apostle Paul's determination when he came to Corinth was to have not only an intellectual knowledge, but also an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Cross.
2. DEEPER MEANING OF THE DEATH ON THE CROSS
The initial message of the Cross, which concerns our justification before God, has been regarded as basic throughout the years and has been presented somewhat clearly. But concerning other deeper meanings of Calvary's Cross, there has been, and is, much confusion. Many have not had clear understanding of such passages of Scripture as "I die daily"; "ye have put off the old man"; "crucified with Christ"; "the old man was crucified"; "make to die the doings of the body"; "deny yourself"; "ceased from sin"; sinneth not"; "dead unto sin"; "alive unto God," and others. For this reason even though we are told plainly that He always "giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," and also that "His grace is sufficient for us," many Christians are still living defeated lives.
In many cases, the reason for the confusion and lack of understanding of the deeper meaning of the Cross is that there has not yet been a definite break with sin. All too many have not totally renounced self and so are still making provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14). Until we come to an end of ourselves and make a full surrender to Christ, we shall never be able to understand the deeper truths of God's Word, for it is written, "The rich he hath sent empty away" (Luke 1:53). But on the other hand, there are those who really want a deeper life with God and who "hunger and thirst after righteousness." To all such, we are trusting the Lord to bring about the fulfillment of His promise, "They shall be filled."
3. A BIRD'S EYEVIEW OF THE WORK OF THE CROSS
With these hungry souls in mind, we are setting forth in this booklet a bird's-eye view of the work of the Cross in three of its main aspects:
- First, Christ Crucified FOR Us - Our Substitute. This aspect of the Cross of Christ deals with the unregenerate man, that is, with perversity-and makes possible the forgiveness of sins and regeneration.
- Second, Christ Crucified AS Us-Our Representative. Here the Cross of Christ deals with the old man, that is, with carnality-and makes possible both freedom from the power of sin and also the filling of the Holy Spirit.
- Third, Christ Crucified IN Us-Our Indweller. This aspect of the Cross of Christ does not deal with sin in the Christian. It deals with the new man, that is, with humanity (or the physical man). The daily Cross makes possible the disciplined control of the physical body, the sacrifice of the body that others too may live, intercessory prayer, and victorious warfare against Satan.
4. WE ALL SEE IT IN PART: AN ELEPHANT IS LIKE A ROPE!
Though all who have been exposed to the Scriptures have some conception of the Cross and its meaning, yet even the most enlightened see only in part. Our capacity to see the whole truth of God's so great a salvation is very limited at best. The simple story of the four blind men and the elephant seems applicable here. One of the blind men felt the elephant's leg and said, "I know that an elephant is like a tree"; another, feeling his ear, knew that an elephant was like a fan; a third felt his side and knew an elephant was like a rough wall; still another felt his tail and said, "I certainly can't see how you all can be so mistaken, for any one would know that an elephant is like a rope."
All saw the elephant-in part. Did any really see the elephant?
5. WE ALL NEED A REVELATION OF THE FULL MEANING OF THE CROSS: NOT COMMENTARIES
In the salvation of our souls, God has provided so much that even if we see in Calvary all that Luther saw, together with all that Calvin saw, and in addition all that Wesley saw, we still would not know the whole of God's tremendous work on our behalf at Calvary. The liberals see and accept only the third aspect of the Cross - a form of self-denial. Some fundamentalists (there are several varieties of those who believe the Bible is the Word of God) generally see only the first aspect. Holiness people see the first and second aspects but as a rule not the third. Others, accepting only the first and third aspects, would not consider the second crisis at all. Then, is not what we all need a revelation of the full meaning of the Cross? We must each appropriate all the benefits of Calvary. To this end may the Lord himself enlighten us now as we look into the three aspects in greater detail.
6. THE FIRST ASPECT OF THE CROSS
The first aspect of the Cross, Christ Crucified FOR Us - Our Substitute, deals with unregenerate man, the man "dead in his trespasses and sins." First, the Holy Spirit begins to convict a man of his sins and to reveal to him that he is lost, outside the fellowship of God, and subject to eternal death. As this sinner responds and confesses his sins, the Holy Spirit through the Word shows clearly that the stroke due him fell on Christ (Isa. 53:8, margin). "Christ died for our sins" (I Cor. 15:3), and "His own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness" (I Peter 2:24).
In this first work of the Cross, the Holy Spirit points out to the sinner the only way of salvation from sins. He reveals that God's plan is to save his people from-not in-their sins. God's terms for our receiving His provision of salvation are twofold: "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). Repentance is turning from sin; faith is turning to, and receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Only when the sinner repents and trusts does God forgive and regenerate. Therefore the sinner must repent, must forsake his sins, and must believe that Christ died for his sins. "Confess your sins," says I John 1:9.
That is our side of it, and if we do our part and receive Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, God will do His part, applying the benefit and value of the Cross. He will both forgive us and regenerate us, for "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins." Thus we will be "born again," and it will be true of us as it is declared in Ephesians 2:1: "You did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins." Salvation, then, is not by believing a doctrine or confessing a creed, but salvation is becoming united to a Person, and that Person is Jesus Christ.
7. ONLY FORGIVENESS AND REGENERATION?
But is forgiveness and regeneration all that the Cross can do for us? No, it is neither all that our God can do nor all that He wants to do. He meets the sinner's first need and perhaps his only need at that time as he sees it-namely, salvation from the guilt and penalty of sin. But this is just the beginning of God's work.
Very soon the young convert, now no longer spiritually dead but alive unto God, knows that he needs a deeper work of grace in his heart. He knows that he has other needs besides the forgiveness of sins. Though forgiven, he is not always victorious, for there seems to be a power of sin in his life so that he "may not do the things that [he] would" (Gal. 5:17). He loves the Lord and His will, yet he finds himself in bondage so that he can not obey the Lord perfectly. Nor does he have abiding joy. Within is a conflict, for "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal. 5:17). To be sure, at times he has joy, but very much of his experience is up and down. The great tragedy in the Christian Church is that many are told this is the normal Christian experience, and so lose heart and go back to the world.
It is just here that the Holy Spirit can reveal to the hungry a deeper aspect of the Cross: Christ Crucified AS Us-Our Representative. This aspect deals not with Christ taking upon himself the stroke which was our due, but with Christ bearing us to the Cross. To the soul that really hungers and thirsts for righteousness and seeks for a way out, God reveals that Jesus died as us: "One died for all, therefore all died … that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). God's Word also says that "our old man was crucified with him" (Rom. 6:6).
8. THE SECOND ASPECT OF THE CROSS: DENIAL OF SELF, AND SURRENDER
God's Word declares specifically, "He [Christ] died for all." But it also says, "Therefore all died." Both statements must be accepted and believed. To receive salvation we must accept God's terms, which are repentance and faith-faith in the fact of Christ's death for us as our Substitute on Calvary's Cross.
It is exactly the same regarding the second aspect of the Cross. Though Christ's death as us happened two thousand years ago, in our experience this becomes real only when we meet Christ's terms. What are these terms? Surrender and faith. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself" (Matt. 16:24).
Surrender is the denial of self-not the denial of things, and not even self-denial (so-called). Denial of self is an utter unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ, including the giving up of all my "rights to myself." Here is the root of sin in experience-my idea that I have a right to myself, or that these are my rights. Thus, the reason that we are so easily irritated, jealous, touchy, impatient, anxious, proud, or angry (to say nothing of the grosser sins) is that we have not denied ourselves.
Our part is to deny self, to nail the disposition to have our own way to the Cross. The Word says that positionally "our old man was crucified with him." It is already done, for there we were crucified, there we died, there we were buried. As far as God is concerned, He is through with the old man. However, in our experience, God will not make this real until we give Him permission by making an absolute surrender to Him-a surrender so complete that death (to self) is the only word that can properly describe it. Then we can go on and reckon ourselves "dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:11).
And so, God's part in redemption through the person of Jesus Christ is already full and complete. Our part is to get rightly adjusted to what Jesus Christ has already done-our part is to come and take all that He has done. Many come and take only the forgiveness of sins; some come and take a little deeper measure of victory; but God wants us to have the full value of the death of Christ. God's table is spread, and "all things are now ready." His great invitation is "Come" (Luke 14:17), for "according to your faith be it done unto you" (Matt. 9:29).
As we mentioned before, the principles involved in "entering in" to Christ crucified as us are the same as in Christ crucified for us. If we will but deny ourselves and forsake all that we have, giving ourselves with full abandonment to God, He will by the Holy Spirit make the Cross real in our experience. Then we will find that we are not only dead to sin (plural)-this must be our attitude if we are Christians at all-but we will also be able to "reckon ourselves dead to sin" (singular). Literally, we will be delivered "out of the power of darkness, and translated … into the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Col. 1:13). This truth, positionally true of all, will become experientially true, so that we will have a right to say no to temptation. We will have a right also too say no to the devil and to the claims of the old life. "If the Son shall make [us] free, [we] shall be free indeed."
Now there are many that think this second aspect of the Cross is a daily dying. But the context very plainly tells us that it is a definite crisis experience, for Romans 6:10, 11 says Christ "died unto sin once: … Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin." This must be a crisis experience, a definite break with sin, a definite break with bondage to the flesh. If this is still a daily experience with us, it must be because we have not utterly denied self, we have not renounced all that we have, and we are still making provision somewhere for the flesh. God's Word says, "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14).
Here, then, in this second aspect of the Cross of Christ, is God's provision for the old man, for carnality-namely, death. There must be a willingness to die to the old life and all that pertains to it, and then a trusting the Holy Spirit to make real in us what God's Word promises. God's provision is to "put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit … and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:22-24).
9. THE THIRD ASPECT OF THE CROSS: OUR INDWELLER
Finally, there is still a deeper meaning of the Cross of Christ, a third aspect: Christ Crucified IN Us-Our Indweller, which deals with the physical man, or humanity. It is here we have a daily application of the Cross. Jesus said unto them all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). This deeper experience is not a daily dying to sin, but a daily bearing of the cross, and is necessary (as we show in separate booklets later) for several reasons: for the control of the body; for sacrificial living; for a spirit of brokenness; for intercession for others; and for warfare against the accuser of our brethren.
10. THE DISCIPLINE OF THE BODY
First, we shall very briefly consider the control of discipline of the body. Though the old man (which was in bondage to the devil and the world) has been crucified, yet the new man needs to be brought into full subjection to God. Even though we have been forgiven our sins, and also have been cleansed from all sin, there must be right living and growth, and full adjustment to God and His purpose. Genuine though the blessing of sanctification may have been, it is not a state of grace from which we can not fall. It may be list. It is necessary therefore to live a disciplined life- "to keep under the body and bring it into subjection" (I Cor. 9:27, KJV).
In the old life, the body was an instrument of sin and under the dominion of the old man (which was energized by the devil); the body itself was not sin, but was an instrument of sin; the body was not bad, but was simply under the wrong management can come to an end. Through the wondrous working of the Cross, in place of the wrong disposition (the old man), God gives us the disposition of Christ. Therefore we are admonished:
"Neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:13). The body has appetites, desires, urges, and passions, which are not wrong in themselves; but if these are not controlled by the Holy Spirit, they will become wrong. For this reason we must keep the body under the control of Christ and bear the daily cross.
11. LIVING TO PLEASE GOD
Christ himself had to bear a daily cross to keep His body under the control of the Holy Spirit. We are told concerning Him that "Christ also pleased not himself" (Rom. 15:3). He did not have a sinful nature, yet He had to stay under the discipline of the Holy Spirit.
He lived only to please God. His daily cross was not always seen, but it was a cross nevertheless. For instance, as He was tempted of the devil in the wilderness, He fasted for forty days and then became hungry. Under ordinary circumstances, would it have been wrong to eat? No. But Christ did not eat, for this suggestion to eat was a temptation from the devil, and therefore to yield would have been sin. So, even though Christ's body demanded food, He pleased not himself but chose to trust the Father to feed Him whenever His Father's purpose in the wilderness had been fulfilled.
To sum up this working of the Cross in the control of the body; we will use again two simple illustrations. First, our eating. It is not wrong to eat, but it can become wrong if we eat too much or too often. Just here we need the repeated application of the Cross to keep our body under control. Second, our sleeping. Of course sleep is not wrong; it is necessary. But we know sleep can become wrong if we sleep when God wants us to be awake. Lest our bodies become again the instruments of sin, we must bear our cross and not please ourselves. Moreover, every other appetite and desire of the body-even though the appetite is not wrong in itself-must be kept under the control of the Holy Spirit.
12. GREAT CONFUSION - LOCATING SIN IN BODY ONLY
Great confusion exists right here. So many locate sin in the body, thinking that sin is something material, that it is a sort of "lump of something" that either must be removed by some kind of spiritual surgery, or that must be retained as long as we are in the body. But sin is not material and does not have its seat in the body. Sin, rather, is in the soul, in the spiritual part of man. Sin is a tendency, an attitude, a wrong way of looking at things. Sin stems from self being at the center of the life. But when we surrender fully to Christ and trust Him to forgive and also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, then sin is removed and the taint gone. The heart that is pure and filled with perfect love is ready for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But even then, lest we again begin to please ourselves, we need the daily application of the Cross to maintain the decision made in the crisis of sanctification.
13. DAILY WORKING OF THE CROSS NEEDED
Yet we need the daily outworking of the Cross not only in disciplining the body but also in sacrificing the body. That others may live, we must be willing to sacrifice all, even life itself. This is what the apostle Paul means in 1 Corinthians 15:31 where he says, "I die daily." The context is very plain and shows clearly that the reference is to physical death. This is not speaking about sin; this is speaking about Paul's physical body. Daily he was willing to hazard his life to death. The preceding verse says, "We also stand in jeopardy every hour" (1 Cor. 15:30), while the following verse declares, "After the manner of men I fought with beasts at Ephesus" (I Cor. 15:32). To apply this passage to "death to sin" would require the greatest stretch of imagination and the greatest liberty in exegesis.
Here Paul does not refer to sin at all, but to his willingness to sacrifice his life that others may live. We have this truth further explained in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves … For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake … So then death worketh in us, but life in you." Thus, not only must our body be kept under control (so that it does not rule us but we rule it), but also this disciplined body of ours must be used for others. In order that others may live, we must be "broken bread and poured out wine."
14. FRUIT-BEARING AND LIVING SACRIFICE
In Romans 12:1 we are exhorted to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God- "holy and acceptable." But man in his natural state is not holy; he is not acceptable. Controlled by the old man, the body is neither holy nor acceptable. Only the man who has experienced the crucifixion of this old life (the second aspect of the Cross) can present himself to God as a living sacrifice. Thus this third aspect of the Cross goes on to deal not with sin but with the physical body (or humanity), that our bodies may be kept under control and sacrificed so that others may live.
This is the secret of fruit-bearing that the Bible and all nature tells about: "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit" (John 12:24). This verse does not refer to surrendering the old man (self-life) to God, for we do not plant bad seed but good. This verse refers to handing over the new life to God to plant it so that thereby it may bring forth fruit. In order to make bread for others, God will break the one who has already been cleansed from sin, and has already been liberated from the domination of self, the world, and Satan.
15. THE ROLE OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER
There is another application of this third aspect of the Cross - intercessory prayer. This, too, has nothing to do with sin, but rather with the outworking of the purpose of God in the new man. Intercessory prayer is not mere praying for someone. It is "the supplication of a righteous man [that] availeth much in its working" (James 5:17).
Moses broke out in a great sob as he prayed for his people who had exchanged their Deliverer and Supplier of every need for a golden calf. This was no ordinary prayer. This was not just a prayer for someone's blessing. Moses said, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me … out of thy book which thou hast written." So great was Moses' burden, his agony, his intensity that he could not even finish the sentence. Moses offered himself. It was as if he were saying, "God, You can do anything You want with me-only save the people. If it be possible for me to bear their sin, I will." Of course, his offer was rejected, for there is only one sin-bearer-that is, Christ. However, we see here a depth of prayer that few ever reach. Not many will follow the leading of the Cross to this depth, but the apostle Paul surely did when he prayed, "I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake" (Rom. 9:2-3).
This is not an easy path. No experience of sanctification automatically makes an intercessor, and so one must go on from death to the self-life to this deeper experience of the Cross-intercessory prayer. The cleansed vessel must be broken before the Christ within may be revealed in all His glory. The easiest but yet the hardest way of bringing the lost to Jesus is intercessory prayer. "Who follows in His train?"
16. TO CONCLUDE
In conclusion, let us sum up the three aspects of the Cross. First, we trust Christ to forgive us our sins. Secondly, we trust Christ to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and to fill us with His Holy Spirit. And thirdly, lest we begin to please ourselves, we need the daily application of the Cross, disciplining and sacrificing ourselves for the sake of Christ's kingdom to the ends of the earth.