An Appreciation of the Cross of Christ
In appreciating the Cross of Christ, I have formed three points of consideration expressing what scripture states as valuable to us. First, without the gift of life comes death. Second, the requirement of death because of sin and the human need for justice through faithfulness. Then, most significant, God’s eternal nature is the unifying factor in the atoning life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
WITHOUT THE GIFT OF LIFE COMES DEATH
All that is morally absolute derives from the nature of God which is the nature humans were created to reflect. The path of eternal life is pursuing God’s glory, but humanity has sinned. When sin takes place (turning away from God to self-exaltation), God’s trust is violated and the result is disharmony with God and ultimately loss of life. Even so, after sin first occurred, the LORD in His perfect love offered intervention through the promise (a seed) and provision (animal skin coverings).
The source of my understanding comes from the Bible. A particular truth repeats throughout the Scriptural narrative. Truth: God is offering life and the outcome of rebelling is death. The lessons start with the story of the Garden of Eden. It began in a life-giving paradise with innocent humans. When they ate from other than God’s words for wisdom, they sinned and cut themselves off from the source of potential immortality (see Genesis 2:8-9).
In addition, with that reality of sin, Adam (humans) lost control of their dominion. He and Eve were exiled to live outside God’s presence, outside the Garden of Eden. Their authority was usurped as death entered the picture and God’s good creation was infected due to their sin (see Genesis chapter 3). [For subsequent historical context, see also Genesis 6-9:17 which ends in a rainbow, and 11-12:3 about the origins of the nations and Israel].
God, in spite of sin, covered their shame with animal skins and promised a Son would come from their own body to save them (see Genesis 3:15). For though we are weak, God is greater than our sin. He is the only Source we should look to for Life. This is true from Cain and Abel’s offerings (see Genesis 4) and through every animal, grain, or any type of sacrifice under Israel’s Levitical laws leading to Christ. No living creature with the breath of life could bring forgiveness of our sin even though animal life was used in a substitutionary manner to provide purification.
Yes, sacrifices were given, but they did not bring forgiveness of sin. The sacrifices were a covering for a season so that God’s presence could be among His chosen people. The offerings in sacrifices were life provided by God so they could continue to look to Him for life; just like the provisional coverings given to Adam and Eve. This is also why Abraham in Genesis 22 was willing to offer his son Isaac. He understood God is the Source of Life (see Hebrews 11:17-19).
Moreover, all sacrifices were to be done under the acknowledgment that God is the Source of Life. When practiced without the acknowledgment that God alone is worthy of our worship, one ends up with a useless practice in the least and idolatrous at its worst (see Isaiah 66: 1-4; Romans 1:18-32). Only by trusting in God’s word would any sacrifices provide peace between God and man. For the LORD’S aim is forgiveness that heals humanity in such a way we reflect His goodness. This is the intent God had from the beginning. If this were not true, it would be a vain error that God created us in His image.
THE REQUIREMENT OF A HUMAN
Humans are accountable to God because humans are created in the image of God which is a status commanding the capacity to love and the potential to love like God. When we do not reproduce a fitting response to the Lord’s gifts and love, we become guilty of dishonoring God and accountable for not acknowledging our Creator. When we choose self-advantage over loving God and others… we sin.
God nevertheless desires to forgive our sins. We can read in the Bible about God making covenants with humans like Abram in Genesis 15. We also see this in His pattern of long-suffering with His people and the nations at large. Thus, we notice all the sins God passed over by His foreknowledge of a coming Savior.
Therefore, it is consistent with God’s revealed character (which always loves and never lies) that He became one of us to bring about justice. Jesus (becoming one of us) reveals the image we are to bear and addressed our fallen state of existence with complete love.
You see, life itself is the LORD’S free gift. It is not something He must acquire. He does, however, give it again through death as a human after fulfilling all righteousness. He relieves our impossible need for a faithful sinless human heart as someone within the dominion God gave us to be faithfully accountable.
God had to show up as one of us. Otherwise, creating humanity in His image would have been a miscalculation. It would have been a miscalculation because of God’s allowance to have evil enter His creation to manipulate and challenge His sovereignty. God reveals He is just in creating humans in His image by bringing to light His will through the Incarnation (see Romans 3:19-26).
The Cross of Jesus overcomes humanity’s fallen headship on Earth and condemns rebellion out of Heaven because what was substituted at Christ’s crucifixion was His human integrity in place of our sin and shame. Jesus being human was essential. This could not be substituted. God, by incarnation, has in Christ brought Heaven and Earth back together. God reorders creation under the supremacy of Jesus the Glorified Human (see Colossians 1:15-20).
JUSTICE THROUGH FAITHFULNESS
Furthermore, I must discuss satisfying the nature of God when talking about the Cross of Christ because of the understanding that there are consequences to human sin to be overcome other than eternal punishment.
Beyond forgiveness, God desires righteous children since all behavior is to be accounted for and rewarded impartially (see Romans 2:1-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Christ’s substitution is not about excusing bad behavior, but rather about restoring good conduct. In the acceptance, there is no way forward other than conforming to the Lord’s nature.
So, we must look to and follow Lord Jesus who by faithfulness pleased God. When Jesus lived out His humanity to the point of offering His all, He hit the mark of faithfulness and being found without sin condemned sin (see Romans 8:1-4). He thereby opened the way to Father God through swallowing up death on the Cross. This is something only the Unique Son of God sent from God could endure due to His integrity and love for us (see John 3:16; Romans 3:25).
The Faithful Man, by His righteous character, disarmed the opposing Principalities and Powers that use our lives as a shield to their destruction. They do this by keeping us under the threat of death. The fear of death is our immediate reality and is their sword to humanity’s neck (see Colossians 2:14-15). Praise God! Praise God this is not true anymore for those in Christ. Thanks to His faithfulness the veil to the nature of God is open! He came and poured out His soul to impart the Holy Spirit so that we can learn to mature into people of His righteous character.
The atoning death of Christ promotes impartiality and reconciliation because over and above the inescapable cost of suffering He renders His mercy. He, by faithfulness as a man and loyalty as the Son, fulfilled God’s promises. God’s wrath is quenched with the faithfulness of Jesus. Death could not hold Him. The resurrection proclaims Jesus was found without sin. The power of forgiveness has come. Life under the lordship of Christ is more than the means to escape eternal punishment. The offer is to partake in His divine nature.
GOD’S ETERNAL NATURE IS THE UNIFYING FACTOR IN THE ATONING LIFE AND SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST
The essence of God is life-generating and we are informed He cannot deny Himself (see 2 Timothy 2:13) or force Himself on those created in His image (see Genesis 3:1-7). God thereby wants and wills to be with His creation intimately; sharing all of Himself with us so that we might rule with Him (see Genesis 1:26). He has accomplished this by sending His Son, the Nazarene, born in Bethlehem by virgin Mary (see Matthew 1:18-25; John 3:16).
An understanding of the Cross of Christ begins in the recognition that Jesus is the center point and lynchpin to the justifiable love poured out on all creation (see Psalm 118:22 and John1:1-5). In Christ Jesus is life, and by His Cross, there was an act of re-creation (see 1 Corinthians 15).
Therefore, because Jesus was human and died condemning sin in His flesh, we can be forgiven. We should note that God was always willing to forgive, as His covenants and Levitical sacrificial system reveal. Yet, only through the death of Christ, the Holy Human could He make it an everlasting reality on earth as it was in His heart. By His life-giving nature, He provides life for those who will receive Him.
He died for us, as one of us, to purify humanity itself as an everlasting sacred space for the Eternal Spirit to dwell. He made a way for human beings to be purified and present with God.
I have come to believe God is only offering life! Our choice is life or death, but God is only offering life. Because of our sin was death; even death on a cross. Yet, the offering was life for what would surely die. Jesus Christ gave His life to birth new humanity only the eternal nature of God can provide.
To appreciate the Cross of Christ with understanding is to distinguish above all else the life in Jesus that was with God and was God (see John 1:1-5; 1 John 1: 1-4). Then, in terms of old covenant type and shadow, He is the temple. He is the One present in the Holy of Holies, the mercy seat, and the cleansing life on that altar.
Jesus through His Cross is the Manifestation Essential.
Jesus of Nazareth born of a Virgin at Bethlehem is the fulfillment to all God has called humans to be. He is all God has promised to humans. At the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve. In the vow made to Abraham. In the covenant made with Israel. Then in the Messiah promised to King David (see 2 Samuel 7). Jesus is the Now and Forever holy human representative. The Resurrected Man became the life-giving Spirit for all the nations.
The Scripture tells us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person. But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45, NLT).