The most commonly accepted symbol of our Christian faith is the cross. If you travel any distance on our country roads, you’ll find crosses situated in different places along highways. But over the next couple of weeks, I would like us to consider the question – what does the cross mean to you? The word “cross” comes from the Latin “crux” and crucifixion was an instrument of torture and execution. Originally the Assyrians, way back the Old Testament days, would practice impaling people on poles outside conquered cities. The Romans adopted this practice and made it the most painful and degrading form of capital punishment possible. Many times, the Romans would scourge (beat with a whip consisting of pieces of metal or bone attached to the end) the victims of crucifixion, not just out of cruelty, but it was also intended to hasten the death and lessen the terrible ordeal of crucifixion itself. This is certainly what we see at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, what are some of the purposes of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, Paul begins to direct our attention to the importance of the cross when he writes the Galatians and states, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen”, (Gal.1:4,5 NKJV). In this passage, we see two very important purposes for the cross of Jesus Christ.
First of all, Jesus died in order to rescue us from the present wicked age. The cross is not just about some past historical event or the future hope that we have as a result of it, but it is also about our present deliverance. As long as we are in this body we shall be exposed to the many influences and temptations of the present worldly system that we live in. “This present age” that Paul refers to here is not about a particular period of time, but rather about a worldly order and system that is currently in place that is ruled by Satan. Remember the purpose for Paul’s writing this letter to the Galatians was that many of them were desiring to return to or be placed under the legal bondage of the Old Testament law by renouncing the deliverance purchased by Christ for them and us at the cross. The world is trying to draw us into its current evil system. Outside of the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the current world system seeks to drag us away from Jesus Christ. Paul says that Christ died in order to “deliver us” that is to pluck us out of, or draw us away, in order to rescue us from the present evil age. Emancipation from this present bondage to the age we live in is found in careful consideration and meditation on the cross of Christ. Remember Daniel’s three friends in Daniel 3 were not saved from the fiery furnace, but rather they were saved in the fiery furnace when the Son of God walked with them. Careful consideration and meditation on the cross is ever-present protection from this worldly system. That is why once a month at communion we carefully consider the meaning and significance of the cross.
The second reason that is given in this text for the purpose of the cross was that it was to fulfill God’s will on our behalf. Paul says, “according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever”, (v.4b-5). The cross of Jesus Christ was not according to any man-made plan or in proportion to our legal obedience, but rather the sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation was in complete accordance with God’s will and design and it also fulfilled His glory. We stand before God without any merit on our own and when we have been saved and brought into eternity with Jesus we will glorify God eternally, because of the redeeming work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The glory which He has will not be the result of anything that we’ve accomplished or for any work that we have done. Our heavenly Father is entitled to our highest esteem and worship because of His sacrifice for us through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. People are worshiping all kinds of idols in our day, that’s why athletes are paid ridiculous sums of money to play sports, or music artists are selling their music libraries for half a billion dollars. These are all forms of idolatry, but we glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and our heavenly Father when we prioritize the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives and seek to honor God in all the choices and decisions that we make.
The Galatians stumbled by looking at the Old Testament as the way to please God, but God uses Paul’s letter to illustrate that the only way we can be brought into the presence of the living God of the universe is through the Lord Jesus Christ, who paid it all. I hope as we consider the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ over the next few blogs that you will be brought in a closer relationship with the One who gave His all so that we can spend eternity with His heavenly Father.
Living in light of the cross,
Pastor Rich Sivo