Only the Cross of Jesus!
(Given at Living Springs Baptist Church on Sunday August 25th 2013.)
Last time I spoke here, in May, I looked at the Great Commission as the major emphasis for Christians while they still live on this earth, and the main reason for the spiritual warfare as well. This time I want to take it one step further. Because Christians are to be fully engaged in ministry that directly relates to the Great Commission, their message to the lost is clear – that their redemption can only come through the cross of Jesus!
Paul clearly stated that there was nothing else he desired people to know but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. The central theme running throughout all his epistles is the cross of Calvary upon which Jesus was crucified.
1 Cor 2:1-8 – 1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known [it], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
And again in Galatians 6:14 – 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.
Paul said we must identify with Christ through his death on the cross, and that if we think we can be saved any way other than the cross, then Christ died in vain!
Galatians 2:20-21 – 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost focussed upon Jesus whom the people had crucified.
Acts 2:22-24 – 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
Acts 2:36 – Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
This preaching of the cross of Jesus brought salvation to about 3,000 people.
Acts 2:40-41 – 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls.
After the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the temple (Acts 3:1-10), Peter says to the people who witnessed it -
Acts 3:13-15; 18-19 – 13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let [him] go. 14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. …. 18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
And this preaching of the Cross of Jesus brought the number of people being saved to around 5,000. This probably included the 3,000 added on the day of Pentecost.
Acts 4:4 – Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
By this time, though, Peter and John have been thrown into prison for the great crime of preaching the cross of Jesus. But all need to hear the word of salvation, even the Jewish rulers, so Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, tells the Jewish ruling council also that salvation can only be through Jesus whom they crucified.
Acts 4:8-12 – 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, [even] by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
In Acts 5, Peter and the other apostles are again in trouble for preaching the gospel with great signs and wonders, and multitudes of people were added to the Church.
Note especially verse 14.
Acts 5:12-16 – 12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. 13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) 15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid [them] on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 16 There came also a multitude [out] of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.
So the apostles were again thrown into prison.
Acts 5:17-23 – 17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 21 And when they heard [that], they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. …..
After being freed by the angel, the apostles went back to the temple and preached the gospel as told to by the angel.
Acts 5:25; 27-32 – 25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. ….. 27 And when they had brought them, they set [them] before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand [to be] a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and [so is] also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
The reaction of the Jewish rulers was probably quite predictable!
Acts 5:40-42 – 40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Over and over through the New Testament we discover that the central theme is salvation through the cross of Jesus. The book of Hebrews focusses upon the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, without which there would be no cleansing for sin.
Hebrews 9:13-14 – 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Note in Leviticus 17:11 that the blood is the life of the body, and that to lose your blood is to lose your life. Shed blood speaks clearly of sacrifice.
Lev 17:11 For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.
However, the blood of animal sacrifices could never take away sin! Only the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is effective for the cleansing of sin, nothing else.
Hebrews 10:4 – For [it is] not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Hebrews 10:10-14 – 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all]. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
As the hymn by Robert Lowry says –
What can take away my stain?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
It is the life of Jesus that was paid to redeem us from our bondage to satan. Mankind was created by Jesus but mankind chose to serve satan instead. There was no way for man himself to buy back his position with God, so God chose to pay the full price to buy back all mankind. This buying back of what was originally legally His is called redeeming his possessions. The price paid was His blood, or the life of His flesh, and so we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. It is associated with propitiation (1 John 2:2 - And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.) or atonement (“the covering”) – that is, the penalty for sin demanded by a righteous God being paid in full for all mankind. It only remained for mankind to accept the gift of salvation to be totally free again!
Rev 5:9 – And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
Gal 3:13 – Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:
Jesus told Thomas that He Jesus was the only way.
John 14:6 – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
And the way can only be through the cross of Jesus. If any man be saved and it be not through the cross of Jesus, then that man is still lost in his sin!
There are many ways that people have “discovered” that take them to Jesus, it seems, but the Word of God is abundantly clear, that if they have not come through the cross of Jesus, then their salvation is null and void, worthless! I hear of people today coming to Jesus along many pathways, and this is nothing new.
Solomon in Proverbs says the same thing twice, so take twice as much note!
Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.
Proverbs 16:25 – There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.
Some people believe they are saved through the laying on of hands or similar, often termed “being slain in the spirit”. They can fall over as dead, and come up speaking what appears to be tongues and can be proclaimed Christians. I have seen this happen in one church and it didn’t speak to me one bit about the cross of Jesus, and without the cross of Jesus, a man is doomed eternally. I have been told a number of times by zealous people that unless I speak in tongues, then I cannot be saved. One church (on the Bellarine Peninsula) claimed boldly that God wouldn’t hear us unless we spoke in tongues. (The prayer at the end of that service still appeared to be very much in English though, although that might be termed tongues to someone who didn’t speak English, I suppose.) I have been told by some that unless I worship God on Saturdays, I am anathema to Him and cannot be saved. I have been told that unless I am baptised as a believer, I cannot be truly saved. A school of one particular denomination where I was teaching required me to do studies on their doctrines, which included baptism as a means of salvation. A person had written into their official magazine querying his salvation if he died before completing his baptismal classes, and was told that his intention to be baptised would be sufficient to be saved. Other viewpoints have claimed that the bread and wine as the real body and blood of Jesus is necessary for salvation. Or to be christened as a child in case the child dies young, or to be absolved of sin on your deathbed in case you sin just before dying. There are these and so many other rules that are claimed to be necessary by various beliefs in order to be saved. And yet, not one of these focusses simply on the cross of Jesus! And unless you come by the way of the cross of Jesus, you are not saved!
There are even those who claim to have been Christian all their lives. However, every person has to come to a point in time (even if they cannot remember the exact time) when he or she comes face to face with a dying Saviour on the cross of Calvary. So, if you know of no time in your life when you came to the cross of Jesus in repentance for your sins, if you have not made any decision to be saved according to the gospel of God’s Word, the Bible, then you are probably still lost in your sins, to be condemned to eternal punishment on the day of judgment.
Paul knew no other gospel than the cross of Jesus when he wrote
1 Corinthians 2:2 – For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And again in Galatians 6:14a – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, …..
Without the cross of Jesus we could never be saved. Jesus could never have defeated the enemy by anything less than total surrender and sacrifice. What less could have drawn from Him the anguish that desired to know if there could be any other way, but “Not my will but Thine!” Or the cry of absolute pain on the cross – “My God, My God. Why have You forsaken me?” But also – “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!!” Without the cross there could be no point to rising again from the dead – if Jesus didn’t really die, how could He rise again from the dead? How indeed could He prove His authority over death and hell if He never died in the first place?
It is known as the grandest theme in all history, as noted above in
Galatians 6:14 – 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.
The grandest theme is the central theme of the Bible, the sacrificial death of Jesus, Son of God, upon the cross. The sacrifices, the daily shedding of blood, in the Old Testament point toward it.
The old hymn by William Ogden says,
“'Tis the grandest theme thro' the ages rung;
‘Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
’Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung.”
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
The Grandest Theme (Rev Joseph Horatio Chant)
grandest theme for tongue, or pen,
Is not the heavens supernal;
Nor mighty deeds of God-like men,
Though they may be eternal;
Nor Alpine heights, nor lovely vale,
With brooks and grazing cattle;
Nor awful roar of rushing gale,
Beyond the noise of battle;
Nor clashing arms, nor trembling earth;
Nor heaving waves of ocean;
Nor record of a nation's birth;
Nor heaven's cloud-cars in motion.
The grandest theme, for tongue, or pen,
Above all else in glory;
Which suits alike, all sinful men,
Is the sweet Gospel story,
Which tells me of my Saviour's love
And infinite compassion,
Which brought Him from His throne above
To Calvary's cross and passion.
And now the holy angels sing,
With blood-washed souls in glory,
A song which makes heaven's arches ring
About this Gospel story.
It is why so many of the old hymns stir the soul, with their clear statements about the cross of Jesus.
Redemption Ground (Daniel W. Whittle)
sing, my soul, and praise the Lord,
Who hath redeemed thee by His blood;
Delivered thee from chains that bound,
And brought thee to redemption ground.
from my God I wandered far,
And with His holy will made war;
But now my songs to God abound;
I’m standing on redemption ground.
joyous hour! when God to me
A vision gave of Calvary;
My bonds were loosed—my soul unbound;
I sang upon redemption ground.
words of merit now I plead,
But Jesus take for all my need;
No righteousness in me is found,
Except upon redemption ground.
weary soul, and here find rest;
Accept redemption, and be blest;
The Christ who died, by God is crowned
To pardon on redemption ground.
Redemption ground, the ground of peace!
Redemption ground, O wondrous grace!
Here let our praise to God abound!
Who saves us on redemption ground.
And who could forget the words of At the Cross?
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away;
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day
It is words like these and other hymns and choruses of praise and glory written throughout the ages that we who have been to the cross of Jesus will be singing together in a massive choir before the throne of God in heaven. The cross is the central theme of the Bible. It is your central theme if you have been redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus at the Cross of Calvary. If you have been to the cross of Jesus, then you will be one of that mighty chorus in heaven praising God for eternity. If you have not yet come to the cross of Jesus, come to the cross today while there is yet time. Praise God, while you are still alive, there is yet time to decide.
Addendum – Some information on Crucifixion.
Concise Bible Dictionary – “Cross”
The wooden structure to which criminals were nailed. Jesus died on a cross: hence it is an emblem of the crucifixion of Christ, so that we read of the ‘death of the cross,’ and the ‘blood of his cross,’ #Php 2:8 Col 1:20; also the ‘preaching of the cross.’ #1Co 1:18. The cross of Christ makes nothing of man and sets aside all his pretensions: therefore to preach ‘the cross’ arouses man’s hatred and persecution. #Ga 5:11 6:12,14. ‘The cross’ is also a symbol of the shame and self-denial that lie in the believer’s path. He is exhorted to take up his cross daily and follow the Lord. #Lu 9:23.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia – “Crucifixion”
As an instrument of death the cross was detested by the Jews. "Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree" (#Ga 3:13; compare #De 21:23), hence, it became a stumbling-block to them, for how could one accursed of God be their Messiah? Nor was the cross differently considered by the Romans. "Let the very name of the cross be far away not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears" (Cicero Pro Rabirio 5). The earliest mode of crucifixion seems to have been by impalation, the transfixion of the body lengthwise and crosswise by sharpened stakes, a mode of death-punishment still well known among the Mongol race. The usual mode of crucifixion was familiar to the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, Persians and Babylonians (Thuc. 1, 110; Herod. iii.125, 159). Alexander the Great executed two thousand Tyrian captives in this way, after the fall of the city. The Jews received this form of punishment from the Syrians and Romans (Ant., XII, v, 4; XX, vi, 2; BJ, I, iv, 6). The Roman citizen was exempt from this form of death, it being considered the death of a slave (Cicero In Verrem i. 5, 66; Quint. viii.4). The punishment was meted out for such crimes as treason, desertion in the face of the enemy, robbery, piracy, assassination, sedition, etc. It continued in vogue in the Roman empire till the day of Constantine, when it was abolished as an insult to Christianity. Among the Romans crucifixion was preceded by scourging, undoubtedly to hasten impending death. The victim then bore his own cross, or at least the upright beam, to the place of execution. This in itself proves that the structure was less ponderous than is commonly supposed. When he was tied to the cross nothing further was done and he was left to die from starvation. If he was nailed to the cross, at least in Judea, a stupefying drink was given him to deaden the agony. The number of nails used seems to have been indeterminate. A tablet, on which the feet rested or on which the body was partly supported, seems to have been a part of the cross to keep the wounds from tearing through the transfixed members (Iren., Adv. haer., ii.42). The suffering of death by crucifixion was intense, especially in hot climates. Severe local inflammation, coupled with an insignificant bleeding of the jagged wounds, produced traumatic fever, which was aggravated (by) the exposure to the heat of the sun, the strained of the body and insufferable thirst. The swelled about the rough nails and the torn lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating agony. The arteries of the head and stomach were surcharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued. The mind was confused and filled with anxiety and dread foreboding. The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths. Tetanus not rarely supervened and the rigors of the attending convulsions would tear at the wounds and add to the burden of pain, till at last the bodily forces were exhausted and the victim sank to unconsciousness and death. The sufferings were so frightful that "even among the raging passions of war pity was sometimes excited" (BJ, V, xi, 1). The length of this agony was wholly determined by the constitution of the victim, but death rarely ensued before thirty-six hours had elapsed. Instances are on record of victims of the cross who survived their terrible injuries when taken down from the cross after many hours of suspension (Josephus, Vita, 75). Death was sometimes hastened by breaking the legs of the victims and by a hard blow delivered under the armpit before crucifixion. Crura fracta was a well-known Roman term (Cicero Phil. xiii.12). The sudden death of Christ evidently was a matter of astonishment (#Mr 15:44). The peculiar symptoms mentioned by John (19:34) would seem to point to a rupture of the heart, of which the Saviour died, independent of the cross itself, or perhaps hastened by its agony.