by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
Earlier in this book, we examined the cross of Christ as an objective fact. In this chapter, we will be concerned with applying this truth to our lives. The power of the gospel is based on the cross [see 1 Corinthians 1:17-18]. When the cross is applied to the life of the believer, it becomes the power of God unto salvation.
The cross also has important implications for how we live our lives as Christians. We will consider these implications before we study the cross as God’s power to save from sin.
The Believer’s Cross
Most of us are familiar with the idea that the Christian life involves bearing some type of cross [see Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23; 14:27]. But we may not realize that this cross is none other than the cross of Christ.
The cross each Christian is called to bear is not the hardships and trials of this life. Many believe that God gives each believer a cross to bear — some heavy and some light. Some have to deal with very difficult circumstances, while others carry only a light cross. This idea is a deception of the devil. Jesus did not have this in mind at all when He talked about Christians bearing their cross. The hardships of life are the consequences of sin, and all people, believers and unbelievers alike, must bear them.
The cross Jesus talked about and which each believer must carry in order to follow Him is Jesus’ cross. In fact, it is impossible for a person to be truly united to Christ without also being identified with His cross. Baptism, as we saw in the last chapter, is the mark of our identification with Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected [see Romans 6:3-5]. Faith in Christ identifies us with His cross so that it becomes our cross as well. That is why Paul says,
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world [Galatians 6:14; cf. Galatians 2:20].
We must never separate our cross from the cross of Christ, because there is no salvation from sin apart from His cross. When Christ was crucified, three things took place that vitally affect the life of every believer. These may be summarized as:
We will look at each of these in turn.
The Offense of the Cross
The offense of the cross came because of what Satan and the world did to Christ on the cross. There they showed their absolute and utter hatred for Him. This hatred led them to put Him to an open shame [see Hebrews 6:6], inflict untold suffering on Him, and, finally, hang Him on the cross to die an excruciating death. The Bible refers to this truth, applied to the life of every believer, as “the offense of the cross” [Galatians 5:11].
Becoming a Christian is much more than merely joining a denomination. It involves a radical change of position and status. A person who becomes a genuine believer is no longer “in Adam,” but is now “in Christ.” He or she no longer belongs to the world but has become a citizen of God’s kingdom. Because a great war is going on between Satan, the prince of this world, and Christ, the Lord of heaven, it is clear that anyone who says good-bye to his position in this world and unites himself with Christ’s kingdom on earth (His church) is bound to be attacked by Satan and the world. Jesus warned His disciples, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” [John 15:19; cf. 1 John 3:13]. Paul says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” [2 Timothy 3:12].
But, you say, the church is not suffering persecution today.
The church is not being persecuted today not because the world has improved, nor because a reconciliation has taken place between Christ and Satan. The church is not being persecuted today because an unholy marriage has taken place between the church and the world. The church has so long been in partnership in one form or another with the world that it is in captivity as was Israel of old in Babylon. For years, God’s people have been ignoring His clear counsel and borrowing the philosophies of the world — using and depending on its resources, involving ourselves in the world’s politics, having dialogues with various worldly organizations. This is most noticeable in those parts of the globe where the church works under the direction of secular governments. This is why God’s final message to His church is, “Come out of her [Babylon], my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” [Revelation 18:4].
Although the distinction between the church and the world is hardly visible today, this condition will not continue for long. God has made it clear that He will step in and remedy the situation.
Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality [Romans 9:27-28].
To the church of the last days, the True Witness says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent” [Revelation 3:19].
When Christ will have sifted and purified His church [see Amos 9:9-12], when His character is reproduced in the lives of His people, then the “offense of the cross” will again become a reality, and history will repeat itself. Then the divided world will unite itself against its common enemy, Christ’s church. God’s people will once again be put to an open shame and suffer affliction and death [see Matthew 24:9-10; Luke 6:22]. At that time, the glory of God must shine through us as we rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name [see Acts 5:41]. We will take courage from Peter’s words, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” [1 Peter 2:21].
The Blood of Christ
The second significant thing that occurred at Calvary involves what God did to His Son on the cross. It is not enough to simply know the truth of the cross; we must also be touched by its power if it is to be of value to us.
On the cross, God placed the sins of every person upon Christ, our Sin Bearer. The sin of Adam, which brought condemnation to all mankind, plus the sins of everyone born in this world, were all heaped on our Substitute [see Isaiah 53:6]. God did not spare His own Son, but measured out the full wages of sin upon Him so that “by one sacrifice he [Christ] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” [Hebrews 10:14; cf. 9:25-28]. This supreme sacrifice is the fulfillment of the many sacrifices offered in the sanctuary service of the Old Testament; it is called “the blood of Christ” in the New Testament.
The New Testament writers place infinite value on the blood of Christ. It is able to redeem us [see 1 Peter 1:18-19], justify us [see Romans 5:9], cleanse us from all sins [1 John 1:7], cancel the guilt of our many sins [see Matthew 26:27-28], and make peace between sinful humans and a holy God [see Colossians 1:20]. These are but some of the attributes the New Testament ascribes to the precious blood of Christ.
Before we can discover the power of Christ’s blood in the life of the believer, we need to understand the significance of this expression, “the blood of Christ.”
In Scripture, Christ’s blood plays a vital role when it comes to dealing with sin. “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” [Hebrews 9:22]. This is because shed blood indicates that life has been laid down in death. God said, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” [Leviticus 17:11].
All the blood shed in the different sacrifices of the Old Testament was a representation of the blood of Christ — that is to say, of His life, which He laid down on the cross for the sins of the world. We must never interpret the expression “the blood of Christ” to refer to His literal human blood. This was no different from our blood [see Hebrews 2:14] and had no saving power in and of itself. “The blood of Christ” signifies His divine life — original, unborrowed, underived — that He gave up in exchange for our condemned life. It was our condemned life that died eternally in Him. This is the supreme sacrifice that saves us from the guilt and punishment of sin, that qualifies us to live. This is what the power of the blood is all about.
According to Scripture, Christ’s blood saves us in three ways: in relation to God, in relation to humanity, and in relation to Satan.
In relation to God. As well as being the transgression of the law, sin “is of the devil” [1 John 3:8]. Therefore, our sins have a marked effect upon our relationship with God. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” [Isaiah 59:2]. Sin separates us from God and fractures our relationship with Him.
Of course, this puts us in a hopeless situation because He is the source of all life; we cannot live apart from Him. How, then, can sinful human beings be reconciled to a hold God? The only answer is the blood of Christ. “While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death [blood, verse 9] of his Son” [Romans 5:10]. When, by faith, the blood of Christ is applied to our lives of sin, reconciliation takes place between us and God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” [Romans 5:1; cf. John 14:27].
Not only does the blood of Christ reconcile us to God when we first come to Him in faith, but more than this, it continues to cleanse and forgive us daily as we abide in Him, confessing our sins [see 1 John 1:7, 9]. The power of Christ’s blood never loses its efficacy to save us from our sins. Thus, our relationship with God is never broken; we can come to Him boldly every time through the blood of Christ no matter what our experience may have been [see Hebrews 10:19-22].
Many of us find our prayer life hindered because we insist on looking at ourselves and our failures rather than coming to God in the merits of Christ’s blood. No matter what our Christian experience may be, we must approach God only by the blood of His Son. And through that blood we may always come boldly, without shame or fear.
In relation to humanity. Sin brings guilt and stress to our human relationships as well as disrupting our relationship with God. All of us are familiar with guilt. Guilt is unpleasant; in fact, medical science confirms that the great majority of human sickness and woe can be traced to the problem of guilt. The devil and the world offer many remedies to guilt, but none can truly or permanently save us from the pain. Only the blood of Christ can rescue us from the guilty conscience [see Hebrews 9:14; 10:2].
A person who has been touched by the power of Christ’s blood is among the happiest people in the world, no matter what else he may have to put up with in his life. Not only does he have peace with God through the blood of Christ, but he has also found inner peace with himself through this same blood. David, who knew something of God’s power to forgive, said “Blessed [happy] is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit” [Psalm 32:2]. This same privilege belongs to every believer whose faith rests in the blood of Christ.
In relation to Satan. Our sins produce a third effect. They give Satan, the enemy of our souls, opportunity to accuse us before God. Revelation 12:10 tells us that Satan accuses Christians before God night and day. And his accusations are true, for we have committed many sins that neither we nor God can deny. How can we meet these accusations? Verse 11 of Revelation 12 gives us the answer: “They triumphed over him [Satan and his accusations] by the blood of the Lamb.” The blood of Christ is able to meet every accusation Satan makes against us.
On the basis of His blood, Christ our advocate and mediator rebukes every accusation of the devil [see Zechariah 3:1-4; Jude 9]. The cause of Satan’s defeat every time is the wonderful power of the blood of Christ. “Who then is the one who condemns?” asks Paul. “No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” [Romans 8:34].
In the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement stood out as more important than any other day of the year, for it pointed to final judgment. On this day, the true people of God were cleansed from all their sins [see Leviticus 16:30]. How was this realized? By the blood of the Lord’s goat [see Leviticus 16:9, 15, 16] which symbolized Christ’s blood [see Hebrews 9:11-12]. The hope of every believer in the day of judgment, therefore, is not his or her personal goodness, but the blood of Christ and His righteousness.
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus [1 John 4:17].
Satan does not confine his accusations of us to God. He also enjoys pointing his finger at us and bringing home his accusations to our own hearts. Each time we fall into sin or fail to meet God’s ideal, Satan immediately takes advantage and tries to discourage us by accusing us through our consciences. How do we react to such accusations? Do we fall under them, feel defeated, and give up? Or do we respond, “Yes, I am a sinner, and I have sinned terribly. But I have found mercy”? If we would be free of Satan’s accusations and the burden of our guilt, there is power in the blood of Christ. All that is required is that we avail ourselves of it by faith.
This, then, is what is involved in the wonderful power of Christ’s blood, made available to us through God’s “indescribable gift” [2 Corinthians 9:15]. By it, we are reconciled to God. By it, our guilty c onsciences are purged so that we have an inner peace that transcends all understanding [see Philippians 4:7]. And by it, we are able to meet any accusation of the devil. No wonder the New Testament writers place such infinite value on the blood of Christ. And we must do the same.
The Cross of Christ
Now we must turn our attention to the third application of the truth of Christ’s cross: What God did for the human race in Christ on the cross. As we have already seen, the whole human race died “in Christ” at the cross.
Why did God include all of humanity in the death of His Son? Was it not enough that Christ bore the sins of the whole world?
Scripture gives two main reasons why it was necessary for God to include the whole human race in the death of His Son. First, it was necessary in order that we might be legally delivered from our condemned status “in Adam” [see Romans 5:12-21]. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:22].
Second, it was necessary for God to include all mankind in Christ’s death because it was the only way He could free us from the power of sin [see Romans 6:7]. To understand this, we have to understand the dual nature of sin. Sin is not only an act of transgressing the law that makes us guilty before God and brings us under the condemnation of the law. It is also a power that has us in its grip. Paul makes this clear in Romans 7:14-24, where he describes the typical situation of someone who wants to do good but finds that he is unable to do so because he is captive to the law of sin. No matter how much we may determine in and of ourselves to follow righteousness, the principle of sin that dominates our lives makes this impossible. “Flesh gives birth to flesh,” Jesus told Nicodemus [John 3:6]. He meant that human nature cannot change itself. The Bible clearly teaches that our human nature, the natural life we inherit from Adam, is unable to keep the law or to do righteousness; it is naturally at enmity against God [see Romans 8:7].
It is a wonderful fact that Christ died for our sins on the cross so that we might be forgiven. But you have discovered, I’m sure, that forgiveness, as marvelous as it is, is not enough. You want deliverance from sin; otherwise, your life is a vicious circle of sinning and being forgiven, then sinning again. At the least, this is frustrating. Sinful acts may be forgiven and blotted out through the blood of Christ, but our basic sinful natures cannot be merely forgiven; they must be destroyed. For example, God can forgive me for losing my temper or for acting s elfishly, but He cannot forgive my disposition to lose my temper or my basic selfishness. This must be ended, or to be more specific, they must be crucified. That is why God included you and me in the death that took place on Christ’s cross.
The great mistake most people make when they first come to Christ is to think that their natural life of sin can be changed or reformed so that it will be made pleasing to God. As a result, most Christians begin their Christian life by making promises to God. Sooner or later, depending on how strong the willpower is, we all discover that such promises are like ropes of sand. No matter how hard we try, the result is always the same — failure.
What is the problem?
We have failed to see that the sinful life of the flesh is beyond repair. We have to recognize that our sinful human nature cannot be rebuilt into something that will be acceptable to God. That is why He included us in the death of his Son on the cross. We were crucified “in Christ,” and in exchange He has given us the very life of Jesus to replace, not repair, our sinful human nature. Unlike every other world religion, Christianity offers mankind, not a changed life, but an exchanged life. The sooner we realize that perfecting the flesh is impossible [see Galatians 3:1-3], the sooner we will surrender to the formula of the gospel: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” [Galatians 2:20].
The greatest discovery an unbeliever can make is that Christ died for him. But the greatest discovery a believer can make is that he has been crucified with Christ and that now his life is hid in Christ [see Colossians 3:3]. Such a discovery will bring to an end all self-effort in our lives. Instead, we will “live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” [Galatians 2:20].
The blood of Christ, then, is God’s solution in dealing with all our sins, but the cross of Christ is His remedy for delivering us from the very source of sin. The first is the means of our justification, while the second is the means of our sanctification. Just as we cannot obtain forgiveness from our sins unless we see Christ bearing all our sins on the cross, so we cannot know deliverance from sin’s power unless we see Christ bearing us on the cross.
Sanctification, victory over sin, involves a dual process. On the one hand, we surrender totally, by faith, to our death in Christ so that, on the other hand, the Spirit of Christ who indwells us may manifest the life of Christ in us and through us. The apostle Paul describes this process in these words:
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body [2 Corinthians 4:10-11; cf. Philippians 3:10].
When we combine the blood of Christ (His death for our sins) with the cross of Christ (our death in Him), we have indeed discovered the wonderful power of the cross. That cross and its power “is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” [1 Corinthians 1:18].