Saviour of the World
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 7 — The Cross of Christ

At the very heart and core of New Testament preaching stood the cross of Christ.  Especially was this true for the apostle Paul, the greatest preacher, evangelist, and theologian of the New Testament.  Notice this sublime statement he made about the cross:

1 Corinthians 1:17-18
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

I want you to pay attention to two significant points Paul makes in these verses:

  1. First, as far as he is concerned, preaching the cross and preaching the gospel are one and the same thing.  Adventists should always keep this in mind — we who “of all professing Christians ... should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world”  (Ellen White, Evangelism, 188).  We Adventists need to keep this in mind because too often in our evangelistic meetings we preach many things in the name of the gospel that are really the fruits of the gospel or the hope of the gospel.  Important as these things are, the gospel is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

  2. Second, Paul says that the cross is where the power of God resides.  He hammers home the point even more clearly here:

    Romans 1:16
    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:  first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

    God’s power of salvation is in the cross of Christ.

For Paul, the cross of Christ was central:

1 Corinthians 1:23-24
...But we preach Christ crucified:  a stumbling block to Jews [the legalists] and foolishness to Gentiles[the philosophers], but to those whom God has called [those who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified], both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

He goes on to say:

1 Corinthians 2:1-2
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters.  When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

And to the Galatians he wrote:

Galatians 6:14
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.

Does the gospel provide a solution for the principle of sin that has humanity in its grip and that makes it impossible for us, in and of ourselves, to live the Christian life?  Can the power of the cross deliver us from our slavery to sin?  The answer is a most definite YES!  In fact, these Pauline statements emphasize that we need to discover how the cross of Christ is able to save us completely from sin — not just from its guilt and punishment, but also from its power and slavery.  We need to experience the full power of the gospel against the power of sin.  This is the topic we will examine in this chapter and the two that follow.

The cross of Christ exposed Satan as a murderer...

John 8:44
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

...saved humanity from the guilt and punishment of sin...

1 John 1:7, 9
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  ...If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

...reconciled the world to God...

2 Corinthians 5:19
...That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

...removed all barriers between different classes and races of human beings...

Ephesians 2:14-15
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace....

...and demonstrated God’s unconditional love for sinful humanity:

Romans 5:6-10
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

But, perhaps even more importantly, it also set humanity free from the law (or principle) of sin and death:

Romans 8:2-3
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

As we saw in the second chapter of this book, sin is more than an act, a choice, or even a mental assent to a temptation.  It is also a power that has us in its grip.  Here is what Jesus told the Jews who failed to understand this aspect of sin:

John 8:34
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

This is precisely the problem Paul deals with in Romans 7, which we will be considering in detail in the next chapter of this book.  But first we must discover how the cross of Christ delivers us from this predicament — the power of sin in the life.

God can forgive sinful acts because Christ’s shed blood is able to cleanse us from all sins.  But sinfulness — sin as a power that controls our lives — cannot be merely forgiven; it must be destroyed.  When we first come to Christ, our main concern is to be saved from our many sins which condemn us.  Only after being a Christian for some time do we discover that sin is more than just an act that we commit.  We discover that sin is also a power that dominates us.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we can do nothing to escape this power.  Like Paul, we have to admit:

Romans 7:24
What a wretched man [or woman] I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

One of the mistakes most of us make when we become Christians is to think that, through God’s help, we can change our sinful nature so that it will become pleasing to God.  Well, I have bad news for you.  Jesus said to Nicodemus:

John 3:6a
Flesh [always] gives birth to flesh....

God’s answer for our sinful flesh is not to make it better, but to crucify it:

Galatians 5:24
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   [KEY PTS.]

The flesh must die.  That is God’s solution to our sinful flesh.  God forgives you for your sinful acts through the blood of Christ, but He doesn’t forgive the sinfulness that dominates our lives.  He strikes the tree down at the roots!  If you have an apple tree that produces nothing but sour apples and can produce nothing but sour apples, the only solution is to cut it down and plant a new apple tree.  Paul says that is exactly what the cross of Christ accomplishes:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!

The power of the gospel does not lie in making us good, but in the principle of “not I, but Christ.”  This is how Paul expressed it to the Galatian Christians:

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The famous modern martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died at the age of thirty-nine in Germany under Hitler, said, “When God calls you, He calls you to die.”  If you have not died, if you have not surrendered your old life of sin to the cross of Christ when you were baptized, you were buried alive by your pastor — you “did not rise to newness of life in Christ” (Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary, 6:1075).

According to Paul, the death of Christ was not one man dying instead of all men (vicarious substitution), rather, His death was all men dying in one man (actual substitution).  He explained it to the Corinthian Christians this way:

2 Corinthians 5:14
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

This is the true meaning of biblical substitution.  Yes, Christ did die for us, or in our place, in the sense that He tasted death instead of all mankind:

Hebrews 2:9
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

You and I, as Christians, will never have to experience the second death which Christ tasted on the cross on behalf of all humanity:

Revelation 20:6
Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.  The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Thank God for that!

But, when Christ died, it wasn’t just one Man dying instead of all men.  That would be illegal, since no law, God’s or man’s, would allow it:

Ezekiel 18:20
The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.  The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Rather, according to the New Testament, all mankind died in one Man.  The death of Christ was a corporate death:

2 Corinthians 5:14b
...One died for all, and therefore all died.

When an American wins an Olympic gold medal, who is happy, who rejoices?  Not just one person, but the whole nation rejoices because that one represents America.  So when Christ died, He died as us.  Just as all humanity sinned in Adam, so also all humanity died in Christ, the second Adam.  We saw all this in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 dealing with the “in Christ” motif and the two Adams.

What did Christ say concerning His own death on the cross?

John 12:31a
Now is the time for judgment on this world [the human race].

When Adam sinned, his condemnation came upon all mankind because all men and women were implicated in his sin:

Romans 5:12,18
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.  ...Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

Likewise, the entire human race was put into Christ at the incarnation so that, when He died, we died in Him.  This is what Jesus means when He says the whole world was judged by His cross.

When you accept this truth by faith, the cross of Christ becomes your cross.  Jesus says:

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

But many have failed to see what He is talking about.  They define the Christian’s cross as an individual cross separate from the cross of Christ.  After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Take up your cross”?  Doesn’t this mean that God has given every one of us an individual cross to bear?  And because we identify the believer’s cross with the hardships of life, they naturally differ for each of us.  Some of us have big crosses to bear, and some have small crosses.  Some have heavy crosses and some have light crosses depending on our individual circumstances.  That’s why, when we go through difficult times, we say, “The Lord has given me a very heavy cross to bear.”

But that is not at all what the Bible teaches.  God doesn’t give each of us an individual cross.  There is only one cross that saves — the cross of Christ, and that cross is a corporate cross.  When you become a Christian, the cross of Christ becomes your cross:

Galatians 6:14
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.

We must not equate the hardships of life with the cross of Christ.  After all, unbelievers also have to face the hardships of life.  We Christians are not the only ones who have to face problems in this sinful world.  We identify ourselves with the cross of Christ when we accept Him as our Saviour.  His cross becomes my cross, your cross, the moment we join ourselves to Him by faith.

The repentant thief on the cross literally carried his own cross to the place of execution, but that cross could never save him.  Christ’s cross saved him.  When we realize that our cross, as believers, is the cross of Christ, we understand that, by faith, we have identified ourselves with His death.  And since Christ died to sin, we must likewise consider ourselves “to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ”:

Romans 6:10-11
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  [KEY PTS.]

In Christ I have freedom, not only from my many sins which condemn me, but also freedom from the source and power of sin in my life.  John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the promised Messiah in these words:

John 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Note that the word sin is in the singular.  Jesus didn’t come simply to forgive you.  He came to take away the sin of the world, to eradicate sin as a power in the world.  On the cross:

Romans 8:3b
And so he condemned sin [singular] in the flesh....

That is to say, He condemned the law of sin in His flesh, which was the corporate flesh of the human race He came to redeem.  He executed the law of sin — the power of sin — and put it to death in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in you and me who walk no longer after the flesh but after the Spirit:

Romans 8:4
...In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  [KEY PTS.]

The solution God has for us in regard to the principle of sin is found in Christ and Him crucified.  Because Christ accepted the wages of sin, our sins, His blood cleanses us from all sins.  But because we died in Him, God struck at the very foundation, the very root, of the sin problem — the power or principle of sin.  Peter says of Christ:

1 Peter 2:24 [Emphasis Added]
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Now, let us sum up this glorious truth of the cross.  Our death in Christ is essential for two reasons, because sin is a twofold problem.  In the first place, it is essential that we died in Christ in order for our justification to be legally acceptable.  Paul wrote to the Roman Christians who were baptized into Christ:

Romans 6:7
...Because anyone who has died has been set free [Greek: justified] from sin.   [KEY PTS.]

It is true that, objectively, all men and women died in Christ; but if you reject or refuse to acknowledge that death as your death, if you refuse to identify yourself with the cross of Christ by your faith obedience, the blood of Christ cannot lawfully forgive you.  That is why Jesus said:

Mark 16:16
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light [the truth of the cross], we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Second, it is essential that we died in Christ in order to deal with the root of our sin problem.  Our death in Him brings to an end the principle of sin that is in our flesh:

Romans 6:11
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever taken a can of beer to a funeral of an alcoholic?  As you pass by his casket at the funeral service, have you ever held out this can of beer and said, “Why don’t you have one for the road?”  Would he accept it?  Or has he finished with alcohol?  Because he is dead, he is no longer alive to alcohol.  Similarly, God’s solution for the sin problem is not to make you better.  God’s solution for the power of sin is to strike at its very root by the cross of Christ and His death to sin.  The cross of Christ, therefore, becomes the power of God unto salvation.

The flesh with all its desires belongs to the cross of Christ:

Romans 13:14
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

The basis for such counsel is founded on the objective fact that our sin in the flesh was condemned in Christ some 2,000 years ago.

Do you want victory over the power of sin in the flesh?  You will find it in the cross of Christ, not in your promises, not in your resolutions.  They are like ropes of sand.  Christ makes it clear:

John 12:24
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

I enjoy gardening, but I know that keeping the packet of tomato seeds on my shelf will not produce anything.  Those seeds have to be planted in the ground and die.  When they die, they sprout up — not as seeds but as shoots — and they grow and produce many tomatoes.  Further, if I were to chop down the apple tree in my garden because the apples it produces are sour, and in its stead plant a new apple tree that is capable of producing sweet apples, it may take five years to produce apples, but, when it does, you can be sure it will produce sweet apples because it is the right tree.

When you and I die in Christ and accept His life of righteousness in exchange for our life of sin, we will bear fruit.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus said the seeds that fell on good ground produced results — some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some one-hundredfold.  The amount doesn’t matter.  That is the message of the cross for today.  It is the power of God unto salvation from sin.

Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23
Then he [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying:  “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown....
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart.  This is the seed sown along the path.  The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it.  This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”

The greatest truth men and women of the world need to know is that Christ shed His blood for their sins.  That’s what the unbeliever needs to know.  But the greatest need of the Christian who is already forgiven, who is standing justified by faith and who has peace with God, who is standing before God as if he had never sinned, is not that Christ shed His blood for him.  He knows that already.  He needs to know that he died in Christ that he might “bear fruit for God”:

Romans 7:4
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

I repeat, God’s method of bearing fruit is not to make you better.  God’s method is to do away with your life entirely and to give you the life of His Son in exchange, a life that is well-pleasing to Him:

John 15:1-8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

This glorious truth of the cross of Christ becomes meaningful only when we identify the humanity of Christ with the sinful humanity of the human race He came to redeem.  It may be possible for Christ to bear our many sins vicariously on His cross — although that would be illegal — but it is impossible for Him vicariously to overcome and condemn the principle of sin that resides in our sinful flesh.  The fact is that Christ could not bear our sins without bearing us:

1 Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”   [KEY PTS.]

When you cut down the sour apple tree, the sour apples that the tree produced also come down with it.  So also when Christ bore us on the cross, our sins (our sinful actions) were included in what He did.

In the next chapter, we will see more clearly that the only way Christ could redeem the fallen human race from the principle of sin and death was by assuming our sinful human nature at the incarnation and condemning it at the cross, after He produced a perfect righteousness through the power of the indwelling Spirit.  When our eyes are opened to this glorious truth, we will join the apostle Paul in confessing:

Galatians 6:14
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.

By the word world, the Bible means “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”:

1 John 2:16
For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.

Key Points in Chapter 7
• The Cross of Christ •
  1. The cross of Christ is able to save us completely from sin — not just from its guilt and punishment, but also from its power and slavery.

  2. Sin is more than an act, a choice, or even a mental assent to a temptation.  It is also a power that has us in its grip.

  3. God can forgive sinful acts because Christ’s shed blood is able to cleanse us from all sins.  But sinfulness — sin as a power that controls our lives — cannot be merely forgiven; it must be destroyed.

  4. One of the mistakes most of us make when we become Christians is to think that, through God’s help, we can change our sinful nature so that it will become pleasing to God.  However, God’s answer for our sinful flesh is not to make it better, but to crucify it (see Galatians 5:24).

  5. The flesh must die.  That is God’s solution to our sinful flesh.  The power of the gospel does not lie in making us good, but in the principle of “not I, but Christ.”  Paul said:
    Galatians 2:20
    I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

  6. The death of Christ was not one man dying instead of all men, rather His death was all men dying in one man:
    2 Corinthians 5:14b
    ...We are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

  7. Jesus didn’t come simply to forgive you.  He came to take away the sin of the world, to eradicate sin as a power in the world.  That is, He condemned the law of sin in His flesh.  He executed the law of sin — the power of sin — and put it to death in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in you and me who walk no longer according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (see Romans 8:4).

  8. Our death in Christ is essential for two reasons, because sin is a twofold problem:
    1. First, it is essential that we died in Christ in order for our justification to be legally acceptable (see Romans 6:7).  It is true that, objectively, all men and women died in Christ, but if you reject that death as your death, if you refuse to identify yourself with the cross of Christ by your faith obedience, the blood of Christ cannot lawfully forgive you.
    2. Second, it is essential that we died in Christ in order to deal with the root of our sin problem.  Our death in Him brings to an end the principle of sin that is in our flesh.  God’s solution for the sin problem is not to make you better.  His solution is to strike at the very root of the sin problem by the cross of Christ and His death to sin (see Romans 6:10-11).  The cross of Christ, therefore, becomes the power of God to salvation.

  9. When we die in Christ and accept His life of righteousness in exchange for our life of sin, we will bear fruit.  God’s method of bearing fruit is not to make you better.  God’s method is to do away with your life entirely and to give you the life of His Son in exchange.

  10. The glorious truth of the cross of Christ becomes meaningful only when we identify the humanity of Christ with the sinful humanity of the human race He came to redeem.  Christ could not bear our sins without bearing us (see 1 Peter 2:24).

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