The Cross of Christ
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 3 – Born Crucified

As already mentioned, the cross of Christ was at the heart of New Testament preaching. This is especially true of the greatest preacher, evangelist, and theologian of the New Testament, the apostle Paul. As an introduction to this chapter, let us look at one of those sublime statements he made about the cross: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17, 18).

I want you to notice two things that Paul says in this passage just quoted:

  1. To Paul, preaching the cross and preaching the gospel are synonymous. We need to remember this, because 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. Paul teaches here in this passage that the cross is where the power of God is. In Romans 1:16 he said: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” The power is in the cross. “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks (the philosophers) foolishness; but unto them which are called (those who have accepted Christ, those that are being saved in Him), both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23, 24). Again, “For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Turning to the book of Galatians, we read: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

So far we have covered two vital truths concerning the cross of Christ. In our first chapter we saw how the cross exposed Satan as a murderer. Every Christian needs to know that, so that we are not deceived by him. He is a murderer and a liar. We also saw in that first study that sin, every sin, even the smallest sin, at its very core is crucifying Christ. This means that we need to look at sin and hate it for what it is ” putting Christ on the cross.

In the second chapter we looked at the cross as it demonstrated to us the self-emptying, self-sacrificing love of God. “While we were yet sinners God demonstrated His love toward us in that Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Never forget that. There will come times that you will be discouraged, especially when Satan has knocked you down and he tells you that God doesn’t love you because you are a sinner and a failure; remind him what took place on the cross “while we were yet sinners.” You may quote to him what Paul says in Romans 8:35 and onward: “I am persuaded that nothing in heaven, nothing on earth, nothing in my experience, nothing in the world, nothing in the devil’s kingdom can ever separate me from the love of God which was demonstrated in Christ Jesus and Him crucified.”

Now we will look at the third important truth of the cross. We read in Corinthians that the cross of Christ is the power of God to save us from sin. The New Testament teaches that the cross is where God saves us from sin. It is in the cross that we have redemption from sin. But in order to appreciate this truth fully we must first of all come to grips with sin.

Sin to many is limited to “the transgression of the law.” Yet in Scripture sin is more than that. In fact, it is not a single problem but a dual problem.

  1. The first definition of sin is that it is an act. The act may be defined as “missing the mark,” which is the New Testament word for sin. Or the act may be defined as violation ot God’s law, which the Bible defines as transgression: the deliberate, wilful violation of a law. Sin begins with the mind consenting to a sinful desire and is followed by the act. The devil or the flesh comes to you in terms of a temptation and your mind says, “Yes.” That’s sin conceived in the mind. Then follows the act (James. 1:14, 15). Looking at sin as an act, in the light of the law of God, results in two things: guilt and punishment.

  2. In the New Testament sin is also a power, a force, a principle that dwells in your nature and mine. We were born with it and we will die with it. In Romans 7, Paul defines that as “the law of sin.” This is what most Christians are ignorant of. Hence, when they struggle in their Christian experience and they fail they say, “Maybe I’m not a Christian.” We need to be aware that sin is not only an act, it is a force and a power that has you and me in its grip.

Here are two statements that will help us to understand this problem. One is from the Lord Jesus Christ and the other from the Apostle Paul. In John 8:32; Jesus is talking to the Jews who had failed to see that sin is a power, a force, that had them in its grip. This is how Jesus explained this to the Jews: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

If you are questioning what Jesus meant by the word “truth,” read verse 36. By the word “truth” He meant Himself for he says: “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” What kind of freedom was Christ talking about? He made this statement to the Jews and the Jews failed to understand Him. In verse 33 they answered Him: “We be Abraham’s seed and were never in bondage to any man.” They thought Christ was talking about political freedom, but they themselves were lying because they knew that they were under the yoke of Rome. They said, “We are Abraham’s seed. How can you say we shall be made free? What do you mean?”

“Jesus answered them, ‘Verily, verily (which simply means truly, truly) I say unto you, “Whosoever committeth sin (that is the act) is the servant of sin.’ ” The KJV says “servant” but the Greek word is “slave.” There is a world of difference between a servant today and a slave. A servant today is somebody who has a certain amount of freedom. We have civil servants. If they don’t like the job they’ll give it up. But a slave has no freedom. It is this that Paul is discussing in Romans 7.

The issue that Paul is dealing with in Romans 7 is the incompatibility between the flesh or sinful nature and the law. Incidentally, the nature of a believer and the nature of an unbeliever are identical, so that the question that is often raised about whether Paul is referring to his preconverted or postconverted experience is really meaningless. No change takes place in your nature when you accept Christ. It is one hundred percent sinful and still a slave of sin. That is what Paul is discussing. He makes this statement in Romans 7:14: “For we know the law is spiritual but I am carnal, sold under sin (i.e., sold as a slave to sin).” Then he proves it in verses 15 to 23 which state: “I see another law in my members (he’s talking of sin as a law, as a principle, as a force) warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Everyone of us, believers or unbelievers, have the law of sin in us. This is the problem that makes it difficult for us to live the life that we want to. Paul says, “I want to do good but I find that I can’t.” Why? In the last part of verse 25 Paul is using a very strong statement which unfortunately our English Bible does not quite bring out. What he really said is, “left on my own, apart from grace, apart from God, apart from the Holy Spirit, on my very own the best I can do is serve God and His law with my mind. But with my nature it is impossible. I serve the law of sin.” Then in desperation he cries out: “Who will set me free from this slavery?” And the answer is: “I thank God through Jesus Christ.”

Now God does not hold you guilty for the law of sin that dwells in your members. You were born with it. You are not guilty of it. So the force of sin, the power of sin doesn’t involve guilt, but it does disqualify you and me from heaven. In 1 Cor. 15:50 we read, “Flesh and blood,” and by that Paul means: “sinful human nature cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Why? Because “corruption cannot inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50).

Now, what solution does God have for the dual problem of sin? Does He have only half a solution for the sin problem? The answer is no. God has a dual solution for the dual problem of sin and we need to know that. What is His solution for our sins (plural, i.e., acts) which bring guilt and punishment? His answer for that is the blood of Christ. In Heb. 9:22 we read that: “Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.”

In Matt. 26:28, Jesus is in the upper room where He instituted the Lord’s supper. He takes the cup and says to the disciples: “For this is my blood of the new testament (or the new covenant) which is shed for many for the remission (forgiveness) of sins.” In other words, my death on the cross will pay the price for your sins and becomes the basis of forgiveness that will be acceptable to the law.

Now what does the New Testament mean by the word “blood”? Please remember that the New Testament was written by Jews, except for Luke. The Jews understood blood to symbolize life. Shed blood is life that is laid down in death for our sins, because the blood of Christ represents the justice of the law met at the cross in the death of Christ. 1 John 1:7-9 says: “If you walk in the light the blood of Christ will cleanse you from all sin.” That is good news! But while God can forgive us for our acts of sins because of the blood of Christ, sinfulness, which is the principle of sin, cannot be forgiven. You can’t forgive sinfulness. God can forgive what you have done, but God can’t forgive you for what you are. There is another solution for that. That is the cross of Christ.

Let me explain the difference by an illustration. In my backyard there is an apple tree. It was there when I came. When it produced its first apples I picked one ripe apple to eat. It was sour and unfit for eating. So I picked all the apples and threw them into “Yellow Creek,” which flows through my backyard. Now, had I solved the problem? Yes, for the time being, but next year the tree will produce sour apples again. As long as the apple tree is not dealt with the sour apple problem is not really solved. If before the next season comes I dig around the roots and I feed it with six pounds of sugar, hoping that the tree will absorb some of that sugar and produce sweet apples, will the problem of sour apples be solved? You know as well as I do, the answer is no. Why not? What is the problem? It is not in the soil. It is not in the nutrients that it absorbs. The problem is in the tree itself.

We need to realize the real sin problem of man. Sin and crime are increasing in this country and in the world. What is the solution to the problems? If the gospel only removes the fruits of our sin problem, which are sinful acts, through forgiveness, I have solved the problem only for a season. My sinful nature will produce sins again. Forgiveness, wonderful as it may be, is not the full solution to my sin problem. Forgiveness is wonderful; I thank God for it because it gives me peace. But, at the same time, I am unhappy with the vicious circle of sinning and forgiveness, sinning and forgiveness. Is forgiveness the only hope of Christianity? Is that the limit of the power of the gospel?

Modern man has tried all kinds of human solutions to solve our sin problem. Education, stringent laws, incentives ” all have failed to curb sin and crime in this country. There is no solution in humanistic ideas. Take Marxism, for example. It claimed to be a scientific solution to man’s sin problem. It sounds good and wonderful, but it was a hypothesis that needed confirmation. Russia tried it for some 75 years and has failed miserably, and so has China failed. No human solution can solve our sin problem.

The question therefore is, “What is the solution to our sin problem?” Is it changing the political and economic environment? If I pluck an apple tree and plant it in an orange grove, will it produce oranges? No. Some years ago a movement tried to do that very thing. It was called “The Moral Re-armament.” In other words, arm yourselves with love, purity, and honesty, and the world will change for the better. It promised we would have no more wars. That movement is dying out because it hasn’t worked.

The reason why the Christian church also has failed is because it has failed to see the dual answer of the gospel to the sin problem. The power of the gospel is not only in the blood of Christ but also in the cross of Christ. Sinful acts God can forgive because of Christ’s shed blood, but sinfulness cannot be forgiven; it must go. One of the mistakes we make when we become Christians is that we think that through the help of God we can change our sinful natures. Well, I have bad news for you. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is (always) flesh.” God’s answer for the sinful flesh is not making it better.

Do you know what God’s answer is to the flesh? Do you know what God’s verdict is on the flesh? Crucifixion. The flesh must die. That is His solution. God forgives you for your acts through the blood of Christ but for sinfulness He doesn’t forgive you. He strikes the tree down. The apple tree that produces sour apples must be cut down and a new apple tree must be planted. 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us what the cross does: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away.” The formula of the gospel is not changing the environment. The formula of the gospel is not making you good. The formula of the gospel is “NOT I, BUT CHRIST!”

That is why a French theologian in the 19th Century made this statement: “Every Christian is born crucified.” The famous modern martyr who died in Germany at the age of 39, Deitric Bonhofer said, “When God calls you, He calls you to die.” If you have not died, if you were buried alive by your pastor when you were baptized, you are not a Christian; because the gospel demands that you die in exchange for the life of Christ. That is God’s answer to our sin problem.

The death of Christ was not one man dying instead of all men. The Bible doesn’t teach that. Yes, Christ did die tor us, in the sense that He tasted death instead of all men. You and I as Christians will never have to experience the second death which Christ tasted on the cross. Thank God for that. But when He died it wasn’t just one Man dying instead of all men. That is illegal. No law, God’s or man’s, will allow it. According to the New Testament teaching, it was all men that died in one Man. The death of Christ was a corporate death.

When an American wins the Olympics, who is happy, who rejoices? Not just one person but the whole nation rejoices because that one man represents America. So when Christ died, He died as “US.” 2 Cor. 5:14 (NIV): “Because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” Just as all men sinned in Adam, so also all men died in Christ, the second Adam.

What did Christ say concerning the cross in John 12:31? “Now is the judgment of this world.” When Adam sinned his condemnation came upon all men because all men were implicated in his sin (Romans 5:12, 18). Since the human race is the multiplication of Adam’s one life, we were all in him when he sinned. Likewise, the same human race was put into Christ at the incarnation so that when He died, we died in Him. This is the truth of the cross in which the whole world was judged in Christ.

Hence, when you accept this truth by faith, the cross of Christ becomes your cross. Jesus says, “When you follow me you must deny self and take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23). The problem is that many have defined the Christian cross as individual crosses separate from the cross of Christ, because Jesus said, “Take up your cross.” So we say that God has given every one of us individual crosses.

And because we have identified the believer’s cross with the hardships of life, each of us have different crosses. Some have big crosses and some have small crosses. Some have heavy crosses and some have light crosses. Consequently, when we go through difficult times we say, “The Lord has given me a very heavy cross.”

Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that. God doesn’t give each of us individual crosses. There is only one cross that saves. It is the cross of Christ, and that cross is a corporate cross. When you become a Christian, the cross of Christ becomes your cross. Hardships of life is not the cross since unbelievers also have to face hardships of life. Christians are not the only ones who have to face problems in this life. The cross of Christ is what you have received as your cross when you accept Christ and Him crucified. The cross of Christ becomes my cross and your cross the moment we join ourselves to Him by faith.

The thief on the cross, who will be saved, literally carried his own cross but that cross won’t save him. It is the cross of Christ that saves him. Remember that the believer’s cross is the cross of Christ which means that His death is your death and He died to sin (Romans 6:10, 11).

After illustrating our sin problem in the seventh chapter of Romans the apostle cries out in Romans 7:24, “Who will deliver me from this law of sin and death, this body that is pulling me down to the grave because of the law of sin in me.” His triumphal answer is, “I thank God through Jesus Christ.” Then in Romans 8:1 he says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” Even though you still have the law of sin in your members you are qualified for heaven because in Romans 8:2 Paul says: “The law of the Spirit has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

In Christ I have freedom from not only sin’s condemnation, but also its power. That is Paul’s statement in verse two of Romans eight. Then in Romans 8:3, he tells me how this was accomplished: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”

Notice two things in this statement. First, Christ identified Himself with our sin problem by being made in all points as we are (see also Heb. 2:14-18). Secondly, he solved our sin problem by condemning sin (singular) in the flesh. The word “sin” is not referring to our acts of sin but the principle of sin that resides in our flesh. In John 1:29, John the Baptist, in introducing Christ said: “Here is the lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” Here the word “sin” is in the singular. Jesus did not come simply to forgive you. He came to take away the sin of the world. And, on the cross, according to Romans 8:3, “He condemned sin (singular) in His flesh.” He condemned the law of sin. He executed the law of sin 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 other words, the solution that God has for us in regard to the dual problem of sin is found in Christ and Him crucified. Because He 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, at the very root of the sin problem ” the power or principle of sin. According to 1 Peter 2:24, “He (Christ) bore our sins on the cross that we being dead may live unto God.”

Now let us sum up this glorious truth of the cross. Our death in Christ is essential for two things because sin is a two-fold problem. In the first place, our death in Christ is essential for justification to be legally acceptable. It is true that objectively all men died in Christ; but if you reject that death as yours, if you refuse to identify yourself with the cross of Christ you are refusing your death in Christ, and that means the blood of Christ cannot lawfully forgive you. That is why 1 John 1:7-9 says: “If you walk in the light, which is the truth of the cross, then the blood of Christ will cleanse you from all sins.” But, secondly, our death in Christ also strikes at the root of our sin problem. It brings to an end the law of sin which is in my members.

Have you ever taken a can of beer to a funeral of an alcoholic? As you pass by his casket at the funeral service you take this can of beer and say, “Look, why don’t you have one tor the road?” Would he accept it or has he finished with alcohol? Because he is dead he is no longer alive to alcohol. God’s solution for the sin problem is not making you better. God’s solution for the power of sin is to strike it at its very roots by the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ, therefore, becomes the power of God unto salvation.

In Gal. 5:24 we read: “We who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh.” That’s where the flesh belongs with all its desires. Romans 13:14 says: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will make no provision for the flesh.” Gal. 5:16 says: “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the desires of the flesh.” Do you want victory over the power of the flesh? It is in the cross of Christ, not in your promises, not in your resolutions. They are like ropes of sand. Christ says in John 12:24: “Verily, verily, (verily means “truly” and said twice indicates emphasis) I say unto you, except a kernel of wheat fall to the ground and dies it abideth alone (a seed cannot bear fruit until it falls to the ground and dies), but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.”

That is the message of the cross in agriculture. I enjoy gardening but I know that keeping the packet of seeds on my shelf will not produce anything. That seed has to fall on the ground and die. When it dies it sprouts up, not as a seed but as a shoot and it grows and produces life. When I chop that sour apple tree down and plant a new sweet one, it may take five years to produce apples but 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 shall bear fruits. As Jesus declared in the parable of the sower ” some thirty fold, some sixty fold, and some one hundred fold. The amount doesn’t matter. That is the message of the cross for today. It is the power of God unto salvation from sin.

We conclude this chapter with John 12:25: “He that loveth his life (i.e., the life of sin) shall lose it. (If you cling to your Adamic life you will lose it one day forever and you will get nothing in exchange.) But he that hateth his life in this world (the life of the flesh) shall keep that life that Christ has given him for eternity.”

The greatest truth the world needs to know is that Christ shed His blood for their sins. That’s what the unbeliever needs to know. The greatest need of the Christian who is already forgiven, who has peace, who is standing justified, 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. God’s method of bearing fruit is not making you better. God’s method is doing away with your life and giving you the life of His Son in exchange, a life that is well-pleasing to God.

It is my sincere prayer that you will accept the cross of Christ now. The cross of Christ says, “I am crucified with Christ but I am still living. It is not I but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ was willing to go anywhere His Father sent Him, do anything He said, even go to the cross for our salvation. May His love constrain us so that we may be willing to die in order that He may live in us; so that no longer does the world see us but “Christ in you the hope of glory.”

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