The Dynamics of the Everlasting Gospel
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 8 – The Principle of the Cross

According to the apostle Paul, the power of the gospel is to be found in the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).  In Chapter 5 we made a study of the cross of Christ as a truth or an objective fact.  In this present study, we will be concerned with the application of this truth to our lives.  We will discover that when the cross of Christ is applied to the life of a believer, it becomes the power of God unto salvation. However, the cross of Christ also has very important implications for the Christian life, and we will consider this first before we proceed to study the cross of Christ as the power of God which is able to save us from sin.

The Believer’s Cross

It is impossible for a genuine believer to be united to Christ without being identified with His cross.  Baptism, as we saw in our previous study, is our identification or union with Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected (Romans 6:3-5). By faith a believer becomes one with Christ crucified and, consequently, in becoming a Christian, the truth of the cross we discovered in Chapter 5 becomes of vital importance to every believer.

Most of us are familiar with the fact that we must carry some form of a cross in the Christian life (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23; 14:27).  But, unfortunately, many are ignorant of the fact that the cross of every believer is none other than the cross of Christ.

Many equate their cross with the hardships and trials of this life and, therefore, have the idea that God has given each one of us separate crosses to bear.  That is to say, some have heavy crosses to bear while others have light crosses, or some have big crosses, while others are fortunate enough to bear small ones, all depending on our circumstances.  This is a mistake and a deception of the devil.  It is not what Jesus had in mind when He spoke about bearing our crosses.  The hardships and trials of this life are the curse of sin, and all men, believers and unbelievers alike, must bear them.

The cross that Jesus spoke about and which each believer must carry in order to follow Him, in principle is none other than His cross.  Faith identifies every believer with the cross of Christ so it becomes the believers’ cross, and this we must never forget.  No doubt the thief who was crucified with Christ had to literally carry his own cross, but it was the cross of Christ that he accepted in principle that will qualify him for heaven.  The only cross that is of any value to save us from sin is that cross; and by faith and baptism this cross has become the cross of every believer.

Hence with Paul we can and must declare, “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; Galatians 2:20).  It is only as every believer grasps this truth and identifies his cross with the cross of Christ that it will become meaningful to us as the power of God that brings salvation.

Consequently, let it be very clear that apart from the cross of Christ there is no salvation from sin, and we must therefore never separate our cross from the cross of Christ.  To do this is to introduce a subtle element of salvation by works, and as we have already seen in a previous study, works of any form that proceed from us have no value and no place in the gospel of Christ.

As long as we live in this world of sin, the principle of Christ’s cross must be daily applied to the life of every Christian.  There is no choice in this matter, for Jesus made it clear that it is a necessary and vital part of the Christian life.  “Then he said to them all:  ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).  Of course, to the carnal person whose faith in Christ is self-centered, this is a hard thing to do, but to the believer who is constrained by the love of Christ, the cross is something in which to glory or rejoice, for “to us who are being saved it [the cross of Christ] is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The Offense of the Cross

You will remember when we studied the truth of the cross that we discovered three things that took place when Christ was crucified:

  1. what Satan and the world did to Christ on the cross;
  2. what God did to His Son on the cross; and
  3. what God did to the human race in Christ on the cross.

Each of these three things plays a vital part in the life of every believer and we will consider each one separately.

At the cross, Satan and his world showed their absolute and utter hatred for Christ, and it was this that led them to put Him to open shame (Hebrews 6:6), inflict upon Him untold suffering, and finally hang Him on the cross to die a most cruel death.  This truth applied to the life of every believer is referred to in the Bible as “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11).

I trust by now that it has become clear to the reader that Christianity is more than joining a denomination, but involves a radical change in position as well as in status. A person who genuinely becomes a believer and joins the church is no longer “in Adam” but is now “in Christ,” neither does he belong to the world but has become a citizen of God’s kingdom.

In view of the fact that a great controversy exists between Satan the prince of this world and Christ the Lord of Heaven, it becomes obvious to anyone who says good-bye to his position in this world and unites with Christ’s kingdom on earth (which is the church) that he is bound to come under attack from Satan and this world.

This Christ made clear to His disciples on more than one occasion: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  ...Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.  On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:16-18, 22).  Again He said, “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 15:18-19; 1 John 3:13).

In the eyes of the world every true Christian is a traitor and is therefore an object of hatred and persecution. Paul writing to Timothy made it clear to this young pastor, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).  But this, you will say, is not true today.  It is not true today, not because the world has improved or changed, or that a reconciliation has taken place between Christ and Satan.  No! The tragedy of the matter is that the church has committed “fornication;” an unholy wedlock has taken place between “Jerusalem which is from above,” and “Babylon the Great,” which symbolizes the world and its philosophy of self-love (see Daniel 4:30).

The sad fact is that for too long we have had partnership in one form or another with the world so that today the church of Christ, like Israel of old, is in Babylonian captivity.  For years, ignoring the counsel of God clearly taught in the Old Testament and fully revealed in the gospel and the principle of the cross (see Galatians 6:14), we as God’s people have been borrowing the philosophies of the world.  We have been using and depending on its resources, involving ourselves in its politics, having dialogue with its various organizations, so that today the church is in captivity to the world.  This is notably felt in many parts of the globe where the church works and functions under the orders and directions of the worldly governments.  For this reason, God’s final message to His people 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” (Rev. 18:1-4; 14:8).

The distinction between the church today and the world can hardly be seen but this state of affairs will not continue for long, for God has made it clear that He is going to 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.  It is just as Isaiah said previously:  ‘Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah’” (Romans 9:27-29). Therefore, declares the True Witness to the church of the last days, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

When Christ will have sifted and purified His church (Amos 9:9-12) and reproduced His character in the lives of His people, then the “offense of the cross” will become a reality again and history will repeat itself.  (Note John 7:7; the world could not hate the Jews because it did not see Christ in them).

Then this divided world will again reunite itself against their common enemy, the church of Christ and God’s people will once again be hated, put to open shame, and suffer untold affliction and death (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 (Acts 5:41), and we will have to take courage from the words of Peter, “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

We have considered “the believer’s cross” and “the offense of the cross,” both of which are the heritage of every true Christian who is united by faith to Christ.  Now we must turn our attention to the glorious power of the cross.  The cross of Christ is the power of God unto salvation and unless we discover how to tap this power we will never know or experience the joys of the Christian life.  For this reason it is not sufficient to simply know the truth of the cross, but we will also be touched by its power if the cross of Christ is to be meaningful or of value to us.

And let there be no misgivings or doubts, for the cross of Christ is able to save us to the uttermost from every aspect of sin, its guilt, it punishment, and its power. That is what God has ordained it to do (Hebrews 7:25-27).

The power of the cross is two-fold.  It is able to save us from the guilt and punishment of our many sins, as well as being the means by which God saves us from our slavery to sin.  This dual function of the cross is the result of the two things God did to His Son on the cross, namely: (1) He punished all our sins in Christ; and (2) He included the whole human race in the death of His Son.  In this section we will deal with the first aspect of the power of the cross, which Scripture refers to as “the blood of Christ,” and then, in the next section, we will consider the second aspect, “the cross of Christ.”

At the cross, the sins of the whole human race were placed upon Christ our sin-bearer.  That is to say, the sin of Adam, which brought condemnation upon all men, plus the sins of all men born in this world, to the very last person to be born, all were heaped upon Him our Substitute (Isa. 53:6).  And as we saw in the study of the cross of Christ (Chapter 5), God did not spare His own Son but meted 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; 9:25-28).  This supreme sacrifice in fulfillment of the many sacrifices offered in the sanctuary service of the Old Testament is equated with “the blood of Christ” in the New Testament.

For this reason we will discover that the New Testament writers placed infinite value upon the blood of Christ.  For example, it is able to redeem us (1 Peter 1:18-19), justify us (Romans 5:9), cleanse us from all sins (1 John 1:7), cancel the guilt of our many sins (Matthew 26:27-28), and make peace between sinful men and holy God (Colossians 1:20).  This is but some of the value of the precious blood of Christ to every believer.

However, before we can proceed to discover the power of Christ’s blood in the life of the believer, it would be well for us first to understand the significance of this expression “the blood of Christ.” We will find in reading the Scriptures that blood pays a vital role when it comes to this matter of dealing with sin.  Thus we read, “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, according to Scripture, the life of the flesh is in the blood (Genesis 9:4). Consequently, shed blood symbolizes or indicates that life has been laid down in death.

For this reason God declared to Israel of old, “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” (Lev. 17:11).  For this reason too, the angel of death passed over the children of Israel who had the blood of the sacrificial lamb splashed on their door posts (Exodus 12:12).

All the blood shed in the various sacrificial systems of the Old Testament was a type or a shadow pointing to the blood of Christ, that is to say, His life which He laid down at the cross for the sins of the world.  Therefore we must never interpret the blood of Christ to refer to the literal human blood of Christ, which was no different from our blood (Hebrews 2:14), and which incidentally would have no power to save us.  The blood of Christ signifies the divine life of Christ which was original, unborrowed, underived, and which He laid down in the second death to save us from the guilt and punishment of sin; it is this which has the power to save us from our sins.

Having dealt with the true significance of Christ’s blood, we must now go on to discover its value and power.  According to Scripture, the blood of Christ is able to save us in three ways, and it is of utmost importance that we become aware of the threefold function and power of the blood.  The three ways mentioned may be defined as Godward, manward, and Satanward. Let us briefly consider each of them.

Godward. The apostle John tells us that to commit sin is of the devil as well as being the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, 8).  Our sins, therefore, have a decided effect upon our relationship with God Himself. As the prophet Isaiah put it, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2).

This, of course, puts us in a hopeless situation, since men cannot really live apart from God, as He is the source of all life.  How then can sinful man be reconciled to a holy God? There is only one answer to this problem, the blood of the cross.  The death of Christ for our sins is the only way we can be reconciled to God; thus, “while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death [blood, vs. 9] of his Son” (Romans 5:10).  Hence, when the blood of Christ is by faith applied to our life of sin, reconciliation takes place between God and us and this brings peace to our hearts. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1; John 14:27).

But the blood of Christ is so wonderful that not only does it reconcile us to God when we first come to Him through Christ, but more than this, it continues to cleanse and forgive our sins daily as we confess them daily (1 John 1:7, 9).  The power of Christ’s blood never diminishes, neither can it ever lose its efficacy or effectiveness to save us from our sins.  For this reason the believer’s relationship with God is never broken and this means that we can come boldly to God every time, through the blood of Christ no matter what our experience may have been (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Every believer should know this and rejoice.  But, unfortunately, the prayer life of many is hindered because we insist on looking at ourselves and our failure when it comes to approaching God, instead of coming to Him in the merits of Christ’s blood.  Whatever may be our Christian experience, never must we approach our holy God but by the blood of Christ, and as such we can do so boldly and without any shame or fear.

Manward. Sin not only affects our relationship with God, but it also brings guilt and distress to our lives (Genesis 42:21; Ps.  40:12).  Every one of us is familiar to a greater or lesser degree with the problem of guilt.  And needless to say, guilt is a very unpleasant thing; in fact, medical science today confirms the fact that the great majority of human sickness and woe may be traced to the problem of guilt.  The devil, through his world, offers many remedies to overcome this problem of guilt, such as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, or taking drugs, etc., but none of these things can genuinely or permanently save us from the pain of guilt.  Once again, it is only the blood of Christ that can rescue us from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 9:14; 10:2).

Therefore, a believer who has been touched by the power of the blood of Christ is among the happiest persons in the world, in spite of everything else he may have to put up with in this life.  For not only has he made peace with God through the blood of Christ, but at the same time, he has found inner peace with himself through this same blood.  David, the king who had committed some terrible sins, including murder, knew something of the power of Christ’s blood and therefore could declare, “Blessed [happy] is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:8).  Such is the privilege of every believer whose faith rests in the blood of the Lamb.

Satanward. There is a third effect that our sins produce.  It gives ground to Satan, the enemy of souls, to accuse us before God.  In Revelation 12:10, we are told that Satan is the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night.  The accusations of the devil are true, for we have many sins of which to be accused that neither we nor God cannot deny.  How are we able to meet these accusations?  Verse 11 gives us the answer:  “They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb.” This is the third function of the blood of Christ; it is able to meet every accusation Satan makes against the saints.

The Bible records several incidents in which Satan is hurling accusations against the saints; or he is opposing God for favoring the saints.  For example, in Zechariah 3:1-4 we read of Joshua the High Priest who represents the congregation standing before the angel of the Lord, and there we find Satan ready to resist or accuse him.  Again in Jude 9, we read about the conflict between Christ and Satan over the body of Moses.  In every such instance we will find that Satan and his accusations are brought to naught, and the weapon that is the cause of his defeat is the same every time; it is the blood of Christ.  On the basis of His blood, Christ our advocate and mediator rebukes every accusation and claim of the devil; this is the wonderful power of His blood.  As the apostle Paul put it, “Who then is the one who condemns?  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, one day stood out as being of more importance than any other day of the year, the Day of Atonement, for it pointed to the final day of judgment.  On this day the true people of God were cleansed from all their sins (Lev. 16:30).  How was this realized?  It was by the blood of the Lord’s goat (Lev. 16:9, 15-16), which symbolized the blood of Christ (see Hebrews 9:11-12).

Thus, the hope of every believer in the day of judgment is not our personal goodness or achievement 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).

Again Satan does not only accuse us before God, but he also enjoys pointing his finger at us, too. Each time we fall into sin or fail to meet God’s ideal, the devil immediately takes advantage and tries to discourage us by accusing us through our conscience. The question is, how do you react to such accusations? Do you fall under them and feel defeated and give up? Or do you stand up and respond, “Yes, I am a sinner and I have sinned grievously, but I have found mercy.” Would you be free from the accusations of the devil and the burden of sins?  There is power in the blood of Christ; and all that is required of you is to avail yourself of it by faith.

This then, is the wonderful power of Christ’s blood made available to us through God’s “indescribable gift.”  By it we are reconciled to God, because it is able to blot out every sin and make us at-one-ment with Him; by it our evil and guilty conscience is purged so that we have that inner peace which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  By it we are able to meet any and every accusation of the devil.  It is for this reason that the New Testament writers put infinite value on the blood of Christ, and for this reason we, too, must do the same.

The Cross of Christ

So far we have considered the subjective application of what Satan did to Christ on the cross, and what the Bible refers to as “the offense of the cross,” and we have considered the value of Christ’s blood, which is the subjective application of what God did to Christ on the cross.  Now we must turn our attention to the third and final application of the truth of Christ’s cross, and that is what God did to the human race in Christ on the cross.  Our study on the cross of Christ (Chapter 5) revealed that the whole human race died “in Christ” at the cross.

Why, you may ask, did God include the human race in the death of His Son? Was it not enough that Christ bore the sins of the whole world?

Two main reasons are given in Scripture as to why it was necessary for God to include all men in the death of His Son. In the first place, it was necessary in order that we might be delivered from our position “in Adam,” which position we saw is under condemnation (Romans 5:12-21).  In 1 Corinthians 15:22 we read, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”  Now it is clear that we cannot have this hope of “being made alive” in Christ if we have not first died in Adam; and the fact is that we have already died in Adam at the cross when we died in Christ, the second or last Adam.  Thus the hope of the resurrection unto life can only belong to those who have by faith submitted and surrendered to their death in Christ (read John 12:24-25).

Secondly, it was necessary for God to include all men in Christ’s death because it was the only way He could make us free from the power of sin (Romans 6:7).  In order to appreciate this we must clearly understand the dual problem of sin.  Sin is not only an act (the transgression of the law), which makes us guilty before God and brings us under the condemnation of the law, but sin is also a power that has man in its grip. This is clearly revealed in Romans 7:14-24 where Paul 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 one may determine to follow after righteousness in and of ourselves, this is impossible because of the principle of sin that dominates our lives.  Jesus made it absolutely clear to Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:6).  By this He meant that the nature of the flesh cannot be changed; and the Bible clearly declares that the nature of the flesh, which is our natural life we inherited from Adam, is unable to keep the law or do righteousness, for it is enmity with God (Romans 8:7).

As Christians we appreciate the glorious fact that Christ died for our sins on the cross (the blood of Christ), so that we might obtain forgiveness.  But you have discovered, I am sure, that forgiveness, wonderful as it may be, is not enough. You want deliverance from sin also; for otherwise your life is a vicious circle of sinning and being forgiven, and sinning again; and to say the least, this is most frustrating.  Sinful acts may be forgiven and blotted out through the blood of Christ, but basic sinfulness cannot be forgiven, it must come to an end.  God, for example, is able to forgive us for our selfish acts or for losing our temper; but selfishness itself or this disposition we have of losing our temper, He cannot forgive; it must go, or, to be more specific, it must be crucified, and this is why God included you and me in the cross of Christ.

The great error most make when they first come to Christ is to think that the flesh or our natural life can be changed and reformed so that it may be made pleasing to God. As a result, most Christians start off their Christian life by making promises and resolutions to God.  Sooner or later, depending on how strong a willpower one possesses, we all discover that such promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand.  No matter how hard we try, the result is always the same – failure.

What is the problem? Clearly, we have failed to see the truth that the sinful life of the flesh is beyond repair.  But once our eyes have been opened to this truth (revealed to us by the law of God, Romans 7:7-13) we will rejoice in the cross of Christ and understand why God has put us into Christ crucified, and, in exchange, given us the very life of His Son.

Unlike every other non-Christian religion, Christianity does not offer sinful men a changed life but an ex-changed life.  Thus, the sooner we Christians realize that the perfecting of the flesh is impossible (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, while the greatest discovery a Christian can make is that, on the one hand, he has been crucified with Christ and, on the other hand, his life is now hid in Christ (Colossians 3:3).  Such a discovery will bring to an end all self-effort in the life of the believer, and instead he will “live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

So, then, in summarizing this glorious truth concerning the power of the cross, we can say that the blood of Christ is God’s solution in dealing with all our sins while the cross of Christ is His remedy for delivering us from the very fountain or source of sin.  The first is the means of our justification, while the second is the means of our sanctification.  And just as we cannot obtain forgiveness from our sins unless we see Christ bearing all our sins on the cross, so likewise we cannot know deliverance from sin’s power unless we see Christ bearing us on the cross.

Sanctification, or victory over sin, involves a dual process that takes place at the same time; on the one hand, we, by faith, totally surrender to our death in Christ, so that, on the other hand, the Spirit of Christ, who dwells in us, might manifest in and through us the life of Christ. This is how the Apostle Paul describes it:  “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; Philippians 3:10).

What, then, is the conclusion of the matter? 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, full and complete, and we can rejoice with Paul and say, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Such is the blessing God has for each one of us in the cross of Christ, 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” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

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