The Cross: The Plan, Wisdom, And Power Of God - Part II
Last month we discussed the “plan” of the cross as the means by which God would redeem mankind. The wisdom of God is the reason why He chose the cross as the means to redeem mankind. It would be impossible for anyone to fully comprehend the illimitable wisdom of God in our finite and limited minds. However, the Word of God provides us some insight into God’s incredible predestinated, and now finished, work of Jesus Christ through the cross.
My dad was an engineer and an inventor. Through wisdom gained from years of education and work experience, he carefully examined the process of steel manufacturing, which consequently produced an unintended by-product—air pollution. Using his wisdom in both steel manufacturing and chemistry, he created a unique solution that partially resolved this monumental dilemma. His remedy enabled uninhibited steel production while reducing poisonous air pollution. He capably invented a solution that became a means to satisfy the need for continued steel production while minimizing the dangerous collateral damage of pollution. This little example of human wisdom displays the creativity of man to meet the many catch-22 situations we regularly face in society.
In a spiritual framework God desired to display His love toward sinful mankind, and, at the same time, also satisfy His perfect righteousness and justice. Can God judicially sentence guilty sinners and show love to the guilty, without individually punishing them? Praise God the answer is yes! The consequences of the fall of Adam corrupted the human race. Sin passed from one man, Adam, to all men. After the fall, all men and women from then until now are born dead in trespasses and sins. The Bible teaches us that the wages of sin is death; death is the penalty for sin.
The cross of Christ not only displayed the love of God toward His fallen creation, but it also satisfied the judicial sentence of death that mankind owed God for sin. Jesus Christ became the sin offering and ransom for us. This is called the doctrine of substitution. Jesus Christ would suffer and die on the cross on our behalf. The substitute had to be without blemish—sin. The virgin birth of Christ made it possible for him to become human without the natural consequences of sin passing onto him through the means of normal procreation. His perfect sinless life was necessary to enable him to become an acceptable offering to God. His death paid the debt we owed to God and established the new covenant. II Corinthians 5:19 says, “To wit, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” Jesus is the new covenant, and we now have access to Him through the cross.
Now that we understand the plan and wisdom of God for the sacrifice of Christ, we must now comprehend the way fallen humanity can receive this wonderful grace of God. The apostle Paul answered that question by inspiration of the Holy Spirit for us: “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation has always been through faith. The law was implemented to show Israel God’s standard of perfection and righteousness while revealing man’s sinfulness.
Obedience to the law included the animal sacrificial system to atone—a means to cover—sin until Jesus would come and take sin away. Once more we can gain a more complete understanding of this through the apostle Paul in his writing to the Galatians: “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:22-26).
The obedience God now requires is to “the faith.” What do I mean by “the faith?” In using that expression, or a derivative of it, Paul meant the finished work of the cross as our object of faith. God will not honor any good works toward us earning righteousness. Now, I am not saying good works are wrong or that they will go unrewarded. What I am clearly saying is that our good works do not produce any righteousness. Good works are a result of what righteousness produces. Works are excluded in salvation and in our progressive sanctification—our walk with God as he conforms us to the image of Christ. God only accepts faith in the finished work of the cross of Christ.
Let me be clear, works do not produce righteousness, only faith, and, more specifically, faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I find an excellent explanation of this in Romans 4:2-5: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Here Paul was dealing predominantly with justification, but it applies to progressive sanctification as well. Further scriptural evidence of this can be found in Colossians 2:6: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” The word walk means to order our manner of living or to regulate one’s life; to conduct one’s self. Simply put, the way in which we live.
In God’s wisdom, He chose for sinful mankind to receive His grace and gift of salvation through faith. In order to live for God and continue receiving His grace, we are to continue to live—or walk—in faith. Let me reemphasize: it is faith in the cross. It has to be in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but we must not separate Him from the cross. The cross is the means for us to receive the benefits of all that God has for us.
Next month, I will deal with the power of the cross. I am also adding another article to this series dealing with the cross and the love of God.