by Owen Olbricht
Along with the resurrection of Jesus, the cross stands central to the Christian faith.
On these two hang the basis of our hope and salvation. In the cross we have forgiveness and through the resurrection we have a Savior. The absence of either of these would mean no forgiveness.
Paul affirmed this relationship when he wrote, "For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10). He tied these two together when he stated his goal to know Jesus "and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death" (Phil. 3:10).
Even though none of Paul's sermons in the book of Acts reflect his passion for the cross of Christ, his writings make the cross central for his life and that of Christians. He affirmed, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). Concerning his own life he wrote, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20), and also stated, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
The impact of the cross is God's transforming power for the Christian. Those who walk each day under the cross cannot help but become more like the One who died on the cross. To those who are saved the cross is the "power of God" (1 Cor. 1:24).
1. The cross showed the power of God to forgive sins, which should also influence us to forgive others.
The writer of Hebrews stated, "…without the shedding of blood is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). Jesus said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). Based on such forgiveness we are to put on a life that includes "forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col. 3:13).
2. The cross exhibited what should be our attitude toward sin.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). Jesus took the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross, "Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24).
3. The cross demonstrated how we should love each other.
Concerning Jesus' death for us John wrote, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11). Jesus stated, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that you love one another" (John 14:34). If we stay near the cross, we will catch the same attitude of love.
4. The cross revealed the sacrificial service we should give to others.
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us; and we ought lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).
5. The cross displayed the reverential fear we should show God.
As he struggled with the approaching agony of death He called on the Father, who "was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" (Heb 5:7). Because of His call for help, God sent an angel from heaven to give Him strength during His agonizing struggle with the prospect of His approaching death.
6. The cross made known the price we should be willing to pay for obedience.
"Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things He suffered" (Heb. 5:8). "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:5-8). Any obstacle that would keep us from obeying God should not hinder us from doing His will, even as the fearful pain of the cross did not deter Jesus.
7. The cross is God's basis for unity.
Jesus went to the cross in order to provide a means of peace between Jews and Gentiles, "And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Eph. 2:16). The cross provides the power to humble and evoke submission, and in this way, bring together the people of God who will be effected by the cross.