The Cross of Christ
THE WISDOM AND POWER OF THE CROSS
NOTHING is more fundamental to our faith than the cross of Christ. And
nothing is more vital to our conduct. We first became members of the body of Christ when
we heard and believed that Christ died on the cross for our sins (Eph.1:13; 1 Cor.15:1-4).
And since that point, every installment of truth which we have received has been centered
on our Saviour's sacrifice. So also, every service we perform, and every victory we
experience over the weaknesses of our flesh and anxieties of our mind, must center around
the cross. In no other way can we be useful and glorifying to our God.
There are at least seven major accomplishments of the cross of Christ
specifically brought forward in Paul's epistles, which will be considered in this series
of articles. They are: 1. the deliverance from sin and death through the crucifixion of
the old humanity, or "the word of the cross" (1 Cor.1:17,18); 2. the replacement
of a message of law by one of pure grace, which Paul refers to as "the snare of the
cross" (Gal.5:11); 3. the crucifixion of the world, including its ways and its
problems (Gal.6:12,14); 4. the change from a soulish and terrestrial outlook to one which
is spiritual and celestial, which change even many who believe that Christ is their
Saviour, nevertheless oppose (Phil.3:18); 5. the nailing to the cross of the handwriting
in the religious decrees which was hostile to us (Col.2:14); 6. the removal of the enmity
in flesh between Circumcision and Uncircumcision (Eph.2:16); and 7. the reconciling of the
universe to God (Col.1:20).
NOT IN WISDOM OF WORD
We begin this study where God first began to reveal His grace and love
to us, with "the word of the cross." When Christ died on the cross every
descendant of Adam died (2 Cor.5:14), that is, the old humanity was put under the sentence
of death. In God's sight it is put aside, and someday it will be no more. Now the point we
wish to stress here is that this execution of the old humanity was accomplished entirely
in the crucifixion of Christ. It was a finished work and we can neither contribute to it
nor add to its achievement.
However, we are always trying to force our way into the picture. Man
would like to play a part in what Christ has done fully and completely on his behalf. This
is wrong, and more than that it is harmful to our spiritual health. The word of the cross
not only announces our deliverance from indignation and death, but it can be the source of
daily salvation from uselessness and unrighteousness, apathy and hopelessness. it can be a
continuous supply of power for us.
In 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul refers to two negatives connected with the
evangel he was bringing. He was not commissioned to baptize, and he brought the evangel
not in wisdom of word. The good news is not based on human efforts, no matter how good or
reverent they may be, and it is not the result of human wisdom and philosophy, no matter
how noble and teamed it may be. in fact, should we attempt to impose our works and wisdom
upon the work of the cross we make it of no effect for present salvation. The evangel must
be kept apart from man's works and words "lest the cross of Christ may be made
void". It is clear that the apostle does not mean that the deliverance from sin and
death which Christ has made can ever be voided. But when we try to add our own works to
His work which is fully sufficient, then we cancel out the present power which the word of
the cross has for us.
It is not a question of whether baptism is right or wrong but whether
it adds anything to our position before God. The cross is the only way to salvation. This
includes salvation from sin and death as well as daily salvation from evil thoughts, words
and deeds, and from burdens of depression and guilt. The worldly words of wisdom are those
which suggest that religious experiences and rituals, works and practices, must be added
to what Christ did at the cross, in order for us to "have the victory." In
Christ, because of the all-sufficiency of His sacrifice, we already have the
victory! Christ is our "righteousness and holiness and deliverance" (1
Cor.1:30), and unless we would want to make this daily salvation voided, let us learn to
accept and glory in the completeness of His cross.
DOES GOD LOVE US ALONE?
Recently I attended a religious service in one of the world's most
magnificent cathedrals. The lofty arches, the majestic music, the spectacular
stained-glass windows, and the entire awesome beauty of the place seemed to produce the
feeling that God was near and all was well. But it was not long after leaving the
cathedral that I was brought back down to earth by the noise of the city and the rush of
the real world. To be effective the rituals and environment of religion must be sustained
continually, and even then it is doubtful that our responses will remain steady.
And yet the human continues to search for this type of experience, a
soulish awareness of God's presence and approval. It may take the form of religious
ceremonies such as baptism, or even ecstatic experiences such as are so popular today, or
perhaps constant "church activity", none of which may be wrong in themselves
(Paul did baptize the household of Stephanus, besides Gaius and Crispus), but they are
wrong if we are going to depend on them for our happiness and peace and for our
consciousness of God's presence and power. We have been saved and have been given access
to the Father's heart by the blood of Christ's cross, and that alone.
Some have been led to depend on law-keeping in order to have the
assurance of God's approval, and then when they find that we are not under law but grace
they feet deserted and dejected. Perhaps it was similar with the Corinthians who wanted
baptisms, but Paul said only, "I decide not to perceive anything among you except
Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor.2:2).
We are not left alone, and we are not unprovided for. God is
continually revealing Himself to us and strengthening us through the word of the cross and
its further developments such as justification, conciliation and our celestial status.
"To us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor.1:18). This does not
mean we escape problems and turmoil. What reason would there be to possess this power of
God if there was no need for its use? The fact that we have this provision of strength
from God presupposes that we are weak and failing in ourselves.
To give an example, we may find ourselves becoming jealous and
resentful of an associate for unexplainable reasons. We know it is wrong; we realize it is
displeasing to God. And we despise ourselves for it. But this ill feeling can be dealt
with by the word of the cross. Here is an opportunity to pour out our prayers to the God
and Father of the One Who gave up His high position and humbled Himself even to the death
of the cross, on our behalf. The consciousness that in the flesh we all are sinners and
enemies, both our associates and ourselves, and the awareness that nevertheless "we
were conciliated to God through the death of His Son" (Rom.5:10) will operate in us.
It cannot help but affect us for good.
As we come to appreciate the wisdom and avail ourselves of the power in
the evangel, the word of the cross, we are actually experiencing in a small measure, a
foretaste of future bliss. Someday, when we are with our Lord and are conformed to His
image, we will be fully saved from all trials and troubles. Now, however, we may be
"being saved" from these distresses. The word of the cross not only speaks of the
fact of our salvation in Christ, but also of the process of our salvation which
is continuing in our lives today.
However, let us note that this process does not develop apart from a
growth in realization of the meaning and blessings of the cross. "Now the soulish man
is not receiving those things which are of the spirit of God, for they are stupidity to
him, and he is not able to know them..." (1 Cor.2:14). Progress in experiencing the
power of God for present day salvation parallels progress in appreciating the blessings
which are ours in Christ. Hence Paul guides us with a model prayer for us all to adopt
into our own lives: "...we...do not cease praying for you and requesting that you may
be filled full with the realization of His will, in all spiritual wisdom and
understanding, you to walk worthily of the Lord for all pleasing, bearing fruit in every
good work, and growing in the realization of God; in accord with the might of His glory,
for all endurance and patience with joy..." (Col.1:9-11).
Indeed, the greater our realization of God's will, "to have an
administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ..."
(Eph.1:10), the more we will be endued with power for endurance and patience with joy. And
the more we are growing in the realization of God, Who blesses us with every spiritual
blessing among the celestials in Christ (Eph.1:3) the more we will experience the joy and
peace He has for us.
It is not our purpose in this article to consider all the many blessed
results of the cross of Christ (surely they could not be compassed by a lifetime of
consideration), but rather we have tried to focus our attention on it as the sole basis of
our blessings and as the source of power in our daily lives. Where the cross is involved
man makes no contribution, but he receives much as he accepts the evangel in faith. There
is no room for boasting (1 Cor.1:29) unless it be in the cross itself (Gal.6:14).
The wisdom of the word of the cross is that God put aside the old
humanity in the death of His Son, and He did this fully, not leaving any part to be
finished by man. If God had let us have our way, where we would have been required to
bring to completion what Christ had started, it never would have been done. The old
humanity and all its weakness would remain without hope. But in God's wisdom He provided
the full deliverance in the sacrifice of Christ. Hence any deliverance now from the
distresses and sorrows of life will also come out of the word of the cross. We cannot have
endurance and patience with joy by our own efforts. These must come to us as gracious
gifts from God while we center our minds and hearts on what He has done.
The power in the word of the cross is available to us all. We need it
very much. May we not deny the fullness of what Christ has done, and may we not neglect
it. "Jews are requesting signs, and Greeks are seeking wisdom, yet we are heralding
Christ crucified, to Jews, indeed, a snare, yet to the nations stupidity, yet to those who
are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God...(1 Cor.
SOMEONE taught the Galatians that only those who were circumcised could
be certain of salvation. That teacher would not accept the snare of the cross of Christ
(Gal.5:11,12). Today some say that only those who belong to their church and do good acts
can be saved, and thus they avoid the snare of the cross. The human tendency is to stand
aloof from the humiliating fact that we can add nothing to the finished work of Christ's
cross; this is its snare.
We are sons of Adam, and our most outstanding sin is pride. It is human
to oppose the thought that we are helpless to produce righteousness and gain salvation. We
may accept it with our lips, but we often find ourselves fighting it with our minds.
Like an animal falling into a baited trap we may fall into many snares
to our own harm, but the snare of the cross is not attractive, and we try to avoid it.
There is no bait which catches our eye. Rather, the snare itself is exposed in plain sight
and presents itself exactly for what it is.
"The cross is a snare, which not only captures but crushes us. No
human pretensions can abide the great fact of His utter humiliation and shameful death for
us on the cross, and the sober truth that such were our deserts not His..." (Concordant
IS IT IMPORTANT?
Of what importance is it to us that we be captured and crushed by this
snare of the cross? It is vital to our lives, to our faith and to the glory of God. The
believer who comes to the point where he can say, "I am not able to add to Christ's
finished war", has reached a very significant graduation step. Now he can live in
assurance and peace; his faith becomes settled and sure; and he now may become truly
useful to God in bringing lasting glory to His name.
Paul thought it was so important that he was willing to endure
persecution for it. We note in Galatians 5:11 that his persecutions were not because he
believed Christ had been crucified, nor even because he believed Christ died for his sins.
It was because he believed and taught that man cannot, by his own best endeavors, add
anything at all to what Christ has accomplished. Circumcision was not a bad thing. It had
been commanded of Israel. But it has no place in the evangel for us today as contributing
to a righteous standing before God.
Yet we do not avoid the snare of the cross merely by discarding
circumcision. We must not put any other rite in its place, nor try to substitute our good
works as if they were" our part" toward gaining salvation. That would nullify
(not the achievement of Christ at the cross but) the snare of the cross, besides
removing our peace.
THE DANGERS OF RELIGION
The most common denial of Christ's completed work is found in the
imposition of religious acts for salvation. In Galatia it was circumcision; in present-day
churches it is more likely to be "sacraments", such as baptism and the communion
service. No matter how good such acts may be they must never be presented as necessary in
order for a believer to be saved. They must not be imposed upon believers as requirements.
That only leads to self-congratulation and a superior attitude toward those who do not
participate, when we ought to be focusing our attention on what Christ has achieved at the
Perhaps a more subtle religious attack against the snare of the cross
is the suggestion that our standing before God is based on our faith. Not only what we
do, but what we believe is considered essential for salvation. Indeed both our
actions and our faith are of utmost importance for ideal service, but neither can add
anything to the work of Christ at Calvary and His perfect faith by which we
are justified. No one becomes a member of the body of Christ because he is orthodox nor
because he "has the truth" and stands for it. Nor do we have access to the
Father's heart because we have performed the proper works of penitence and charity. We are
God's called-out ones, and this is according to God's purpose (Rom.8:28-30) based on the
gift of His Son for us all (Rom.8:32). Justification and conciliation are through the
sacrifice and faith of Christ.
It is true that we do believe the evangel of our salvation, that Christ
died for our sins and has been roused the third day. But our act of believing is also a
gracious gift of God to us (Eph.2:8; Phil.1:29), so even here there is no room for
boasting. The simplest child who believes this evangel is no less secure in Christ than
the most learned and devout student of the Scriptures who also accepts it in faith. The
heretic who truly believes that Christ died for his sake has been sealed with the holy
spirit of promise to the day of deliverance (Eph.1:13,14) no less than the most orthodox
of believers who also believes unfeignedly. One may be granted more faith than another,
but none of this affects what Christ has done on our behalf.
LOVING ONE ANOTHER
The snare of the cross frees us from the jealousy and envy that
accompanies religion. If we are required to do and to believe rightly we are sure to be
occupied continually with ourselves. The cross leads us to look at what Christ has done,
and this gives freedom to consider others. This is why Paul can direct us to love for one
another once he has defended the snare of the cross.
Hence he writes: "For you were called for freedom, brethren, only
use not the freedom for an incentive to the flesh, but through love be slaving for one
another" (Gal.5:13,14). Only the truth that Christ has paid the price for everyone,
including our associate, can give us the freedom to love him.
On the other hand, the conviction that we ourselves must earn our own
way to God's acceptance will lead to the biting and devouring of verse 15 and the strife,
jealousies, furies, factions, dissensions, sects and envies of verse 20.
The fruit of the spirit (Gal.5:22,23) is the result of the message of
the cross including its snare of not allowing human endeavor any part in gaining
justification. If righteousness is based on the blood of Christ rather than on our own
worthy works and right beliefs, then indeed "we may not become vainglorious,
challenging one another, envying one another" (Gal.5:26).
After all, vainglory and envy are products of pride. Love is the
product of the cross. And the cross is the place of shame and ignominy where also the
flesh was put aside. Hence there is no room for boasting but much room for thanksgiving
and much opportunity now to look about us with love and understanding at others for whom
Christ died. We are no better in ourselves than they; they are no better in themselves
than we. And so in this fertile soil of God's love the precious fruit of the spirit grows
and ripens into love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and
There is always the danger of being misunderstood when we try to
expound the Word of God, and this may be even more so when we are dealing with the cross.
I fear that some will think my words above to mean that it is not important what we do or
what we believe. Yet this is not my point at all, but rather just the opposite. The
evangel brought by Paul clearly involves the snare of the cross which is that our deeds
and our beliefs do not gain us our position of deliverance and safety in Christ. On the
other hand the cross and its snare will gain us the freedom to do the right things and to
grow in faith, becoming settled and grounded in love and in truth.
In a sense our life of faith begins at the finish line. We begin
finding ourselves already under the seal of God's promise, secured by Christ's blood. That
is what Paul means when he speaks of freedom in Galatians 5. God has chosen us and called
us and brought us into this position of salvation, and now we may go forward in assurance.
It is only as we believe the evangel that our deliverance is a finished
work, and accept that finished work as our starting point, that we will walk in love and
joy and peace. If we are trying to love our associate so that we will be saved, that is,
in order to get to the finish line, then we will never show forth genuine love. We will
not have love, for our motives are selfish. Love cannot develop that way. If we are trying
to gain entrance into heaven by perfect attendance at church or by loyalty to the Bible we
will end up with enmities and strife, challenging one another and envying one another. Yet
if we accept that God has already granted us a realm "inherent in the
heavens"--and not only ourselves, but all whom God has called--then we will find that
our time is gladly given to the Lord, even when we are driving along a highway or dealing
with others in our jobs or at home, and the Scriptures will become a joy to read and
uphold rather than forbidding handbook of religious requirements or a battle-ground for
We need to begin with the cross and its snare. We need to begin where
God has placed us, at the finish line. If our works and our faithfulness are to have any
value they should commence with the fact that Christ is our wisdom, righteousness,
holiness and deliverance (1 Cor.1:30). It is foolish and futile to strive to reach
something which God has already given us. Rather than nullifying the snare of the cross
let us glory in it and go forward freely allowing its fruit of love and joy to develop in
us to the praise of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Cross of Christ
THE WORLD AND THE CROSS
THE GREEK WORD for "world" kosmos is properly
translated "adornment" in 1 Peter 3:3. Does this mean that the world we live in
is an adornment to the universe? Most of us have seen the astounding photographs taken by
the astronauts of our blue and white planet against the black background of outer space.
The earth appears like a shining jewel. But wait-Peter's advice in the passage referred to
above is that a woman's adornment kosmos should not be a matter of the outside
appearance (decorating the hair, gold ornaments, costly garments) but of the hidden
qualities of the heart and "a meek and quiet spirit." What is our world like as
far as its "heart" and "spirit" are concerned?
Sin has "entered into the world, and through sin death"
(Rom.5:12), which has so corrupted the spirit of the world that the very expression
becomes a picture of all that is ungodly (cf 1 Cor.2:12). Yet even before sin entered
through Adam's offense there had been a world disruption-a casting down of the adornment-
which has left its fearful imprint. In fact it has become one of our greatest blessings to
realize that we were chosen in Christ before this destructive event (Eph.1:4), which still
has its effects in corruption (2 Pet.1:4), defilements (2 Pet.2:20), offenses and sins
Furthermore we learn that the kingdoms of this world are under the sway
of the Adversary (Matt.4:8,9). The orderly arrangement is disturbed; the adornment is
corroded and torn.
GOD LOVES THE WORLD
Nevertheless "the God Who makes the world and all that is in
it" (Acts 17:24) has a great love for it. The apostle John was chosen and directed to
write extensively on this theme, and to inform the world of what Jesus had done and would
yet do for it. These achievements were so many and so vast that, John concludes in his
account, "if they should be written, one by one, I am surmising not even the world
itself would contain the written scrolls" (John 21:25). Of the four accounts of the
Lord's life John's most clearly points beyond the present eon and the coming afflictions
and judgments to the time of the new covenant when even the world itself will be delivered
Matthew presents the Lord as the Ruler Who will shepherd God's people
Israel (Matt.2:6). Luke writes of His coming as meaning peace on earth and delight among
men (Luke 2:14). But John introduces Him with these words: "In the world He
was..." (John 1:10). Here was hope not only to Israel, nor even merely to the human
race, but to the entire system of things here in our world--the creatures of earth, their
societies, the seasons and climate, the physical elements--everything that had gone wrong
because of the various disruptions. (For a helpful study of the disruptions see
UNSEARCHABLE RICHES for May, 1957, vol. 48, p. 97.)
Yet we read that"...the world knew Him not." The very world
in which He appeared and which had come into being through Him, failed to recognize Him.
How can we account for this? God sent His only-begotten Son into this corrupted system,
and the world rejected Him.
In this we can trace the wisdom of God (cf 1 Cor.1:21), for in order
that this world might become saved and become an adornment to the universe both in spirit
and heart, there had to be the gift of God's Son as a sacrifice for sin. "For thus
God loves the world, s o that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is
believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian. For God does not
dispatch His Son into the world that He should be judging the world, but that the world
may be saved through Him" (John 3:16,17).
Hence we find in John's writings that the Lord Jesus Christ cam e to
this spoiled world in order to bring it to eventual salvation, As John later saw in his
vision the world and its kingdoms will then be an orderly and adorning system to the high
praise of God (Rev.11:15).
THE CROSS, THE WORLD, AND I
To Paul was given a view of the love of God which exceeded in
dimensions even those visions of John which are so filled with hope and joy (cf Eph.3:18).
Our apostle tells us of God's "vast love" which vivifies us and rouses us and
seats us together among the celestials in Christ "that, in the oncoming eons, He
should be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ
Jesus" (Eph.2:7). This view of future glory goes beyond the limits of the world we
know and encompasses the entire universe, so that all will be reconciled to God through
the blood of Christ's cross, "whether those on the earth or those in the
Like John, Paul also recognizes the salvation which is to come to our
world because of the cross when he compares the effect of Adam on the world to that of
Christ in Romans 5:12-18. In addition we learn of a present blessing to our kosmos
in the conciliation, which is also as a result of Christ's cross. "God was in Christ,
conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them..." (2
However, in this article, we want to backtrack just a bit in
considering a particular impact of the cross upon the world as discussed in Galatians
6:14. In this passage Paul writes, "Now may it not be mine to be boasting, except in
the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and
I to the world."
Here there are three: the cross of Christ, the world, and I. Each of us
as an individual has his own private world, the world of the "ego" or the
"I." Everything else is the world outside. There is the world in general, and
there is the world of the "I. "But now Paul speaks of a third place where these
two worlds must meet. It is the cross.
Saul of Tarsus had been trying to force himself into an impossible mold
and then to force the world about him into the very same impossible form. He wanted to
make himself and the world conform to his own religious system. It made him a wretched man
(Rom.7:24), "kicking against the goads" (Acts 26:14), because although the will
to do the ideal was with him, yet the ability to effect the ideal was not (Rom.7:18). And
of course the world could no more live up to his standards than he could himself.
Who of us have not made up our own minds as to how the world should be?
We have decided it should operate along certain lines and reach certain beneficial goals
for good (at least for our own good). But it does not seem to make much progress. In fact
it seems to become worse the more we try to manipulate it, to redesign society and reform
our way of life. Poor Saul. In man's eyes he was becoming blameless (Phil.3:6), but within
himself he knew that good was not making its home in his flesh (Rom.7:18).
The first step toward solving this dilemma was to get rid of Saul of
Tarsus. He was crucified to the world, or as he puts it in Galatians 2:20, "With
Christ have I been crucified...." The "I" was put away.
The truth that our old humanity, our sinful, offensive, wretched self,
was put away at the cross is very profound. It means that we have accepted the fact that
we cannot live up to our ideals. We are unable to produce righteousness. We just do not
have it in us to live like we ought to. Also (and this is the truly significant thing)
this crucifixion of the "I" means that God considers that old failing humanity
to be gone and looks at us in Christ. He sees us in the same way He sees His Son. This is
a real help to us in giving us peace and assurance in this "terrestrial tabernacle
house," this temporary, earthly, failing body.
THE CRUCIFIED WORLD
But the cross not only ridded the world in general of Saul of Tarsus
and his particularly unhappy little world, but it also ridded Paul of the world in
general. "The world has been crucified to me," he writes in Galatians 6:14. This
is the second half of the solution to his dilemma. Everything that the world meant to
Paul, its problems and failures, its frustrations and hypocrisy, its tensions and terrors,
they were all nailed to that tree upon Golgotha.
When he wrote Galatians Paul was deeply troubled because these brethren
were trying to add to Christ's finished work. They were in fact going back to the wretched
condition of kicking against the goads, thinking they could bring forth a world where the
flesh will fully follow the commands of the perfect law.
Naturally they had lost their happiness (Gal.4:15) besides failing out
of the enjoyment of grace (5:4). This was grievous to Paul's heart, for he loved the
Galatians and wanted them to enjoy the position they had in Christ.
Nevertheless, no matter how much this trouble burdened the apostle
Paul, he realized that it was a problem created by that very world which had been crucified.
In this he was boasting. That old system of things penetrates into every facet of our
lives now, but it is under the sentence of death. It will be exterminated, and Paul
gloried much in this fact.
If we have problems and anxieties which get us down, without a doubt
they can be traced to the present system of things. They are "worldly." But that
world has been crucified as surely as Christ was made to be a sin offering, and as surely
as we also have been put to death in Christ. Even so, as surely as He was roused and we
shall b e roused together in Him, shall the world itself be brought forth anew and become
the glorious adornment God has purposed it to be. What boasting there is in the, cross of
CHRIST HUMBLED HIMSELF to the death of the cross, and out of this
humiliation came the greatest triumph in history. There is also a necessary humiliation
for us, connected with the cross, which likewise leads to victory. But generally speaking
we are unwilling to accept this shame, and as a consequence, although we are believers and
our salvation is certain, we become enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil.3:18). This will
lead to loss at the dais of Christ.
It is significant that Paul does not despair concerning the enemies of
the cross, nor does he place an anathema upon them, but he laments concerning them.
It is sad that one who has been justified by the blood of Christ should shun the way of
the cross in his life, but it is human.
Nevertheless, none of us really wants to be an enemy of the cross, and
we should heed this warning about it.
SLAVES OF CHRIST JESUS
As noted in another series of articles currently running in this
magazine, Philippians is an epistle of service. It is not written by the apostle
Paul but by the slave Paul. It does not lay a foundation of teaching but
demonstrates how the believer should live. Yet all that we do in service for our Lord must
accord with the teaching of truth such as we have in Romans and Ephesians. And it is here
that this matter of humiliation comes in and where we may be in danger of becoming enemies
of the cross.
We want to serve the Lord, but are we willing to do so in His way? Can
we offer divine service without patting ourselves on the back? Can we do so realizing that
nothing we do adds to the finished work of Calvary nor is required of us as "our
part" in the work of salvation? When the Scriptures say there is no room for boasting
they mean that absolutely. There is no room for self-congratulation in the way of the
In the parable of the Pharisee and the tribute collector (Luke 18:914)
the Pharisee is very proud of his service, saying, "God, I am thanking you that I am
not even as the rest of men, rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tribute
collector. I am fasting twice of a sabbath. I am taking tithes from all whatever I am
acquiring." Such an attitude clearly is not the way of the cross. All his works were
good and right, but he exalted himself for contributing something to God. Yet the service
of the tribute collector in beating his chest and saying, "God make a propitiatory
shelter for me, the sinner!"--even this service could have been unacceptable if it
had been done out of a wrong motive, with the feeling, for example, that he was ever so
much more of service to God than the hypocritical Pharisee. The tribute collector was
"justified" not because his service was so much better but because he put his
whole dependence upon God.
DISPOSED TO THE TERRESTRIAL
The enemies of the cross of Christ referred to in Philippians 3:18,19,
are nevertheless believers who have accepted the grace of God in giving His Son on their
behalf. Perhaps all of us come under this classification of enmity from time to time. We
love the ways of the world or delight in our own works too much to put our full trust in
God's approach present (Eph.2:8). We become disposed to the terrestrial.
The terrestrial, or earthly, disposition is primarily centered in
selfishness, soulishness and vain ambition. These are God's enemies, but surprisingly they
are our own worst enemies as well. As trite as it may sound we are not really happy in
accumulating wealth for ourselves and in making ourselves comfortable at the expense of
someone else. Yet we cling to these things which were put aside at the cross, and so far
as our service is concerned we become enemies of the very cross through which we are
conciliated and justified. Being disposed to the terrestrial and so becoming an enemy of
the cross can take many different forms. It shows up in pride when we act (like the
Pharisee) as though God's favor to us were somehow earned by our service. Another way to
oppose the cross is to deny the full glory and completeness of its effects. The cross was
for all, and it fully achieved its purpose without any assistance on our part.
Furthermore, we are enemies of the cross, disposed to the terrestrial, when we are
jealous, hateful and envious, for there is none of this in the sacrifice of Christ.
A CONSUMMATION OF DESTRUCTION
There are two ways to deal with enemies: one is to eliminate them; the
other is to change them to friends. Death is perhaps the most persistent and tenacious
enemy of God, and because it is an impersonal force rather than a personal being, God can
deal with it in the former manner. "The last enemy is being abolished:
death" (1 Cor.15:26). But when the creature is the enemy, and that is you and I, then
God transforms the enemy into a friend: "...being enemies, we were conciliated
to God through the death of His Son" (Rom. 5:10).
At first sight it would seem that the enemies of the cross of Christ
will be destroyed (Phil.3:19), just as death will be abolished. But this cannot be, since
the cross of Christ has, in fact, established our salvation. Surely we have a figure of
speech here, the figure of "near association"* where
the persons committing acts of enmity stand for the acts. It is the service of the
believer which is in view in this context, and it is the selfish and proud works which
shall be destroyed. Paul speaks of a similar matter in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Those who
build with works described by the terms " wood, grass, straw" will lose rewards
at the dais of Christ. The works "will be burned up" though the person himself
"shall be saved, yet thus, as through fire."
If our service is soulish and terrestrial, only satisfying our senses
and not bringing glory to God, it must be destroyed. Human governments accept taxes and
service which arise from crime and dishonesty, but the Lord will never allow service which
is tainted with pride and selfishness to enter His celestial kingdom. And we also will
rejoice to see our unworthy works burned up.
Those believers who have dishonored the cross by consigning the great
majority of mankind to endless suffering or annihilation will surely be glad to have that
"service" burned up rather than to see any creature for whom Christ shed His
blood burn in everlasting torment. So also all of us will want any errors we have taught
and any false service we have performed destroyed.
p67 The Way of the Cross On the other hand, those who are imitators of
Paul (Phil.3: 17) in deeming all terrestrial glories a forfeit, giving full honor to the
cross of Christ, will receive a wreath of righteousness in that day (2 Tim.4:8).
FRIENDS OF THE CROSS
It is ironic that the glory of the enemies of the cross of Christ is
"in their shame" (Phil.3:19), while the glory of the cross rests on the
shame which Christ endured. What man esteems as glory will bring him shame at the dais of
Christ, but the shame associated with the cross leads to life and glory.
We must not try to dress up the shameful ignominy of the crucifixion of
Christ or make it seem any less vile than it was. God delights in taking that which is
weak and dishonored and making it triumph, and this is displayed at the cross more
gloriously than anywhere else. The friend of the cross is fully confident that God's grace
is sufficient for every need and for the achievement of every good.
All of us would like to be like Abraham and be called "the friend
of God" (James 2:23), and we truly would like to be friends of the cross of Christ.
We want to serve our Lord in a worthy manner like Abel who brought an acceptable sacrifice
or like Joseph and Daniel who would not do wrong for the sake of worldly advancement. But
it is difficult not to be like Cain and offer fruit of our labors to God as our
achievement. If we are going to be friends of the cross let us realize that all
achievement of any value is God's, and it is gained through the shameful cross.
MODELS FOR OUR IMITATION
We do not have to go to Abel and Joseph and Daniel as models for our
behavior, since we have ideal models of friends of the cross here in this very letter of
Philippians. "Become imitators together of me, brethren, and be noting those who are
walking thus, according as you have us for a model" (Phil.3:17). Timothy was a friend
of the cross because he was not seeking that which was his own but rather that which was
Christ Jesus' (Phil.2:21). In being genuinely solicitous of the concerns of others he was
reflecting the message of the cross and bringing honor to God. Epaphroditus was being a
friend of the cross when he risked his "soul" (his personal comfort and
pleasures) for the good of Paul, and so by his attitude he, too, was announcing the word
of the cross and bringing glory to God's name.
Paul himself is a special model for us today in this time of grace, a
model of the friend of the cross. His service was not to build great edifices to the honor
of Christ but was "to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship
of His suffering" (Phil.3:10). His service was not to build up a great following (the
majority even of believers left him) but that he might gain Christ and be found in Him.
(3:8). May we, then, be disposed to this.
May we be imitating these models for our walk, so that not only in our
faith but also in our faithfulness the cross will retain its central place. Then we can
reflect the words of John Bosering in every phase of our lives:
In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.
*See the discussion of this figure in our Keyword
Concordance, page 364 (p. 361 in the 1976 edition).
WHEN CHRIST WAS CRUCIFIED nails were thrust through His hands. Later
when Thomas expressed his doubts concerning the resurrection he said, "Should I not
perceive in His hands the print of the nails, and thrust my finger into the print of the
nails ... I will by no means be believing" (John 20:25). Unlike Thomas we accept this
fact entirely by faith ("Happy are those who are not perceiving and believe"),
but also unlike Thomas we find that the significance of these nailprints goes much deeper
than simply a proof that Christ was roused from the dead. To us they also speak of the end
of an era and a system of things which was hostile to us, even as Paul writes,
"...[God] vivifies us together jointly with [Christ], dealing graciously with all our
offenses, erasing the handwriting of the decrees against us, which was hostile to us, and
has taken it away out of the midst, nailing it to the cross..." (Col.2:14).
No execution could be more severe than this. Perhaps we are not able to
trace all that happened at the cross, but we can see in reference to the nails that when
the soldiers impaled Christ to the stake God was also nailing something to that cross. And
though Christ was roused immortal and incorruptible that which God has nailed to the tree
is doomed to final destruction.
THE OLD HUMANITY
In Romans 6:6 we learn that "our old humanity was crucified
together with Him, that the body of Sin may be nullified...." The old humanity and
our sinning, dying bodies were nailed to the cross, but not ours alone, for we read in 2
Corinthians 5:14, "that, if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died."
Many of us have been willing to agree that Christ died for everyone, but does that mean
that everyone's old humanity was put to death when Christ was crucified? When Christ does
something for a particular purpose, is it not the same as saying that the purpose is
achieved? When God undertakes anything (and He does all through His Son) it is done.
The cross of Christ involved us all. We did not suffer the agonies or
face the darkness of God's abandonment, but when Christ died, all the descendants of Adam
(the entire "old humanity") were identified with Him in death. Of course that is
a figure of speech. We, living in the 20th century, were not even there. But a figure of
speech in God's Word brings out a fact, no less actual and true than that you are reading
this article. It may even be more true since you may only be glancing over these words and
perhaps are only partly attending to what they say. But God was fully attending to what
was happening at the cross. The old humanity was being crucified, nailed to the cross.
How this can be was discussed in an article by A. E. Knoch which
appeared in the November 1931 issue of UNSEARCHABLE RICHES (vol.22, Page 549) under the
title "Substitution or Inclusion." It may be helpful to quote a portion of this
"It seems difficult for us to associate Christ with aught else
than redemption. The great truth that He is the Firstborn of creation seems to have
vanished from the consciousness of Christendom. Yet it is vital to an understanding of
redemption. It corrects all those false ideas that He was an unwilling Sufferer, a third
party upon Whom the role of scapegoat was forced, which led rationalists to the conclusion
that the cross was an exhibition of injustice to One and partiality to others.
"The relation of the Son to creation is expressed by the title Firstborn.
This is elaborated by a series of prepositions, in, through, into or for, and before
(Col.1:16,17). These express the various aspects of His connection with creation, apart
from sin or sacrifice. We are accustomed to think of this as God's universe. We should
include Christ, for it is created in, through, and for Him. This is the basic truth which
explains the manner of its deliverance. Its method cannot be understood unless first we
see that the Saviour is not a distant, disinterested Victim, but as close of kin as could
possibly be, apart from sin.
"It is desirable to have a name for Christ as the One in Whom all
was created. English has two words for progenitor, seeing that procreator
has the same sense. We suggest that progenitor be applied to Adam as the generator of the
race, and Procreator be reserved for God's Son as the One in and through Whom creation was
effected. Then we can state our case clearly and succinctly thus (cf Rom.5:12-19):
As Adam, the progenitor of humanity, by one selfish act, involved it in
unutterable woe, so God's Son, the Procreator of all, by one sacrifice, involves all in
"During the eons this is reserved for an election, who are
redeemed through faith. All are not made alive in Christ until death is abolished
at the consummation (1 Cor.15:26)."
Hence we see that as all of us were created in Christ, when He was
nailed to the tree all of us were affected. We were crucified together with Him.
HOSTILE TO US
Yet there was more that was nailed to the cross. There are certain
institutions associated with the old humanity which also met their doom at Calvary. The
law, its commandments and rituals, and the privileges of the nation of Israel, are all
associated with the old humanity. As the old humanity is put aside so also will these
institutions be left behind as no longer needed nor desired.
In fact the only place in the Scriptures where a direct reference is
made to nailing something to the cross is in connection with such commandments and
privileges (Col.2:14). A. E. Knoch commented on this passage as follows:
"Not only did the Jews of Paul's day seek to insist on the
circumcision and baptism of converts, but they sought to put them under law. Their attempt
to enslave them under the law of Moses did not succeed, due to Paul's energetic
remonstrance, as we see in his Galatian letter, but this did not hinder them from making
rules of their own for them, which, while they seem to free them from the observance of
the Mosaic ritual, nevertheless brought them under the authority of the apostles just as
if they were subjects in the millennial kingdom, instead of having a celestial allotment
of their own.
"So far as the relation of the nations to God is concerned they
will be under the sovereignty and authority of the chosen nation in the future on the
earth. Nevertheless that nation, by crucifying their Messiah, has forfeited all right to
such a place, and will exercise it only when once again restored to divine favor. In the
book of Acts, where Israel is continually becoming more and more apostate, and James, who
was not an apostle, gets the upper hand, it seems utterly unwarranted on their part to
assume to dictate to the converts among the nations except as we view this as a foretaste
of the kingdom.
"Although Christendom has not given much heed to the decrees,
issued by James, the same thing has been repeated thousands of times in its many
organizations. Men have arisen and taken upon themselves to rule and regulate the conduct
of the saints by means of 'disciplines' and 'manuals' and other substitutes for the law,
usually incorporating a portion of the Mosaic code in their own. All such attempts to
bring us into bondage to human, sovereignties and authorities' are destructive of our
completeness in Christ. He has nailed them to His cross. They are hostile to us. They
bring us into bondage, after Christ has made us free. In Him we need no regulations from
the hands of men" (vol.32, pages 140,141).
Such a specific example of hostility to our peace and happiness
suggests a broader application as well. Everything which is hostile to the display of
God's overwhelming grace was nailed to the cross. Even though the sacrifices and rituals
of the law (as well as Israel's place over the nations) will be in effect during the
kingdom, they will not be a permanent fixture in the universe.
One of the difficulties with this subject is the element of time. If
the Jerusalem decrees (Acts 15) were among those hostile matters nailed to the cross how
is it that they were imposed several years after the crucifixion of Christ? How can the
temple ritual described in Ezekiel 40-48 ever come about if Christ's cross marked their
end? But we may as well ask how it is possible that we still walk around in these bodies
of flesh and suffer sickness and sin when the old humanity was crucified nineteen hundred
years ago! There are points in time when certain results of the cross take effect. Paul
himself accompanied those who delivered the Jerusalem decrees to the nations (Acts 15:25),
but later when he was in a Roman prison he made known "the administration of the
secret which has been concealed from the eons in God" (Eph.3:9). There could no
longer be any privileges given to the Circumcision over the Uncircumcision. The nations
could no longer be subjected to decrees from Jerusalem. Such rules concerning eating and
touching (cf Acts 15:29; Col.2:21) have no place in the present administration and are
hostile to its spirit as well as to our own enjoyment of grace.
God's view of time is different from ours. Sin is not fully repudiated
until the end of the eons, yet the writer of the book of Hebrews was inspired to say,
" ... now, once, at the conclusion of the eons, for the repudiation of sin through
His sacrifice, is He manifest" (Heb.9:26). What happened when Christ was crucified is
so vitally associated with the achievement of God's purpose of the eons that it is viewed
as the conclusion of the eons.
The achievements of the cross are applied at different times, but the
cross has made them so certain that they can be viewed as accomplished. We know, for
example, that vivification occurs at different times. Christ is the Firstfruit of
vivification; then at later times His people are vivified; and still later when death is
abolished and all enemies subjected vivification comes to all the rest (1 Cor.15:22-28).
Yet even today we view God as the One Who vivifies all (1 Tim.6:13).
Similarly, that which was nailed to the cross may still operate during
the eons at certain periods of time even after the cross. But eventually these hostile
institutions will be completely set aside, and it will be seen that it was the cross which
accomplished this victory. In the new creation and in the present period of time in which
we live any religious decrees imposed by one nation upon others can have no place. There
are times when they have their place, but for us today they have truly been set aside,
nailed to the cross.
GRACE AND VICTORY
There is triumph at the cross (Col.2:15) even as there is victory in
resurrection (1 Cor.15:54-57). The imposition of decrees upon us by sovereignties and
authorities, whether celestial (Col.1:16) or terrestrial, was nullified when God nailed it
to the cross, and that was a victory. The joyful position we have now is that we are
complete in Christ Who is the Head of every sovereignty and authority (2: 10). He alone is
the Head of the body, the ecclesia (1:18), and He is imposing a new policy upon us.
This new policy is expressed in Colossians 2:13 with these words:
"dealing graciously with all our offences." Under the old regime of the lesser
sovereignties and authorities our offences were dealt with by "You should not be
touching, nor yet tasting, nor yet coming into contact" (Col.2:21), but this method
did not work. Even in the kingdom of the coming eon it will end in failure, for it depends
too much upon the flesh. Now the saving grace of God is what trains or disciplines us
(Titus 2:11,12). We put away anger and fury and malice (Col.3:8) not because we have to
but because God has granted us the grace of being identified with Christ in death and
The divine triumph over decrees and commandments and the powers which
imposed them is a source of continuous joy for us all. How privileged we are to be living
in this era when grace reigns and discipline is effected by the love of God! What a favor
it is to realize that all systems which depend for success on our own strength have been
nailed to the cross! This alone leads us to the glorious outlook of Colossians 3:17.
"And everything, whatsoever you may be doing, in word or in act, do all in the name
of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God, the Father, through Him."
The Cross of Christ
RECONCILIATION THROUGH THE CROSS
THE THREE OCCURRENCES of the Greek word apokatallassoo
(reconcile) in the Scriptures are all in association with the cross of Christ (Eph.2:16;
Col.1:20,22). Yet each speaks of a different aspect of reconciliation. In Ephesians
2:11-18 the cross is presented as the means for bringing the two divisions of humanity
(Circumcision and Uncircumcision) into one new humanity in the body of Christ. But this
applies only to believers. The revelation in Colossians 1:20 is far broader, for there we
learn that all creatures who are at enmity with God will be reconciled to Him through the
blood of the cross. Then, though the word "cross" is not directly given, we are
told in Colossians 1:22 that Christ's death has already produced this reconciliation
between believers and God.
Reconciliation is always made between two parties: Circumcision and
Uncircumcision; the estranged creatures of His hand and God; the believers and God. In
this study we will concentrate especially on the reconciliation discussed in Ephesians and
then conclude this series with an article on Colossians 1:20-22 next time.
THE NATIONS IN FLESH
The wide gulf that existed between the nations and the sons of Israel
before God bridged it with reconciliation seems to have been forgotten. We hear much about
the cross, but seldom do we hear about this particular accomplishment of the cross. It is
difficult for us living in this day, removed by centuries from the former situation, to
appreciate the grace of this evangel of peace discussed in the second chapter of
Ephesians. We take it for granted that the distinction of Circumcision and Uncircumcision
no longer exists, and we have some trouble in conceiving what it must have been like.
It was not a matter of one nation lording it over the rest (though that
often was Israel's attitude), for one nation or another has done that from time to time
throughout human history. Rather it was a division established by God Himself and observed
by God in His dealings with mankind. It was indeed a matter of the flesh which defined
this division, but it was a matter of access to God which characterized it. The nations in
flesh were all those who were far off from God, as far as His revelations and promises
At that time God approached humanity in the light of this division. He
gave the nations no direct promises (though He gave promises concerning them to Israel)
and revealed to them no expectation for their future (though He told the prophets
of Israel of many blessings which will come to the nations). Indeed, as far as their
understanding was concerned, the nations were "without God in the world."
The Greek word for "without God" is the one from which we get
our word "atheist." While we use the term to refer to someone who does not
believe in the existence of God, Paul uses it in Ephesians 2:12 from the divine viewpoint,
The nations were atheists not because they refused to accept the fact of God (actually
they believed very strongly in gods) but because God did not reveal Himself to them. They
were atheists because God, as it seemed, hid Himself from them.
And the only reason God opened up some revelation of Himself to Israel
was because He envisioned the significance of circumcision, the sacrifices, the priesthood
and the covenants as pointing to the cross of Christ. This was the value of the
citizenship of Israel.*
THOSE FAR OFF
In Athens Paul declared that God is "not far from each of us"
(Acts 17:27), and this is certainly true in the absolute sense, and it was true even
during Israel's ascendancy that God continued to direct the affairs of all the world in
His responsibility as Disposer and Subjector. But in relation to God's revelation of
Himself through the prophets and in respect to direct guidance in their affairs the
nations were far off from Him. Israel had the tabernacle and temple, the prophets, priests
and kings, "the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the legislation and the
divine service and the promises" (Rom.9:4). Although God retained His
responsibilities as Deity to all creation, as far as a personal revelation of Himself was
concerned He left the nations "to go their ways" (Acts 14:16). He was near as
Deity; they were far off in fellowship.
This estrangement from God, however, had another effect on the nations.
Not only were they far off from God, but they were alienated from the citizenship of
Israel. Humanity was divided within itself between Circumcision (who had a measure of
access to God) and Uncircumcision. And this division continued into Paul's day, causing
friction among believers. The fleshly distinctions of birth and rite formed the basis of
the disturbances described (for example) in Acts 15 and 21.
Now in Ephesians 2 Paul announces that such distinctions must no longer
be recognized among God's chosen ones. "Yet now, in Christ Jesus, you who once
are far off, are become near by the blood of Christ."
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
The enmity which had been built up between the descendants of Jacob and
the rest of humanity through centuries of time was destroyed by the blood of Christ's
cross. "For He is our Peace, Who makes both one ... that He should be creating
the two, in Himself, into one new humanity, making peace; and should be reconciling both
in one body to God through the cross, killing the enmity in it" (Eph.2:14-16).
There is a relief and happiness which comes to us after a war or long
conflict when we no longer look upon our former foes as enemies. To find ourselves all on
the same side is part of the meaning of "peace." Often during opposition we come
to respect the abilities of our foes even while we oppose them, and then when the arms are
laid down we may suddenly be surprised by a desire to clasp hands with our former enemies
in reconciliation. Should that occur, it often seems that the new relationship is even
closer than before the enmity began.
This is somewhat like what has been accomplished for us in the ecclesia
which is the body of Christ. Like all of humanity, from the standpoint of the flesh, we
are of two lines of descent. Some believers are of the Circumcision, and some are of the
nations and " termed 'Uncircumcision' by those termed 'Circumcision' in flesh"
(Eph.2:11). But Christ is our Peace. In shedding His blood on the cross, although it was
not announced until several years later, Christ was reconciling these two divisions into
one joint body (Eph.3:6)
This is an accomplishment of the cross which (as we mentioned above) is
little appreciated today, perhaps because any division between Jew and Gentile is not
recognized as a major issue within our modern society, though indeed it seems to persist
below the surface. Yet we need to appreciate fully the oneness, the togetherness, of all
believers. The cross has put aside the flesh, the old humanity, and so it has removed all
fleshly distinctions and all fleshly enmity between believers.
That this peace was achieved by such a great sacrifice as the
sufferings of Christ and His death on the cross impresses us with its tremendous value.
All believers are on an equality in the body of Christ in the matter of spiritual
blessings and the privileges of access to the Father. And just as God was the One Who
established the division in the former times, it is God and God alone Who has established
this reconciliation of the members of Christ's body, and this He has done through the
cross of His beloved Son.
Our position and all our privileges are based not on the flesh, birth
or genealogy but on the blood of Christ. No tension or jealousy can exist where we are all
as one in the joint body of Christ. The cross has accomplished the same and equal results
for everyone of us.
One of the key terms associated with the cross is the word
"together." We were crucified together with Christ (Gal.2:20; Rom.6:6)
and are identified together with Him in the blessings which resulted from the cross
(Eph.2:4-6). In Ephesians the Greek word sun which means "together" is
sometimes translated as "joint" or "fellow." In such cases the word sun
is generally a prefix to another word, producing combinations such as "fellow
citizen" (2:19) and "joint body" (3:6).
The importance here is that both Circumcision and Uncircumcision are
together as one in the body of Christ. Although there are distinctions between individual
believers as far as their service in the Lord is concerned, there are no
distinctions as far as our position in Christ is concerned. We are all being
saved in the realm of and for the display of grace, "and this is not out of
you; it is God's approach present" (2:8). We all have equal access to the Father
(2:18). We are all "being built together for God's dwelling place, in
Hence it can be seen that this togetherness is not only an equal
joining of two groups of believers, but it applies as well to all the individual
members of the body in their relationship to one another. The reconciliation established
through the blood of Christ has brought us all into fellowship. We are all objects
of grace. We all can approach our Father with confidence and assurance. We all are being
built up together into God's dwelling place. And since this allows for no distinctions
among us as to our standing before God, and no discrimination as to the measure of
blessings received, and no special privileges as to the object God has in view for us, our
whole attitude toward one another is affected.
Yet where there was a division in Paul's day between two groups,
Circumcision and Uncircumcision, there have developed countless divisions between groups
of believers in the centuries which followed. Nevertheless, even as the blood of Christ
razed the barrier between the two, so has it removed all the barriers which divide us
today. We should not recognize any of these walls of separation. They are all matters of
the flesh, man-made divisions of creed and ritual and organization.
The attitude for today is peace. Should our fellow believers erect
barriers against us we must not force our way into their midst, for that would be an act
of the flesh (Gal.5:19,20; Eph.4: 31,32), but in spirit we are to refuse to recognize
these walls of separation. Our prayers go out for all our brethren; our love must not be
diminished even toward those who malign us; and we welcome all who believe in and honor
our Lord into fellowship. This message of reconciliation (established by Christ at the
cross) between believers is a very practical one and much needed by us all.
This is how Paul expresses it in Ephesians 4:15,16: "Now, being
true, in love we should be making all grow into Him, Who is the Head--Christ--out of Whom
the entire body, being articulated together and united through every assimilation
of the supply, in accord with the operation in measure of each one's part, is making for
the growth of the body, for the upbuilding of itself in love."
ACCESS TO THE FATHER
The evangel of peace is that good news that God was in Christ
conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them (2 Cor.5:19), that
both Circumcision and Uncircumcision are reconciled through the cross (Eph.2:16) and that
the universe will be reconciled to God through the blood of the cross of the Son of His
love (Col.1:20). All the way through, this evangel is a matter of peace and fellowship.
Since there are no fleshly divisions in the body of Christ we can turn
to this further phase of reconciliation, which is access in one spirit to the Father
(Eph.2:18). The two groups are reconciled in one body, but this reconciliation does not
stop on the horizontal level between believers but continues on the vertical level
"to God" (2:16). This is the reconciliation enjoyed by all the members of the
ecclesia with our God and Father.
This means that the darkest of all evils and the most shameful and
hateful of all man's hostility toward God, the cross of Christ, becomes the basis and
channel of peace with God. Not only are we justified in the blood of Christ, but we also
receive the great blessings of conciliation and reconciliation through this sacrifice. Now
we can come to the Father freely in fellowship, jointly in communion, at all times, under
any condition, concerning all the affairs of our lives. The way of access is open.
And this blessing can be enjoyed with no distinctions made as to who we
are in the flesh. We are "one new humanity" and have the access to the Father
"in one spirit." In our continued enjoyment of peace the characteristic word, as
we have seen, is "together," which is what true peace demands. Nothing else can
be appropriate to the evangel we have received.
Let us revel in this work of reconciliation. There is no room left for
enmity either between Circumcision and Uncircumcision or between believers and God. This
is one of the greatest blessings which come out of the cross of Christ--no friction or
turmoil or stress between members of the body and no estrangement between us and the
Father. This is good news indeed, but more than a welcome message it is a spiritual
blessing which multiplies in assurance and peace in a very practical way, and is a daily
gift for our joy. May God be praised for His great achievement of reconciliation through
*For further discussions of this subject see our publications,
THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL and "To Enlighten all as to the Secret," both by A. E.
THE HIGHEST revelation concerning the cause, the meaning and the result
of the cross is that given in Colossians 1:19,20. This is most fitting since Paul's letter
to the Colossians is more fully concerned with the glories of Christ than any other
portion of Scripture. Here the scope of Christ's sacrifice includes not only Israel, not
only believers, not only mankind, but all that is at enmity with God including even the
invisible forces in the heavens. Here Christ Himself is distinguished from all other
authorities in the universe and is called by one of His most unique and precious
designations: the Son of God's love (1:13).
A PRAYER FOR REALIZATION
The prayers of Paul should become our own. The apostle did not cease
praying that God's chosen ones might be filled full with the realization of God's will
(1:9). This is in reference to what he calls in Ephesians 1:9 the secret of God's will,
and it is concerned with the cross. We need a full recognition, a realization of the
character of God and His ways, which can really be known only as we center our attention
on the crucifixion of Christ and its results.
Why do we need this particular prayer? Why should we pray especially
for a realization of God's will? It is because we normally think of God's will in terms of
our own will. It seems reasonable to us that God wills the same little, temporary bits of
happiness which we are always wanting for ourselves. Or else, if we are particularly
religious, we think that God wills that we gather together large numbers of converts or
build up successful organizations for His cause. If this is what we think God's will is,
we are all wrong.
The delight of God is that Christ be exalted above all authorities and
powers. The delight of God is the reconciliation of all. The delight of God is to
accomplish all this through the cross of His beloved Son.
The scope of God's will is greater beyond comparison than all our
imaginings. This alone is difficult enough for us to grasp. But even more difficult is to
see how the cross is involved. God's will is only achieved through the sufferings and
fearful agony which His Son endured, even to death. Surely we all need to pray fervently
for a realization of this.
On the one hand, God's will needed darkness (1:13), estrangement and
enmity (1:21), all of which line up with the words "blood" and "cross"
on the negative side. On the other hand, God's will looked ahead to the manifestation of
"the Son of His love" and to reconciliation, lined up on the positive side. The
positive glory could not exist unless there came first the negative shame. Certainly we
need to pray unceasingly that we be able to grasp this mystery "in all wisdom and
spiritual understanding." Only on this foundation can we be made ready "to walk
worthily of the Lord for all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in
the realization of God."
Failure to pray this prayer in sincerity and willingness to accept what
God says, results in a distortion of truth and a diminishing of power for our lives. Too
many believers refuse to accept the humiliation and sufferings involved. Too many of us
also refuse to accept the full extent of God's victory. Many claim that God's delight and
His will are doomed to disappointment. What He wants to do, they say, will never be done.
There has been little prayer for the realization of His will.
It would be well for us never to use the word "mere" in
reference to God's attitudes and operations. Neither His will nor His delight is a
"mere" matter. The dimensions of His loving purpose are vast (Eph.3:14-21). What
He is accomplishing through the cross goes far beyond what any man has ever dreamed or
THE SON OF GOD'S LOVE
God's will is wrapped up in His Son, in the Son of His love. It
involves the darkness of the cross and the shed blood, but this is in order to bring the
glory and victory into sharper focus, yet not only that, but without the sufferings there
could be no glory and victory at all. We ourselves know the experience of sin and failure.
We are aware of "the jurisdiction of darkness" since we know weakness, pain,
sorrow, fear, guilt, shame and even despair. Yet God's will is to rescue us out of this
jurisdiction and to transport us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
The aorist tense is used in Colossians 1:13 to show that this rescue
and transportation is a fact. In spirit it is already true. In the daily life of a
believer it is developing as his experience, especially as he prays for realization. In
expectation, it will come as our full experience when Christ, our Life, will be manifested
But God's will is not only concerned with transporting us into the
kingdom of the Son of His love. It is first of all that there be a kingdom of the Son of
His love. That is, God's delight is to give Christ a kingdom which relates to His Sonship
and God's love for Him.
Now, at this point, we all need special prayer for wisdom and spiritual
understanding. In the phrase, " the blood of His cross," what does the
"His" point to? What word or phrase in the context is the antecedent to the
pronoun "His"? Surely it is this phrase in verse 13 which we have already noted
so often: the Son of His love. Reconciliation is channeled through Christ, not as the
Saviour (Jesus), nor as the Anointed One (Christ), but as the Son of God's love. The
cross, the blood which was shed, and the work of reconciliation are special manifestations
of God's love to His Son. It was God's love which sent Christ to the cross, but not love
for mankind alone, but love for Christ.
The will of God, and His love for His Son, envisioned that Christ would
shed His blood. Reconciliation cannot be achieved without the blood, which speaks of
suffering. In Leviticus 17:11 we read (CV): "For the soul of all flesh, it is in the
blood." The soul is a matter of our feelings and senses. Christ laid down His soul
(John 10:17) which became sorrow-stricken to death (Matt.26:38).
These sufferings were necessary for the work of reconciliation, which
in turn makes it possible for Christ to receive a kingdom of the reconciled. These
sufferings were so severe and vast in their extent that they will lead to a reconciliation
no less vast. The reconciliation is to be universal. The kingdom of the Son of God's love
will eventually include all, for the shed blood of God's beloved Son can deserve no less.
In this we can see how it was that God's love for Christ as His Son
prompted Him to prepare the sufferings of the cross. We can begin to grasp the
significance of Isaiah 53:10, where we read, "Yet Ieue desires to crush Him, and He
causes Him to be wounded." Indeed this is no "mere" matter, but rather it
is a revelation into God's heart which astounds us with awe and wonder.
As the blood speaks of pain and agony, so the cross speaks of
humiliation and shame. The death on the cross was a sacrifice, but it was an extremely
ignominious one, far more shameful than the sacrifices under the Mosaic law. It was a
method of execution not even found in the Old Testament. It was a curse to be hung on a
tree (Deut.21:22,23), but this was a nailing to a stake, as was done to the lowest of
criminals and outcasts. As such it demanded estrangement between God and His Son
(Matt.27:46), yet this was an estrangement which ended all estrangement.
How amazing it is that this humiliation becomes the background for the
display of God's love for His Son! It prepared the way for the exaltation of Christ above
every throne and lordship and sovereignty and authority, and every name which is named.
Even as the shame of the cross was necessary for the glorious reign of
Christ as the beloved Son, so also was His humiliation necessary in order for us to be
glorified with Him. "For the One not knowing sin, [God] makes to be a sin offering
for our sakes that we may be becoming God's righteousness in Him" (2 Cor.5:21). But
even here, the glory which arises from the humiliation of Christ does not end. Through the
enmity of the cross the enmity between God and His creation is removed. It was God's love
for His Son which prepared the cross so that He might achieve reconciliation.
RECONCILIATION OF ALL
In conciliation the barriers are removed between God and man (2
Cor.5:18,19). In reconciliation there is a full appreciation and enjoyment of the peace
and access which this removal of enmity has produced. The cross assures this establishment
of peace in the hearts of all of God's creatures, but it is only believers who enjoy it
"now" (Col.1:22) as we persist in the faith and are grounded and settled and are
not removed from the expectation of the evangel of grace (Col.1:23).
However, every point of this evangel demands that the reconciliation be
universal and eventually apply to all who are estranged. The blood, the Son's sufferings,
demands that all enmity be removed from the universe. The cross, the Son's humiliation,
demands that full value be given for the price paid. God's love for His Son demands that
He receive a kingdom of fully reconciled creatures, and that none be denied to Him.
We do not need the word "all" here to be assured that the
reconciliation is universal. But it is here, and it is the same "all" as in
verse 16. We have not made much progress in realizing God's will if we do not accept the
significance of this "all." The blood and the cross of the Son of God's love
will affect the entire universe and bring it into a rule of peace and glory, even as the
poet Whittier expressed it (perhaps not fully realizing the truth of his words):
Never yet abyss was found
Deeper than that cross could sound;
Deep below as high above
Sweeps the circle of God's love.
Finally, then, let us be praying without ceasing, that we might be
growing in realization of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. May we
have a greater grasp of the significance of Christ's cross and the glory of the kingdom of
the Son of God's love, so that we might be walking worthily of the Lord for all pleasing,
bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the realization of God.