The Cross, the Holy
Spirit and the Response of Man
I just wonder – when you
think about the cross, do you see it as a place of a sad martyrdom where
a good man died because of an impossible dream – a dream that in some way
or another He could influence for good the essentially evil ways of man.
There are many who do, even some within the Church who deny the resurrection
ever happened. Well, I’m sure you don’t otherwise you probably wouldn’t
be reading this. The cross, and the events surrounding it, is not a symbol
of defeat but is of a total victory over sin, sickness and death. In fact
the cross is the absolute revelation of God’s judgement of sin - and its
Jesus’ death was not an unfortunate
event that left a spiritual vacuum, nor was it something that could easily
have been avoided. You see, His death was the very reason why He came;
it was His destiny from the beginning of time. Stop to think for a moment
what would have happened if God had somehow intervened to prevent the crucifixion.
First off it would have proved that Jesus was not the Messiah, awaited
so long, and we would still be waiting for Him. Not only that but none
of the benefits of His death would be available – forgiveness, restoration,
health, and so on.
Regardless of all that, for
it’s all a bit beyond my imagining, if I were to teach you that God’s forgiveness
is freely available to you, for no other reason than because He loves you,
I would be teaching you serious error. Such teaching would make unnecessary
the suffering of the cross; it would have been a waste of time, an unfortunate
mistake. But not only that, it would make all the gifts and benefits that
we may know, of redemption, justification, and forgivenesseven, grace itself,
of no value.
When God forgives a repentant
sinner He does so only because of the death of the Messiah, a death that
was, in itself, the absolute manifestation of His love for mankind. We
need to understand this, it’s so important, for we must not understate
or devalue the cross in terms of our salvation. Why? Because of this fact
– there is no other way that God forgives the sins of men and women other
than through the death of His son. The trumpet sounds of victory that blasted
through the heavens when Jesus rose up from the dead are hushed into silence
when compared with the words that still echo around the universe – ‘It
THE PURPOSE OF THE
1 Peter 2:24…
bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins,
might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.’
Here we have it – the purpose.
Through what Jesus did on the cross He turned around the destructive course
that we, and all humanity, were on so that we might come into the possibility
of a right relationship with God, as Father. Through this amazing sacrificial
act we can benefit from all of the wonderful gifts of grace that are available,
one of which is that we can be reconciled to God. He does not need to be
reconciled to us, He is not the offender, but, boy, do we need to be reconciled
to Him. 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 speaks of the new life that Jesus has brought
to those who are in Him, and to the ultimate destruction of death itself.
‘For to this
end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be the Lord of
both the dead and the living.’
Romans 5:6-11, especially
‘And not only
that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through
whom we have now received the reconciliation.’
Note the tense here, we have
received the reconciliation, therefore we must avail ourselves of it –
I mean, the door is open. But not only that, for there is something else
that goes with this…
‘Now all things
are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and
has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ
reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them
and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors
for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you, on
Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.’
The message I pick up from this
is that, just as we have been the beneficiaries of reconciliation with
God, we have been appointed ambassadors to communicate the call to all
that we meet that they too need to be reconciled to God, that the heart
of God is revealed in us as we share the message with others. The message?
That God was in Christ on the cross, that the cross removed the barrier
that sin had erected to peace and acceptance, and through the cross the
first step was taken in the restoration process. God, therefore, has done
His part but for the change to be effective man must also do his.
But then, in Ephesians
2:14-22, we see something else in terms of reconciliation. We won’t
read this now, just summarise it. The death of Jesus had side effects beyond
that of bringing us into the place of reconciliation with God, for it also
brought about reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles. How come? It is
through the cross, Paul tells us in verse 13, that we have ‘been
brought near.’ Which raises a question - near to what? Put simply,
it is near to something that we were previously far from. So what was that?
It tells us in verse 12, where we can see that we were ‘without
Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants
of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.’
This is a topic in itself
that we don’t have time for, but we see that through the cross the ‘middle
wall of partition has been broken down.’ That wall, it tells us, was
the Law as contained within the Old, Mosaic, Covenant, thus bringing reconciliation
between the two elect and chosen people, Jew and Gentile believers, into
one new man, in communion with God, through the Holy Spirit.
The purpose of the cross,
too, was to rescue the lost.
‘For even the
Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life
a ransom for many.’
A ransom is the price paid for
the redemption of a captive – in this case the captive is the whole of
mankind. What does redemption mean? Quite simply, it means the buying back
of something. In the context of the cross it means the buying back of those
previously lived their lives
in the kingdom of darkness. So how come we all got there ? (I say ‘we’
because we are all included). It’s because we were all born as sons of
Adam, subject to the Adam nature and, just as was Adam, we are slaves to
Satan. Adam threw
away his inheritance, eternal
life, in favour of knowledge, and so became a slave to Satan. And the child
of a slave is also a slave – until redeemed. Just as slaves were bought
and sold in the market place so we, as believers in Jesus, have been bought
out of the market place of sin into the kingdom of light and now we have
a new Master. (Luke 19:10, Romans 6:4).
‘Christ has redeemed
us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written,
“Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”’
One of the purposes of the cross
was to set us free from the curse of the Law. The law here is the Law given
through Moses, but why should something given by God be considered a curse?
Probably the best place to go for an answer to that is Romans 7. Summarising,
Paul is saying that for sin to be sin it has to have a base to work from,
and that base was the Mosaic Law. It works a bit like this. When the Law
says, ‘Thou shalt not,’ the sinful nature inside us says, ‘O
yes I will,’ and so sin is birthed within us and we are moved in the
opposite direction to God’s commandments. Does that mean that the problem
lies with the Law? No, it does not! The problem is what the Law has to
work with. And that’s you and me. The curse, therefore, is not in the Law
itself but in our disobedience of it, and in the consequences for breaking
it. You will be pleased to know that this Law, through another one initiated
by the death of Jesus, is now obsolete and has been replaced.
having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and
living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His
flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near
with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled
from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.’
The blood of Jesus makes possible
the way into the Holiest place – the throne room of God. We may enter right
into the presence of God Himself – no longer needing the priest or the
human intermediary. Jesus Himself is our High Priest, seated at the right
hand of God the Father, in other words in total equality with Him. As sin
cannot exist in God’s presence this means that we really can be set free
from all the guilt and shame that has kept us bound for so long. We can
be totally and wonderfully cleansed.
John 3:3-7… This is
the account of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus – most of us know it very
well. Jesus speaks here of a new birth, a new beginning. And we need one!
As we have seen, it is because our natural birth that we inherit a sin
nature – sometimes called ‘The Old Man.’ There is, therefore, within each
one of us, a propensity to sin, to rebel against the ways of God. The way
to the new birth is first through the natural one, (the water), followed,
some time later, by the new birth in the Spirit, where the Old Man is gradually
replaced by the New Man. There is something happening within each one of
us right now – it’s a process of renewal, a transformation, where the impact
of the old diminishes and the new develops.
‘But when the
fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman,
born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might
receive the adoption as sons.’
If you look back to Exodus
4:22 God said there something important about Israel. He said:
‘Thus says the
Lord, “Israel is My Son, My firstborn.”’
This does not mean a son by
natural birth, quite obviously, but what it does tell us is that, as far
God is concerned Israel, as a nation, is seen by God as His firstborn son.
As we have seen elsewhere, this places Israel as being part of a family,
with the status of the elder brother among the family of nations. Then,
later, we learn that God speaks of Jesus as being His ‘beloved Son in whom
He is well pleased,’ making Jesus the elder brother within the family of
Israel. But then the family gets bigger still as believers are individually
adopted into it. As sons, therefore, we are inheritors of an eternal kingdom
alongside the Jewish people and in which Jesus is our brother. We share
in all the privileges and benefits of being part of a royal family in which
we are princes and princesses. How do you feel about that?
We must be honest, when we
are talking about the cross, to point out that the death of Jesus, if that
had been the end of the story, would have achieved nothing. It really would
have been the end of a very nice man, someone who was kind to children,
was a prophet and a healer, but who would be forgotten and ignored now,
except possibly by a few historians. But just as the cross was an integral
part of God’s redemptive plan for mankind, so was the resurrection of Jesus
from the dead.
‘For our citizenship
is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord
Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed
to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even
to subdue all things to Himself.’
What we can derive from these
verses is that the cross is an open doorway into the LIFE of Jesus.
His resurrection now means that the power that raised Him from the dead
is now available to release His life into me, so that, when I am born again,
I receive into my
innermost being the same
life that Jesus was resurrected into.
‘For the earnest
expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons
of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but
because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also
will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty
of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and
labours with birth pangs together until now.’
The whole of creation is waiting;
there is a tingle of expectation, which is waiting first for the revelation
of the sons of God. A slightly difficult expression to understand perhaps,
but one I think that ties in very well with Romans 11:25….
‘For I do not
desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you
should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part had happened
to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.’
The verse shows very clearly
the link between the restoration of the Jewish people and the Church of
true believers – that the blindness imposed on the Jews by God will not
be removed until the full number of the Gentiles has come in to the kingdom.
After all of that, and a lot of other things take place too, creation itself
will be redeemed – by the bringing in of a new heaven and a new earth –
The cross will be the means
through which the powers of evil in this present age will be disarmed,
later to be followed by the destruction of Satan and all his powers, as
he is thrown into the Lake of Fire – the eternal destiny of all not of
God. (Revelation 20:10). Matthew 25:31-46 is an important scripture
in terms of the judgement of the nations following Jesus’ second coming.
Colossians 2:15 speaks of the demonic powers being disarmed and
defeated. 1 John 3:8 defines Jesus’ task as being to destroy the
works of Satan, and so on.
The final purpose of the
cross is that it will be the means whereby, through the advent of the new
heaven and the new earth, all the pain, tears, sadness and sorrow of the
present age will give way unspeakable joy and gladness in the new.
‘And I heard
a loud voice from heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with
men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself
will be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away every tear
from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”’
This statement is supported
by words written centuries earlier, in Isaiah 25:8…
‘He will swallow
up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the
Lord has spoken.’
Several points are made in these
declarations – first that God is going to make His habitation with men,
in the form of the Shechinah, the Shekinah glory. Secondly, Jesus
confirms that all the consequences of man’s original sin, and the curse
upon mankind (Genesis 3:16-19), will be completely removed. There
is another declaration in verse 5 which says that the future Eternal
Kingdom is guaranteed, because the one making the promise is faithful and
true. Finally, the rebuke that has followed the Jewish people will be taken
away, and death will be no more.
THE APPLICATION OF
THE CROSS IN THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVER.
that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be
done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has
died is free from sin.’
There is something in these
verses that doesn’t, on the face of it, sound very attractive – it’s called
co-crucifixion. That tends to raise a few eyebrows, a few questions as
well, and we need to ask these of ourselves. For instance: Have I made
up my mind about the sin that is in my life? Do I agree with God’s judgement
of it? Do I understand that sin in my life must die? Am I prepared to allow
the Holy Spirit to search me and provoke me until I fully realise what
my sin really is? If we answer ‘yes’ we shall come to the place of agreeing
with God’s verdict on how to dispose of the sin. It is no use us trying
to curb it, we can’t compromise with it, we can’t counteract it; what we
have to do is all we can do – crucify it.
‘There is therefore
now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according
to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the spirit of
life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.’
The first part of this verse
is very comforting – no future condemnation. Great! But then it says, ‘..who
do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.’ Aha!
A snag, for that means there is a condition to be met and it’s got something
to do with our walk. If we walk according to the Spirit of life in Jesus,
we shall be free from the law of sin and death. Humm! Lets think about
that. What do we mean by our ‘walk?’ To start with it’s got nothing to
do with how we put one foot in front of the other. I think it’s this. I
believe it is a term used to describe the way we live our lives. To walk
means a movement, generally in a forward direction, that leads towards
a destination. We already know what is our ultimate destination – it is
to dwell with God in the Eternal Kingdom.
But Jesus set a few standards
before we can apply. First, is our attitude like that of the man in Luke
9:57 – ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go?’ If it is,
and you mean it, Jesus adds a cautionary note, in Luke 9:23-24:
‘If anyone desire
to come after Me, let him deny Himself, and take up his cross daily, and
follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for My sake will save it.’
To deny ourselves means we disown
all our perceived rights in order to follow Him. It’s not giving up chocolates,
or sticky toffee pudding, it’s nothing like that. It means we give up the
right to live our lives the way we want to and we reject all those things
opposed to the will of God
for our lives. We can get quite a lot of help in this because Jesus has
sent the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, counsellor and guide.
a. It is the Holy Spirit
who works in our lives to help us to be like Jesus, Romans 8:26-29.
b. The victory that Jesus
had over temptation and sin we also can have, 1 Corinthians 15:57.
c. And Jesus Himself brings
healing to spirit, soul and body, 1 Peter 2:24.
HEALING AND THE CROSS.
In your notes there is a
question, ‘Is healing included in the atonement and is it available this
side of heaven?’ I take ‘atonement’ to mean the moment of reconciliation,
for it seems to me the terms are synonymous – the moment when, through
our response, we experience our redemption. Bear in mind that there must
be a response otherwise the cross and the resurrection will be ineffective
in our lives – as though they had never happened. The answer to the earlier
question, then, in terms of our experience, is yes, but not always. We
do not have to wait for heaven to be healed for God is sovereign, and He
is the healer. Whether the healing is applied or not is therefore in His
hands, not ours.
Isaiah 53:3-4… This
is a very familiar passage so we won’t read it, just note a few things
about it. In verse 3 the word translated ‘sorrow’ is interchangeable in
translation with ‘pains’, and the word used for ‘grief’ can also mean ‘sickness’
or ‘disease’. If we believe,
therefore, that Jesus took
our sins upon Himself on the cross and that we can be cleansed by His blood
then we should rightly be able to expect that, by His taking our pains
and sicknesses, our grief and our sorrow, He is also able to bring healing
and wholeness to us in all of these things.
There is a Greek word in
the New Testament that is invariably translated as ‘salvation.’ The word
is sōtēriah, (soh-tay-ree-ah), but, as well as salvation it can equally
well be translated ‘health’, and also ‘deliverance’. Another Greek word
is sōzō, (soad-zoh), which we find translated as ‘save’ but it can also
mean ‘heal’, ‘preserve’ and ‘make whole’. Looking at Luke 19:9-10,
therefore, these verses can be read as: ‘And Jesus said to him, “Today
salvation, health and deliverance, has come to this house, because he (Zacchaeus)
also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of man has come to seek and to save,
preserve and make whole that which was lost.’
We should be able to see
by now, I hope, that the cross is effective in both saving us from our
sins and also healing us of our sicknesses. Physical, emotional and spiritual
healing is available to us, as we may see from various accounts in Scripture.
Consider Mark 5:21-34. There are two people involved in this account,
Jairus’s daughter, and the woman with the haemorrhage, both the child and
the woman being healed through Jesus’ ministry. Luke 7:50; Acts 4:9-12,;
It is salvation, therefore,
that does more than transfer us out of the kingdom of darkness into the
kingdom of God. It also brings with it healing of the body and restoration
of the soul. Wholeness, in spirit, soul and body, the total being of men
and women, is available through the cross.
As I said earlier, the effectiveness
of the cross in our lives is determined by our response to the message
communicated by it. God’s desire is that we respond positively – through
belief, as in John 3:16, and with repentance, as in 2 Peter 3:9;
a. Through belief, another
way of saying faith, through total trust and dependency upon God’s provision
and promises through Jesus, Hebrews 11:1.
b. Through repentance, not
remorse, but by totally turning away from our old ways, beginning to make
right choices, and changing all our old behaviour patterns.
Finally, when we have done
all we shall find ourselves seated with Jesus in the heavenly places. Read
Ephesians 1 and 2 for confirmation of this.
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