The Two Great Phases of the Cross

A wooden cross in front of sunbeams shining through dark clouds

I would dwell for a little on the cross of Christ in its two grand, fundamental phases, or in other words, the cross as a basis of:

Our peace and our worship, our discipleship, and our testimony. In another word, relationship with God, and our relationship with the world.

If as a convicted sinner I look at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, I behold in it the everlasting foundation of my peace. I see my “sin” put away, as to the root or principle thereof, and I see my “sins” borne. I see God to be, in very deed, “for me,” and that, moreover, in the very condition in which my convicted conscience tells me I am. The cross unfolds God as the sinner’s friend. It reveals Him in that most wondrous character as the Righteous Justifier of the most ungodly sinner. Creation never could do this. Providence never could do this. Therein I may see God’s power, His majesty, and His wisdom; but what if all these things should be ranged against me? Looked at in themselves, abstractly, they would be so, for I am a sinner: and power, majesty, and wisdom could not put away my sins, nor justify God in receiving me.

The introduction of the Cross, however, changes the aspect of things entirely. There I find God dealing with sin in such a manner as to glorify Himself infinitely.

There I see the magnificent display and perfect harmony of all the divine attributes. I see love, and such love as captivates and assures my heart, and weans it, in proportion as I realize it, from every other object. I see wisdom, and such wisdom as baffles devils and astonishes angels. I see power, and such power as bears down all opposition. I see holiness, and such holiness as repulses sin to the very furthest point of the moral universe and gives the most intense expression of God’s abhorrence thereof that could possibly be given. I see grace, and such grace as sets the sinner in the very presence of God—yea, puts him into His bosom. Where could I see all these things but in the cross? Nowhere else. Look where you please, and you cannot find aught that so blessedly combines those two great points, namely, “Glory to God in the highest,” and “on earth peace.”

How precious, therefore, is the cross in this its first phase as the basis of the sinner’s peace, the basis of his worship, and the basis of his eternal relationship with the God who is there so blessedly and gloriously revealed! How precious to God, as furnishing Him with a righteous ground on which to go in the full display of all His matchless perfections and in His most gracious dealings with the sinner! So precious is it to God that as a recent writer has well remarked, “All that He has said—all that He has done, from the beginning, indicates that it was ever uppermost in His heart.” And no wonder! His dear and well-beloved Son was to hang there, between heaven and earth, the object of all the shame and suffering that men and devils could heap upon Him, because He loved to do His Father’s will and redeem the children of His grace. It will be the grand center of attraction as the fullest expression of His love throughout eternity.

Then, as the basis of our practical discipleship and testimony, the cross demands our most profound consideration. In this aspect of it, I need hardly say, it is as perfect as in the former. The same cross which connects me with God has separated me from the world. A dead man is evidently done with the world; and hence, the believer having died in Christ is done with the world; and having risen with Christ is connected with God in the power of a new life.

Being thus inseparably linked with Christ, the believer participates in His acceptance with God and in His rejection by the world. The two things go together. The former makes him a worshipper and a citizen in heaven, the latter makes him a witness and a stranger on earth. That brings him inside the veil; this puts him outside the camp. The one is as much a fact as the other. If the cross has come between me and my sins, it has just as really come between me and the world. In the former case, it puts me into the place of peace with God; in the latter, it puts me into the place of hostility with the world, i.e., in a moral point of view; though, in another sense, it makes me the patient, humble witness of that precious, unfathomable, eternal grace, which is set forth in the cross.

Now the believer should clearly understand and rightly distinguish between both the above phases of the cross of Christ. He should not profess to enjoy the one, while he refuses to enter into the other. If he enters into the atonement which the cross has accomplished, he should also realize the rejection which it necessarily involves. The former flows out of the part which God had in the cross; the latter, out of the part that man had therein. It is our happy privilege, not only to be done with our sins, but to be done with the world also. All this is involved in the doctrines of the cross. Well, therefore, might the apostle say, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Paul looked upon the world as a thing which ought to be nailed to the cross; and the world, in having crucified Christ, had crucified all who belonged to Him. Hence there is a double crucifixion as regards the believer and the world; and were this fully entered into, it would prove the utter impossibility of our mingling the two. Beloved reader, let us deeply, honestly, and prayerfully ponder these things; and may the Holy Spirit give us the ability to enter into the full practical power of both the phases of the cross of Christ.

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