The Dimensions of the Cross, Part 4

Oswald Chambers has observed that, “All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell is terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.” Instead of ignoring its meaning, let’s continue to explore the profound implications of the Cross.

When the Lord Jesus resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem for that final Passover, it seemed unbelievable to His disciples (Luke 9:51; Matt. 16:22). For the Messiah to be brutally executed on the dreaded cross–Rome’s cruel instrument of capital punishment–seemed too tragic an end for the Lord. Even in Gethsemane, the shadow of the Cross weighed so heavily on Jesus that He sweat, as it were, drops of blood. Yet, the Father planned to give victory, not apart from the Cross, but through it. The Son offered Himself there for the ransom required for our redemption. Christ’s resurrection was the unmistakable sign that Jesus is truly Lord! (Rom. 1:4). He is Victor! This brings us to a fourth “dimension of the Cross.”

Dimension 4: THE CROSS IS OUR MEANS OF VICTORY

In keeping with the illustration of the cross monument, this dimension can be symbolized by this cross’s radiance. Each night the electric lights on the 30′ structure in Stoney Creek, Ontario are turned on. The illumined cross shines brightly for all to see. And so should we behold the glory of Christ’s triumphant sacrifice.

Now we ask, How is the Cross our means of victory? Note first that the cross is not intended to authorize political or military victory. This error occurred in church history. For the first three centuries A. D., the church suffered greatly under waves of Roman persecution. Then Constantine the Great, Caesar of the western Roman Empire, was challenged by Maxentius–a self-appointed Caesar who controlled Italy and Africa. After five years of civil war, Constantine marched on Rome in A. D. 312 to confront his rival. A history text records that, “Alarmed by reports of Maxentius’ mastery of magical arts, [Constantine] prayed to the ‘Supreme God’ for help. The response was a sign, a cross in the noonday sky ‘above the sun,’ and with it the words, ‘Conquer by this.’ That night Christ appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to use this sign … ‘as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies.’ Constantine obeyed, marched on Rome, confronted Maxentius (who was miraculously induced to fight outside the city fortifications) and conquered.” [1] The emperor later professed faith in Christianity and ended the persecution of Christians. For better or for worse, Rome eventually made Christianity the official religion of the empire. This view of the cross as a military emblem was mixed with the emperor’s pagan beliefs–beliefs that were later swept into the church.

If the victory of the cross is not military or political, what is its nature? The real character of Christ’s victory on the Cross is spiritual. It equips us for victorious living!

The believer’s spiritual enemies have been identified as the world, the flesh, and the devil. Scripture declares that each opponent is defeated by Christ’s atonement on the Cross!

a. Through the Cross, we have victory over the WORLD.

Paul testified, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). “World” in the Greek text here is “kosmos.” In an ethical context it refers to human society arranged in hostility against God’s Kingdom. This is what the apostle John warned us against: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

Paul testified that the world was crucified to him since he was placed into Christ. In other words, society’s fascination with fame and power had no claim on him. He was also, “crucified to the world.” Paul’s life was not to be spent in furthering a mere secular agenda. As one who had picked up his cross to follow Christ, he had one consuming passion: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24; Cf. Phil. 1:20-24; Matt. 6:33). Reader, have you so identified with Christ’s victory on the Cross that you are living as a faithful citizen of His Kingdom? Don’t forfeit this opportunity to walk in victory as did Demas, one of Paul’s co-workers: “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world …”(2 Tim. 4:10).

How can we appropriate Christ’s victory day by day? The key is faith. As 1 John 5:4,5 declares, “In fact, this faith of ours is the only way in which the world can be conquered. For who could ever be said to conquer the world but the man who really believes that Jesus is God’s Son?” (Phillips). The world cannot force us to commit spiritual treason,

b. Through the Cross, we have victory over the FLESH.

“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” says Galatians 5:24. This is not to be confused with our spiritual co-crucifixion with Christ [see article on “dimension 2”]. The concept of “flesh” here refers to the residue of the “old man” that contains selfish beliefs, feelings, responses, and values learned independently of God. The flesh is “in” us but it is not us. Paul declared, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” (Rom. 7:18).

This tendency opposes our new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17). Now if this conflict still persists in us, in what way have we “crucified the flesh”? The flesh was crucified in the sense that its authority over us has been broken! –“that the body of sin might be rendered powerless [as a tool of Sin] (Rom. 6:6).[2]

We must implement this necessary strategy to have victory over the flesh: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

c. Through the Cross, we have victory over the DEVIL.

In Colossians 2:13-15 we have a powerful declaration of this victory: Christ, “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [the Cross]”(Cf. Eph. 1:20-21).

Because of His victory, we can have confidence in overcoming the devil. James instructs us to, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan must flee because he is a defeated foe. Revelation describes his destiny: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). Satan will not rule over hell; he will be the most severely punished there. In the meantime, put on your spiritual armor, “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11-12; Cf.1 Peter 5:8-9).

With this confidence we can join the victorious procession: “Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on Christ’s triumphant way and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume!” (2 Cor.2:14, Phillips).

F.J. Huegel urged,

“Let us arise, for the victory is ours. Our right to a full-orbed victory is as unalienable as our claims to the air we breathe … Unnumbered multitudes of Christians, in spite of their faith, are still groaning under the oppression of the enemy. They are being robbed of incalculable wealth … Now they may–they should be–set free. They need but say ‘amen’ to all that the Cross of Christ is in the economy of God … They must accept what God offers them in their Crucified-Resurrected Redeemer; namely a crucified life over which Satan has no power. ‘The prince of this world cometh,’ they, too, may say, ‘but he findeth nothing in me, for I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.'” [3]

Fellow believer, in light of the dimensions of Christ’s sacrificial work, lift high the banner of the Cross!


Part 4 of 4

Notes:
[1] Richard A. Todd, “Constantine and the Christian Empire” in Eerdmans Handbook to the History of the Christian Church, ed., Tim Dowley, (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977), 130.
[2] “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin” Rom. 6:6 (HCSB).
[3] F. J. Huegel, The Cross of Christ–the Throne of God, (Bethany Fellowship, 1935), 94-95 (Cf. John 14:30; Gal 2:20).

Scripture quotations from The New King James Version (c) 1982, by Thomas Nelson. Phillips = New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips. HCSB = Holman Christian Standard Bible. (Bold font added for emphasis.)

Copyright 2001 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com. Biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).


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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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