The Doctrine of the Cross
The four “Gospels” narrate the suffering, death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; and those accounts constitute the factual basis of “the preaching of the Cross.” All that the Holy Spirit has to teach those who have received that preaching and believed in His Name can be included in the term “the doctrine of the Cross.”
This teaching is generally viewed under different “aspects”; but these are somewhat artificial: for in the Scriptures they comprise one indivisible body of truth. Considering them in this manner however, enables us to apprehend the truth ‘little by little.’ The serious Bible student will endeavour to comprehend these different phases in their entirety and observe how they complement and illuminate one another.
In this series it is not claimed that every angle of ‘the apostles’ doctrine has been included; but it is recommended that the example of the Bereans be emulated and the Scriptures searched to find ‘whether these things are so.’ The series will consist of: 1 The Manifestation of the Love of God. II Triumph and Deliverance. III Propitation. IV Reconciliation. V Justification. VI Sanctification.
The Manifestation Of The Love Of God
The Cross manifested the love of God: the Father’s love for the Son; the Son’s love for the Father; the love of God to mankind; the love of Christ for His Church, and His love for individuals.
The Father’s Love For The Son
The greatest joy of the Man of Sorrows was His Father’s love. He prayed: ‘O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was… for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world.’ What was that ‘glory’ but the eternal love which subsisted between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit: the bond of Deity? (John 17:5,24).
Christ Jesus is “The Son of His love: … Who is the image of the invisible God, Firstborn of all creation: for by Him were all things created that are in the heavens, and that are on the earth, visible and invisible, … all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist…that in all things He might have preeminence.” “The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things unto His hand.” This authority He never relinquished; for on the eve of the Cross He knew that “the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God” (Col. 1:13-18, Newb. marg.; John 3:35; 13:2).
However, the Father’s greatest love-gift to His Son was not the possession of those ‘all things’ which He created, but the inheritance of a people for His Name. That people was foreknown and chosen in Him before anything was created, and predestinated to be conformed to His image; that Heaven might be filled with a multitude of children: every one of whom would be resplendent with the holy character of the Beloved One and united to Him in the bond of everlasting love. Their names were written in the Book of Life, for they were predestinated to sonship (John 17:23; Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:4-5; Luke 10:20).
But the whole world lay in the wicked one and those whom God loved were alienated from Him and enemies by wicked works; so that the bringing of those many sons to glory necessitated their redemption from the authority of Satan and the power of sin. Therefore the Father willed the Cross; and to this end He sent the Son of His love to be the Saviour of the world. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself frequently mentioned this truth, for in the Gospel according to John it is recorded over forty times.
Who can understand the infinite love of the Father for the Son? He is essentially the Father’s Beloved One; and this could not be otherwise, for He is eternally the brightness of His glorious Being and the express image of His indescribably beautiful Person. Before He became incarnate it was written of Him: ‘Behold My Servant, Whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in Whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him…’ and in the days of His flesh: ‘This is My beloved Son: in whom I am well pleased’ (Isa. 42:1; Matt. 17:5).
When He stood before the Cross, in the full realization of all that He was about to suffer at the hands of evil men, and most of all to the awful burden of the judgment of God upon the sin of the world, with its unutterable shame and sorrow, He was conscious of His Father’s fellowship and He was able to rejoice in a fresh outpouring of His love, occasioned by His perfect obedience to His will: “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again.” The Cross constitutes the eternal testimony to the Father’s love for His Son; and this was demonstrated by His resurrection and exaltation. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:6-11; John 10:17).
This aspect of the Cross was beautifully illustrated by the offering up of Isaac by Abraham. In that trial God particularly emphasized Abraham’s love for his son. As God saw the broken heart of the father as he took the knife to slay his beloved son, He foresaw His own great heart of love being torn with grief as He would give His own Beloved One to sorrow and death; for He knew that as He hung upon that Cross there could be no voice to hold back the hand of judgment, for none could be offered in His stead. There is little doubt that on mount Moriah the father’s suffering was greater than that of the son, for he received the blessing: ‘By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee.…because thou hast obeyed My voice’ (Gen. 22:1-18).
The Son’s Love For Tile Father
“Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: …Then said I, Lo, I come… to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart” (Heb. 10:5-9; Psa. 40:6-8).
The Lord taught His own that their love for Him must be demonstrated by His will; and this truth He exemplified in His own life. ‘As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you; continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.’ ‘I come to do Thy will, O God’ meant to the Lord Jesus Christ a whole life of obedience to the will of God, culminating in the supreme act of devotion and worship of the Cross (John 15:9-10).
The Lord Jesus loved His Father and He delighted to do His will; and He knew all that was involved in the doing of that will. He knew that His Father had sent Him to do the work which none other could do: the work of redemption. The Lord desired that all the world should know that in going to the Cross He was manifesting His love for His Father by obedience to His will. He said to His disciples: But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do.’ He counted it the greatest possible honour to lay down His life on the Cross in obedience to His Father’s will and to glorify Him in death and resurrection as He had done in His life (John 14:31; 17:1).
God’s Love For Mankind
God seeks to be loved by men, for He is Love. When man sinned God was grieved, for He had lost that which brought Him joy; and from that time He has sought to bring men back into the communion of love with Himself: the place of blessing. In the course of the fulfilment of this great purpose, He chose Israel; and He gave them a two-fold reason why He did choose them: ‘Because the Lord loved you …’ and ‘Because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers.’ That oath was not confined to one nation but included ‘all families of the earth.’ God continually reminded Israel of His love: ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love … Yea, He loved the people’… ‘I have loved you, saith the Lord’: and He sought to beloved in return. True it was that He demanded obedience to His holy law, but not servility born of fear; but that delight in His will which is the evidence of love for Him which is mentioned in the second commandment:… them that love Me, and keep My commandments.’ The first and greatest commandment is, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thine heart . . (Deut. 7:8; Exodus 20:6; Matt. 22:37-38).
The heavens declare the glory of God; the creation reveals that God is all-powerful; His works make known His righteousness; His laws manifest His wisdom; but the Cross tells us that God is Love. The more that we meditate on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ the more we know of that great love wherewith He loved us — that love which passeth knowledge. The Holy Spirit points to the Cross as the evidence of the love of God to men: not to Israel only but to all the world: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”…“God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”…”In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (Psa 19:1; Rom. 1:20; Psa. 145:17; Psa. 19:7; John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:9).
Christ’s Love For His Own
The Lord Jesus Christ knew His own from the beginning, for they had been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world that they might be holy and without blame before Him in love; and predestinated to be conformed to His image. With the Cross in view He said, ‘I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock, and one Shepherd’ (John 10:14-16).
Even though at that time not all of those whom His Father had given Him had come to Him, for most of them had not been born, He loved them ‘As the Father loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love.’ He saw them as one flock. He prayed for them: that they might be sanctified; that they might be kept from the world; that they might partake of the Father’s love; that they might behold His glory and be with Him where He is; but He knew that the only means whereby His prayers for them could be answered was the Cross (John 15:9).
In the Cross He offered to His Father a sweetsmelling sacrifice that He might redeem us to Himself and thereby He fulfilled the Father’s purpose. The greatest proof of the love of Christ both for His Father and for His bride the Church was the Cross, for it is written: ‘Christ also loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour…Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spat, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish’ (Eph. 5:2,25-27).
Our presence in glory will constitute eternal testimony to His great love for His own on the Cross; for the song of the redeemed will be ‘unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever’ (Rev. 1:5-6).
He Loved Me
Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it; but there are at least two men mentioned in the Scriptures who rejoiced in that love in an intimate personal sense. John the Apostle described himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” as though he were the only one beloved of the Lord; and Paul, by whom the Holy Spirit gave us the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians, wrote of “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (John 21:20; Gal. 2:20).
Salvation is an intensely personal matter, for God deals with us as individuals. We were born individually and we are individually accountable to Him. Unless our individual relationship to God our Father is right it cannot be so to others. He demands the first place in our thoughts, our affections, and our wills and this cannot be realized unless we believe that on the Cross our Lord demonstrated His love for us as individuals. Our God is much closer to each of His own than our most intimate loved one, for by His Spirit He dwells within our hearts; and He seeks to impart to us as individuals the fulness of His love; as Paul prayed: ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with (into) all the fulness of God’ (Eph. 3:17-19).