The Crucified One
One scarcely ever hears the name of Jesus mentioned much in contemporary society. Occasionally his name is mentioned on TV as the founder of a great world religion--along with Buddha, Mohammed and Moses. The Discovery Channel and the History Channel sometimes feature commentaries on archeology, history, and the Bible--and when this happens they can't avoid mentioning Jesus of Nazareth--at least in passing. Occasionally Jesus is magnanimously described as a "great moral teacher" but scant mention is made of the central event of his entire life: his death, burial and resurrection. Whoever would guess from the secular media that Jesus is the ruling Lord of the entire universe at this very moment? And as the "heir of all things" He is soon to be openly reigning here on earth as well. C.S. Lewis said, "Enemy-occupied territory -- that is what the world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."
Yet the death of Jesus on a bloody Roman cross was the Number One reason the Son of God took on human form and entered our race in the first place--as one of us--identifying with us in the deepest possible way, and ultimately dying in our stead.
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." (Hebrews 1:1-4)
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)
"For indeed God does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things Jesus had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted." (Hebrews 2:16-18)
Most Christians know that Jesus died to take away their sins. We are indeed sinners--it should be self-evident--but God, on the other hand, is infinitely holy and just. Nor can He can act in any manner contrary to Who He is as a Person. However God could accept the sacrificial death of a suitable sacrifice as a just punishment for the sins of our fallen race (John 3:16, I John 2:2). It is staggering to consider what this transaction between God the Father and God the Son entailed--a sacrifice in which all human history: past, present and future meets for a divine appointment with eternity (1).
Christians for 2000 years have experienced life-transforming changes in their lives which follow when they simply trust Jesus as Lord. Millions of others, from all branches of the human race, who lived before Christ came the first time, have also known the same salvation--since the beginning of human history.
"For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 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. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:13-21)
In effect you and I traded places with Jesus on the cross. He was "made to be sin for us," and in very intimate way Jesus carried all our sins out of the universe as our cosmic scapegoat, (Leviticus 16). At the same time He endured the fully-deserved wrath of God's outrage against my sin and yours--sin which was transferred from us to the sinless body of the Son of God's love. You and I, like the condemned Barabbas before Pilate, can be set free, but the innocent Jesus has died instead in our place.
The death of Christ on the cross benefits only those who embrace Jesus as Lord, receiving Him into their lives. The founders of "other" religions are long dead and gone. Jesus is alive and today sits on a high throne ruling over the entire universe. At death, every human being, one by one, meets this same Jesus face to face to give an account of himself--both our deeds and our motives (2). For those who do not believe, the biggest question nonbelievers may be asked when standing before Jesus at the last judgment may well be, "why did you not let Me forgive you while you were alive? Do you realize the enormous price that was paid so that My Father and I could open a way for your forgiveness and a whole new life for you? However since you have refused Our offer of mercy and grace all along, We must now deal justly with your sins--you yourself must carry all the deserved punishment yourself, separated from Us forever." (3)
Those who have received Jesus as Lord find that ripples of healing and cleansing flow both backwards and forwards from the point in time they experience spiritual rebirth. Eternal life is a gift from God to be received here and now--it is not just endless life after physical death, but a wholly different quality of life--rich and full--and starting now.
In our earth time frame Jesus died almost 2000 years ago, before we were born and before we had done anything good or evil. Yet people now living who come to know Jesus in our present day find that their sins have been somehow transferred to Jesus on the cross outside of time. Furthermore all those who lived before Jesus was born, people who had the same kind of faith as Abraham, discover that their previously "covered" sins (under the Old Covenant for example) were forever "removed" when Jesus died on the cross. Paul mentions this in Romans:
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed [i.e. before Christ came into the world], to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26)
There is more. Some imagine that guilty sinners who have become believers will find themselves in a cosmic courtroom when they die. There, Jesus, our defense attorney, will step up to the Judge and ask the Judge to have the sinner's guilt and shame transferred to His account. The Judge agrees and adds the mercy of the court--the righteousness of Jesus is henceforth forever to be credited to the sinner's account. No further charges remain unsettled on the cosmic courtroom ledgers--the condemned leaves a free and innocent man. Furthermore, no future charges against the accused, now-acquitted sinner, will stick (Romans 8:29-39).
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having 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." (Colossians 2:13-14)
Glenn Miller shows that the above simplistic courtroom model is not really correct because the death of Jesus actually took place not in time but in eternity--before the creation. "The biblical statements indicate that Penal Substitution is used to preclude us even getting to the courtroom situation…" (4) Therefore the believer will never go to a cosmic court room at all. He has been acquitted a priori.
There are many other levels of reality to the work of the cross beyond the atoning work of Jesus' for our sins. For example, the Apostle Paul writing to the church at Colossae said,
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20a)
Ray Stedman discusses the word "reconcile" in this passage,
"What does it mean, then, that Jesus shall "reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven"? It means a day is coming when the hostility of evil against righteousness will be brought to a sudden halt. Evil men and angels will find themselves unable to function in their enmity against God. They will be subdued, and will cease their rebellion. It does not mean their punishment ends; it is their active hostility that will cease. Then, at last, the terrible question that every one of us has asked at times, "Why does God permit evil?" will be answered. There is coming a day, according to this verse, when all will be explained to us: Why do the good suffer? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does injustice reign triumphant at times? Why are innocent children raped, tortured, and killed, or ruined in mind and body by drugs or molestation? Why were six million Jews gassed to death in Germany? Why were millions of others elsewhere shot, speared, drowned, burned or hanged by the tyrants of history? Why?
We have all asked these questions. Why do accidents occur, ruining our joys? Why does insanity rage in so many? At last this question is to be answered. At last we will learn why it was necessary to allow evil. Then we will see it was part of the working out of God's program. Every hurt will be resolved, every tear will be wiped away, every pain will be relieved. At last the whole universe will live in peace and harmony with one another. "Nothing shall hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain." Read the great promises of Isaiah in this regard. What glorious language he employs to picture an earth where nothing is out of step, nothing is eccentric, nothing is out of balance; everything is in harmony with everything else. That is what this declares. Surely this is what Paul is describing in that great passage in Philippians. An hour is coming when "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." That is where history is headed.
The marvelous thing about this is that it flows out of the death of Jesus on the cross. It is the cross that has brought this to pass. That is why it has been the central symbol of Christian faith since the very beginning. We put crosses up in our sanctuaries, not to make us think that the cross was a beautiful piece of wood, for it was a dirty, bloody, rugged means of death. But out of that death has flowed life to all the universe. That is what this is telling us. We find it described very clearly in chapter two of this letter, in the words, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (2:15). It is the cross that is the center of all life." (5)
One can discuss the above issues at great length, and not even scratch the surface of Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross and all its eternal ramifications. Deep mystery veils the Cross of Christ--we can scarcely see into its depths.
But there remains another important issue connected with the crucifixion of Jesus which many Christians today conveniently tend to overlook--or ignore. That issue is MY death on that same cross--and YOUR death as well--that is, if we claim to be followers of Jesus.
Near the time of his final trip to Jerusalem, Jesus turned to his disciples and told them,
“The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires 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. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels." (Luke 9:22-26)
Was Jesus speaking figuratively? No. After His resurrection he instructed his followers to be baptized in water, thereby bearing witness to an inner reality which had already been silently wrought in them by the Holy Spirit.
"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, 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 has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! (Romans 5:3-15)
The experience of a conversion to faith in Christ varies from individual to individual. For some it is a sudden and dramatic event, for others a gradual awareness is felt within. There may or may not be any immediate emotional experience when it happens. However there will follow a sense of peace with God, and hope, and cleansing from sin, and the conviction that one has crossed an invisible boundary between death and life. At that boundary, the Holy Spirit silently and invisibly places the believer "into Christ." This is the believer's "true baptism" of which water baptism is but a symbol. (6) The resurrection life of Jesus begins to operate immediately in the new Christian, though many problems remain to be worked out in our present time domain. Everything about the old life of Adam within us must be left behind--and has been in fact already nailed to the cross. The Christian is an entirely new person inside with one new nature, not two. (7)
Rather than simply picking up and living life as one always had done before, Christians soon discover the only lasting "works" in their new life which will survive into eternity are those works which are done by Jesus living His life through us. All of one's "self-effort" counts for nought. Nor does God accept our best efforts on His behalf! He does not wish us to try harder, or to embark on self-improvement programs in order to refine the flesh. This poses for us lessons which are hard to learn! The point is, we have already died, and Christ is our life!
A majority of Americans today, according to surveys, believe they will breeze into heaven automatically at the end of their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth! The majority of Americans neither know the Lord Jesus nor have they died to their old life inherited from Adam. Jesus meant what He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6, see also Matthew 7:13-29)
The cross is ruthless and uncompromising, only that which has first been killed can pass through to the otter side. Only the individual who renounces all that he or she has and is willing to die in Christ finds himself new and whole and complete--the person God originally designed him or her to be. A foreview of the cross can be seen in the mighty angels and a flaming sword posted to guard Eden's gate leading to the tree of life, after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden.
The Apostle Paul could say, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
It is paradoxical to be sure, but "unless grain of wheat falls into the ground it remains alone, but if it dies it remains alone." So also "he who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it." In dying to self--turning over all areas of one's natural life to the killing work of the cross--one finds the flood gates of real life immediately follow. Rather than losing everything, one gains all.
When Paul spoke of his original visit to Corinth he said, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
In writing to the Galatians he said, "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." (Galatians 6:14)
Jesus has finished His dying on the cross for us. His work on the cross is finished. Our time on the cross is not finished! Until Jesus returns for us we must "die daily." In a way, we are now "the crucified ones"--this is our daily calling if we claim to be following Jesus. Failure to live the crucified life does not cause a follower of Christ to lose his salvation, but it does mean a big loss in rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (8).
In Romans Paul urges us,
"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:8-14)
And in the letter to the Colossians he urges us,
"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (3:1-17)
Living "the crucified life" means a long obedience in the same direction. There must be a daily dying to self, putting off of old habits, not once but many times, and replacing the old with the new. Every follower of Christ must say "no" a hundred times a day to the old ways and by faith ask Jesus to rule and to lead instead. While such a lifestyle may sound dull and unappealing it is actually the only path to real life. Our Lord said, "I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly." Real life is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Why do so many prefer the counterfeit? (9)
Though Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born,
If he's not born in thee
Thy soul is still forlorn.
The cross on Golgotha
Will never save thy soul;
The cross in thy own heart
Alone can make thee whole.
--anonymous, 3rd century
1. Jesus' Death: Six Hours of Eternity on the Cross, http://ldolphin.org/sixhours.html
2. Jesus, Judge of All, http://www.ldolphin.org/judgment.html
3. Ray Stedman, The Fire Next Time, http://raystedman.org/thessalonians/4097.html
4. Glenn Miller, On Penal Substitution, http://www.christian-thinktank.com/inmyplace.html, and http://www.christian-thinktank.com/inmyplace.html - TEAL.
5. Ray Stedman, The Reason for the Season, http://raystedman.org/colossians/4022.html
6. Ray Stedman, The Meaning of Baptism, http://raystedman.org/misc/0278.html
7. How God saves Us, http://ldolphin.org/howsaved.html
8. The Judgment Seat of Christ, http://ldolphin.org/Jseat.html
9. Major Ian Thomas, The Exchanged Life and other essays, http://www.christinyou.net/pages/ianthomas.html, Bob Smith, Dying to Live, http://raystedman.org/leadership/smith/dyingtolive/index.html
A Tragic Death: A close friend of mine from the University of Kansas, Michael Krugjohn, 26, ended his own life on May 21st. A tribute page with photos is on this web site at http://ldolphin.org/krugjohn/. Please pray for Michael's family and non-Christian friends.
The Electric Universe: Traditional cosmology from ancient times down to the present has considered gravitational forces to be the dominating agent in the creation of the stars, galaxies, planets and moons. But matter at high temperatures is almost invariably ionized (electrically charged). Ionized gases, or plasmas, are coming to be recognized to have a much more important role in the creation. To gain an introduction to this subject see http://www.thunderbolts.info/home.htm. Recently I was interested to learn that ordinary water has been found to be stable, and high conducting, at enormous temperatures and pressures. Reading Genesis (and 2 Peter) one can readily see that water plays an important role in the early universe. But originally the extra heavy kind, known as "metallic water" may have been predominant in the cosmos, along with gigantic plasmas discharges, http://ldolphin.org/metallicwater.html. My long-time friend astronomer Barry Setterfield, http://setterfield.org is pursuing these new concepts vigorously.
Classes: My Sunday morning studies at Peninsula Bible Church continue in the Book of Isaiah, http://ldolphin.org/Isaiah. MP3 audio is available on my web site or by Podcast. Isaiah is a fantastic book of the Bible, sadly neglected by many these days.
Contributions: Friends who want to help out with my expenses may send contributions directly to me by means of the PayPal or Amazon.com links on my web site. For those who'd like to contribute for tax purposes, checks may be sent to Peninsula Bible Church, 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Please include a note designating your gift to my support account. I am not an organization and not employed by any organization so I depend very much on the support I receive from friends. I do not receive a list of those who send in contributions to my church so I can't send thank you notes in most cases. But thank you!
Contacts: I answer my own email every day, and am glad to be able to do so. Working with me on email questions is a splendid team of men and women in the Paraclete Forum, http://paracleteforum.org. You may write us at email@example.com. The Paraclete Forum also addresses questions sent to us from the Ray Stedman and PBC web sites, http://pbc.org and http://raystedman.org/. For excellent help in studying the Bible in various versions and in the original languages, I always recommend Blue Letter Bible, http://blueletterbible.org/.
Previous newsletters are on my web site: http://ldolphin.org/news/. My main web site library is http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml, with newer articles posted at the top.
This Newsletter: Drop me an email if you wish to subscribe.
May 29, 2007