Chapter 23 Love And Righteousness In The Cross

Whom God hath set forth…to declare His righteousness (Romans 3:25).

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).

In the days when our Lord was here on earth, the cross was a Roman means of death. But the Roman, who devised it, did not like to write about it, think about it, hear about it, or talk about it. The cross was abhorrent to the Roman. The victim was associated with evil, and represented a degraded and disgraceful specimen of humanity. The cross was looked upon as associated with ignominy, crime, and weakness.

But the cross of the Lord Jesus changed that! His cross was neither an accident nor a mere expression of the malice of men. It was a God-planned cross—His plan for human redemption. Since it is by works we express what we are, then, since the cross is God’s greatest work, it must be the greatest revelation of His character.

The apostles gloried in the cross—in our Lord’s cross. Since it wrought redemption for fallen man, it became the symbol of life, hope, and blessing. It is at His cross that fallen man hears the joyful news of salvation, a gospel unheard of in hell, but which has fallen on our ears—the sweetest melody our ears have ever heard. It is written by God’s own pen in the Scriptures of truth—fixed, eternal, and divine. Every attribute of God has concurred in erecting it. There is no defect in this plan of God—no blemish—no decay.

The Cross—the Love of God

“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. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). The salvation of man has come out of God’s great heart of love—His unmeasured and immeasurable love.

Every stone in this edifice has been shaped by love and laid by love. The supreme expression of that infinite love is that His beloved Son came down from Heaven, was born in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth, died at Calvary, descended into the grave, burst the bands of death, rose into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God. He did all that because He loved us!

There are certain experiences in human existence which have the tendency to challenge the love of God. We witness the violence in nature—the calamity of earthquakes, floods, droughts, hurricanes, pestilences—and such things afford opportunity for the evil in the heart of man to challenge God’s love. Or we go through the trials of social and family life-disfiguring and crippling infirmities, prevailing and ravaging sicknesses, the incidence of poverty and misery, and finally, death—and we wonder! Does God really love us? Why has God allowed this to come to us? These things blow up the smoke of unbelief. They tend to bring to man the. bitterness of despair and a sense of hopelessness in the battle of life.

But whatever challenges these things may bring, we look at the cross of God’s beloved Son and know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that God loves us. In giving His Son to die for us, God gave everything He could give. He gave His all. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). Here is love immeasurable in its breadth, and length, and depth, and height—”the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19) as the hymn says: “Deep, vast, immeasurable, Love—profound”! “God is love.”

The Cross—the Righteousness of God

“Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation…to declare His righteousness” (Romans 3:24-25). God is a God of law. The natural world is founded upon the Creator’s governing laws. God has written moral law on the tables of the human heart. If God would save man, then salvation must answer to His own holy law. Forgiveness must be based on righteousness. However much God may love, He cannot wink at sin or fail to punish it.

When God’s holy law examines God’s beloved Son in His own personal life, it can find no fault in Him. He comes forth in all the glory of pure sinlessness. No cleansing is needed for Himself. Hence “the righteousness of Christ”—His own personal righteousness—is what He Himself is. Perfection finds embodiment in Him. His every aspect is righteousness— without a single flaw. He has no stain. Sin could not touch Him. Earth witnessed in Him the sinless Son of man. His whole life on earth shone with godlike purity.

But when He stood forth to answer for our sins, to take full responsibility for them, and bear the punishment of them, then the law saw Him as a sin-laden Person, and justice thus cried: “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow [equal], saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 13:7). The law must now condemn Him. The law must afflict Him and put Him to grief. The law must erect a cross and hang Him on it—to be “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). The law must shed His precious blood. Why? Because God is righteous, and any forgiveness must be based on righteousness, else it would never answer to the justice of God—never bring peace to conscience—never silence the accusations of Satan.

In Old Testament days, as we see in Romans 3:25, God could only cover sins in the symbolic sacrifices of Jewry, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). But our Lord was “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)—even those sins which had been but covered in times past. Where are our sins now? They have been taken away where they cannot be found. Thus believers cannot be condemned. Faith in the Lord Jesus casts away all misery with one hand, and with the other grasps eternal joy and happiness.

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which, at the mercy seat of God,
Forever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e’en for my soul, was shed.

Nicolaus L. Von Zinzendorf