Chapter 38 Three Aspects Of The Cross

Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (Matthew 3:15).

Put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him (Colossians 3:10).

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

The cross was not an end in itself. It was God’s means of producing the Church. The Church was to come forth from the sufferings and death of our Lord, as the woman, Eve, bride of Adam, came forth from his broken body during a deep sleep.

The Godward Aspect of the Cross

We often forget, or do not realize, that the first work of the cross was to secure the rights of God in righteousness. No divine purpose could come into being without having a basis in righteousness. God’s eternal thought was the Church, but the Church could not be built on any ground but that of righteousness. Thus before our Lord began His ministry. He came first to be baptized of John in the River Jordan. John would have refused Him, but the Lord said, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”

This had to be settled first, and the essence of righteousness is a total abandonment and obedience to the will of God. An illustration of this is seen in Abraham’s offering of Isaac. It was the noblest act of Abraham’s life. “Take now thy son…and offer him for a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2). No furnace was ever so hot. But Abraham neither questioned, nor argued, nor held back. He rose early to obey. Therefore, said God, “Because thou…hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thee” (Genesis 22:16-17).

When our Lord came into this world, He did so, saying, “I come to do Thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9); “I delight to do Thy will” (Psalm 40:8); “Not My will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). That was absolute abandonment to the will of God. But in God’s mind was the cross. Why? Because only through the cross could all unrighteousness be removed and the ground cleared for God to erect a new building—a holy temple of regenerate souls. Thus, through the cross, God obtained His rights in righteousness, which could only be obtained by the utter removal of all unrighteousness. That would include God-abandonment, which is the ultimate fruit of unrighteousness. Hence the cry: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) That swept the ground clean and gave God a site, so to speak, upon which He could build His Church.

The Manward Aspect of the Cross

The Lord also could only build His Church with righteous material. The Church could never be composed of man as he is by nature. Man is utterly unrighteous. We have only to look within to find that sad plague. We are lost property to God. Sin has stripped us naked of all righteousness. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). That “old man,” as he is called, can have no place in the Church of God’s building.

But God has sent forth His Son, that through the sufferings and death of His cross there may be a removal of all unrighteousness from man. Man must stand at that cross in total self-abandonment and abhor himself as a lost, ruined, and guilty sinner. He has no power to help himself. By faith he looks upward to Christ as Saviour. There he sees healing for his soul in Him. “In the Lord have I righteousness,” he says, believingly. He comes to God, then, with an unanswerable plea, that is, “In Christ, my Saviour, my law-abiding Surety, I bring the righteousness of God.” And God accepts him. He has put on Christ. He is seen as righteous in Christ. He is material for the building of God’s Church.

The Satanward Aspect of the Cross

“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” There is such a being. He is not an empty name, but a mighty power. He is “the prince of this world,” who has enslaved all mankind and whose sway is universal. All are his bondslaves and none can free themselves. He is “the god of this age,” and sets up every system of idolatry to draw worship away from God. The cross brought utter defeat to this evil one. Seeing our Lord in physical weakness on the cross, he flung all the forces of hell at Him, hoping to overwhelm Him. But the Lord “having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [the cross]” (Colossians 2:15).

The cross undoes the work of Satan. It removes all the ground of Satan’s further work. He can do nothing on God’s ground. The cross deprives him of that. Thus the Church is built on safe ground, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.

The Church’s one Foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word;
From Heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.

Elect from every nation
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Samuel J. Stone