Chapter 45 The Exaltation Of Christ

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him (Philippians 2:9).

There is no alternative to the Cross of Christ. Its basic necessity lies in the fact and issues of sin. With the entrance of sin into human life all original innocence expired. “The Lord planted a garden” in Eden, we read, but the garden of the human heart became a wilderness of hateful weeds. “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). All human woe came hand in hand with sin. The whole human race was wrapped up in the casket of the first man, Adam. All nations were in the seed of that federal head. The act of sin by that one man, as taint of poison in a well-head, effected every issuing drop of life. The ruin was serious and complete.

An Instrument of Healing

The only remedy for this enormous malady is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is not pleasant for corrupt flesh to hear. Man feels neither sin nor his need of pardon. He wants not to hear of nature’s pollution. His very corruption forbids him looking to Jesus. It closes his hand so that he will not put forth his hand into the hand of Jesus. It closes his mouth so that he will not cry to Jesus. It closes his heart so that he will not receive Jesus.

There is no alternative to the cross of Christ for our healing. There is no prospect along any other line. The cross is the only answer to human error, transgression, iniquity, and rebellion—call sin what you will. The only remedy lies in the fact that the Lord Jesus “bore the sin of many”—“The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all”—“For the transgression of My people was He stricken” (Isaiah 53). Only the cross can clean up the wounds of human life and there was no exaltation of the Son of God as our Saviour until that was done. There could be no seed—no church—until that was done!

An Instrument of Recovery

The cross of Christ is never a negative thing. Through the cross God works to a positive purpose. Peter’s mistake in Matthew 16:22, when he objected to the death of the Saviour, was that the cross could be nothing but an instrument of defeat and death. It was a destructive thing—a wholly negative thing. This led Peter to a violent reaction—“Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee” (Matthew 16:22). It is so easy for us, too, as believers, even in this late day, to view the cross in the same way. It did involve our Lord in death—“the death of the cross.” But there was something very positive in God’s view. That something was the recovery and restoration of our manhood. The cross was a positive instrument for securing a restored manhood that would abide forever in its completeness. We have the same tendency to think like Peter in negative terms. For instance, when we are in severe trial—when things are taken away from us—when we see nothing but an end to everything—we think negatively. But God’s purpose in allowing these providential dispensations and happenings is never negative. The Lord intends to see the “travail of His soul” and to be satisfied.

An Instrument of Safety

We must realize, if we are to come to a true understanding, the innate corruption of our fleshly life. The flesh is high-minded. We crave credit. That is why all human religions and worldly philosophies have in them a doctrine of human works. Were God to save us without setting aside this fleshly life we would very soon inflate ourselves with pride. There must be an end of fleshly activity for the things of God can never be accomplished by the activity of corrupt flesh. Only the cross can deal with that! God must make the ground secure for Himself. There must be no cause for the flesh to boast, else that would undermine and collapse the whole edifice. God will never put forth His strength where human assertiveness or self-confidence is. Isaiah describes that strength of God as “the arm of the Lord,” and this strength is manifest in His beloved Son in whom is no corruption whatsoever. There was nothing in His Son which would rob God of His glory. The cross is something like a bulldozer which clears the ground of some old, dilapidated and condemned building. Every last bit of rubbish must be cleared away so that a new building may arise.

An Instrument of Building

It is the cross which lays the foundation upon which the Lord can build His church. You will remember, perhaps, a broad outline of the book of Isaiah’s prophecy. There is a first section of thirty-nine chapters in which are pronounced judgments upon the nations. The second section of twenty-seven chapters, beginning at chapter forty, have to do with recovery and rebuilding. Midway in that section is the wonderful chapter fifty-three which expounds the sufferings and death of Messiah. It is the same pattern in the New Testament as, for instance, in the epistle to the Romans. The first chapters are full of sweeping judgments on both Jew and Gentile—the whole human race issuing from Adam. But it moves through the cross in chapter six to chapter eight which is full of something entirely new “in Christ Jesus.” The foundation of the church can never be laid in corrupt human nature, thus we have “Christ crucified.” It is only on that foundation that God can deal with human sin and corrupt flesh. The Lord builds His church and He builds it so that it will never fall.

The golden gates are lifted up,
The doors are open wide;
The King of glory is gone in
Unto His Father’s side.

Thou art gone up before us, Lord,
To make for us a place,
That we might be where now Thou art,
And look upon God’s face.

Lift up our hearts, lift up our minds:
Let Thy dear grace be given,
That while we journey here below,
Our treasure be in heaven.

That where Thou art at God’s right hand,
Our hope, our love may be.
Dwell Thou in us, that we may dwell
For evermore in Thee.

—Cecil Frances Alexander