Chapter 42 The Placarding Of Christ

Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you (Galatians 3:1).

Bishop Lightfoot has a good word in place of the phrase “evidently set forth.” It is the word placarded. The Lord and His atoning work on the cross had been placarded before these Galatians. The message of His Person and work had been clearly demonstrated before them. But now they were falling back to the legalism of the old covenant. “O foolish Galatians”—what stupid folly is this to leave Christ for Moses—the Gospel for the law—justification by the righteousness of Christ which brings such solid comfort, for justification by the works of the law which could only bring their souls into bondage. The apostle was so astonished as to call them foolish or senseless.

The Emphasis on the Cross

Paul had placarded the cross before their eyes. We have often seen men carrying a large placard over their shoulders, hanging down front and back as a means of advertising. Paul had made “Christ crucified” as vivid and arresting as that to them.

The old covenant could never convey souls to heaven. It was too weak to open those bright gates. It was too feeble to ascend the hill of the Lord. If we seek acceptance of God by Sinai’s code we must surely fail and it is folly to try it. It cannot prosper. It will surely fail.

It is only the Lord Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross which can make a way for us to heaven. On that cross He met every need. His finished work alone satisfies divine justice. He has given His life for mine. In Him—by Him—we clear the law’s uttermost demand. Such is the value of the Saviour’s cross, and its value was made clear by the apostle to these Galatians.

The Scope of the Cross

The cross of our Lord Jesus embraces and affects the whole universe of God.

1. The cross is the center of a believer’s life. Believers stand fearless on the rock of a completed sacrifice—“It is finished!” Human redemption is secured. Redemption is an accomplished fact. Every payment has been paid down. Every penalty has been endured. The curse has been drained. Satan has been vanquished. Believers are free. So to the Galatians the apostle could write, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 6:14; 2:20).

2. The cross is the center of the corporate assembly. The Lord has formed His church by sovereign grace. He has planted it with His virtues, gifts and graces. He waters it every moment. He has fenced it round with His almighty power. It is nourished with the refreshing doctrines of the Gospel which are seasonably applied. It is impregnable against the forces of evil. Its faith, piety, and courage have spread to the ends of the earth. Because the cross is the center of the church, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

3. The cross is the center of world history. Everything beforehand moved toward the cross; everything since flows from that cross. The whole world was sunk in ruin and misery, given over to idolatry and superstition. No distinction is made for any person of any race—“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “They are all gone out of the way…there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). But at the center of this ruined race God has set forth a means whereby sin can be forgiven and guilt removed. That means is the cross of Christ which God has made a Mercy-seat.

4. The cross is the center of the universe. There is a state of disorder in the whole universe. But the regeneration of the whole is promised so that there is to be a new heaven and a new earth. Through the blood of the cross God will “reconcile all things unto Himself… whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20).

The Reach of the Cross

It gives assent to His holiness. The one grand purport of the scheme of grace is to guard and secure God’s holiness which is the very ground of His nature. Holiness was therefore manifest in our Lord’s life on earth. His walk in our soiled path was as clean as when He moved on celestial pavement. His every act—every word—have but one feature, and that is one of absolute holiness. The cross reaches up to heaven and secures that holiness. It thus gives God righteous ground on which to forgive sinful men.

It also reaches down to the bottom of human degeneracy. Some may ask, “Can holiness revive the wasteland of nature upon which the blight and curse of God rests?” Only by means of the cross! The Lord Jesus alone can make a wretched sinner holy and fit for the presence of the holy God. The Saviour welcomed is holiness begun. The Saviour cherished is holiness advancing. The Saviour never absent is holiness complete. Holiness complete is fitness for heaven. Only through the cross can man rise to that heaven of heavens where God is, and enter and live in God’s holy presence without fear for ever. O wondrous cross! Wondrous cross that can do that for us and do it for ever!

O perfect life of love!
All, all is finished now;
All that He left His throne above
To do—for us below.

And in His thorn-crowned head,
And in His sinless soul,
Our sins in all their guilt were laid,
That He might make us whole.

In perfect love He dies—
For me, He dies for me;
O all-atoning Sacrifice,
I cling by faith to Thee.

Yet work, O Lord, in me,
As Thou for me hast wrought;
And let my love the answer be
To grace Thy love has brought.

—Henry Williams Baker