The Cross

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
—Galatians 6:14

THE WORD CROSS HAS been translated from the Greek word, ‘stauros,’ which referred to a torture stake used as an instrument of capital punishment in the days of our Lord’s First Advent. There were several types in use. One was a single pole, or stake. Another had a crossbar at the very top to form a ‘T.’ Yet another had a cross bar at three-quarters of the way from the ground, which is the conventional cross used as an emblem by Christians. A fourth was two stakes crossed to make an ‘X.’


Much debate has taken place among some Christian groups as to which configuration was actually used to crucify our Lord. We think that it was the conventional cross used by Christians, because if a single stake were used, or any other configuration, it would not have been possible for Pilate to have a sign nailed to the cross above our Lord’s head.— Matt. 27:37; Luke 23:38; John 19:19-22

Of far more importance is the answer to the question, “What does the emblem of the cross mean to us?” We realize that many have died on a cross, but our Lord’s death was the only one in which the victim was innocent—“holy, harmless, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26)—entirely unworthy of a death sentence. He was the only one, therefore, whose dying was wholly voluntary; the only one who needed not to die, had he so willed it.


Why, then, did our Lord die? We note the existence of extensive suffering in the world today, and the reign of sickness, sorrow, pain, and death. These are obvious and undeniable facts, and everyone has been exposed to their effects. Who has not been touched? What circle has it not invaded: What home has it never entered?

“There is no flock however watched and tended
  But one dead lamb is there.
There is no fireside howsoever defended
  But hath one vacant chair.”

No power of man can bring the reign of death to an end. No mere philosophy can do it; no ordinary march of civilization; no discoveries of science; no changes in earthly, man-made governments can abolish the process of sin, pain and death. Nothing but the almighty power of God will suffice.

The Scriptures reveal that by the disobedience of one man, Adam, “sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” (Rom. 5:12) But we rejoice to know that by one man, Christ Jesus, comes “the resurrection of the dead.” (I Cor. 15:21) So we “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) He is the channel of blessing—the very hub, around which the Heavenly Father is pleased to have his great plan and purpose revolve.

The theme of Jesus at all times was, “Lo, I come … to do thy will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7; Ps. 40:8) And the Father’s loving purpose, as expressed in I John 4:10, was: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [or satisfaction] for our sins.” Also in I John 2:2 we read, “not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

God’s dear Son, in his prehuman condition, joyfully accepted this offer made to him of being a colaborer with his Father on behalf of the poor dead and dying world. He left the heavenly court and willingly laid aside that heavenly glory which he had next to the Father. In due time he was born in the flesh, and subsequently became the man Christ Jesus. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”—II Cor. 8:9

At thirty years of age he made a full consecration unto death. His ministry and sacrifice continued, as from Jordan to Calvary he poured out his very being unto death. This sacrificial life was consummated on the cruel cross, where he gave up his life—a “ransom for all.”—I Tim. 2:6

Death, which so sadly and surely affects the whole human race, is the logical and legal penalty for sin (Ezek. 18:4), not only because it has been plainly declared so in God’s Word, but also for reasons grounded in the Divine character—even the righteousness of Jehovah. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and the sinfulness of sin cannot be ignored. Therefore the penalty of death upon the race, condemned through Adam, could not be lifted without a ‘ransom’—a ‘corresponding price.’ The one (Adam) created perfect, afterwards sinned and brought death to himself and to all his posterity.

“Since through a man [Adam], there is death, through a man [Christ Jesus], also, there is a resurrection of the dead; for as by Adam all die, so by the Anointed also, will all be restored to life.” (I Cor. 15:21, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) “Ye were not redeemed [or set free by payment of a price] with corruptible things, as silver and gold, … But with the precious blood of Christ.”—I Pet. 1:18,19


Our Lord died by means of crucifixion between two criminals. This would doubtless mean to him the depth of humiliation. Every noble Christian prizing purity in his own heart would find it especially detestable to be so misunderstood as to be numbered with transgressors, murderers, thieves, criminals—actually accounted to be one of them.

Jesus loathed sin and utterly opposed it, in every sense of the word! From the Heavenly Father’s standpoint, permission that his beloved Son should be numbered with the transgressors was evidently to be a demonstration to angels and to men of his Son’s loyalty of heart under the most extreme and severest of tests. And Jesus “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”—Phil. 2:8

It would seem that it was not so much the shadow of death that confronted our Lord so prominently, but the shadow of the cross—the shame, dishonor, ignominy, defilement of the cross. One who hangs upon a cross is accursed of God, and is one that defiles the land. “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13) “He that is hanged is accursed of God.”—Deut. 21:23

Thus Jesus demonstrated, not only his willingness to die, but his willingness to die in the most despicable manner. He demonstrated thereby his full self-renunciation, the complete deadness of his own will, and the thorough aliveness of his own heart and mind to his Father’s will.

Here is a sublime lesson for us! Full self-renunciation to that consecration; the complete deadness of our own will, denying self until there is no self; and the thorough aliveness of our own heart and mind to our Father’s will are necessary to follow Christ. There is no room for self-pity, because self is to be dead.

If we suffer as a Christian, are persecuted, reviled, abused by language as Jesus was, should we revile or join the ranks of the persecutors in retaliation? We must not even take offense, because self is to be denied utterly.

As we view our Lord upon the cross, after having faithfully completed his sacrificial walk from Jordan to Calvary, we recall that, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) Though he was perfect, “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (vs. 9) Jesus was made perfect through suffering, and he was faithful in bearing his cross.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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