Aspects of the Cross

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
As a believer I had absolutely nothing to do with my sin's judgment on the cross, nor with the bearing of my sins there. The only begotten Son of God was there alone for me. “God made Him sin for us,” not us with Him; “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” not we bare our sins with Him. “For Christ hath also suffered for sins, the just for the unjust,” &c. Here we have purely substitution. His alone was the judgment, just as surely as the sin and sins were ours alone; i.e., not His. in any part (I speak the language of believers); no thought of association here, but purely substitution.
But does not Paul as a believer say “I am (more correctly, have been) crucified with Christ,” (Gal. 2:20)? Is not that association? Yes, truly; but who crucified Christ? Was it God? Nay; we do not so read God's word. It was man (in the expression of his hatred for God, and for that which is good) that crucified Him. See the uniform testimony of God's word. We read e.g. in Acts 2:23 (a comment on what we read in the Gospels), that the Jews by the hand of lawless men crucified and slew Christ. Christ also Himself recognized His crucifixion as their wicked deed by praying His Father to forgive those who put Him on the cross. This was not the judgment of sin. God did not transfer the judgment of sin into man's wicked hands. It was in fact just the reverse; it was man's judgment of righteousness: an altogether different thing. Man did not carry out the judgment of God on sin, although in his awful wickedness he put Jesus the Son of God in the place, where He in infinite grace to man bowed to the righteous judgment of God on man's sin.
Here then are the two great aspects of Christ on the cross. The cross was devised and prepared by man. The sufferings imposed on Jesus there by man were man's estimate of what he deserved Who is the Righteous One. They hated Him without a cause. The penitent robber said truly “This man hath done nothing amiss.” On the other hand, on the very cross where the lawless hands of man had put Him, there God's grace met man's need, by judging sin in the person of Christ, instead of in wicked man. Where man's enmity against God was most clearly proved, there was the love of God to guilty man perfectly declared, for it met him in the crowning act of his wickedness; and man was most emphatically shown to deserve what the Son of God there suffered in his stead at God's hand. But the thought is not to be entertained that the cross pure and simple, with the intense bodily suffering resulting from it, was in any part the bearing of sin's judgment, although on the cross of Christ sin was judged not by man but by God. The suffering of Christ imposed by man was man unrighteously judging Him. It is well therefore to have it clear before us that this therefore could not in any part be God's righteous judgment of sin.
Now, as suffering the unrighteous judgment of man, every believer has necessarily fellowship with Christ. This is the believer's cross. What! has the believer a cross? Was not Christ crucified in my stead? No, it is not so written, for that would mean that Christ bore the reproach of men, that you and I as believers might bear none of it. We have been crucified with Him. The cross of shame whereon the world nailed the Son of God, expressed the world's hatred, not only of Him, but of all who are His (John 15:18-20). The Lord Jesus was, in His walk before men just as He is ever before God, i.e., perfect. He was therefore hated to the uttermost. And so, in the measure the believer manifests His life, in that measure shall he suffer His reproach. Every disciple of Christ bears a cross. It is his (the disciple's) cross. Without it he cannot be a disciple i.e., Jesus' disciple (Luke 14:27). It is the reproach of Christ i.e., as reproached by man. Christ did not say “And whosoever doth not bear my cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This would mean perfection of reproach, and would imply perfection of walk. But every believer, in his measure, suffers reproach. It is the same character as was Christ's, and therefore it is called a cross; but it is his cross and not Christ's. Although every disciple bears his cross, God forbid that he should glory in it, but only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).
It may not be out of place here to say a few words about a prevalent and erroneous usage of the word “cross.” It is used often indiscriminately as applying to every variety of trial and suffering, commonly even by and of unbelievers. It is clear that, wing the language of scripture, no unbeliever bears a cross. The world loves, not hates, its own (John 15:19). Again we hear of “crosses,” meaning adverse turns of circumstances or something of the kind. Now, how wrong this is! for, although every believer bears a cross, there is but one for him, and he should bear it not only as an occasional thing but “daily.” It is the reproach of Christ, and no suffering or reproach can be called a cross, but that which flows from the unrighteous judgment of man on that which is like Christ in us. And surely if this is my cross, ought I to allude to it mournfully, and not rather as something to be highly esteemed (Heb. 11:26)? It is a most blessed privilege (Phil. 3:8, 9, 10), and cause of rejoicing (Luke 6:22, 23). It is to be remarked that before Christ suffered on the cross, He even then spoke of each disciple necessarily bearing his cross. Christ Himself was really even during His ministry on earth bearing His cross. If you read such portions as Luke 14:27; 9:23, Matt. 10:38; 16:24, Mark 8:34, where it speaks of any one taking up his cross and following Christ, I think it is plain that the idea brought out there was not that the disciple, bearing a cross, was following Christ without a cross. Man hated Christ none the less before He was on the cross; but the cross perfectly expressed that hatred. The reason why they did not lay hands on Him sooner was “because His hour had not yet come.” John 7:30; 8:20. O the infinite depth of grace displayed on the cross! Hear the words of, Jesus:—
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). If you hate Me so much that you say, “Away with Him, away with Him,” and lift Me up from you and from the earth, I will there and then manifest My love to you, and will not say, “Away with them, away with them,” but I will draw all unto me.”
Marvelous triumph of grace! Here, where grace shines perfectly (in Christ on the cross), may we behold Him, the despised and rejected of men, and seek to know the fellowship of His sufferings at man's hand, while His mission to man was saving grace. D. T.