Kyle McDanell is the pastor of Goshen Baptist Church. He blogs at Blogizomai.
At the core of Christianity stands the cross. It’s no wonder the cross has become the symbol of our faith.
Here are four truths of the cross that show why the atonement is central to our faith:
1. At the cross, we see God’s clearest revelation of Himself.
Too often we approach Scripture as a divine encyclopedia. If I want to know what the Bible says about pride, marriage, suffering, or election I simply open my Bible, highlight a number of verses and suddenly I know what the Bible says about a given subject.
This can be a dangerous and misguided approach. We rightly believe that the entire Bible is God’s special revelation to man, but the purpose and climax of Scripture is the Creator’s redemption of a cursed humanity and cosmos.
Thus the cross stands as the central message of Scripture and is itself a divine act of revelation. We see God most clearly through the lens of the cross. The cross reveals His sovereignty, providence, benevolence, justice, power, holiness, mercy, glory, and victory. Any study of God, therefore, would be incomplete without a study of the cross, for it is there that God has made Himself known.
2. The cross personifies God’s love.
Though highlighted above, the subject of the cross and God’s love deserves special attention. In Scripture, we find that God’s love is often written in the past tense or in direct reference to the cross. Consider the following examples:
- John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…
- Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- Ephesians 5:2 - Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…
- Titus 3:4-5 - But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared…
- 1 John 3:16 - We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us…
- 1 John 4:19 - We love, because He first loved us.
This subtle difference between the past and present tense is important. The apostles are not saying that God’s love has ceased but that it is continually demonstrated by the cross. God is love because God loved.
3. The cross is the means by which God saves sinners.
The New Testament authors utilize a number of images of salvation. Here are a few of those motif’s and what redemptive doctrine is associated with them:
- The Court (justification)
- The Shrine (propitiation/expiation)
- The Home (reconciliation)
- The Orphanage (adoption)
- The Battlefield (Liberation)
- The Market (redemption)
These are not theories but actual images frequently used throughout the New Testament of the atonement. All of them point to the central theme of Scripture that God has come down to save sinners. He is the justifier of the guilty, the liberator of slaves, and the adopted Father of spiritual orphans. He pays our ransom, redeems us of our sins, and reconciles us to Himself. There is no salvation, therefore, outside of the cross.
4. The cross is the standard of what it means to be a Christian.
In Matthew 16, Jesus says He must go to the cross. In verse 24 Jesus adds that if He must go to the cross, then anyone who wishes to follow Him must likewise pick up their cross and follow Him.
Thus, for Jesus, Christianity is summarized in the cross. A Christian is a follower of Christ who has counted the cost, picked up their cross, and died with their Savior.
Christians are described as having crucified the flesh (Galatians 5:24), died to their sin (Romans 6:1; 1 Corinthians 15:31; 1 Peter 2:24), and are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
The only saving Christ, then, is a dying one. The only living Christian is a crucified one.
The cross is at the center of God’s redemptive work. Preachers must, therefore, preach the cross as their only strength. Sinners must embrace the cross as their only hope. And church members must pick up their cross as their only way to life.