Tag Archives: The Cross of Christ

“Christ is the law and the gospel in His own person” by Herman Bavinck

“According to the New Testament, all the different testimonies of the Law and the Prophets culminate in Christ. The whole Old Testament is basically fulfilled in Him. In Him all the promises of God are yes and amen (Rom. 15:8; 2 Cor. 1:20).

He is the true Messiah, the king of David’s house (Matt. 2:2; 21:5; 27:11, 37; Luke 1:32); the prophet who proclaims good news to the poor (Luke 4:17); the priest who, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, in His person, office, appointment, sacrifice, and sanctuary far exceeds the priesthood of the Old Testament.

He is the Servant of the Lord who as a slave (δουλος, Phil. 2:7–8) came to serve (Mark 10:45), submitted to the law (Gal. 4:4), fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), and was obedient to the death on the cross (Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8).

As such Jesus made a distinction between the kingdom of God as it was now being founded by Him in a spiritual sense and as it would one day be revealed in glory; between His first and His second coming, events that in Old Testament prophecy still coincided; between His work in the state of humiliation and that in the state of exaltation. The Christ had to enter glory through suffering (Luke 24:26).

The work that Christ now accomplishes in the state of humiliation is described in the New Testament from many different angles. It is a work that the Father gave Him to do (John 4:34; 5:36; 17:4); generally speaking, it consisted in doing God’s will (Matt. 26:42; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38) and specifically included the “exegesis” of God (John 1:18), the revelation and glorification of His name (17:4, 6, 26), the communication of God’s words (17:8, 14), and so on.

Christ is a prophet, mighty in words and deeds (Luke 24:19); He is not a new legislator but interprets the law (Matt. 5–7; 22:40; Luke 9:23; 10:28; John 13:34; 1 John 2:7–8), proclaims the gospel (Matt. 12:16–21; Luke 4:17–21), and in both preaches Himself as the fulfiller of the former and the content of the latter.

He is the law and the gospel in His own person. He is not a prophet only by the words He speaks but primarily by what He is. He is the Logos (John 1:1), full of grace and truth (John 1:17–18), anointed without measure with the Spirit (John 3:34), the revelation of the Father (John 14:9; Col. 2:9).

The source of His message is Himself, not inspiration but incarnation. God did not even speak with Him as He did with Moses, face to face, but was in Him and spoke through Him (Heb. 1:3). He is not one prophet among many, but the supreme, the only prophet.

He is the source and center of all prophecy; and all knowledge of God, both in the Old Testament before His incarnation and in the New Testament after His resurrection and ascension, is from Him (1 Pet. 1:11; 3:19; Matt. 11:27).

The will of God that Jesus came to do further included the miracles He performed. The one work (ἐργον) is differentiated in many works (ἐργα, John 5:36), which are the works of His Father (John 5:20; 9:3; 10:32, 37; 14:10).

They prove that the Father loves Him and dwells in Him (John 5:20; 10:38; 14:10), bear witness that the Father sent Him (John 5:36; 10:25), and manifest His divine glory (John 2:11; 11:4, 40). He not only performs miracles but in His person is Himself the absolute miracle.

As the incarnate Spirit-conceived, risen and glorified Son of God, He is Himself the greatest miracle, the center of all miracles, the author of the re-creation of all things, the firstborn of the dead, preeminent in everything (Col. 1:18).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 337-338.

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“Give me the cross of Christ!” by J.C. Ryle

“Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality. Let others hold forth the terrors of hell, and the joys of heaven. Let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church. Give me the cross of Christ!

This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins. And if this will not, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross.

Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honour those who honour the cross.

The cross is the foundation of a Church’s prosperity. No Church will ever be honoured in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up: nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross.

Without it all things may be done decently and in order. Without it there may be splendid ceremonies, beautiful music, gorgeous churches, learned ministers, crowded communion tables, huge collections for the poor.

But without the cross no good will be done. Dark hearts will not be enlightened, proud hearts will not be humbled, mourning hearts will not be comforted, fainting hearts will not be cheered.

Sermons about the Catholic Church and an apostolic ministry,—sermons about baptism and the Lord’s supper,—sermons about unity and schism,—sermons about fasts and communion,—sermons about fathers and saints,—such sermons will never make up for the absence of sermons about the cross of Christ.

They may amuse some: they will feed none. A gorgeous banqueting room, and splendid gold plate on the table, will never make up to a hungry man for a lack of food.

Christ crucified is God’s ordinance for doing good to men. Whenever a Church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a Church ceases to be useful.

Without Christ crucified in her pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a dumb witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hot-bed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God.”

–J.C. Ryle, Old Paths: Being Plain Statements of Some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity (London: Charles J. Thynne, 1898), 257-259.

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“The cross of Jesus Christ” by John Newton

“Dear Sir,

I have procured Cennick’s sermons;—they are in my judgment sound and sweet. O that you and I had a double portion of that spirit and unction which is in them!

Come, let us not despair: the fountain is as full and as free as ever—precious fountain, ever flowing with blood and water, milk and wine.

This is the stream that heals the wounded, refreshes the weary, satisfies the hungry, strengthens the weak, and confirms the strong: it opens the eyes of the blind, softens the heart of stone, teaches the dumb to sing, and enables the lame and paralytic to walk, to leap, to run, to fly, to mount up with eagle’s wings: a taste of this stream raises earth to heaven, and brings down heaven upon earth.

Nor is it a fountain only; it is a universal blessing, and assumes a variety of shapes to suit itself to our wants.

It is a sun, a shield, a garment, a shade, a banner, a refuge: it is bread, the true bread, the very staff of life: it is life itself, immortal, eternal life!

The cross of Jesus Christ, my Lord,
Is food and medicine, shield and sword.

Take that for your motto; wear it in your heart; keep it in your eye; have it often in your mouth, till you can find something better.

The cross of Christ is the tree of life and the tree of knowledge combined. Blessed be God!

There is neither prohibition nor flaming sword to keep us back; but it stands like a tree by the highway side, which affords its shade to every passenger without distinction.

Watch and pray. We live in a sifting time: error gains ground every day. May the name and love of our Saviour Jesus keep us and all his people! Either write or come very soon.

Yours,

John Newton”

–John Newton, “Letter IV – January 10, 1760” in The Works of John Newton, Vol. 2, Ed. Richard Cecil (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 67–68.

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“The whole God is found in Him” by John Calvin

“When Paul says that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he means simply that the whole God is found in Him, so that he who is not satisfied with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God. The sum is that God has manifested Himself to us fully and perfectly in Christ.”

–John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 330. Calvin is commenting on Colossians 2:9.

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“Christ’s death is the Christian’s life” by J.C. Ryle

“These verses show us the peculiar plan by which the love of God has provided salvation for sinners. That plan is the atoning death of Christ on the cross.

Our Lord says to Nicodemus, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’

By being ‘lifted up,’ our Lord meant nothing less than His own death upon the cross. That death, He would have us know, was appointed by God to be ‘the life of the world.’ (John 6:51.) It was ordained from all eternity to be the great propitiation and satisfaction for man’s sin.

It was the payment, by an Almighty Substitute and Representative, of man’s enormous debt to God. When Christ died upon the cross, our many sins were laid upon Him.

He was made ‘sin’ for us. He was made ‘a curse’ for us. (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13.) By His death He purchased pardon and complete redemption for sinners.

The brazen serpent, lifted up in the camp of Israel, brought health and cure within the reach of all who were bitten by serpents. Christ crucified, in like manner, brought eternal life within reach of lost mankind.

Christ has been lifted up on the cross, and man looking to Him by faith may be saved. The truth before us is the very foundation-stone of the Christian religion.

Christ’s death is the Christian’s life. Christ’s cross is the Christian’s title to heaven. Christ ‘lifted up’ and put to shame on Calvary is the ladder by which Christians ‘enter into the holiest,’ and are at length landed in glory.

It is true that we are sinners—but Christ has suffered for us.

It is true that we deserve death—but Christ has died for us.

It is true that we are guilty debtors—but Christ has paid our debts with His own blood.

This is the real Gospel! This is the good news! On this let us lean while we live.

To this let us cling when we die. Christ has been ‘lifted up’ on the cross, and has thrown open the gates of heaven to all believers.”

–J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 141-143. Ryle is commenting on John 3:9-21.

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“The sun of Paul’s soul” by J.C. Ryle

“Reader, Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence, the foundation and the resting place, the ark and the refuge, the food and the medicine of Paul’s soul. He did not think of what he had done himself, and suffered himself.

He did not meditate on his own goodness, and his own righteousness. He loved to think of what Christ had done, and Christ had suffered,—of the death of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the blood of Christ, the finished work of Christ. In this he did glory. This was the sun of his soul.

This is the subject he loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own heart’s blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world telling people that Jesus Christ had loved them, and died for their sins upon the cross.

Mark how he says to the Corinthians, ‘I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.’ (1 Cor. 15:3.) ‘I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’ (1 Cor. 2:2.)

He,—a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee, had been washed in Christ’s blood. He could not hold his peace about it. He was never weary of telling the story of the cross.

This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ,—how they run over with thoughts that breathe, and words that burn about Christ’s dying love and power.

His heart seems full of the subject. He enlarges on it constantly. He returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching and practical exhortation. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can never hear too much of the cross.

This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, ‘The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20.)

What made him so strong to labor? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavoring to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Jesus crucified was the meat and drink of his soul.

And, reader, you may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the cross of Christ,—the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners,—is the centre truth in the whole Bible.

This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified.

This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the law of Moses and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple,—all these were emblems of Christ crucified.

This is the truth that we see honored in the vision of heaven before we close the book of Revelation. ‘In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,’ we are told, ‘and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain.’ (Rev. 5:6.)

Even in the midst of heavenly glory we get a view of Christ crucified. Take away the cross of Christ, and the Bible is a dark book. It is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, without the key that interprets their meaning,—curious and wonderful, but of no real use.”

–J.C. Ryle, “What Think You of the Cross?” in Startling Questions (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 273–276.

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“The terrible and tender God of love” by G.K. Chesterton

“Happiness is not to be found by dancing after any heathen god of love. Happiness is found by looking up to where a more terrible but a more tender God of love hangs, not on Olympus but on Calvary.”

–G.K. Chesterton, “Chaucer: The Garden of Romance,” in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton (San Francisco: St. Ignatius Press, 1991), 18: 264.

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