by Lauren Dyck
Good Friday, a day when Christians all over the world remember the crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This selfless act of our Lord is the climax of our faith, without the cross, there is no Christianity. Paul tells the church in Corinth that though the “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, [he preaches] Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
R. C. Sproul, in his book The Truth of the Cross, writes:
“…one of the most important subdivisions of theology is Christology, which is the study of the person and work of Christ. Within that field of study, when we want to get at the aspect that we may call the ‘crux’ of the matter of Jesus’ person and work, we go immediately to the cross. The words crucial and crux both have their root in the Latin word for ‘cross,’ and they have come into the English language with their current meanings because the concept of the cross is at the very center and core of biblical Christianity. In a very real sense, the cross crystallizes the essence of the ministry of Jesus.”
As such, the wooden cross has become a well-recognized symbol for the Christian faith; we see it on pulpits, as part of church logos, on Bible covers, and we see it everywhere as it relates to the Christian church. But, like many popular symbols, the cross has become such a common theme that it may often be easy for us as Christians to overlook the significance of what it represents. We get a vivid picture of the cross and how Jesus—beaten, bleeding, and bruised—would have been tied to this heavy wooden beam and been forced to march through the town in humiliation before being lifted onto the post to which He was brutally nailed, and hung there in agony until He, God the Son, died.
Why such a brutal, violent death? I want to consider 3 implications of the cross and the results accomplished by Christ’s crucifiction, beginning with:
Through the cross, God’s wrath is satisfied
Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
God’s wrath is a subject too often ignored or rejected by many professing Christians. It’s a lot harder to consider God’s wrath than, say, His love. We may even consider these two to be opposed to each other, but any true consideration of God’s attributes helps us to see that all His attributes—His love, His wrath, justice, holiness, etc.—all exist together and are at all times, equally active for God is immutable, He does not change.
J. I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, defines wrath as “deep, intense anger and indignation. Anger is defined as stirring of resentful displeasure and strong antagonism, by a sense of injury or insult; indignation as righteous anger aroused by injustice and baseness.” One of my Greek lexicons speaks of the wrath of God as “that reaction of his divine nature against sin which in anthropomorphic language is called anger.”
The Scriptures make the point that just as God is good to those who trust Him, His wrath is on those who do not. Nahum 1:2-8 reads, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.”
The apostle Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 are sufficient to show that Nahum’s emphasis on God’s wrath is not distinct to the Old Testament Scriptures alone, “since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”
Clearly, the subject of God’s divine wrath is one that the biblical writers, inspired by the Spirit of God, did not avoid, and try to diminish, so, likewise, neither should we. In fact, if God did not react adversely to evil in this world, He would not be morally perfect. But it is due to His moral perfection that He reveals His divine wrath against all that oppose His perfect law.
Now, if God’s wrath, His anger, and indignation, are revealed against those who oppose His law—or as we read earlier in Romans 1:18, “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness”—then who does this speak of, for Paul also states in Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, no, not one.”
You see, God is our righteous judge who judges all people according to His holy standard (Psalm 7:8-9).
We are all accountable to God as our judge, each person will one day stand before our creator God in judgment, and He will be just. He must use right judgment, or He would not be righteous, and, according to Romans 2:6, He will “render to each one, according to their works.” Why? The previous verse in Romans 2:5 tells us, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” And as already seen in v. 6, “He will render to each one according to his works.”
We will be judged by our works, and we are slaves to sin. We are not free to live as we please, but desire to gratify the lusts of our flesh. Jesus, Himself tells us in the gospel of John 8:34, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:26 that we are in the “snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” In fact, John tells us not only do we do the will of the devil, but, in our unregenerate state, this too is our will. Jesus’ own words in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desire.”
We are in a hopeless state; the very inclination of our human nature is evil; we cannot please God. Romans 8:8 states this very clearly when Paul writes, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
A slave cannot set himself free, a blind person cannot regain his own sight, and the deaf cannot restore their own hearing.
Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
We are dead in our trespasses and sins…can we bring ourselves to life?
We are children of wrath…can we appease that wrath?
All of these questions are rhetorical and can be answered with a resounding “NO!” This paints a bleak portrait and doesn’t do much for our self-esteem. In fact, it should have the opposite effect on our personal disposition than what is so prominently promoted in our culture, and sadly, often in our churches as well, where many are told to “just be yourself,” “just feel better about yourself,” or “just follow your heart.”
You see, the point is, we are sinners and we have offended a perfectly righteous God with our sin, and, once again, Romans 1:18 tells us that the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.”
Now, how does that truth make us feel? We can do nothing apart from divine intervention, apart from the work of the Spirit of God; we are helpless and hopeless to do anything about our spiritual condition in and of ourselves, and, in this state, the full wrath of God will be poured out on all who do not trust Him alone for their salvation.
But that’s the beauty of the gospel, the good news: it doesn’t end there. We have a perfect savior who made a way for us to be reconciled to God.
Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
The righteous shall live by faith and the wrath of God will be revealed on the unrighteous. So how do we partake in God’s righteousness so that we won’t fall under the wrath of God?
1 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
When we trust in Christ alone, our sin is transferred onto Him and while He was on the cross, the wrath of God was poured out onto His only son, Jesus Christ, and the righteousness of Christ is transferred to us. We see this again in Romans 3:23-26, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Jesus Christ, God the Son, became a willing and sufficient sacrifice for all who believe. He turned aside the wrath of God; this is what the word “propitiation” speaks of, that He [Jesus] turned aside the holy and just wrath of God that was meant to destroy our sin, He turned it aside by taking our sins upon Himself on the cross, then the wrath of God was poured out on Him, and in this single act, in the death of Jesus Christ, the wrath of God was satisfied, and for us who trust in this work of Christ, “Since…we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).
This leads us to our second implication of the cross, God’s love…
Through the cross, God’s love is exemplified
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
The greatest act of love, according to Jesus, is to lay down one’s life for someone else, and this is exactly what He, Jesus did.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” God the Son showed the love of God by assuming human form and keeping God’s law perfectly, becoming the sufficient sacrifice for our sins.
We read in Romans 3, that the righteousness of God was manifested to all of us through faith in the work of Christ and we are justified by His grace through faith in the gospel.
The life of Jesus Christ displayed the righteousness of God, and because we are slaves to sin, we needed someone who is not a slave to sin, someone who conquered sin by their life, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14-15)
Because the life of Christ displayed the righteousness of God, His death was able to satisfy the wrath of God.
All this, this atoning work of Jesus Christ, was because of the great love that God has for His children. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes I him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus became a sacrifice according to the will of God, by becoming a man and being obedient to God, even unto death.
“[Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
In v. 6, we see Jesus’ deity verified, He was “in the form of God,” and the writer of Hebrews says it in this way, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” (Hebrews 1:3)
Then in Philippians 2:7 we see that Jesus “emptied Himself BY taking the form of a servant,” not THEN taking the form of a servant. We see an example here of subtraction by addition; Jesus was fully God but the act of adding the human nature did not remove His deity, but rather, Paul is stressing that Christ, who had all the privileges that were rightly his as King of the universe, gave them up to become an ordinary Jewish baby bound for the cross. Christ made himself nothing by taking the form of a servant. The emptying consisted of His becoming human, not of His giving up any part of His deity.
Then in v. 8, we see He humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross. The Roman cross was not just considered some convenient form of execution, but rather the ultimate sign of indignity & contempt, where the prisoner would be shamed while dying in excruciating pain.
Because Jesus was God in human form, He was able to provide an acceptable sacrifice in His body, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’’ When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:5-10, 14).
In the incarnation, life, and death of Jesus we see the ultimate example of God’s love. Jesus became a willing sacrifice knowing that He would be hated, shamed, scorned, and murdered by His creation, His creatures, yet He endured patiently because of His love for the very people who despised Him. He endured the anguish of the cross, the wrath of the Father poured out on Him because He loved us. Truly, no greater love can exist than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend, and in Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross, God’s love is exemplified!
God’s wrath satisfied, His love exemplified, all that His name would be glorified…
Through the cross, God’s name is glorified
This brings us to our final point: through the cross, God’s name is glorified.
The Greek word translated as glory speaks of honor and worship.
One definition I read on the glory of God went like this: “The glory of God is the magnificence, worth, loveliness, and grandeur of his many perfections, which he displays in his creative and redemptive acts in order to make his glory known to those in his presence.” God’s glory is revealed in all things for the purpose of drawing us to worship Him. By giving Him glory, we are not adding to His glory, we are acknowledging that which is due Him, though imperfectly, by worshiping Him and honoring Him in our lives, thoughts, and deeds.
God does all things according to His purpose, according to His will, and for His own glory to be shown in all of His creation. Therefore, through His plan of salvation: the incarnation, the suffering, and death of His Son, ultimately reveals the glory of God.
In John 13:31-32, Jesus verifies that the Father is glorified through the glorification of the Son in His crucifixion when he wrote, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once.”
Jesus, again in John 17:1-5 in His high priestly prayer reveals the glory He gave the Father through accomplishing the work for which he was sent to do. (READ)
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (READ). God Has chosen to glorify Himself in making foolish the wisdom of man.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
He made a way of salvation through the cross of Christ that man can only deem as foolish, lest our eyes be opened by God Himself to see the marvelous wisdom that He has portrayed in His salvation plan; a plan in which His wrath is satisfied, and at the very same time, His love is exemplified, and ultimately, His name is glorified.
One thought on “The Cross: God’s Wrath Satisfied, His Love Exemplified, and His Name Glorified”
Pingback: The Cross: God’s Love Exemplified – Abide in the Word