What the Cross Reveals
1. The cross reveals the wrath of God.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18; also Colossians 3:5,6 ).
God cannot deny His holy nature. He will not be mocked by sin. He must be faithful to Himself. Therefore, in the moral order which God has established, sin evokes His wrath and must be judged. Wrath, judgment, is always God’s response to sin. Since all have sinned, all stand under the wrath, the righteous judgment of God.
Just as a human judge cannot ignore the crimes of the defendant standing before him (if in fact the judge is just), neither can God ignore the breaking of moral law. The cross of Jesus makes no sense unless we understand the offensiveness of sin. If there is a God and if this God is holy and faithful to His own being, then God is always offended by sin and must express His offense. A holy God must judge sin or either God is not holy or He is not faithful to His own holy nature.
2. The cross reveals the mercy and love of God.
The cross reveals a God who confronts sin, yet in the confrontation, seeks to save the sinner. God confronted sin by incarnating Himself in human form and taking humanity’s sin, His judgment against our sin and the death which our sin created, upon Himself.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8; see also Galatians 2:20 and Ephesians 5:25).
There is a fundamental difference between the love of God and the anger or wrath of God. Anger is something which sin arouses in a holy God but love is part of the essence of God’s being, as the Psalmist reminds us, The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness (Psalm 103:8).
It is always God’s nature to love — this is an eternal, unchanging attribute of His being. A loving God desires to deliver the objects of His love from the wrath that necessarily comes upon us because of our sin — it is God’s lovingkindness that motivated Him to give Himself as the holy Sacrifice for our sin.
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the loving response of a holy God to the impossible human dilemma. We cannot escape God’s judgment nor can we satisfy it, atone for it, buy our way out of it or do enough charitable works to overcome it. Only God can deliver us from His wrath and this is what God has done. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself our sin and the consequence of our sin — God’s wrath, our resulting separation from God and the death which resulted from that separation.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:9).
3. The cross reveals the justice of God.
A just God demands justice when His righteous law is broken. Jesus, on the cross, bore the full judgment demanded by divine justice. This enables God to demonstrate His justness while declaring sinners to be justified. The cross shows God to be both just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23,24).
Through the cross of Jesus, God maintains His just, holy nature while declaring unjust sinners, who repent and place their faith in Christ, to be just. God is both just and justifier of the unjust.
Those who refuse to repent and trust in the sacrifice of Christ will bear their own judgment. But the one who trusts in the finished work of Christ on his or her behalf, Does not come into judgment but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
4. The cross reveals the wisdom and power of God.
The word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).
We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men (I Cor. 1:23-25).
The idea that God would appear in human form to die an atoning death for sinful humanity was scandalous and offensive to the religious Jew and absurd to the Gentile. But this crucified Savior is nothing other than God’s wise, powerful, life-giving remedy for sin and the death which sin creates.
In the foolishness of a crucified Savior, God offers a means of reconciliation with Himself which human religion, in all of its professed wisdom, is unable to provide. In the weakness of a crucified Savior, God powerfully breaks the chains of condemnation and death which had bound humanity. The Savior of the world, crucified in apparent foolishness and weakness, is the most perfect, majestic display of the wisdom and power of God.
When the Bible talks about the love of God, the focus is on covenant commitment and action, love demonstrated, love poured out into the lives of the beloved. The Bible does not say, “For God so loved the world that He sent roses and wrote beautiful songs.” Rather, we read, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). God’s love led to God’s action in the Self-giving life and death of Jesus.
Whereas our sin invited death into the human condition and aroused God’s wrathful judgment, our helplessness to save ourselves aroused His mercy. Through the cross, God offers grace and mercy to all who receive Him as a crucified Messiah. In that same cross, God pronounces judgment on those who reject the crucified Savior because, having rejected the Savior who bore their judgment, they must bear God’s judgment themselves.
The cross of Jesus Christ is the center point of history and provides the deepest revelation of the heart of God. It reveals the holiness of God requiring justice and the justice of God in judging sin. It reveals the love and mercy of God in bearing sin and judgment in our place. It reveals the wisdom of God in joining wrath, justice and love in this one instrument and it reveals the power of God in saving those who believe.
The cross demonstrates the wrath and justice of God positioned against sinners; the love of God expressed toward sinners; the wisdom and power of God released to save sinners.
5. The cross reveals the inadequacy of human religion.
All false religious systems are characterized by the deception that we can earn righteous standing before God through our religious works and rituals. These are religions of human achievement — if I can just do the ritual correctly, if I can give enough gifts or do enough works, I will atone for my sins and be reconciled to God. But there is no human offering or ritual that can truly cleanse us of sin. We cannot do enough good works or recite enough prayers to atone for even one sin. We cannot reconcile ourselves to God, cannot bridge the canyon of separation which we created through our sin and rebellion against God; cannot raise ourselves from the spiritual death and disintegration which we conceived and birthed by our sin.
Though our humanistic religions and philosophies are not able to deliver us from our sin or the consequence of sin, we can be saved by the grace of God. The cross reveals the inadequacy of human religion and God’s marvelous, wondrous gift of salvation to all who will receive it by faith.
6. The cross reveals the sovereignty and glory of God.
Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). From eternity, God purposed a Redeemer who would deliver humanity from the sin which He knew we would commit. We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Before there was a universe, God sovereignly chose to set His love and grace upon the very creatures who would someday rebel against His love and grace.
We are born into a world entangled in the cords of death, wrapped in a lethal destiny. Yet God sets before us an alternate destiny — forgiveness, resurrection. Who is this God? He the God who works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). This sovereign God testifies of Himself, Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ (Isaiah 46:9,10).
In establishing His eternal purpose to save death-bound sinners, we see a sovereign God displaying His glory.
7. The cross reveals the reason for the high praise of angels and saints.
And they sang a new song, saying,
‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals;
for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood
men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation’ (Rev. 5:9).
Men, women, children and angels from all times and places will gather to sing the praise of the Lamb, forever and ever:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches
and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. And every created thing
which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things
in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb,
be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living
creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:12-14).
1. How does the cross reveal the judgement and the mercy of God?
2. How does the cross reveal the wisdom and power of God?