Why The Cross Matters Most

Published on February 15, 2010 by CT in Blog, Theology


Is it possible to talk too much about the cross?

I ask this question only because some preachers and writers and teachers seem to talk about the cross a lot.  Some do so almost continually.  We can understand why they might carry on in this way because we know the primacy and weight of Calvary.  But there are still times this thought crosses many of our minds:  “Great, so I understand the cross is important.  But can’t we move on to the next topic?”

We say this sort of thing when we feel our faith is about more than Jesus.  And in one sense, we can say this is true.  Our faith is about God’s glory, and our joy, and loving others, and meeting the needs of the oppressed, and being made holy, and sojourning through life, and laying up treasures in heaven, and all sorts of other things.  In this way, we are saying the expression of our faith is about many things.

But in another sense, the entirety of our faith is about Jesus.  God’s grand, redemptive story begins with a foretelling of the coming Seed.  His chosen servants foreshadow His mission.  His prophets herald His arrival.  As history progresses onward, we begin to see the entirety of God’s revelation to humanity as pointing towards the advent of the Messiah.  This is perhaps why Paul says, “All the promises of God find their Yes in Him” (2 Cor 1:20).  In this second kind of way, we are saying the purpose of our faith is about one thing:  Jesus.

So when we find the purpose of our faith is about Jesus, we have to ask ourselves the question:  why is this so?  What is it about the person of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, the work of Jesus, which makes Him the reason for our faith?  And this is what leads us to the cross.

Here’s why the cross matters:  It is at the cross that we see God most clearly.  If history were the vastness of space, the cross would be its brightest star.  We see the fullness of God’s being most clearly at the cross.  We see the fullness of His active purposes most clearly at the cross.

At the cross

…We see God’s sovereignty—reigning with absolute control over humanity’s greatest sin.

…We see God’s purpose—making known the mystery of His will prepared before time.

…We see God’s plan—to unite all things, on heaven and on earth, in Him.

…We see God’s judgment—requiring recompense for guilt.

…We see God’s holiness—demanding the perfect sacrifice.

…We see God’s power—crushing the Son of God according to the purpose of His will.

…We see God’s wrath—punishing the wretchedness of sin.

…We see God’s sorrow—wailing as only a forsaken son can.

…We see God’s mystery—the Son, as God, separated from the Father, committing His Spirit to God.

…We see God’s compassion—pleading to the Father to forgive the ignorant.

…We see God’s gift—His one and only Son, bruised and broken on our behalf.

…We see God’s mercy—making unrighteous sinners righteous.

…We see God’s love—Christ dying for sinners.

…We see God’s rescue operation—delivering us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.

…We see God’s proposal—pledging Himself to His bride forever.

…We see God’s revelation—the Word of God speaking His last so He might speak on behalf of many.

…We see God’s victory—disarming His enemies, putting them to shame, and triumphing over them.

…We see God’s glory—the name of the Father being magnified for the sake of all peoples.

But seeing God most clearly is not an end to itself.  If it were, then the point of all history would be our own clarity of sight.  But that is not history’s purpose.  Everything exists for Jesus, so that in everything He might preeminent.  We study the Scriptures to know more of God.  We look forward with great hope to the day we will see Him face to face.  But in the here and now, we know God most fully when we look upon the person and work of Jesus on the cross.

It is only when we behold the Son of God most clearly that we can magnify Him most fully, acknowledging His preeminence in all things, which reflects more brightly the reality of His glory.  This is why one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, because on that day, all will see Him as He is, either toward our greatest joy or our greatest sorrow.

So if you preach and teach about the cross, remember that we, as your people, need the lens of your preaching to continually focus our hearts on the crucified Son of God.  And if we hear or read about the cross and wonder what is next, that we’re ready to move beyond it, let us remember that the cross matters for our yesterday, and our today, and our tomorrow.

And let us always hold the best of our hearts, the fullness of our hearts, for the One whose scars will testify for eternity to the glory and horror of that day that made possible the one day we will enjoy with Him forever.

  • A T

    Love it!

  • Jessie Beardsley

    I just love your blog! Thank you! Wanted to share with you something I'm reading now that springboards right off your piece! Something to give us all pause…….What do you think? I am quoting John Eldridge from his book "Waking the Dead", pgs. 63- 65.

    "The cross was never meant to be the only or even the central symbol of Christianity………………….That you are shocked by what I've just said only proves how far we've strayed from the faith of the New Testament. The cross is not the sole focal point of Christianity. Paul says so himself: 'If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith'……………Four hundred years of the earliest and most vibrant Christianity goes by without the cross as its rallying point. Those who walk with Jesus, and those who walked with those who walked with Jesus- they didn't make the cross central? Why?……………………The early Christian church symbolized the Resurrection, healings and miracles because the church thought those things were central……….those are what God himself wants us to focus on. Those are the point. Those make Christianity such very good news."

    I know that was long, but it's really just a "teaser". It is an eye-opener……not meant to be a chastisement here, either, by any stretch! I am moved by your blog today- so true……and it spurred me to review these passages as well- so true!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Hi Jessie,

      Thanks for sharing these thoughts. And I appreciate you challenging my thoughts, even though I know you didn't mean them as a chastisement.

      In one sense, I think Eldridge is absolutely right–the cross is not the sole focal point of Christianity. There are many aspects of our faith that are important, and I suppose debating which is "most" important is kind of like debating whether God's love or justice or power is most important. I would say that Jesus is the sole focal point of Christianity—and that would include His life, work, death, resurrection, advocacy, and headship.

      In another sense, I'm not sure Eldridge’s usage of Paul's statement is completely relevant. Paul's statement in 1 Cor 15 is a rebuttal to those who claimed there was no resurrection from the dead. He's not really addressing people who are making the cross the central symbol of Christianity. So I would be cautious in using that passage as support for the point he is trying to make.

      I think the spirit of what he is perhaps trying to say, though perhaps not, is right: that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are inextricably tied together as deeply important events that make our faith possible. We cannot separate one from the other, so it may be best to leave it at that. But if we were to probe a bit more, we could also say something like, “The cross makes us right with God, while the resurrection guarantees the hope we have in God .” Or to put it another way: “The work of God through Jesus on the cross is the basis for our faith, and the work of God through Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for the hope we have in our faith.”

      I point to the cross because that’s the foundation of the hope we have in Christ. When we focus on the “Resurrection, healings, and miracles” rather than the cross, we may find ourselves focusing on the gifts instead of the Giver, or on the evidence for our faith rather than the basis for our faith. Or if we say those things are “the point,” we run the risk of making something other than Jesus “the point,” which challenges Paul’s notion in Col 1 that Jesus is the point of all things.

      Three other passages in 1 Corinthians (where Eldridge draws out his point) are gospel-centric and point us towards this kind of orientation:

      “For Christ [sent me] to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17).

      “For Jews demand signs (healings, miracles) but we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:22-23).

      “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2)

      At the end of the day, perhaps we affirm the glories of the Cross and the Resurrection, placing our faith in Jesus because of what He did for us on the cross and continuing in hope because His Resurrection. I’d love any other thoughts or comments you may have in response. Thanks again!

  • http://www.christiancognition.blogspot.com Mike

    Great post, and great follow-up conversation between you and Jessie! Heard about your site after hearing your interview with Paul Edwards (WRDT Detroit) today.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      Mike, you must have good taste if you listen to Paul =). Thanks for stopping by and for the encouraging words.

  • http://www.christiancognition.blogspot.com Mike

    Funny! He turned me on to you, didn't he? So he must be a smart guy.

    (BTW, I linked your site and posted part of this article (what we see in the cross) on my blog because I think others need to see it. I gave you the credit for it. Hope you don't mind the hat tip.)

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