Why the Cross?

Dear members of PRCW and readers of this post: Last week, on Good Friday, we “live streamed” a service at our church building. That can be viewed below (you’ll find it aired on April 10 at 10 a.m.). In that sermon, at the very beginning, it was mentioned that every religion and ideology has its own symbolism which illustrates its own history and beliefs. Buddhism has a lotus flower, which, because of its wheel shape, they claim it depicts the cycle of birth and death, or the emergence of beauty and harmony out the muddy waters of chaos. Modern Judaism uses the Star of David as a symbol of what they are longing for, namely, the coming of their Messiah to rescue them out of that royal line. Secular theologies also have their symbolism. Think of the Marxist “hammer and sickle”. It symbolizes the union of urban industrial labour and rural working class.

Christianity has had it history of symbolism as well and that one symbol has predominantly been the cross.

Why the cross? What does the cross of Christ signify?

Well, obviously, we cannot go on the mistaken notion that the two pieces of wood – one vertical on top of one horizontal – are going to save you!. That would be ludicrous.

It is what was accomplished on the cross that saves sinners, namely, what Jesus did on the cross that makes them right with God.

It is important that this be made clear. One word that explains it well is: “exchange”.

The Book of Romans can be summarized in the same one word: exchange. In fact, as the Apostle Paul summarizes the teaching of Roman 1:18- 5:11, he concludes that we should “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” That word for reconciliation is the word “exchange”.

In his book, In Christ Alone , Dr. Sinclair Ferguson outlines five exchanges:

1. Exchange #1 – is described in Romans 1:18-32. There we’re told that God created the universe to display His glory, but mankind in his sin and corruption “(ex)changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man….” “He exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the Creator, who is blessed forever.” Men and women “exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.” See Romans 1:23-26.

2. Exchange #2 – is the consequence of this corruption. God exchanged the privilege of communion with Him for His righteous wrath. Instead of knowing, trusting, and glorifying God, man by his ungodliness and unrighteousness brought forth God’s judgment – so much so that the conscience hardening and body destroying effects of their rebellion are the judgment of God. As Romans 1:28 says, “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” It goes on to list them in verses 29-32:
“being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

3. Exchange #3 – is the gracious exchange that God provided in Christ. God provided in Christ redemption through His blood. The Son of God took on human nature and He came in the flesh in order to exchange places with Adam. We see this in Romans 5:12-21, especially in 5:19 – “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

4. Exchange #4 – is that which is offered to us: righteousness is exchanged for unrighteousness, and justification in the place of condemnation. This is made clear in Romans 3:21 and 22 – “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.”

5. Exchange #5 – is the benefit of this justification which we obtain by faith. Unbelief is exchanged for (or gives way to) faith; rebellion is exchanged for trust. Justification – being declared righteous – is not by our works but through faith in Christ! See 4:23-25.
[Five points from Sinclair Ferguson, “The Romans Exchange” (Ch. 7) In Christ Alone]

The point is: you need Exchanges #3-5 to live and die comfortably. If you don’t Exchanges #1-2 remain upon you.

If you do believe in Christ, you can be assured of your salvation. Then a great exchange has taken place.

This is why the Apostle Paul writes elsewhere: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

May your boast only be in the cross of Christ!

In Christ,
Pastor Rich Anjema