Romans Lesson 50 - What the Cross of Christ Destroys
Christians have always realized that the cross of Christ has the power to save. But did you know that it is also has the power to destroy? Join Stephen in this profound message as he reminds us what the cross of Christ destroys.
“What the Cross of Christ Destroys”
Several years ago a university professor was teaching a class on rappelling. This sport involves securing a stout rope on top of a cliff and lowering yourself to the bottom of the cliff. The instructor took her class to the roof of a campus building, secured the rope to a large steel grid, grasped the rope, stood on the edge of the roof and leaned out over the edge. To the horror of the class, the grid popped out of the roof and the professor plunged to her death. She had faith in her rope; she had faith in her ability to rappel, and she had faith in the steel grid to which she tied her rope. The problem was not her lack of faith, but one of the objects of her faith. The anchor to which she had entrusted her life was faulty.
Lifetime Guarantee, “Do You Have Enough Faith?” by Bill Gillham, June 1992, Volume XVI, Number VI, p. 1
I read some time ago about an executive in a downtown office building. He loved to scare the new staff members whenever they were in the board room of their suite which was 20 floors high. He would suddenly leap against one of the large, floor to ceiling windows in the board room. Of course, the windows were built very strong and thick, strong enough to withstand incredible pressure and wind force. One day, he was initiating another new staff member he wanted to startle and impress with his bravado. Shoulder first, he rammed into the window as he had done many times before, only this time, to the shock and horror of his staff, when he lunged against the window, it suddenly shattered and he fell out and plunged to his death. Foolishness? Without a doubt . . . but an exercise of faith in an object that was weaker than he thought. And he died because of it.
One author tells the true story of something that happened in the 19th century.
He tells the story about Sam and his wife Bessie who lived on the west bank of a wide river. Across the half-mile river was a small trading post that sold everything from tools and supplies to medicine. Because there were not bridges, they crossed the river by rowboat and in winter they crossed over on the ice. One winter, they briefly shared their cabin with a traveler who unknowingly shared something with them . . . a highly contagious disease. In a matter of weeks Bessie had developed a high fever . . . Sam recognized the symptoms and knew his wife had only a few days to live. The antidote which would kill the bacteria was available at the trading post.
It was early winter and the nights were cold. Although the river lay frozen, Sam was confident that the ice was neither thick enough to support his weight nor thin enough for his boat. But he dearly loved Bessie and determined he’d rather die trying to cross the ice that live without her. He kissed her fevered brow and went down to the river. He’d never tried this early in winter to cross it on foot . . . so he pushed a large plank of wood in front of him as he stretched his body on the ice, hoping that distributing his weight might keep him from breaking through. But in his heart he believed that the ice was not going to support. Slowly he inched out onto the ice, praying as he slid the board before him. Things went well for the first 20 or 30 minutes, he was well out on the river, but then the ice began to groan. Slowly he scooted forward . . . more groaning . . . more prayers . . . a few feet further and the iced began to creak – then roar with a terrible crashing sound – the ice was breaking up! Sam clamped his eyes shut, bracing for the icy waters to engulf him The roaring grew louder and louder. What was happening?
Sam turned and looked behind him. A man was racing a team of horses and wagon across the ice. The horses galloped past him, drove up the other bank and stopped at the trading post. Sam leaped to his feet, threw his arms in the air shouting, “Hallelujah.” Now a Pentecostal. He ran across the ice to the store, got the medicine, hitched a ride back on the wagon, and raced home to his wife.
No more fear . . . just confidence.
No more crawling . . . but running.
No more thoughts of perishing . . . but assurance that the ice would hold.
Now there’s another part to this story that I particularly love.
John and Nancy were friends of Sam and Bessie. They lived in a cabin up on a high bluff that overlooked this river. John had been watching through his binoculars and had seen Sam’s predicament clearly. Nancy called him away for a few minutes and he missed seeing the wagon race by. When he returned to the window he saw Sam leaping for joy and then running without reservation across the frozen ice. What had happened? What turned Sam from a creeper into a leaper?
Somehow God must have given Sam more faith, right? Not at all. Sam now had a deeper understanding of the object of his faith.
In 2 Corinthians 2:1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.
2. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8, More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9. and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
In other words, Paul said, I want to deepen my understanding of Jesus Christ and His cross work; that which forms the basis and foundation of my faith.
So, give me a deeper appreciation and a fuller understanding of Christ’s sufferings . . . his redemptive act of dying . . . the death and dying passion and work of Christ on all those who place their faith in this truth – this Divine Substitute.
For several weeks now we have been discussing the issue of faith in Christ alone.
We have tested the rope of our salvation – we have crawled out on the ice of our faith in Christ – we have pressed against the window of Divine revelation – and all of them have held strong.
And like Sam on that frozen river, true faith changes the way we think. It also changes our behavior . . . faith in Christ who died for us on the cross establishes, strengthens, enlivens, regenerates, redeems us and then strengthens us with resolve for holy living.
However, the cross also destroys some things. Not only does the cross work of Christ build some things in us that changes our lives, the cross work of Christ also destroys some things that also radically change our lives.
In the Gospel of Matthew the Lord warned that the cross would divide families like a sword. The cross could very well destroy your ability to enjoy family and friends . . . why? Because the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who don’t believe.
Paul warned that the cross would invite mockery and disdain. He wrote to the Galatians that there would be those who would not want to be identified with the cross of Christ. (Galatians 6:12) Why? Because identifying with the cross of Christ could very well destroy a peaceful, passive existence.
And at the close of this great 3rd chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul informs us that the cross of Christ destroys three things.
Pride, prejudice and presumption.
First of all, the Cross destroys the right for personal pride
We have already covered this subject, but Paul summarizes here in verse 27 of Romans chapter 3, “Where then is boasting? It is excluded!” Literally, it is locked out! It has no place in the picture of justification.
Boasting is an uninvited guest in the heart of the true believer. And why not? Since you had nothing to do with earning your salvation – it was a gift from God through Christ – then you have nothing to brag about.
The only thing we could ever do is brag on Jesus Christ.
He is the subject of our highest thoughts. He is the object of our deepest love. He is the theme of our music.
John’s revelation unfolds the future scene in heaven where believers are singing that great chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain . . . for You were slain and purchased for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God and they will reign upon the earth. (Revelation 5:9, 10)
You were slain;
You redeemed us;
You purchased us with your blood;
You made us priests unto God;
You placed us in the kingdom;
You allow us to reign with you in the new heaven and the new earth!
What did we do to deserve any of that? Nothing!
No wonder Paul exclaimed, “God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)
The cross of Christ destroys any misguided right to personal arrogance and pride.
Secondly, the cross work of Christ destroys the root of personal prejudice.
Look at verse 29. “Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30. since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
In other words, its back to the idea that surely the Jew has a special connection with God. Surely God views how the Jewish people get into heaven differently than the Gentile.
During the days of Paul, the Jewish man would rise every morning and prayer a prayer that included thanksgiving that God had not made him a Gentile.
The problem with the Jew in Paul’s day was not so much in considering themselves as belonging to God, but believing that God belonged only to them!
This is dramatically illustrated in the life of the prophet Jonah. God told Jonah to go and hold a city wide crusade in Nineveh, warning them that if they didn’t repent and follow after God, they would be destroyed.” And Jonah did what? Instead of running for God, he ran from God – boarded a boat heading the other way. While on the boat, God sent a storm and then a big fish or whale. Jonah eventually gets pitched overboard and the whale swallows Jonah. Jonah survives in the belly of the whale for three days, until he personally repented and said in the last line of his prayer, “Salvation is from the Lord.” That’s the lesson God wanted to teach him. Salvation is from the Lord – the Lord decides – not man.
A true preacher doesn’t target his audience based on race or color or standard of living. There are pastors and professors today teaching how to plant a church by the principle of prejudice. Scores of seminary graduates are actually planting churches in neighborhoods based on demographic studies of the residents education and race and income levels.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the gospel is colorblind. And the church should be too! The gospel is classless and raceless. In fact, the gospel creates an entirely new race out of everyone who believes. (I Peter 2:9)
The problem of prejudice has a deeper problem that the world doesn’t know how to fix.
The reason the African American and the Hispanics don’t like each other has nothing to do with race. The reason white people don’t like brown or black people has nothing to do with color. The reason the Japanese don’t like the Chinese and the Chinese don’t like the Tiawanese has nothing to do with language or geography.
Prejudice, ultimately, is a problem of the heart!
When God redeems and reforms your heart, prejudice becomes a thing of the past!
See, Jonah wanted God to stay on his side of the railroad tracks. He wanted God to stay in the Jewish neighborhood . . . “Lord, I don’t want you in the Gentile neighborhood. . .you belong to us.”
Furthermore, Jonah was afraid that the Ninevites would repent, which they did, from the King on down to the last person in Nineveh. The last thing Jonah wanted was a Gentile for a brother. That was asking way too much.
Jonah and the rest of the nation said it like this, “Salvation belongs to the Jew.” That’s different than saying, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
And what I find incredibly amazing is that it took Jonah three days in the belly of a whale before he finally gave in and said, “Okay, salvation belongs to the Lord.” And as soon as he prayed that, God had the whale spit Jonah up onto dry ground chapter 2 informs us.
Man, if I’d ended up being thrown overboard in a storm, then I saw a huge whale coming toward me and it opened it’s mouth and swallowed me – by the time I tumbled down into its stomach, I’d be saying, “Okay, okay, salvation belongs to the Lord, salvation belongs to the Lord!”
But three days?!
Why was Jonah so stubborn? He believed not only that the Jew belonged to God, but that God belonged to the Jew.
Paul is teaching this same principle in Romans chapter 3.
The question would arise – for those who come to Christ by faith alone, is there any special connection or claim for the Jews who come by faith? Paul answers, by saying in effect in verse 30, “There’s only one God and if that one God accepts both Jew and Gentile by faith alone, then the ground at the foot of the cross is level.”
Jew and Gentile alike are welcome – there is no special connection – there is no special favor – when a person comes to Christ, they are equally precious to God the Father.
The cross destroys the root of personal prejudice.
One more thing: The cross of Christ not only destroys the right to personal pride, the root of personal prejudice, but, third, the cross of Christ destroys the rationale of personal presumption.
Paul writes in Romans 3: 31. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
In other words, since we’re saved by grace through faith apart from the works of the law, do we then presume upon the grace of God by violating the law?
That’s the question that Paul will answer more thoroughly in chapter 6:1. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2. May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
But the question could honestly be asked . . . since the law doesn’t matter in getting anybody into heaven . . . the law is then essentially meaningless, right?!
No, Paul says back in chapter 3 verse 31. On the contrary, we establish the law.”
What does he mean . . . that, effectively, the cross work of Christ established the law?
First, the cross established the law by upholding the standard of the law.
At the cross of Christ, the essential nature of God’s justice and holiness triumphed. The standard of God’s holiness was not abolished by the crucifixion, it was upheld.
The cross was absolutely necessary because the law is not negotiable.
James Montgomery Boice illustrated this with a couple of very good thoughts.
Suppose God had declared that the cross of Christ was unnecessary. Suppose he had said, “I do not think it will be necessary for me to sent my Son to die for sinners. By grace I will allow them to be saved in the way they want to be saved, that is, by their own attempts to keep the law. Since they cannot keep the law perfectly, though, I will set a certain standard that they will have to attain. We’ll call it a ‘passing grade.’ If they reach that, I will save them. It not, they will be lost.” Suppose God set the passing score at seventy percent of the law’s just requirements. Would He then have diminished or nullified 30% of the law? And what if, in that 30%, the commands not to steal or commit adultery, were violated? What if God put the passing score at fifty% - would not half of the law been set aside?
If the cross were unnecessary and God saved us on the basis of whatever we could do, since we do not keep even one part of the law perfectly, God would actually be setting aside the entire law. Instead, the cross of Christ revealed that God took the law seriously – seriously enough to require the life of a Substitute who, in this eternal case, was His own son.
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume One (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI), 1991, p. 422
That leads me to the second thought.
Secondly, the cross established the law by fulfilling the verdict of the law.
In the words of William R. Newell, “The cross of Christ established the law by having its penalty executed.”
William R. Newell, Romans Verse by Verse (Moody Press, Chicago, Ill); 1938, p. 128.
Robert Haldane wrote, “Can there be any greater respect shown to the law, than that when God determines to save men from its curse, he makes his own Son sustain its curse in their stead, and fulfill for them [the depths of its verdict] – for the wages of sin is death.”
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume One (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI), 1991, p. 423
God could have . . .
Loved us into heaven
Looked the other way
Graded us on a curve (yea, you’re better than other people)
Graded for sincerity
You know, God is at the top of a mountain and there are many
paths up the mountain but they all lead to God.
That sounds intelligent, until you realize it makes God a fool. If there are many paths to God, why send your Son to die . . . if other ways exist to God, why do all of what he did at Calvary. Why have the Son of God go through the humiliation and suffering of the cross.
There is no curve . . . there is not passing grade for sincerity . . . there is no 70% passing score.
The cross of Jesus Christ established the need for a perfect score, and the fact that we would never earn a perfect score. But then, through Christ’s atonement on our behalf, God erased the failing grade of those who place their faith in Christ, and by God’s grace, He writes into that column the perfect score of Christ – attributed to our account. And that allows us entrance into heaven.
I read several months ago about an advanced philosophy course being taught in a University. The professor was legendary about failing students. The final exam was approaching and the professor announced that each student could bring to the exam one sheet of paper with everything they could fit onto that paper that could help them on the exam. One 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper allowed per student. The students of course, crammed every bit of information they could on that one sheet – writing so small – from one edge of the paper to the other.
The day of the exam arrived. They students filed in with their pencils and their piece of paper. One student sat down in the front and simply placed his sheet of paper on the floor. It was blank. He then brought in a graduate student who was about to earn his doctorate in philosophy and had him stand on top of the paper. The others protested, but this student reminded them and the professor that they had all been told they could use anything they could fit onto one 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper. The professor nodded his approval. This student was the only one who passed.
Not one of will ever pass the test of the law. And God has established the law – He upholds it and He requires the verdict of the law to be carried out. Only those who bring Christ in . . . the One who has kept the law perfectly and then died to stand in for all of us who haven’t kept the law. That will be the person who passes through the gates of everlasting life in heaven.
So, as we leave our study on the subject of sola fide – faith alone. We do not leave it glorying in our faith – worshipping our faith – we glory in the object of our faith, we worship the Strong One in whom we have placed our faith . . . we worship the Man of sorrows who took our place on that cross . . . we worship the Lamb of God who died to establish our faith . . . we honor and worship the Author and Finisher of our faith. . . the wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Prince of peace.
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