The Glory of God in the Cross of Christ
"Christ died according to the Scriptures." 1 Corinthians 15:4
Paul told the churchgoers at Corinth not only that Christ died, but that he died according to the Scriptures. One of the reasons that was important was so that Christ was set apart in the minds of the Corinthians. Imagine living like they did, in the Greco-Roman world with a pantheon of various gods being revered all around them. Paul was making sure that these early Christians understood that Christ's coming and the work he accomplished had been planned from eternity and spoken of by prophets for centuries before he even arrived on the scene. Jesus Christ was not merely a "god" that had been dreamed up out of fear of volcanoes or the ocean or thunderstorms - he was, in fact, the creator of all these things!
So what did the Scriptures have to say about Jesus and his death? First, let's understand that "Scriptures" in the first century meant the Old Testament, comprised of the Law (Pentateuch/Torah), the prophets and the Psalms/wisdom literature. Jesus himself explained to his disciples after he had risen from the dead "that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled ." (Luke 24:44).
Here a just a few more examples:
Genesis 3:14-15 Here we have the first glimpse of the Gospel in the Scripture: "he will crush your head and you will strike his heel." Christ will crush the head of the serpent!
Numbers 21:4-9 In this piece of Israel's history we read about the bronze snake Moses made so that the people could look upon it and be healed. In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus this bronze snake foreshadowed what must happen to him: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
Isaiah 53 This tragic, beautiful, wrenching, wonderful passage describes in powerful strokes what the Messiah experienced and accomplished. Read it thoughtfully and prayerfully.
Psalm 22:1, 7-8, 18 These are cries from the cross. David's cries of distress in his own circumstance became prophetic, pointing to the cross.
When you consider the breadth and scope of all that was prophetically spoken regarding the death of Christ, you begin to see not only the overarching plan of the Father, but you get a glimpse of his immensity, his transcendence, and his glory because his plan has spanned history - even predated it. Remember, history doesn’t happen to God, history happens BECAUSE of God. Our God is very great!
Now let's briefly consider the two words that complete the phrase under study: Christ died.
Christ died . . . the death of a criminal. But he did not die for his own crimes. Christ was perfect and sinless. By the decree of God, men chose to put Christ to death. (Acts 2:23) It was determined before time that he must face death and the wrath of God so that sinful men could have life and peace with God.
Christ died . . . but what if he hadn't? I dare you, if you are a believer, to consider your state right now if there had been no atoning sacrifice for your sins, and no forgiveness. You'd be sitting there knowing that you’ve crossed the line a thousand times in a thousand little rebellions against God's sovereignty and holiness . . . and that there was nothing that could be done about it, that nothing but justice (wrath) awaited you. This thought alone should move us to worship.
Christ died . . . and it was excruciating. But a physically painful death alone did not purchase your soul. It was the agony and stinging burden of your sins that were literally heaped upon Christ in that hour when the Father looked away as his wrath was poured out on his Son to satisfy his justice. R.C. Sproul comments,
"I’ve heard sermons about the nails and the thorns. Granted, the physical agony of crucifixion is a ghastly thing. But thousands of people have died on crosses, and others have had even more painful, excruciating deaths than that. But only One received the full measure of the curse of God while on a cross. Because of that, I wonder whether Jesus was even aware of the nails and the thorns. He was overwhelmed by the outer darkness. On the cross, He was in hell, totally bereft of the grace and the presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father. He became a curse for us so that we one day will be able to see the face of God. God turned His back on His Son so that the light of His countenance will fall on us. It’s no wonder Jesus screamed from the depths of His soul. “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?”
Christ died . . . because of his great love. I've already pointed you to another significant passage of Scripture, and I'm going to do it again. Read (click) Romans 5:1-10 and take time to let it sink in.
The cross of Christ not only saves sinners, but brings glory to God the Father. It demonstrates his power and wisdom! Listen to the words of Paul from the beginning of this first letter to the Corinthians:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18,23)
Whenever we think about the cross of Christ, the cross where he died, the cross where the work of redemption was finished, let's worship God not only for the forgiveness of sins, but also for his power and wisdom in accomplishing it!