The Cross – The End and the Beginning
The Cross of Christ is the single most significant event since creation. All before led to the Cross and all after is because of the Cross. Jesus’ victory on the cross ended Satan’s dominion over man and death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Through the cross our debt of sin has been cancelled:
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).
Through the cross Jesus has broken the authority of Satan and saved us from the dominion of darkness:
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him (Colossians 2:15).
Through the cross our slavery to sin has ended and we receive new life.
When Jesus was crucified, our old and sinful self was crucified and died with Him. It marks the end of our old life and the beginning of the new:
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:4-6).
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God’s way with our sinfulness is not by reforming the old life but by crucifying it, putting it to death and creating a new life. Through the resurrection of Christ we receive new life. This new life, being born again, having eternal life, is in fact Christ in us and us in Him. This is why Jesus said ” unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Our old self must die so we can be born anew of the spirit of God.
We may not feel like we have new life and may be very conscious that our old life is still active. Yet this is where we need faith not feeling. We may not feel forgiven or saved but we know it to be a reality because God’s word says we are. In the same way we may not feel our old self is dead, yet we know it to be a reality by faith in God’s word. If we believe we have been forgiven in Christ then we must also believe we have died in Christ. Both are true.
Because of Adam we were born sinners but through the Cross we have become dead to sin. This is not legal fiction, but an amazing reality which should bring us to humble obedience. Though the death of our old self and the presence of new life is a reality in Christ, we will find while in this present body that sinful desires will persist. This is why Paul tells us:
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:11-13).
The word translated ‘consider’ in this verse in the original Greek conveys the meaning of ‘reckon’ or ‘count’. It speaks of a reality not a supposition, a fact not an ideal. So though experience may indicate our old self is not dead, we must count or reckon that it is dead, exercising our faith by acting on it. Satan will endeavour to convince us that it is not dead so we will doubt and disobey God. If we believe our old self is alive then we will tend to act accordingly. The problem many of us face with sin is that we still think our old self is alive and we still think in its old ways. However if we believe, on the basis of God’s word, our old self is dead and no longer has power over us then we will have the mind to do what God asks. This is why we are told to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:22). Our thinking is the first thing that needs to change. This is what it means to repent.
Paul, in answer to the question “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” responds with an emphatic “May it never be!” We are no longer to let sin reign in our bodies and are able to do so because of what Christ has done through His cross. Before the Cross we were slaves to sin but now we have become slaves to Jesus:
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16).
Paul, in Romans 7, tells of an inner battle – between our mind which knows and wants to do God’s will and the sinful nature. Our old self wants independence, to resist authority and when presented with the demands of God’s law results in a desire to do what we shouldn’t. We see this with our children. Tell them not to do something and that is the very thing they want to do! Therefore, our old self is incapable of overcoming sin and doing God’s will. Only Christ can set us free – first by crucifying the old self and then creating a new self in the image of Him. This is what it means to be born again.
The Two Laws
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2).
While we live in this world we will be subject to one of two laws: the law of sin and death or the law of the Spirit of life in Christ. To illustrate the operation of these two laws we can compare the operation of the law of gravity and the law of aerodynamics. If we are in an aircraft, the law of aerodynamics overcomes the law of gravity and so we are kept aloft. However, the law of gravity hasn’t been eliminated as we can still feel its pull, though in the aircraft. Should we jump from the aircraft the law of gravity will bring us to a certain demise! So it is with us. While we are in Christ, the law of the Spirit overcomes the law of sin and death and so we are able to live for God:
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (Romans 8:12-14).
To live by and be led by the Spirit is not an option but an obligation. We should not deceive ourselves since what we sow we shall reap:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7,8).
Our old self was crucified with Christ and we have received new life – His life. We are united with Him, through faith, in both His death and life. The Cross has ended our slavery to sin and His resurrection has bought us new life. Before the Cross we were dead in sin. Now we must count ourselves dead to sin. After the Cross and Christ’s resurrection we have become alive to God and slaves to righteousness. This is why John says those born of God cannot sin, because it is not the nature of the new self to sin (1 John 3:9).
So while we are in this body we will always have a battle against sin but through Christ we can overcome. If we do sin it is because we have chosen to do so, not because it is inevitable. Yet if we repent and confess our sins Christ will forgive and cleanse us. So as we continue to believe God, thanking Him in the assurance that our old self is dead and our body of sin has been rendered powerless, the life of Christ in us, the new self, will day by day become a greater reality in experience (2 Corinthians 4:16).
The Cross has made Jew and Gentile one in Christ:
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV).
Before the cross Gentiles (the nations other than Israel) were excluded from the promises of God but now in Christ we share those promises. There is now no distinction between Jew and Gentile. All who believe in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, are one in Christ.
Next: Living As God’s People