The Centrality of the Cross for the Godly and the Ungodly
(This and the next 2 months will feature articles on the Good Friday and Easter message. We hope you will be helped to reflect on Christ’s death and resurrection as you study these articles.)
The Cross of Christ is about the death of Christ. As we are just 2 months away I hope this and the next 2 months I can help you think about some crucial but significant truths about what Good Friday and Easter really mean.
- CHRIST’S DEATH & CROSS ARE CENTRAL FOR GOD:
For I determined to know nothing amongst you except Christ and Him crucified! 1 Cor. 2: 2ff
“All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.”
— Oswald Chambers
Paul always preached Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Who paid the penalty for sin by voluntarily dying on the cross (Acts 10:37-43; 20:20; 2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Tim. 4:1, 2). Only when someone understands the Cross and the Death of Christ will the rest of the bible make sense to him or her.
Both believers and unbelievers need this emphasis. Unbelievers need to be saved and salvation is impossible without a clear understanding of the Cross. Believers need to grow in sanctification and there is no other provision than the Cross. Paul preached the Cross —
1 Cor. 1:17
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
I want to give you a quick survey through several verses that bring out the significance of the Cross:
1 Cor. 1:18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ. He is our subject and He is all that the sinner needs so as to be saved. And, central to speaking about Him, is His work. The most significant work of Jesus Christ is His giving Himself willingly to die on the cross. The Cross highlights man’s utter depravity. The Cross shows us the only way to be reconciled to God.
- CHRIST’S DEATH WAS CONCEIVED BY GOD
He was delivered by the pre-determined plan and purpose of God. Acts 2:23
This verse 23 teaches predestination and the sovereignty of God in redemption. Each of these underlined words are rich in meaning and we need to study the words more carefully – this brief article is not the place for that study. Each of these words have much to teach us about the Good Friday and Easter message.
The main point I am making here is that God planned Christ’s death on behalf of sinners and for our salvation before the foundation of the world (see also Acts 4:27, 28). Yet the Jewish leadership was instrumental in getting Him crucified by the Romans and both stand guilty.
- CHRIST’S DEATH WAS CRUCIAL FOR THE UNGODLY: 5:6
We were without strength (yet weak) — powerless/sickly
Incapable of helping themselves — incapable of working out any righteousness for themselves
- Incapable of doing any work(s) to save themselves
- Dead in sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1)
It was absolutely essential for Christ to die. As you study Rom. 5:6 you begin to understand this. The verse says, “we were still helpless, we were still without strength.” Why did Christ have to die? Because you were without strength. It means you were helpless, you were weak, you were powerless, and you were sickly. That’s the meaning of that statement. Christ had to die because we could not help ourselves out of our sinful situation. We were too weak and incapable to do that.
What is this helplessness or weakness about? It is incapacity. Man is incapable of any merit or righteousness; anything to please or to find favour with God. Man can do all kinds of good works; all kinds of religious ceremonies; everything possible that he thinks will make him religious. Even Christians can do a lot of things — baptism, and confirmation and holy communion — you might be going to Church and reading your Bible and having your daily devotions. If you are doing any of these things and trying to please God and you think that’s the way to earn favour with God and think that’s the way to be a Christian — you miss the point! All those things are what Christians should do because they are already Christians — but those things don’t make you a Christian. You become a Christian only because of Christ and what He did for you when He died in your place on the Cross. Christ had to die because you were helpless, and so was I. All sinners are totally depraved and that’s what the book of Romans teaches. Romans chapter 1 starts with saying man is guilty and the wrath of God is upon Him. Chaps. 2, 3 teach about the total, absolute sinfulness of the Jew and the Gentile, the religious as well as the irreligious; of the educated as well as the barbarian. Everyone is a sinner and the same point is made here in Rom. 5:6 which says that man was helpless. Man could not do anything to become acceptable to God.
In Eph. 2:1 the Holy Spirit says that we were dead in trespasses and sins. What does it means to be dead? A dead body is helpless. You can spit on the dead body, you can burn the dead body; you can bury the dead body or throw it to the vultures — and who cares? The dead body doesn’t. Only the loved ones who are alive care about these things. When the Bible says you were dead in your trespasses and sin that’s an elegant way of saying you can’t do a thing about your sin and about saving yourself from sin. And so, in Rom. 5:6 it says you were helpless, you couldn’t do any good works good enough to please God. You might think they’re good works — God says that’s not going to take you to heaven. God sets the rules because He’s in charge. Man might have lots of arguments — but God says that’s it. You don’t argue with God. When you understand Rom. 5:6 (and the rest of the Bible supports what is said in this verse) about the helplessness of man because of the total utter depravity of man. There is none righteous, there is no one who seeks after God says Romans 3. All have sinned. Rom. 5:6 gives the helpless sinner hope because Christ died
for the ungodly!
— an uncomplimentary description of those who needed the intervention of Christ’s death on their behalf
- Not for the lovable and nice
- Not for the righteous
- Not for the deserving
Let’s ask and answer 3 questions:
- When was the work of Christ done? It was when man was helpless and unable to help himself …
- What happened? Christ died …
- For whom? For the ungodly.
He didn’t die for the righteous people. Jesus Himself had said, “I have come not to seek and save the righteous but the lost.” And “lost” means you don’t know where you are going. And the worst lostness of man is that he doesn’t even know he is lost. Have you met people who are wandering and don’t know where they are going? Spiritually this wandering in lostness happens all the time. All your neighbours and friends don’t know they are lost. Most of your family don’t know they are lost. They think they are going to Church, they think they are religious, they are doing their poojas and ceremonies but they are lost!
You know what lost is? It is to be without God. To be without a right relationship with Jesus Christ. To have no understanding of God’s demands on our lives. The end result of that kind of life is eternal damnation and separation from God. The total lostness of man is when man doesn’t even know he is lost. But Christ died for the ungodly.
Who appropriates the death of Christ in their lives; who gets the blessing; who are effectively transformed because Christ died? It’s the ones who know they are ungodly. I hope you have come to know that you are ungodly — you are a terribly ungodly person. Have you ever faced yourself? Sit by yourself and look deep inside your life and see what you really are. Totally ungodly.
But Christ died for you. Not for a saint but the ungodly. Because you are ungodly, Christ died for you. And in dying for you, He justified you. Whom did He justify? A wicked, ungodly person who didn’t get changed. You don’t go to God and say, “Hey wait a minute I’ve got to wash up my life. I’ve got to become a nice guy and then You can embrace me.” No. Jesus died for you, when you were helpless, ungodly.
Look again at Rom. 5:6: “for when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” It’s not for the loveable, and the nice, it’s not for the righteous, it’s not for the deserving. It’s the most uncomplimentary description of those who needed the intervention of Christ’s death on their behalf. This is not a compliment — you are ungodly; you are a wicked, wicked sinner. This puts the psychologists out of business. This puts the self-esteem junk in the garbage bin. There is no self-esteem. There is nothing nice about you. You’re an ungodly sinner. And Christ died for you. This passage is all about the love of God. You didn’t have a loveable character and nature. You were a dirty, stinking, wicked sinner worth nothing. And Christ came down and touched your life and He saved you. Christ died for the ungodly.
As you think and reflect on the message of Good Friday and Easter may this article be a blessing for you.