Christians know that it is important to believe in Christ’s death on the cross. But some find it difficult to explain how it benefits us. They know that salvation depends on it but perhaps struggle to explain how it is central to the Christian life. Christ taught that it must be crucial in how we live (Matthew 16:24). Paul said that it was the controlling principle of his life (Galatians 2:20). How can we make it central to our life?
This is a very large theme and we can only consider one aspect of it. In this updated extract, Andrew Gray helpfully outlines some of the advantages that Christians experience from Christ’s death. Enjoying these benefits enables us to see how the cross influences the Christian life.
1. Enjoying Justification
Christ’s death is the evidence of our justification, the cause of our sanctification and the pledge of our glorification. It is the hope of our eternal and complete victory and the door of hope that will make you sing and triumph over death (1 Corinthians 15:55). We are brought to paradise by four streams: (a) His justification by which He justifies us; (b) His sanctification by which we that lay among the pots are made white as a dove; (c) His wisdom by which we are conducted to heaven; and (d) His redemption by His complete victory.
Is it not clear that Christ’s death was an evidence of our justification? “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12) He has “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). By the solid faith of Christ’s death we may answer all objections. If you could multiply objections throughout eternity, you could have no answer but this: Christ has died and is risen again. His resurrection is a great pillar of justifying faith; “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
All objections are answered in this, Christ has died and, risen again (Romans 8:34). “For while we were enemies, we were reconciled by his death” (Romans 5:10). The great pillar on which faith is founded is Christ’s resurrection. Is the death of Christ not the cause of our glorification? “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself witlìout spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). Paul, speaking of the cross of Christ says, “By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). You were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19). Christ died that “they which live should not live unto themselves, hut unto God” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Is Christ’s death not the pledge of your glorification? Did Christ not wear a crown of thorns so that you might wear a crown of immortal glory? Did He not wear a purple robe, that you might wear that robe of His righteousness? If Christ ascended up, then He will certainly draw all the members of His body after Him.
You have Christ’s death as the door of hope to overcome your sins. Christ’s victory is that He has in His person overcome principalities and powers and has made an open show of them. He has likewise overcome death and the grave. That is evidence of your victory and overcoming; for there is a great similarity between the head and the members of the body.
2. Enjoying Communion with Christ
Christ’s death may be a strong argument to embrace and welcome Christ. It may stir us up to that duty, “Open to me, my sister, my spouse, for my head is filled with the dew, and my locks with the drops of the night” (Song 5:2). If Christ has died and is now risen again, will not that persuade you to love Him? O what arguments will work with you? Do the five wounds of His blessed body not preach this doctrine to you: to love Him?
3. Enjoying Christ’s Love
If you believed the sufferings of Christ in the right way it would be a comprehensive way to bring your souls under the constraining power of His love (2 Corinthians 5:14). There is a sweet constraint in His love that it lays hold on the understanding and the affections. Christ’s love constrains a Christian’s understanding so that they think Christ alone to be excellent. It constrains their affections and makes them burn within out of love to enjoy the person they love.
4. Enjoying Eternal Life
The way to heaven is now made manifest through the sufferings of Christ. “I will make a new covenant with them, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers” (Hebrews 8:8-9). Believe this, it was more difficult for Christians to go to heaven under the Old Testament than under the New. Christ is now clearly revealed as crucified before your eyes. We do not need to exercise faith in Christ as being yet to come, but as already come. Sins against the gospel will certainly therefore be of greater guilt than under the law.
5. Enjoying Assurance
If you truly believed that Christ died for sinners your unbelief would be at an end. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Paul then adds, “of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). If you believe that Christ came over that infinite distance that was between Himself and man, how easily, will He come over the infinite distance between you and Him? Christ’s love is that which will bring your souls to see the necessity of this love. It will bring you to a felt sense of the preciousness of Christ, who has perfected the work of your redemption.
6. Enjoying Holiness
Christ’s death is an excellent way for a Christian to bring their soul to a God-given holy hatred of sin, “we should not live unto ourselves” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Since Christ has “suffered for us, let us arm ourselves with the same mind, to cease from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). There are these two things in Christ’s death to make sin most hateful to you.
(a) consider the burden of sin. Do you not think that it was a heavy burden that made Him cry out that he was troubled and “exceeding sorrowful” (Mark 14:34)? And was it not an infinite weight that made Him say, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39)?
(b) consider that these sufferings were because of sin. Might you not conclude that the justice of God was highly offended? “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Isaiah 53:10).
7. Three Questions
(a) Were you ever through considering Christ’s death, constrained to sit down in speechless humility and put your mouth in the dust (Lamentations 3:29)?
(2) Were you ever through considering Christ’s death, constrained to love him, and cry out, “His love to us has been wonderfully great!”
(3) Were you ever through considering Christ’s death, constrained to wonder at that union between Him and us? Was the death of Christ ever an effectual means to unite you to Christ by the two chains of faith and love?
When we speak of the cross this also includes Christ’s resurrection. As Calvin emphasised we can’t think of them in isolation even when only one of them is mentioned. All that the cross and resurrection means should be central to our lives. The Christian life is a dying life; dying to sin (Colossians 1:22; Galatians 5:24). But it is also a life in the power of Christ’s resurrection (Philippians 3:10).The cross must have an overwhelming influence on how Christians should live and the motives for their life. They walk in loving obedience, a love that is derived from Christ’s dying love (Ephesians 5:2).