08 May 2020

The Power of the Cross

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." --Romans 6:23

Every human dies because every human sins (Romans 3:23). This is not an inherent (or inherited) condition, as with Original Sin, but an action we each perform. If it were inherited, Christ could not have been sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21). Sin comes from a wrongness which takes root in our hearts and captures our minds (Mark 7:21). The Gospels give the example of trees bearing fruit (Luke 6:44). Wrongness within the heart causes it to produce evil deeds. The Apostle Paul tells us that the inspiration of this wrongness is the action of "one man," Adam (Romans 5:12-21).

Paul puts forward that if the action of "one man" can cause evil to abound, then so too can the action of "one man" cause righteousness to abound. Christ's answer to evil is forgiveness, that "where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly." Christ's answer to "death through sin" is that forgiveness ("grace") might bring about "righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:12-21).

Just as corruption (wrongness of thought) brings about a transformation of the heart so that we perform evil deeds, so too does forgiveness bring about a transformation. While the fruit of corruption is evil deeds, the fruit of righteousness, which come from the Holy Spirit, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

So what then of divine justice? Does sin not demand punishment from God? That is ultimately for God to decide. Colossians 2:13-15 tells us that God not only "wiped away the handwriting in ordinances which were against us" but that with the very demand for justice he "has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross." If God judges us, he judges us to be good based on the fruit we bear, "against which there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

The cross then is not a place where payment is made or justice is served, but a demonstration of God's grace (Romans 3:24-26) and an invitation to participate in the transforming power of God's love (Galatians 2:20). Paul expounds on this in Romans 6:3-14. There he explains that by baptism we are crucified with Christ, buried with him in his death, and with him we are raised from the dead. In this way, we are beyond the power of sin because we dedicate our lives to God.

In order that our relationship may be restored, God himself bridges the gap between who we are and who we should be (Colossians 2:13-15). Jesus died as the demonstration of God's love (Romans 3:24-26), proving to us that nothing can keep us apart from God's love. Through baptism and sanctification, we share in Christ's death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-14). In his death, we become free from sin, as the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). In his resurrection, we enter into a new life in which the Holy Spirit dwells within us, transforming us (2 Corinthians 5:21) from within to become the living temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16).

This is not something that God does alone, which we can embrace or deny, it is a choice we make and a walk we share. The cross, Christ's death and resurrection, is participatory in nature (Galatians 2:20). In choosing to emulate Christ, To walk with God, to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are choosing to be transformed in God's image. The proof of this is in the fruit we bear, the Spirit brings about in us "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). When we embrace God's love, we can be no longer under the requirement of any law, because by "the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38). Our measure is mercy, our portion is love. Against which can there be no law.

Special thanks to Pastors Michael Schiefelbein and Erin King for their invaluable input during this article's research.

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