But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
~ Philippians 3:7-8
They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;
~ Psalm 49:6
But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
~ 2 Corinthians 11:12
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
~ 1 Corinthians 1:23
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:58
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
~ Jeremiah 9:24
The Glory of the Cross, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
~ Galatians 6:14
‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’ We have yet more to say about this great and most wonderful statement. The Apostle here is nailing his colours to the mast, if you like, and making a great declaration of his own personal position . He is contrasting himself with certain false teachers who glory and make their boast in the flesh, interested in themselves and in their own success and the use that they can make of other people. The Apostle says God forbid that he should be interested in, or glory in, anything like that. He glories in nothing, he boasts in nothing, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have seen that the cross is the very heart and centre of the Christian message, a historical event with which we are confronted, and we have seen, too, that our eternal destiny depends upon the view we take of the death of Jesus of Nazareth upon that cross. So we have been considering why the Christian says that the cross of Christ, the death of this Son of God upon the cross, is to him the most momentous, the most vital of all facts, that there is nothing that compares with it, and that to him it is the most significant thing in the universe.
I put that point deliberately. The Christian is a man who says, I do not care what has happened; I do not care what may happen. I do not care what it is— atomic bombs, or anything you like. For me, nothing can ever approach in significance to the thing that happened there on the cross when Jesus of Nazareth died and was buried in the grave and rose again, and went back to the glory everlasting. Why does the Christian say this? Why does he make his boast in the cross? Why does he glory in it? We have begun to answer that question. We have seen that the cross, with all its mighty paradoxes, is a spectacle which makes anything that you can think of in history, or anything that you can imagine , simply pale into insignificance. But now, we must proceed, because you cannot see a thing like that and leave it there. You must ask a question. Why did he do that? You are quite entitled to ask, for you will say, if that is true, why did it ever happen? And that is a good question. But there is only one way of answering it. Let us look again at the cross. Let us survey it once more. When a man like the apostle Paul glories in the cross you can be quite sure, my friend, that it is the biggest and the deepest and the profoundest thing in the whole universe. A casual glance at the cross is not enough. The saints of the centuries have been surveying it, they have been looking at it, gazing upon it, and meditating upon it. And the more they look at it the more they see in it. The writers of the hymns have done the same thing. The cross of Christ has produced some of the most magnificent poetry in the English language. But the writers have looked at it, they have surveyed it, they have not just said, ‘Oh yes, I know Jesus died, he was a pacifist, and he died’—and then gone on indifferently. Neither have they said something like some of us perhaps— Christian people, evangelica l people — ‘Oh yes , I believe in the cross, I believe Christ died for me’, and then thought no more about it. Oh, my dear friend, if that is how if affects you, you have not seen the cross. You must stop and look, survey, put everything else on one side and gaze at it, and don’t stop looking at it until you have seen some of these profundities—or what Thomas Carlisle described in another connection, ‘infinities and immensities’—in this glorious cross.
So I repeat the question. Why, why this? Why did this happen? Why did it ever happen, that the Son of God, the Prince of Glory, died? Let us look at the answer. We have it all here in the Scriptures. I am not going to draw on my imagination. I am not inventing any answers. You know, my friends, the more you know your Bible, the easier preaching becomes. I pity the poor man who is in difficulties about what to preach, Sunday after Sunday, hoping that something striking will happen in the news so that he can preach a topical sermon. All I have to do is to hold before you what the Scriptures tell us about this great event, because I know nothing apart from what I find here. I am as ignorant as everybody else about these matters. If I had not got the Scriptures I could not preach. I simply hold before you what the Scriptures themselves say. What, then, do they tell us? Why is the Son of God there on the cross?
The first thing they say is that it is not merely the action of men. Oh, but you say, it is men who are hammering in those nails. I agree, but that would be the remark of a very superficial observer. What made the men do it? Is there nothing behind them? You see the whole trouble in the world today is that we are all looking at everything superficially. We choose some activity, then we set up a royal commission to look into it, and we have a little superficial reporting. It makes no difference, nothing is any different, because we are superficial in our diagnosis, we are not able to see the depths of things beneath the surface. It is the same here.
Why do I say that it was not merely the action of men? Why am I repeating that it was not merely an accident? My answer is, of course, that it was something that had been prophesied. Take the passage in Isaiah 53. It is an exact prophecy of what happened on the cross. Again, read the 22nd Psalm. That is another perfect prophecy of the death of our Lord upon the cross. It is prophesied many times in the Old Testament. Indeed, you will see it if you go back to books like Leviticus and other books of the law which people say they find utterly boring and beyond their understanding. If you only know how to read them, you will find that they are all pointing to the cross. Or go back to Exodus and the story of the exodus of the Children of Israel from the captivity of Egypt. Why did they have to kill that lamb, the paschal lamb, as we call it, at night and put its blood on the door posts and the lintels? It is just a prophecy of this. Everything in the Passover story points to this event.
There, then, is a great factor. Isaiah 53 puts it so plainly ‘… led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep …’. It is all there. The Lord was not taken by surprise. It was all prophesied long ago. But, of course, we are not dependent upon the prophecies of the Old Testament only. Our Lord himself made certain very specific statements about this. In his conversation with that great man Nicodemus, recorded in John 3, he put it like this. He said that as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, ‘even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life’. Now here is a prophecy of his death upon the cross, quite early on in his ministry. He reminded Nicodemus of the old story in the history of the people, the Children of Israel. In the wilderness snakes began to bite people and they were killed as the result. And the cure was this. A brazen serpent was fastened to a pole and lifted up and everybody who looked at the brazen serpent was healed (Num 21:9). That was a prophecy of me, said our Lord, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up’ (Jn 3:14). He was not taken by surprise when they took him and crucified him. He told his followers that it was coming. He went on repeating this. This New Testament prophecy, too, is a vital part of this message.
We read in John 12 of an end coming to his earthly ministry. Suddenly it comes to the end, as it were, and he is ready. The hour, he says, is come. The hour. What is he talking about? He is talking about his death. In a short time, he says, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me’ (Jn 12:32). You remember the context? Some Greeks had come along and they had approached some of our Lord’s disciples. They said, ‘We would see Jesus.’ We would like to have a word with him,and talk with this new teacher. We have been hearing about him, and we want to know what he has got to say. It was probably a kind of intellectual curiosity and also a more general kind of curiosity in a wonderful teacher that had just appeared. And our Lord would not see them. He sent back a message saying that he could not see them, and he explains it by saying that so far he was only sent to the Jews, ‘but when I am lifted up …’. And in his account John comments, ‘This he said, signifying what death he should die’ (v.33). When I am lifted up, he says, then I will draw all men unto me, which means, not every single individual that has ever lived, but men of all nations, not only Jews but Greeks and anybody else. ‘All men’, men from all nations, I will draw unto myself. When I die, I shall be a universal saviour in that sense. He knew it was coming, and he repeated that on many other occasions. Take the one when he turned to his disciples after they had been asking for certain privileges. He replied, ‘Now, I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!’ (Lk 12:50). He is again referring to his death.
Well there is evidence, and I could give you more, showing that this is no accident, no mere action on the part of men. There is something more here. There is a mystery. There is something behind it. The apostle Peter says the same thing. On the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem, after the Holy Spirit had come down upon the infant church, people came together from all directions, astonished and amazed because they heard these simple, unlettered men talking in languages which they could understand. Every man heard them telling in his own language the wonderful works of God. And they were amazed and said, ‘What is this?’ and thought they were drunk. With this Peter began to preach, and he gave them the answer. He told them that this was something that had been done to them by Jesus of Nazareth. This is the first sermon really preached under the auspices of the Christian church, and here therefore is the full explanation.
Peter then goes on to say to them: ‘Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:’—take note—‘him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands (which can be better translated ‘by the hands of wicked men’, because the Jews had used the Romans to do it) have crucified and slain …’ But you notice what Peter says: Him, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, him, ‘being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.’ Yes, says Peter, it was your hands that did it. But it was God who determined it. And God determined it not now, but before time: in the pre-determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. This is something, he says, that God determined in eternity which you have actually done with your own hands now in time.
Now, this is so important that it was repeated on another occasion. In Acts 4 we find a wonderful prayer meeting being held by the early Christian church. Two of their company, Peter and John, had been arrested, put on trial, and then forbidden to do any further preaching or teaching in the name of this Jesus. The authorities had said to them in effect, Look here, we are letting you off this time, but if you go on doing this, well then we will not only arrest you, but we will deal with you. And they were threatening them with death. They straightly charged them that they should do no more of this preaching in the name of Jesus. And then we find the apostles going back to their own company, to the church, where they all begin to pray, and this is what they say in that prayer. Having quoted the second Psalm, they say, ‘… For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done’ (Acts 4:270–28). They are repeating what Peter had said in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, and what is said on both occasions is that though it was actually, of course, physically, materially, the hands of men who had killed him, it was God who had purposed this. They were simply carrying out in time what God had predetermined before the very foundation of the world.
Now, this is the most important thing that you and I can ever consider. You see what it means, and the light this throws upon all those burnt offerings and sacrifices in the Old Testament. As we saw, the paschal lamb and all the burnt offerings and sacrifices were just prophecies of the coming of the day when the Son of God was going to be crucified. Now you see how all that could happen. God had decided on this before man was ever created. He knew, he had decided before time, that this was to be the way in which man should be saved. God, you see, is omniscient. God knows everything, he knows the end from the beginning. There is nothing outside his knowledge. And God knew that man was going to fall before he made him, and God had decided upon a plan of salvation before man was ever created.
Now this is the whole of the preaching of the New Testament. The apostle Paul in writing to the Corinthians puts it like this: he says he has a wisdom to preach, ‘Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but,’ he says, ‘we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory’ (1 Cor 2:6– 7). That is the very thing that I am trying to put before you. It means the most glorious good news that has ever come into the world. This is why the apostle Paul glories in the cross of Christ. Here we are, miserable sinners, every one of us. There is not a person alive today who is not a miserable sinner. The whole of the human race is in this condition. Everybody who has ever been born since the fall of Adam has been born in sin, shapen in iniquity. Life has been a misery for that reason. Life has been a trial. Life is a matter of disappointment. Life is a matter of a man doing things he does not want to do, and failing to do the things he wants to do. It is a struggle. It is a moral problem, a moral failure, and a moral difficulty to every one of us.
And here we are still in the same condition. Civilization has been trying to put things right. Men have concocted their schemes, planned their Utopias, and passed their acts of parliament and we are none the better. We are as bad as we have ever been, more educated, but not more moral. We know much that our forefathers did not, but we still do not know how not to sin, and how to live a clean, a wholesome, pure and a chaste life. Here we are in the same old human predicament. And do you know the message of this gospel? Do you know why Paul gloried in it?
It is because he had come to see that God had got a plan for this miserable, wretched, failing sinful world. And it is a plan that he had planned before the very foundation of the world itself.
I know of nothing so wonderful in the whole world today. That is why I do not preach topical sermons, I have something to tell you that is worth listening to! What good are my comments upon the news, or upon politics? Everything goes round in the same old miserable way. I am here to tell you something that only this gospel can tell you. That the Almighty and Everlasting God is concerned about this, it is his world and he is going to put it right, and he is putting it right in his own way. He is concerned about our deliverance and about our redemption. God has a plan and a purpose: ‘Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.’ But you did not know what you were doing. You did not realize that this was a part of God’s great and eternal plan and purpose of salvation and of redemption. The cross, you see, is the centre of God’s plan. It is the heart of God’s way of saving the world. That is why, as we have seen, the Apostle put it again in 1 Corinthians 1: ‘But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called … Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.’ Here it is in its essence, this cross of Christ. That is why I want to put it to you like this. That the Apostle gloried in the cross, and every true Christian glories in it, because it is the greatest display and exposition of the character of the everlasting God. That is what you see when you survey the cross. You do not see that glorious person alone; you look again and see that it is not only the Son that is involved in this cross. The Father is involved, he is there. Have you ever seen him there? Is there anything higher or more wonderful than to see something of the glory of the everlasting God? It is on the cross on Calvary’s hill that you see the most wonderful and amazing display of this glory that the world has ever known.
All our troubles ultimately emanate from our ignorance of God. That is the real trouble in the world today. Men and women do not know God. There are some who say they are not interested. There are others, and this is equally bad, who simply put up their own ideas of God. The men who speculate philosophically about God, these are the popular writers of today. They have no authority whatsoever. It is simply what they think. That is sheer ignorance of God. No, we cannot know God unless he reveals himself to us, because God is who and what he is. And what do we know? Do we know ourselves? Does your psychology really explain you to yourself? Does all your modern knowledge really help you to know yourself and your neighbour? Does it really give you an understanding of life and of death? Of course it does not! Our ignorance is appalling, and the more we learn, the more we see our own ignorance. How can a man know God?
God only wise,
In light inaccessible
hid from our eyes.
— W. Chalmers Smith
What is the use of Jodrell Bank when you are looking into infinity and eternity? By all means, send up your astronauts. Let them look with all the power that they can command; they cannot possibly see him. God is:
God only wise,
In light inaccessible
hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious,
the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendour
and girded with praise.
Do you think you can see? Of course you cannot. We are incapacitated at the very beginning, before we make any attempt. We see parts and portions.
In creation you can see something of him. As the Apostle puts it in Romans 1, by examining nature and creation, you can see something of the Creator’s eternal power, and Godhead. You see, as it were, the marks of his fingers, and you know that God is, as Sir James Jeans put it, the great scientist, the mastermind and mathematician. You see it in the symmetry and the balance, and all the form and the perfection in the universe. You see it in the seasons, spring, summer, autumn, winter, and in his gifts to man, and all his kindness and goodness. Yes, but you only see in part, you only see God’s power, God’s greatness, God the Creator.
And then you can see some part of him in history. Read the history of the nations, and especially of the Jews. You see something of the hand of God, as the Lord of history. Again, you see it also in providence, in his providential dealings with us. But even when you have seen all these things, you have seen so little about God. You see that there is great power, great ability, and a great order. But, oh! You do not know God as a Father, you do not know God in his heart, you do not know God in all the glory of his fullness. John has put it perfectly to us in the prologue of his Gospel when he says, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him’ (1:18). No man hath seen God; no man can see God and live. God being what he is, it is impossible. We can know nothing except it be revealed and this is the message of this Gospel, that God, in his infinite grace and kindness, has revealed himself, not only in nature and creation, not only in providence and in history, but beyond it all, in his Son, who came from the eternal bosom to teach us about him and to tell us about him, and that supremely on the cross. That is why it is so glorious. Everything is leading up to this. There are hints and suggestions all the way, but here it bursts upon us in all the blaze of everlasting glory; God really revealing his heart to us.
Our Lord himself had said that this was the case. He said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father (which means no man can come unto the Father) but by me’ (Jn 14:6). Yes, God the Creator, God the Almighty, God the Controller of history, but you will never know God as Father except by Jesus Christ, and in particular, by his death upon the cross. If you want to know God, if you want to know the everlasting and eternal God, this is the way, the only way. Look there, gaze, meditate, survey, the wondrous cross. And then you will see something of him.
The first thing you will see is the grace of God. Grace is a great word in the Bible, the grace of God. It is most simply defined in these words—it is favour shown to people who do not deserve any favour at all. And the message of the gospel is that any one of us is saved and put right for eternity, solely and entirely by the grace of God, not by ourselves. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God’ (Eph 2:8). My friend, is it not about time we all admitted it? Do what you like, you will never save yourself. You will never save yourself from the world, the flesh, and the devil, you will never save yourself from your own misery. Still less will you save yourself from the law of God and judgement and hell. You cannot do it. Try! Men have tried it through out the centuries. They have all admitted failure.
Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfil thy law’s demands:
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save,
and thou alone.
— A. M. Toplady
And the best and the most honest souls the world has ever known have been the ones that have tried that route most assiduously, and have been most ready at the end to confess their failure. No, there is only one hope for us today. It is the grace of God, which means that in spite of our being what we are, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son …’. He did it in spite of us. We deserve nothing but hell. If you think you deserve heaven, take it from me you are not a Christian.
Now, that is a very good definition of a Christian. Any man who thinks that he deserves heaven is not a Christian. But for any man who knows that he deserves hell, there is hope. Out goes all your self- righteousness. It is all by grace, and entirely the mercy and compassion and the grace of God. It is God, who, in spite of us, and, in spite of the world being what it is, sent his own Son into this world and then sent him to the cross. By the predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge of God, he went there. Why? Here is the question. All right, you say, I like this idea of grace. I am glad to hear you saying that God still loves us in spite of our unworthiness and sinfulness. That is wonderful. But why the cross, then? Why does God in his love not just forgive us?
Look again at the cross, my friend. Take another survey. Examine it again with greater depth and profundity, and having seen the grace and the mercy and the compassion and the kindness of God, look again and this is what you will see. You will see the righteousness of God. You will see the justice of God and his holiness. It is the place of all places in the universe where these attributes of God can be seen most plainly. God has revealed something of his righteousness, and his justice and his holiness, in the law that he gave to the Children of Israel. The Ten Commandments proclaim it and his punishments of the Children of Israel display the same thing.
But if you really want to know anything about righteousness and justice and utter, absolute holiness, you will have to survey the wondrous cross, and there you will see it, for what the cross tells us is that God hates sin. God is the eternal antithesis to sin. God abominates sin with the whole intensity of his divine and perfect and holy nature. And God not only hates sin, he cannot tolerate it. God cannot compromise with sin. That is what we want, of course. We want God to compromise with sin. We want a God who says: ‘All right, I know you have done this or that, but it is all right. Slip into heaven.’ God cannot do that. God cannot compromise. There is no compromise between light and darkness, good and evil. They are eternal opposites, and God, because he is God hates sin.
God must therefore punish sin. That is what the Bible means when it tells us that the wrath of God is against all sin and unrighteousness. ‘For the wrath of God,’ says the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, ‘is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness’ (1:18). My friend, God is holy. Who can imagine this? We are so imperfect, so impure. Our minds are so polluted. You and I cannot think of absolute purity, absolute righteousness, absolute holiness. We may talk about these things, but we cannot imagine them. But God is all that. And because he is all that, he can have no dealings with sin. He has told us that he must and will punish the sinner because sin is what it is. Sin is rebellion against God. Do not think of sin merely in terms of actions. That is what we are all tending to do at the present time. The newspapers are placarding certain actions in their mock self-righteousness. But that is not what is meant by sin. Sin is a matter of attitude. And what makes sin sin, is that it is rebellion against God. It is to disobey God; it is to trample upon the sanctities of God. It is unrighteousness; it is transgression of God’s law. Indeed, it is worse. It is a hatred of God.
The natural mind is not merely a mind that makes a man do things that he should not do. ‘The carnal (natural) mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ (Rom 8:7). And it is because man in sin is such, that he regards even the gospel as foolishness. ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14). This is sin, this is the trouble with man, that he is so steeped in sin and so perverted by it that when God does the most glorious thing that even God can do, the natural man laughs a t it a s foolishness and dismisses it with derision. That is why God hates sin. It is because it hates him. It is enmity against God. ‘The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be ….’
Now the cross tells us that. And you see that because of that, the cross is necessary. Here is the problem. How can such a God possibly forgive any man, how can there be any hope of heaven for any one of us, for we have all sinned? We are all ‘by nature the children of wrath,’ says Paul to the Ephesians, ‘even as others’ (Eph 2:8). We are all naturally God-haters, and if you have not realized that, you have not known these things very deeply. Do not come and tell me that you have always loved God. You have not. You were born in sin, shapen in iniquity. And if you think you have always believed in God, it is because you have had a God of your own creation, not the God of the Bible. This is a universal statement, and so we have the problem. How can this holy, righteous God possibly forgive anybody at all, and remain what he is?
What I see in the cross is God’s way of solving the problem. So I see the wisdom of God. If you want to know anything about the wisdom of God, look at the cross. Here is God’s solution to the problem that he saw before he created the world. Man was going to sin, and yet God wants to forgive him. How can he? God, in his eternal wisdom, thought out the way and the plan.
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
— J. H. Newman
If you want to know anything about the eternal wisdom of God, look at the cross. That is why Paul says it is the wisdom of God and the power of God. There you see the mind of the eternal, solving the eternal problem. How can God be just and at the same time forgive anybody? How can he bring these things together—righteousness and mercy, holiness and love? Is it possible? And the answer is on the cross. This is why Paul glories in it. He has seen things there that he has never seen anywhere else. He was a wonderful Pharisee, a very good man, moral and religious. He studied the Scriptures, he thought he knew all about God, but here he discovers that he knows nothing. All his knowledge has become nothing to him. It is here that he sees the wisdom of God, providing a way, making a way, whereby God can remain God and yet forgive a sinner.
So you see there the wisdom of God, as well as his grace, and purpose, his mercy and his compassion. But I see another thing. I see the immutability of God, which means that Goes does not and cannot change. You see, the God of these moderns is a god not worth worshipping. He is a god who changes and accommodates, and no one can tell what he is going to do next. He changes every century, according to scientific knowledge and philosophical speculation. That is not God. God, said the fathers of the Bible, is immutable; he is unchangeable. He cannot deny himself. He is what he says he is. And if there is one place in all history and in the whole of the universe where you see the immutability and the unchangeableness of God more clearly than anywhere else, it is on the cross. Suffering there is his own Son. Is he going to change, is he going to modify? No, he sees what must be done, and he does it. God says that he is going to punish sin. And when even his own Son makes himself the representative of sinners, he carries out his word. He does not modify it, even though it is his own Son. Oh, the immutability of God, and the absolute perfection of all his ways!
But that leads me to the last thing, the most wonderful thing of all, which is the love of God to us. It is not surprising that this Apostle should say to the Romans, ‘God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8). How do you see the love of God in the cross? Ah, says the modern man, I see it in this way, that though man rejected and murdered the Son of God, God in his love still says, ‘All right, I still forgive you. Though you have done that to my Son, I still forgive you.’ Yes, that is a part of it, but it is the smallest part of it. That is not the real love of God. I have reminded you already that God was not a passive spectator of the death of his Son. That is how the moderns put it. That God in heaven looked on and down upon it all, he saw men killing his own Son, and he said, ‘All right, I will still forgive you.’ But in that view, God was passive, God was inactive. He was responding passively to what men did. Oh, how important we think we are. You know it is not we who brought his Son to the cross. It was God. It was the predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge of God.
If you really want to know what the love of God means, read what Paul wrote to the Romans, ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh’ (Rom 8:3). God condemned sin in the flesh of his own Son. This is the love of God. Read again Isaiah 53, that wonderful prophecy of what happened on Calvary’s hill. You notice how he goes on repeating it. ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted …. It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief (vv. 4, 10). These are the terms. And they are nothing but a plain, simple, accurate, factual description of what happened on the cross. Read Paul summing it all up: ‘For he (God) hath made him (the Son) to be sin for us’ (2 Cor 5:21). Do you realize what I am saying? Men and women, this is the whole trouble of the world. It is bound in its blindness. God has made his own Son to be sin for us, though he knew no sin, in order that he might be able to forgive us, in order ‘that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’.
What does that mean? Let me give you another quotation from this apostle Paul who in Romans 8:32 describes why he glories so much in the cross: ‘He (God) that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.’ Now that is a wonderful description of what happened on the cross. God, in his great love to us, delivered up for us his only begotten, dearly beloved Son, who had never disobeyed him and had never done any harm to anybody, to the death of the cross. But you notice what he says: ‘He that spared not his own Son.’ He means that God had made it very plain and clear that he was going to punish sin by pouring out upon sinners the vials of his wrath. He was going to punish sin in this way—that men should die. The wages of sin is death, and it means endless death and destruction. And what we are told there by the Apostle is that after he had laid our sins upon his own Son on that cross, he did not spare him any of the punishment. He did not say, Because he is my Son I will modify the punishment. I will hold back a little, I cannot do that to my own Son. I cannot regard him as a sinner. I cannot smite him, I cannot strike him. He did not say that. He did everything he had said he would do. He did not keep anything back. He spared not his own Son. He poured out all his divine wrath upon sin, upon his own dearly beloved Son.
So you hear the Son crying out in his agony, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ and he literally died of a broken heart. John tells us that when the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, ‘Forthwith came there out blood and water’ (19:34). The heart had burst and the blood had clotted, and there it was—serum and blood clot, because his heart was literally ruptured by the agony of the wrath of God upon him, and by the separation from the face of his Father. That is the love of God. That, my friend, is the love of God to you, a sinner. Not that he looks on passively and says: I forgive you though you have done this to my Son. No, he himself smites the Son. He does to the Son what you and I could never do. He pours out his eternal wrath upon him, and hides his face from him. His own dearly beloved, only begotten Son. And he did it in order that we should not receive that punishment and go to hell and spend there an eternity in misery, torment and unhappiness. That is the love of God. And that is the wonder and the marvel and the glory of the cross, God punishing his own Son, in order that he might not have to punish you and me.
It was also done in order that the message of the cross might be preached, and it is this: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31). Believe that he died your death, bore your punishment, suffered in your place, that the chastisement of your peace was upon him. Believe, and you are immediately forgiven. That is the glory of the cross. God’s wisdom devising the way, God’s love carrying it out, in spite of what it meant to him, and the Son, willingly and readily submitting himself to it, in order that you and I might be forgiven and might become the children of God. Oh:
When I survey the wondrous Cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
—for he was put to death by his own Father—
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
—and on all my self-righteousness. It is ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ that I see these things: God eternal, in all the glory of his Father’s heart, giving his own Son up to such a death for me.
And indeed I therefore see in that cross the harmony of all the divine attributes. I see holiness and love, I see ‘M ercy and truth met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’ I see all the eternal attributes of the everlasting God, all of them displayed at the same time. There is no contradiction between the righteousness, the justice and the love and the mercy and the compassion.
They are all there, and they are all there in the plenitude of the Godhead. There is only one thing to say when you have seen things like that, and it is this: ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ It is there I know God as he is, and as my Father. And I see his glorious character vindicated to the last iota. Therefore I trust my soul to him. I rest upon his word, the unchanging, everlasting God.
Do you react like that to the cross, my friend? Have you seen these things in the cross—the Son, with the Father and the Holy Spirit sustaining the Son? He offered himself through the eternal Spirit on our behalf to God. It is your reaction to this that decides whether you are a Christian or not. Do not tell me about your good works, I am not interested. Do not tell me you are a church member, I am not a bit interested. Are you glorying in the cross? Is this everything to you? Is this life to you? Are you ready to die rather than deny this glorious message? That is what a Christian is, and unless we glory in the cross we have not seen it and what it means, and if we have not seen it, we do not really believe in it. And if we do not believe in it, we are yet in our sins, and should we die like that, we will go to judgement and we will go to hell. Your eternal, everlasting destiny, depends upon this one thing. Have you seen that God has provided there the only way whereby you can be forgiven and become a child of God, and go on to inherit the glories of eternity? May God have mercy upon us all, and by his Spirit open our eyes to see the glory of the cross.