THE POWER OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST

BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO

Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, died, and was raised on the third day, never to die again; death no longer has power over Him (Romans 6:9). Hallelujah! The cross He was nailed to was not special and He was not the first person to be nailed to the cross. According to history, crucifixion was practised in the ancient world by the Persians, Carthaginians, Romans, and others.

Alexander the Great hanged 2,000 people on crosses when the city of Tyre was destroyed. But none of the crosses has the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Also, Alexander Jannaeus, the king and high priest of Judea from 103-76 B.C.E, crucified 800 Pharisees while eating with his concubines. Before their crucifixion, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes. None of these crosses has the power of the cross of Jesus.

According to Christian tradition, the Apostle Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero. But the cross of Peter lacks the power of the cross of Jesus.

The Bible refers to “the cross of Jesus” in John 19:25. Galatians 6:12 and 1 Corinthians 1:17 use the phrase “the cross of Christ” while Galatians 6:14 uses the phrase “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Also in Philippians 3:18, the Bible talks about “the cross of Christ.” These phrases refer to the same thing: the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Although not physically different from other crosses, no other cross possesses the power of this cross.

The Death of the Cross

Why should Jesus be nailed to the cross? Crucifixion was not a Jewish practice. The Bible does not provide in the Old Testament that offenders or sinners be executed on the cross. Stoning to death was the means of capital punishment in Israel as was done to some Bible characters, including Achan, Naboth, and Stephen. The highest punishment for sin among the Israelites was to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:2, 27; 24:14, 16, 23; Numbers 15:35-36; Deuteronomy 13:10; 17:5; 21:21; 22:21, 24; Joshua 7:25; 1 Kings 21:13-15).

When the Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, he told them at a point to go and judge Jesus according to their law. They replied that they were not permitted to put anyone to death (John 18:31-32). This was because, before this time, the power to kill had been taken away from them. They had no legal right to administer capital punishment. Therefore, they demanded that Pilate crucify Him (John 19:5-6).

Even the stoning of Stephen to death later in the early church was illegal but the religious leaders could hide under the fact that it was a mob action. Also, unlike Jesus, Stephen was relatively unknown and didn’t have followers who could seek revenge that could lead to violence, attracting Rome’s attention.

However, according to Jewish law, if someone had committed a sin deserving death, and was put to death and hanged on a tree, his body must not remain overnight on the tree. It must be buried that day so that the land would not be defiled because anyone who was hanged was under God’s curse (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

Nevertheless, the Jews would not hang anyone except he had broken the law and had been pronounced guilty and stoned to death first. Jesus was not hanged on the tree after death but crucified after Pilate had handed Him over to them to be crucified (John 19:13-16). “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots’” (Matthew 27:35 NKJV).

The Romans practised execution on the cross for criminals and slaves but exempted Roman citizens. Crucifixion was a slow and painful death that also exposed the victim to public ridicule. Jesus was subjected to this despite Pilate not finding Him guilty (John 18:38; 19:4, 6; Luke 23:13-16). Two criminals were crucified with Jesus, one on the right and the other on the left (Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27). One of them testified that Jesus had done nothing wrong (Luke 23:40-41).

Jesus died on the cross, taking your place as a sinner. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).

Jesus had to die on the cross because He came for this purpose. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus was talking about the suffering on the cross. And when the time came Jesus endured the death of the cross for you and me. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient (even) unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8 ASV).

The death of Jesus on the cross is central to the Christian faith. Paul sought to know the fellowship of His suffering – His suffering on the cross to save humanity (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save the world. Unlike other crucifixions, His death on the cross changed the course of history. History says that Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor to profess Christianity, later abolished crucifixion in the year 337 as a mark of respect and honour for Jesus Christ.

Part of the lyrics of the hymn, “His Banner Over Me Is Love” says, “There’s one way to peace through the power of the cross.” It is important to understand what the cross of Christ wrought for the world. Isaac Watts wrote the powerful hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in 1707. You must survey the wondrous cross, the cross of Christ. In other words, you must study, examine, scrutinize, and understand the cross of Christ to appreciate its value or power.

The power of the cross of Christ

1. The cross of Christ accomplishes for us reconciliation and salvation: Romans 5:10-11 says,For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that,but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (NKJV). Jesus brought sinners back to the Father through the death of the cross. Without Jesus dying on the cross, the world would not have been reconciled with God. The power of reconciliation is in the cross of Christ. Ephesians 2:16 says, “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (NKJV). Salvation for the sinner is possible because Jesus died on the cross and reconciled us to God.

2. The cross of Christ secures for us forgiveness of sin and cancellation of charges: Sin separated man from God but the cross not only got for humanity forgiveness of sin, it also broke the power of the sin nature and restored peace between man and God. The death of the cross brought us forgiveness and cancelled the record containing the charges against you and me. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14 NLT). God wiped out the charges against us for disobeying the law. He took them away and nailed them to the cross. Jesus paid the required penalty for our disobedience to God’s laws. You can receive forgiveness for your sin right now if you repent and confess your sin.

3. The cross of Christ redeems us from the curse of the Law: The Bible says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14 NKJV). By His death on the cross, Jesus redeemed humanity from the curse of the Law and its condemnation. By becoming a curse for us through His death on the cross, Jesus paid the price to free us from the curse God’s laws bring.

4. Because of the cross of Christ, we can live a new life in Christ Jesus. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (NIV). Through the cross, the world has been crucified to us, and we are crucified to the world. Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (NIV). The Contemporary English Version renders the concluding part of this scripture this way: “Because of his cross, the world is dead as far as I am concerned, and I am dead as far as the world is concerned.” GOD’S WORD Translation puts it thus: “By his cross my relationship to the world and its relationship to me have been crucified.”

Because of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, it is possible for a Christian not to love the world or the things in the world as the Bible says in 1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world [of sin that opposes God and His precepts], nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust and sensual craving of the flesh and the lust and longing of the eyes and the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father, but are from the world. The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever” (AMP). Nobody can do what this scripture says without what Christ accomplished for humanity on the cross.

The cross of Christ is everything. We have nothing to boast of except the cross of Christ. Our boast as Christians is not in our gifts, abilities, anointing, accomplishments, etc. but in the cross of Jesus Christ. Without His cross, we are nothing. Whatever blessing or privilege we have today is because of the cross of Christ on which He suffered and died, and our sins were forgiven. Boast only in the cross – the suffering and death of Christ. Without the cross of Christ, all sinners are condemned and cannot live a new life.

5. The cross of Christ gives us divine Healing: In his prophecy on the crucifixion of Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (NKJV). Pilate scourged Jesus or ordered Him to be flogged or scourged before he delivered Him to the religious leaders to be crucified (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1). The Apostle Peter also refers to this prophecy: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24 KJV). The word “stripes” refers to the lashes He was given. The Bible does not mention any number. The Jews would not give more than thirty-nine lashes because Deuteronomy 25:3 says a judge must not impose more than forty lashes. Paul said five times he received from the Jews thirty-nines lashes or forty minus one (2 Corinthians 11:24). But the Romans flogged Jesus, not the Jews so they would not have followed Jewish practice. Jesus was scourged in fulfilment of prophecy. During this time of torture, the garments of the victim were usually removed before being flogged with a dangerous instrument that inflicted a serious injury to the flesh of the victim.

The Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, not the Jewish religious leaders. They only brought charges against Him and put pressure on Pilate to order His crucifixion.Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,’ that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ Therefore the soldiers did these things” (John 19:23-24 NKJV).

The death of Jesus on the cross brings the world divine healing, both spiritual and physical. Even before Jesus was crucified, Matthew refers to the Prophet Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus’ taking away our infirmities and bearing our sicknesses. After Jesus had healed many possessed with devils, cast out spirits with His word, and healed many sick people, Matthew says, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses’” (Matthew 8:17 NKJV).  Jesus had not been scourged then when He healed many. The stripes of Jesus after His trial were for the healing of all, both spiritual and physical. If you are sick, you can be healed. Divine healing is real. Many have testified to receiving their healing supernaturally. You are healed of whatever sickness is in your body in Jesus’ name.

6. The cross of Christ defeated the powers of darkness: Colossians 2:15 says,Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (NKJV). Jesus has defeated the powers of darkness through His death on the cross. For our sake, Jesus has defeated the devil – the rulers and authorities or principalities and power. He shamed them by His victory over them on the cross.

7. The cross of Christ gives us victory over death: Without the death of the cross, there wouldn’t be the resurrection. By His resurrection, Jesus became the “first fruits” of those who will be raised to life again (1 Corinthians 15:20). Through Jesus, those who die in Christ shall also be resurrected from the dead (verses 21-22). He has given us victory over death. Death is not the end. There is life after death. Death is a passage to eternity – eternity with God or the devil. Those who die in Christ will be resurrected and spend their eternity with God while those who die without being born again will spend eternity with the devil. The sinners will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life (Matthew 25:46).

Conclusion: Paul says that 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 (1 Corinthian 1:18). There is power in the cross of Jesus and preaching about the death of Jesus was central to the message of the early church. To those being saved, the message about the cross of Christ is God’s power at work. But the message is foolishness to those who are lost because they reject it.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul speaks thus about the power of the cross: “For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News — and not with clever speeches and high-sounding ideas, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power” (NLT). Without condemning or despising baptism which Jesus commands, Paul says baptizing was not his main business. That doesn’t mean he didn’t baptize anyone but his main focus was to preach the Good News while others baptized those who were saved. Paul notes that in preaching the Good News, he didn’t use clever speeches and high-sounding ideas so that the cross of the Messiah would not be robbed of its power. Christianity without the cross of Christ is powerless. Salvation does not come through clever speeches and high-sounding ideas but through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

If you are not yet born again, you can begin to access all the benefits of the power of the cross by giving your life to Jesus now.

TAKE ACTION!

If you are not born again, I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner, and you cannot save yourself, and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.

Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself.  I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.

I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.

T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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