The Glory of the Cross
Sermon preached by Dr. Porter on the occasion of his fifteenth anniversary as Assistant and Associate Pastor of The Moody Church.
When I came to The Moody Church fifteen years ago, I received a lot of interesting advice. Quite a list of names was suggested of people to be avoided or “watched.” Would it not be interesting to publish this list? There is no danger, however, and I can testify that they have all proven to be true children of God, in spite of their faults, and mine! Another advised me to listen to everyone—get all the advice I could and then do as I pleased! I have not been able to do the latter until tonight when Dr. Ironside gave me just this permission. Some of my friends warned me that two or three assistant pastors had been “killed” prior to my arrival and that my “fate” would doubtless be a similar one! I was given as high as a year to stay, but I’ve been here 15. A friend of mine said that Dr. Ironside would last only a year too, but he has been here a great deal longer than that! What a privilege it has been to be a co-worker with one whom I esteem very highly in the Lord—Dr. H.A. Ironside. His fellowship has been very sweet as it has also been with Brother John Ironside and Stratton Shufelt.
The best advice I received was from a good lady, a member of our church. I am not mentioning her name. She said, “Not I, but Christ will cause you to succeed in your ministry in The Moody Church.” I have endeavored to live up to this motto although I am conscious of the fact of many failures. It has been a great help, however, and I do trust that I may continue to follow this as my standard.
The Apostle Paul was sometimes called upon to boast a little. I like the way he did it. Invariably he prefaced such boasting with “I speak as a fool.” There were those of the Judaizing teachers who attempted to discount and deny his apostleship and it was necessary for him to defend it for the sake of those to whom he ministered. However, his real spirit is set forth in the Scripture found in 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.”
Someone has suggested that there are four kinds of pride—pride of PLACE, pride of RACE, pride of FACE, and pride of GRACE. How many are inclined to glory in the position which they hold-in their station in life. Others are proud of the blood that runs in their veins, of their nationality. Saul of Tarsus knew a great deal of this before his conversion but afterward he learned to count it all but refuse, as compared with a knowledge of Christ. Judging from the appearance of things, most of us will have little difficulty with the pride of FACE. We are not to blame for the way we look and should not spend too much time worrying about it. Perhaps the worst pride of all is the pride of GRACE. We think of some who make loud claims of preaching nothing but the Gospel of Grace, who are utterly devoid of grace in their attitude toward others. Whatever the grace may be in which we are proud it is better to say with the apostle, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross.”
It occurred to me some years ago while reading the 103rd Psalm that we have a marvelous presentation of the Cross in this chapter. We read in verse ten, “He hath not dealt with US after our sins, nor rewarded US according to our iniquities.” No, He did not deal with nor reward US, but there was another with whom He dealt—even our blessed Substitute Who hung on Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ. If I had a great blackboard that extended from earth to heaven, and enough chalk to last in making a line that long, it would be possible, in a great vertical line, to illustrate the length of God’s mercy to those who have found shelter under the blood of Christ. We read, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.” Add to this another line (if that were possible) extending as far as the east is from the west and you have another infinite distance, “so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (verse 13). Thus we have a cross of infinite proportions depicted—no greater however, than the marvelous salvation which it sets forth—marvelous in the mind and purpose of God and just as limitless in its effect in man’s redemption.
Hebrews 9:26 proclaims the purpose of Christ’s coming into this world—“Now once in the end of the world (consummation of the ages) hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” This shows that our Saviour came into the world, not primarily to live but to die. He did live—and the Gospel records bear testimony that He was “holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners”—that He was indeed the Lamb of God, without spot and blemish. This was necessary in order that He might qualify as a satisfactory offering for our sins and the sins of the whole world. It agrees with the testimony of John the Baptist, who cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
How often we have emphasized what 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us, “that the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness.” We have warned those who have claimed that the message of the Gospel was foolish and unworthy of their attention that this was proof indeed that they were perishing, according to this Scripture. Have we not neglected, however, to emphasize the remainder of the verse, “unto us it is the power of God?” Should we not know more of its practical power in our daily lives?
Many years ago, a friend of mine who had two boys—real live ones—told me of an experience of his youngest son who was then very small and very round. He had a special liking for delicious cookies his mother made. He had been forbidden to take cookies out of the jar for consumption between meals. His father had told him about “reckoning ourselves dead indeed to sin (through the Cross of Christ) and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This seemed a rather “heavy” truth for one so small but he seemed to comprehend it nevertheless as the sequel will show. Coming to his father one day, the little lad said, “Father, I was tempted to steal some cookies from the jar today and do you know what I did?” “What did you do?” said the father. “I was just reaching out my hand toward the cookie jar when I remember what you had been telling me. I said, ‘Temptation, I’m dead to you!’ And what do you think? My hand fell right down, and I didn’t take any cookies.”
How blessed it would be if many older hands would “fall down” instead of reaching toward the things of sin. We need, by faith, to place the Cross of Christ between us and our temptations. Then will we know that it is “the power of God” for real victory in our lives. You are not dead. The sin which tempts you is not dead. But if you will reckon yourself dead unto the sin and alive only unto God, victory will be yours.
The apostle Paul exercised great care not to use “wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ be made of none effect.” It is possible to hang so many flowers upon the accursed tree that its real meaning will be lost. The cross is really hideous from the standpoint that it was there our Saviour became a “curse” for us that He might redeem us to God. How glorious it becomes to the one who has trusted the atoning blood of Him Who there “died for our sins.”
This brings us to a great question. “Who crucified Christ? Who was responsible for putting Him to death upon the tree?”
To answer this question, we must go back to the primeval prophecy of the Bible—Genesis 3:15—the first promise of a coming Redeemer in the Scriptures. Here God speaks to Satan through the serpent and says that the seed of the woman would bruise his head and “thou (Satan) shalt bruise His heel.” This prophecy opens up to us one of the most interesting studies in Scripture—tracing the parallel lines of the seed of the woman and the serpent from Genesis to Revelation. Events otherwise in-understandable in both testaments are made clear in the light of this great conflict. It will some day enable us to understand the mysteries of history. From the very moment of his birth, Satan endeavored to put Jesus to death and finally succeeded at Calvary. This, however, became his undoing as “through death” Christ destroyed “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” that he might “deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14, 15).
But some one will say, “Was not Judas responsible for the death of Christ?” The answer is in the affirmative. Judas sold his Lord for so many pieces of silver. What are you selling Him for? What is the price that keeps you away from Christ? Alas, even Judas didn’t keep what he earned. We read that he cast the money at the feet of those from whom he had received it. It was used to purchase the potter’s field. And then Judas, attempting to hang himself, was dashed to pieces upon the rocks below a high cliff.
The Jews were responsible for the death of Christ upon the cross. When Pilate would have delivered Jesus they cried out, “Crucify Him. Deliver Barabbas to us.” They spoke of their own guilt when they said, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” What a terrific indictment this was! What horrible suffering has been theirs as a result of it. Peter said to his own nation, “Ye have with wicked hands crucified” the Lord of Glory. The 22nd Psalm, which foretold the Cross a thousand years before it became history, speaks of the religious leaders of the Jews gathered at the crucifixion in these terms, “Bulls of Bashan beset me round.” These were animals of sacrifice and suggest to us the leaders of the Jews.
How quick Gentiles have been to point the finger of scorn and derision at Israel as though the latter alone were responsible for the death of Christ. This has resulted in a great deal of injustice toward the Jews upon the part of even professing Christian people. It has made the evangelization of the Jews just that much more difficult. Gentiles need to be reminded that it was a Roman cross upon which the Saviour hung. It was a Roman edict that made His death possible. Roman spikes were driven through those blessed hands and feet. The 22nd Psalm refers to Gentiles when it says, “Dogs have compassed me.” The word “dogs” was a well-known symbol used to designate Gentiles as is verified by our Lord who referred in the Gospel to taking the children’s bread (Jews) and giving it to the (Gentiles) dogs. So Gentiles were to blame for the death of Christ upon the Cross.
As strange as it may seem, however, it was God who was responsible for the death of His Son. The 53rd of Isaiah says, “It hath pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” He cried out in agony from that cross, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” All the billows and waves of God’s judgment and wrath against sin were poured over His blessed head that there might not be a ripple left for us. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. To illustrate this I think of a conversation I had with an uncle of mine, many years ago. He had a sheep ranch and lived out in the prairie country. I was but a little lad when this conversation took place. He said, “Charlie, what would you do if you were out in the prairie country when a great prairie fire broke out.” I said to him that I would call the fire department. He laughed at me, knowing full well that no such a department would be available. Then I suggested that I would use a broom to beat the fire out as I had seen this done many times when leaves were burned at my home and the fire spread to the short grass. He smiled again. Finally, he told me what to do. He said that if a fire approached, raging a great prairie fires can, that the thing to do would be to light a fire at my feet. “Then,” said he, “after the fire burns a circle, step into the circle. By the time the great conflagration has reached you there will be nothing left to burn.” The fires of God’s judgment against sin burned a great circle about the Cross of Jesus Christ. Thank God, I have stepped into that circle. There is ample room for all who will put their trust in Him. Step in and you will be judgment-proof against the coming day of wrath.
Yet it was Jesus, Himself, who was responsible for His own death on the tree. We remember the words of the Lord who said, “No man taketh My life for Me. I have power to lay down My life and to take it up again.” He said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up again.” The temple which He spoke of was His body and Christ proved the truth of His assertion by dismissing His Spirit with a loud voice, at a time when, naturally, He would be utterly helpless through physical exhaustion, and by arising from the dead on the third day. Yes, He loved us and gave Himself for us.
In the final analysis it was our sins that put Christ to death upon the Cross. “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.” He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The story is told of a self-righteous man who had a remarkable dream. He had often expressed his abhorrence in regard to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. “Had I been there,” said he, “I would have raised my voice in protest against the injustice of the whole affair. I would have taken a stand against those who so grossly wronged Jesus of Nazareth.” In his dream, he seemed to see a great throng passing by. At the head of the procession was one who carried a heavy cross. He fell beneath its weight and another was found to bear it. Then he listened intently as he heard a great cry, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Imagine his horror as he listened a little longer to realize that the terrible words were proceeding from his own lips as well as from those of the great throng! He awoke to realize that his sins as well as theirs had caused the death of Jesus. From that moment on he trusted the Christ who “bore his sins in His own body on the tree.”
When one contemplates the seven-fold scope of the cross he can realize its tremendous importance in the relation to the entire plan of redemption. Its two lines, one vertical and the other horizontal, answer to the symbol of the broken law of Moses. The first half of the ten commandments, having to do with man’s relation to God, is indicated by the vertical shaft of the cross. The last half, featuring man’s duty toward his fellows, is indicated by the horizontal shaft of the cross. Man, in his sin, offended against both parts of the law, so Christ in His atonement made upon the cross, fulfills all the laws demands, that God might be just and the justified of all who believe on Jesus.
In the Old Testament Scriptures we read of many failures on the part of God’s servants. David’s sin, Moses’ lack of meekness, Sarah’s laugh at God and many other things are brought out in bold relief. Turn to the eleventh chapter of Hebrews where the accomplishments of faith are recorded, and not a syllable of reproof is to be found in regard to those same characters. Why is this?
It is because the cross has intervened and stands between the two accounts. God cannot see our sin through the blood of Jesus. It is the cross that has removed the great barrier that stood between us and God. It is with real joy of heart that we unite with the apostle in saying, “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.”
In the cross of Christ I glory
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.