We have looked at the CROSS of CHRIST. We saw how God Himself took His own loving initiative to appease His own righteous anger by bearing it His own self in His own Son when He took our place and died for us. Let us now focus on the achievements and effects of the CROSS.
We who believe in Him are justified by faith. God pronounces us legally righteous, free from the liability to the broken law, because He Himself in His Son has borne the penalty of our law-breaking. Faith’s only function is to receive what grace freely offers. God’s grace is the source and Christ’s blood the ground of our justification; faith is the only means by which we are united to Christ – the sole means of justification. The Apostle Paul had shared that there is no room for boasting; for unless all human works, merits and contributions are excluded and Christ’s sin-bearing death is seen in its solitary glory as the only ground of our justification, boasting cannot be excluded. Indeed, we are justified by faith only, freely, and without works. Justification is not just an individual’s charter, but God’s declaration that we belong to the covenant community, a new humanity in Christ. This new community of Jesus is an eschatological community which lives already in the new age He inaugurated. Justification is an eschatological event; it brings forward into the present the verdict which belongs to the last judgement. That is why the church is a community of hope, which looks with humble confidence into the future, knowing that at the last judgement, the true believers would be pronounced righteous in Christ and there would be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! It is because the Lord Jesus was condemned that we could be justified; once we have been justified, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The next achievement of the cross is reconciliation. To reconcile is to restore a relationship, to renew a friendship; the original relationship has been broken and Christ has recovered it and restored it. This reconciliation begins with reconciliation to God and continues with the reconciliation in the community in Christ. God and human beings, previously alienated from one another are now made ‘one’ again. Justification is our legal standing before our judge in the court; reconciliation is our personal relationship with our Father in the home. It is only when we are justified by faith that we have peace with God, which is reconciliation (Rom. 5:1). Reconciliation with God results in our adoption into God’s family and having access to the triune God; we have access to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2: 17-18). We may now approach God with freedom and confidence, especially in prayer.
But reconciliation has a horizontal plane as well. God has reconciled us to one another in this new community as well as to Himself (the vertical plane). But there is more; there is a cosmic dimension to the work of Christ. This time what is reconciled is called “all things” – things on earth or things in heaven (Col. 1:20). It presupposes that the unity and harmony of the cosmos have suffered a considerable dislocation or rupture and thus reconciliation is required. This includes the liberation of creation from ‘its bondage to decay’ (Rom.8:21). It probably includes also the ‘pacification ‘ of cosmic beings ‘submitting against their wills to a power which they cannot resist’; described as every knee ‘bowing to Jesus and every tongue confessing His lordship, and all things being placed by God under His feet until the day when they are brought together ‘under one head, even Christ (Phil. 2:9-11; Eph.1:10,22).
The Lord Jesus ‘disarmed and conquered’ the principalities and powers at the cross. He cancelled the bond of our debts by ‘taking it away and nailing it to the cross’; by liberating us from our debts, He has liberated us from these powers. He overcame the devil by totalling resisting his temptations.Tempted to avoid the cross, Jesus persevered in the path of obedience and ‘became obedient to death – even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). His obedience was indispensable to His saving work; if He had disobeyed, by deviating even an inch from the path of God’s will, the devil would have gained a foothold and frustrated the plan of salvation. But Jesus obeyed the Father and the devil was routed. Even though He was provoked by the insults and tortures, Jesus absolutely refused to retaliate. By His self-giving love for others, He overcame evil with good (Rom. 12:21). When the combined forces of Rome and Jerusalem were arrayed against Hm, He could have summoned twelve legions of angels to rescue Him and He could have stepped down from the cross. He declined resorting to worldly powers; He refused either to disobey God, or to hate His enemies, or to imitate the world’s use of power. By His obedience, His love and His meekness, He won a great moral victory over the powers of evil! He remained free, uncontaminated, uncompromised. The devil could gain no hold on Him and had to concede defeat.
The victory of Christ, predicted immediately after the Fall and begun during His public ministry, was decisively won at the cross. The resurrection was the conquest confirmed and announced. We should not regard the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. Rather, the cross was the victory won, and the resurrection the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him because death had already been defeated. The evil principalities and powers, which had been deprived of their weapons and their dignity at the cross, were now put under His feet and made subject to Him. The conquest is extended as the church goes out on its mission, in the power of the Spirit, to preach Christ crucified as Lord and to summon people to repent and believe in Him. So every christian conversion involves a power encounter in which the devil is obliged to relax his hold on somebody’s life and the superior power of Christ is demonstrated. We are looking forward to the consummation of this conquest at the second coming of our Lord Jesus. On that day every knee will bow to Him and every tongue confess Him Lord. The devil will be thrown into the lake of fire, where death and Hades will join him. For the last enemy to be destroyed is death. Then, when all evil dominion, authority and power have been destroyed, the Son will hand over the kingdom to the Father, and God will be all in all!