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The Glory of the Cross

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
April 3, 2023 4:00 am

The Glory of the Cross

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 3, 2023 4:00 am

The Bible teaches that Jesus secured victory over Satan, sin, and death at Calvary. The gruesome scene of Jesus nailed to the cross hardly seems like a moment of glory—but find out why that’s exactly what it is. Listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



On the cross, Jesus secured the victory over sin, Satan and death. But as we think about the scene at Calvary, Jesus nailed to a tree, it hardly seems like a moment of glory. Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out why that's exactly what it is.

Alistair Begg is continuing a series titled Some Strange Ideas. Our Old Testament reading is Isaiah 53. In our New Testament reading, it's Galatians chapter 1.

I just want to read the first four verses. Paul, an apostle, sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead, and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Amen. On one occasion, the celebrated German academic theologian Karl Barth was conducting a speech speaking tour, and on each occasion when he spoke, he gave an opportunity for questions to be addressed to him and answers to be provided by him. And it's recorded that on one of these occasions when everything had been swirling around at a very high level, academically and theologically, someone posed this question. Professor Barth, they said, Would you be able to tell us what is the most profound theological thought that you have ever had, that you have ever pondered? And Barth paused for just a moment, and then he said, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. If the apostle Paul were to have been confronted by the same or a similar question, I think that there is a very good chance that he would have replied in words that come from the second chapter of Galatians—they're found in verse 20 of chapter 2—and I think if we would have asked Paul, this would certainly have been in the top half dozen.

And the phrase that he might have used to reply would have been this, The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me. The driving force of Paul's life and ministry is found in this. And what you have in that phraseology is essentially Paul's personal testimony. And for him to write as he does in this way is to understand that Paul knew that God had not counted Paul's sins against Paul, because Paul had discovered that God had counted Paul's sins against Jesus. And it is with this immense truth that Paul writes to these Galatian people—people who have made a good beginning in their understanding of the good news of Jesus, but who are being tested and tried and pulled away by some who are suggesting that to base your hope of heaven and eternity and new life simply and solely on the death of Jesus of Nazareth is a forlorn idea, and that what you really need is something more than that. It's a good start, they were saying, but you need to apply your own observance of the Jewish law.

You need to make sure that you're able to add your own merit to what is going on. And Paul is about to, in this letter, speak in no uncertain terms concerning these individuals. And the reason he's so concerned is because he is so clear and so sure about the nature of the good news itself. In verse 3 and in verse 4 and in 5, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, notice this terminology, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Three simple and important observations concerning what Jesus does in the cross. What we see here is that Jesus goes to the cross willingly, obediently, and savingly.

First of all, to notice what it says. Paul says of Jesus that he gave himself. If we have ever been tempted to see Jesus as a helpless victim, then we have never understood this vital fact. If as a result of our reading, perhaps as a result of sentimental portrayals of the gospel record, or perhaps as a result of what we've seen on film, we have tended to think of Jesus as a helpless victim, then we have gone immediately wrong. Remind yourself, if you know this, and discover it if you don't, that Jesus had overcome temptation in the wilderness—a temptation presented to him by the evil one—to establish a kingdom without a cross.

And he had resisted that. And he had also come through the agony of Gethsemane, where once again all of the onslaught of hell had moved against him. And he emerges from that scene going willingly to the cross.

I think it is the old Scottish Presbyterian who, in a memorable phrase, says, What we have in this is a willing passion of self-identifying love. How else would we explain his very straightforward appearance out of the garden when those who were opposed to him came, knowing that they came to take him to his death? How would we explain why it is that he turns to his disciples and he says, Put away your sword. It's futility.

There is no reason for a sword. And Matthew records that he says to the disciples, Do you not realize that I could call to my father and he could put at my disposal legions of angels? He could actually dispatch here an angelic host that would take hold of this whole circumstance. And even the disciples themselves were not clear concerning this. But we need to be clear. When we commemorate the death of Jesus, as we do in celebrating communion together, Jesus is not going to the cross as a result of some cruel twist of fate. Nor does Jesus go to the cross because he is unable to superimpose his will on those who are his antagonists. In the Gospel of John, we have recorded for us Jesus' own statement regarding this.

Let me read it to you, not in its entirety. These are the words of Jesus. Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I lay down my life only to take it up again. Is there anyone else in the entire universe who has ever said such a thing concerning death? No one takes my life from me. I have all authority. I will lay it down, and I will take it back up again.

The claims of Jesus of Nazareth cannot simply be sidestepped, pushed away somewhere at the back of a bookshelf, as if they argue for their place on the stage of history. No, they are so demanding. So demanding. Willingly, secondly, purposefully.

Purposefully. What's happening on the cross? What is Jesus doing up on that cross? Why did Jesus go to the cross? Why would we even be here this evening on account of the fact that a Galilean carpenter was nailed to a cross? After all, lots of people were nailed to crosses.

The Romans crucified people all the time. What is it that makes the death of this one individual so significant? Paul tells us exactly what was happening, that what was taking place was that he gave himself willingly, and here's the purpose statement, for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. In other words, to take us from the domain in which we all live by nature and put us in an entirely different place—not to take us from time and put us in eternity, not to take us from earth and put us into heaven, but to take us from the realm in which we live by nature and put us in a new realm. Eventually, of course, that will come to a great fulfillment, when in a new heaven and in a new earth God has prepared for those who come to meet him, and we will all enjoy that. But in the time, in the short term, it is a transformation.

It is a rescue, and it is a rescue from the realm of our own sin. We read the chapter, didn't we, in Isaiah 53? And you said together as a congregation, all we like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way.

Do you know what you were saying? You were saying, We are by nature in the wrong with God. We are by nature on a broad road that leads to destruction. We are by nature turned in upon ourselves, and a thousand ways every day we like to make ourselves the center of the universe. And we're just like sheep, and we're unable to get on that narrow path by our own devising.

We need somebody, you mean like a good shepherd? A good shepherd who would lay down his life for the sheep, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. You see, what the Bible tells us is this, that in the cross Jesus took the place of sinners. All of God's necessary judgment upon sin—necessary judgment—because of his nature and his being, because of his perfect holiness, because of the immensity of his love, because he loves so much, sin must be punished. Because he is so pure, he must turn his face away from sin. Therefore, the predicament of men and women without Jesus is that we are alienated from God on two sides. One, we are alienated from him by our own turned in upon our selfness, our own sin, and we are alienated from him on account of his wrath.

Therefore, unless someone is able to stand in that place, our position is absolutely hopeless. And that is the story of the gospel. That is what got Paul up in the morning. The Lord loved me? And gave himself for me? Can it possibly be that Jesus, when he died upon the cross, took all of Saul of Tarsus' sins? That when he died upon the cross, everything sinful and rotten in us was imputed to Christ, and everything that is lacking in us that was necessary was given to us in Christ? So that what you have in the cross is the appeasement of the wrath of God by the love of God through the gift of God. That here, God determines how it will be that sinful people may be declared righteous in his holy presence, not as a result of their endeavors, not as a result of the observance of the law, not as a result of all of their triumphs put together, but as a result of Christ's death on the cross. And in the cross, Jesus stood in for us.

In the cross, Jesus we find bearing what was ours and giving us what was his. Why, if there was no deceit in his mouth, why, if he never committed any violence, why did he die? It is a moral outrage. The death of Christ is outrageous! That he who is sinless should die? Isn't death the penalty for sin? So why would the sinless bear the penalty?

Answer. On behalf of sinners. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. And the sacrifice of Jesus in the cross, which we commemorate, is a sacrifice that needs no repetition, and it is a sacrifice that needs no supplement. There is nothing that can be added to it.

There is nothing that need be added to it. There is no need for its re-enaction or its replacement or its repetition. And in one of the classic hymns that many of us have known, mainly through the Billy Graham crusade, you have it in a nutshell, don't you? Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me. In other words, there is no other plea that I can offer in my defense. I won't be able to offer in my defense while I attended a lot of services of church.

I won't be able to say I gave to a lot of poor people or all these things. There's only one plea in our defense, and it's got nothing to do with us and all to do with Christ. You see, without sin, there's no need for this. And without grace, there's no possibility of this.

The glory of the cross is seen in the fact that Jesus goes there willingly, savingly, and finally, in a word or two, obediently, who gave himself willingly for our sins to rescue us, savingly or purposefully. And notice the little phrase that concludes verse 4, according to the will of our God and Father. Did you catch that in Isaiah 53, that God was sovereignly predisposing these circumstances?

Could it possibly be anything other than that? That God, in the great mystery of his electing love, would fashion a plan from all of eternity, whereby rebellious people like you and me could be brought back, even though we're guilty sinners, with our deeds upon our hands and on our consciences, even with all of our messed-up past and our disappointing frameworks? This was according to the will of our God and Father. In fact, in John 10, in the passage we read, the Good Shepherd passage, Jesus says of that, he says, I have this command from God. And that's how we explain what's going on in Gethsemane.

As he sweats, as it were, great drops of blood. That's how we understand his cry as he finally says to his Father, Father, if you're willing, let this cup pass from me, but nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. And my dear friends, you need to know tonight that if there were any other way for us to be accepted by God, then Christ died for nothing. If there were any other way for us to be accepted by God, then Christ died for nothing. That is the end of Galatians chapter 2.

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing. So you see, there's no half measures. There are no half measures. It's either all Christ or it's not. It's not a little bit of Christ and a little bit of me. It's not a little bit of what Jesus accomplished and a little bit of what I am able to do.

No. It is one or the other. Tonight, as God looks into our hearts, we are actually trusting in ourselves alone, or we are trusting in Christ alone. And tonight, given what I said by way of introduction, if you would trust in Christ, just swear you're seated and say, I get it now, Lord Jesus Christ, no helpless victim you, but a willing sacrifice. I get it now, not simply an emblem of your love for us, but your dying in the place of us. I get it now, you the obedient Son of the Father, bearing in your own body all of my sin and imputing to my account all of your righteousness, so that all of my acceptance with God is to be found in Jesus. As a boy in Scotland, in my Sunday afternoon class to which I was sent, which was after my Sunday morning class and before my Sunday evening class, we used to sing.

It's a miracle that I survived, isn't it? But people say, How do you know all those hymns? How do you know all those verses? Well, you don't know them by chance, dear ones. Your grandchildren will not learn them by gazing up at the wall or becoming a baseball superstar or the next swimming genius.

You better choose what you want for your kids. And this is what we sang. Wounded for me, wounded for me, There on the cross Christ was wounded for me, And gone my transgressions, And now I am free, All because Jesus was wounded for me.

Do you get it? You see, Luther was right in this respect, that the Christian life is really all outside of us. Wounded for me, wounded for me, Because I did this, because I did that, because I did—no, none of that. There on the cross, outside of me, He was wounded for me. So gone my transgressions, and now I am free.

How? All because Jesus was wounded for me. Jesus went to the cross willingly, purposefully, obediently, and savingly. You're listening to Alistair beg on Truth for Life. Alistair will be back in just a moment to close today's program. The story of Jesus does not end with his death.

We'll hear more tomorrow. In the meantime, you can read an intriguing article titled Risen and Ascended, Five Ways Jesus is Still Working. You'll find the article on our website at slash articles. Here in this month, as we celebrate Easter, what a better time to reflect deeply on the person and work of Jesus. That's why we've selected a book that explores Jesus as prophet, priest, and king. The book is titled Man of Sorrows, King of Glory, and it's a thought-provoking survey of all that Jesus accomplished and continues to accomplish. In the book, you'll examine both his divine and human nature.

You'll also consider the humiliation of Jesus' sacrifice and how it relates to his role as prophet, priest, and king. It's an insightful book that will help you prepare for Easter and reflect on the implications of the resurrection. Ask for your copy of the book Man of Sorrows, King of Glory today when you give a donation to Truth for Life.

Just click the image in the app or visit our website slash donate. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Father, bring your truth to bear upon our hearts and minds, we pray. There are boys and girls here who have been kept buoyant on the spiritual welfare of their parents. There are folks who are here who have been resting in a steady dose of good endeavors and religious hope. And we want, Lord, to be brought to a place where we are able to acknowledge the depth of your love for us. How else could you turn your face away from us, except that you turned your face away from Christ? How could you speak so kindly to us, except that you were silent when Christ cried out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Teach us these things, we pray. For Christ's sake, Amen. I'm Bob Lapine, thanks for listening today. Can you imagine being given the task of preventing tomorrow's sunrise? That's ridiculous, of course, but tomorrow we'll hear how an equally impossible assignment was given to the religious leaders after Jesus was crucified. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-03 05:21:07 / 2023-04-03 05:28:51 / 8

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