February 24, 2009

The Cross - Section II

Here is section II of Bishop Ryle's The Cross.

II. Let me explain, in the second place, what you are to understand by the cross of Christ.


The cross is an expression that is used in more than one meaning in the Bible. What did St. Paul mean when he said, "I glory in the cross of Christ," in the Epistle to the Galatians? This is the point I now wish to make clear.


The cross sometimes means that wooden cross, on which the Lord Jesus was nailed and put to death on Mount Calvary. This is what St. Paul had in his mind's eye, when he told the Philippians that Christ "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phi_2:8.) This is not the cross in which St. Paul gloried. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of glorying in a mere piece of wood. I have no doubt he would have denounced the Roman Catholic adoration of the crucifix, as profane, blasphemous, and idolatrous. The cross sometimes means the afflictions and trials which believers in Christ have to go through if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion's sake. This is the sense in which our Lord uses the word when He says, "He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, cannot be my disciple." (Mat_10:38.) This also is not the sense in which Paul uses the word when he writes to the Galatians. He knew that cross well. He carried it patiently. But he is not speaking of it here.


But the cross also means in some places the doctrine that Christ died for sinner upon the cross--the atonement that He made for sinners by his suffering for them on the cross--the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin which He offered up when he gave His own body to be crucified. In short, this one word, "the cross," stands for Christ crucified, the only Saviour. This is the meaning in which Paul uses the expression, when he tells the Corinthians, "the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness." (1Co_1:18.) This is the meaning in which he wrote to the Galatians, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross." He simply meant, "I glory in nothing but Christ crucified, as the salvation of my soul."


Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence, the foundation and the resting place, the ark and the refuge, the food and the medicine of Paul's soul. He did not think of what he had done himself, and suffered himself. He did not meditate on his own goodness, and his own righteousness. He loved to think of what Christ had done, and Christ had suffered,--of the death of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the blood of Christ the finished work of Christ. In this he did glory. This was the sun of his soul.


This is the subject he loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own heart's blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world, telling people that Jesus Christ had loved them, and died for their sins upon the cross. Mark how he says to the Corinthians, "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins." (1Co_15:3.) "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1Co_2:2.) He, a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee, had been washed in Christ's blood. He could not hold his peace about it. He was never weary of telling the story of the cross.


This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to observe how full his epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ,--how they run over with "thoughts that breathe, and words that burn," about Christ's dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject. He enlarges on it constantly. He returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his doctrinal teaching and practical exhortations. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can here, hear too much about the cross. This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal_2:20.) What made him so strong to labor? What made him so willing to work? What made him so unwearied in endeavors to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? I will tell you the secret of it all. He was always feeding by faith on Christ's body and Christ's blood. Jesus, crucified, was the meat and drink of his soul.


And, reader, you may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the cross of Christ;--the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners is the centre truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent's head, is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the law of Moses and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple,--all these were emblems of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honored in the vision of heaven before we close the book of Revelation. "In the midst of the throne and of die four beasts," we are told, "and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain." (Rev_5:6.) Even in the midst of heavenly glory we get a view of Christ crucified. Take away the cross of Christ, and the Bible is a dark book. It is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, without the key that interprets their meaning, --curious and wonderful, but of no real use.'
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