The Cross and the Scriptures

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Sermon Notes of Rev.Dr.I.J.W.Oakley (22-2-1998 Guisborough Evangelical Church)

The Cross and the Scriptures

Leviticus 16:1-10; Isaiah 53:6-10; Luke 24:12-27

Introduction

“My Call to Preach” – a book of testimonies by ministers of various denominations. One asks, “To what extent is our preaching nowadays Cross-centred?” Often emphasise the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the results of being a Christian. “These things are fine. For a long time we have neglected these truths. But today we are in danger of ignoring the Cross…. The Cross makes the preacher and makes the converts”.

Disturbing question. In many pulpits, even evangelical ones, the Cross is not as central as it used to be, or else is presented in watered-down fashion. In so far as we move away from the Cross, we are moving away from the New Testament Gospel. Here is the heart of the message. When Jesus stated why He came into the world, He pointed to the Cross. One third of the Gospel records of His 33 years are devoted to the last week, which is dominated by the Cross. When He instituted meal by which to remember Him, He instituted the Lord’s Supper, which is a memorial, not of His life, but of His death. When Apostles preached Christian message in various countries, they emphasised the Cross. Universal symbol of Christian faith has for centuries been the Cross.

Heart and core of every church which is faithful to Bible has as its basic message “Christ died for our sins”. Anything less, and we have parted company with the New Testament and the mind of the Lord and His Apostles. This series on the Cross looks at the Cross and the Scriptures, the Saviour, Salvation, Sanctification and Service. To look at its place now in the Scriptures and, in doing so, overall brief survey of contents of Bible.

 

In the Old Testament the Cross is Predicted

After Resurrection, Jesus met 2 dejected disciples on road to Emmaus who were puzzled about why Jesus died. Jesus asked them if they did not understand the Scriptures (i.e. our Old Testament). And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Using the books of the Old Testament, written hundreds of years before He came, Jesus showed how His coming and the reason for it were predicted again and again.

Incidentally, Christ loved the Old Testament. Refers to 20 Old Testament characters. Refers to 19 different books. 3 of the 7 words spoken on the Cross were from the Old Testament.

The Cross of Christ was predicted in three ways.

(a)                Sacrificial system. Much of early books, especially Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, deal with animal sacrifice. Daily and Annually, especially Passover Lamb (commemorated deliverance from Egypt), Day of Atonement, Peace Offerings, Burnt Offerings, sin and trespass offerings. These taught people the sinfulness of their sin, the holiness of God, the costliness of being right with God. Animals were substituted for the sinner. Blood demonstrated its life poured out in death, which was the punishment. Epistle to Hebrews in New Testament stresses these sacrifices pointed forward to One final Sacrifice made on the Cross. Jesus was the True Lamb of God. If Old Testament is the lock, the New Testament is the key.

(b)               Foretelling Servant of the Lord. Narrow down to just one book, i.e. Isaiah. Four Servant Songs, the greatest is Isaiah 53 (often read part of this at the Lord’s Table). Despised and rejected by men… Wounded for our transgressions… The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:1-6). Jesus knew this passage and stressed He was the one who was meant. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him (Mark 14:21). The Scriptures must be fulfilled (Matthew 26:54)

(c)                Many remarkable pictures of Christ’s death in various verses in Old Testament. The seed of woman to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15; see John 12:31). The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (Psalm 118:22; see Mark 12:10). The brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness (Numbers 21:8; see John 3:14). The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12). Sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12,13; see Matthew 26:15). Piercing of Christ’s hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; see Matthew 27:35). At His trial He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:7; see Matthew 27:14). He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death (Isaiah 53:9; see Matthew 27:38, 57f). Smiting and spitting (Isaiah 50:6; see Mark 14:65). These are just a few of many references which are available, as well as a host of others that refer to His birth, Bethlehem, and His ministry.

In summary, the Lord lived in the Old Testament. He acknowledged its authority, quoted from it, obeyed it, and died with its words on His lips. He saw Himself predicted there. We see the remarkable unity of the Bible, summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3 Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

 

The Cross is Predominant in the Gospels

No doubt that for the Gospel writers the Cross of Jesus was predominant in their accounts of His life and ministry. Mark’s Gospel has been described as “The Passion Story with Introduction”. The writers speak of His birth, miracles, teaching, but main emphasis is His death. One third of the Gospel pages are concerned with last week in Jesus’ life – with centre on Cross. Told with minuteness and detail without parallel.

And also many clear statements pointing to His death as the purpose of His coming. The name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). On the occasion of His baptism, My Son, with whom I am well pleased (Mark 1:11). The Son of Man must suffer many things (Mark 8:31; see also Mark 9:31; 10:33).

The Last Supper – bread and wine were memorials of His broken body and blood. New Covenant, whose chief blessing was the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).

After resurrection, stresses His death was essential and at heart of mission (Luke 24:46,47). The Cross was a shadow over His life from the beginning. Picture by Holman Hunt entitled “Shadow of Death”, shows Jesus as a boy in carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, eyes upward, stretching with open arms. Evening sunlight through open door, casts shadow in form of a cross on the wall behind.

The Cross dominates the Gospels, dominates the life of Christ, dominates the space describing that life.

 

The Cross is Proclaimed in Acts and Epistles

So Christ has died, risen and ascended. Christian church begins work of proclaiming Gospel, baptising converts and establishing churches. Begins in Jerusalem, spreads everywhere, through preaching of Apostles who were later joined by Paul. Into Gentile world - Turkey, Greece, then imperial city of Rome. Everywhere, week in, week out. And what was their message? The example of Jesus? The Sermon on the Mount? – Always Christ, and Him crucified. Peter at Pentecost. Philip with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Peter at house of Cornelius. Paul on three missionary journeys.

Paul’s summary of His message: I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). For what I received I passed onto you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). Not just Paul’s message, but that of all the Apostles. Whether it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed (1 Corinthians 15:11).

In the Epistles, many practical subjects are dealt with, but all written and dealt with under the shadow of the Cross. Firstly in the letters of Paul – great doctrines – Justification, Reconciliation, Redemption, Blood. His enemies were the enemies of the Cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18). Then in the letters of others – Hebrews – more about the Cross than any other New Testament Epistle, especially “once for all”, better covenant, eternal redemption. Peter speaks in his letters of how Christ bore sins, redeemed with his precious blood. John’s letters - the blood of Christ cleanses, propitiation, the Saviour of the world.

So preaching, personal work, letters, ordinances of Baptism and Lord’s Supper, all draw meaning and inspiration from the Cross. This is mark of any Church and preacher if true to New Testament. Does it have the right place in our preaching, prayers, hymns?

Spurgeon said the Cross was the test of any preaching. If not clear the first time you hear a preacher, that is your misfortune, the second time it is your fault, the third time you hear him – your crime.

 

The Cross is Pre-eminent in Revelation

Revelation takes us to heaven where plan of Salvation was drawn up. Centre of all adoration, praise and worship – God and the Lamb. 29 times Christ is called “The Lamb”. This points to His sacrifice on Calvary. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:12). These are they who have come out of the great tribulation, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). Martyr overcame by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11). The Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The Lamb is the light of the heavenly city (Revelation 21:23). The Redeemed are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27).

The Lamb, His person, His achievements and His power are at centre of all adoration and praise. The Death of Christ is centre of gravity in Christian world, hiding place of God’s power and inspiration of all Christian praise. It is why unsaved never get to heaven and not want to go to heaven. Worship of Lamb is centre of all. They have rejected Him, so no pleasure for them to get to heaven, they would be miserable and ashamed, and totally out of place for all eternity.

 

Conclusion

The Cross – predicted in Old Testament, predominant in the Gospels, proclaimed in Acts and Epistles, pre-eminent in Revelation. A.J.Gordon – gave jigsaw puzzle to children. Soon completed – to his surprise. Reason – on back of the pieces was another picture, a picture of a man. So having made up the picture of the man, they had the secret of the jigsaw puzzle.

Unity of Scripture – because one man is at the centre. Christ, and Him crucified, not just at the centre of the Gospels, but at the centre of all Scripture. Just as there is scarlet thread in every rope of the British Navy, so the mark of the Blood is on every page of Scripture. We are to make it heart and centre of our message. It must tower above every other theme. Especially in contemporary situation. Among many changes, the Cross has not lost its pre-eminence. To some churches, the Cross is merely a staging post. The end of the journey is the Holy Spirit and his gifts, and this is where the excitement lies for them. But the Bible does not put emphasis there.

Have preached in sadly too many churches where, after a sermon on the cross, received comments like “Such a long time since that was preached here”. James Denny [writing unclear] said, “As there is only one God, so there can be only one Gospel. If God has really done something in Christ on which the salvation of the world depends, and if he has made it known, then it is the Christian duty to be intolerant of anything which ignores, denies or explains it away.” Spurgeon said, “Across my pulpit and tabernacle shall be the mark of the blood. Our critics may call it old-fashioned and out of date but we are not ashamed to publish it to the four winds of heaven”. Charles Wesley hymn:

“Tis all by business here below

To cry Behold the Lamb”

So with the way Bible puts Jesus and His Cross in the centre, let us put Him and His Cross in the centre of our thinking, hymns, prayers, preaching and witness.

 

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