In the first century, crucifixion was a means used to execute criminals. The four gospel accounts provide record of the events that led up to and the actual occasion of the crucifixion of Christ. Treated and tried as a criminal, Jesus Christ was innocent of the earthly charges made concerning Him. However, it was necessary that He be crucified. We are told that it was at the cross where Jesus Christ made the atonement for sin. It is for this reason that the word of the cross for us who believe “is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). The cross of Christ provides us with a powerful message. It is a pulpit in which the most amazing message is proclaimed. It was Augustine who said, “The cross was a pulpit in which Christ preached his love to the world”. How was this love preached? In Paul’s letter to the Romans we read concerning Christ,
“whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).
In these two verses the message of the cross is heard in two declarations:
The Cross Declared Divine Justice
God is righteous and just. Moses said concerning the Lord, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4). Because this is who God is, everything He does is in accordance with what is right and just. This includes how He treats us. When we compare ourselves against God’s righteous standard it becomes crystal clear that we are sinful (cf. Rom. 3:23). This means if God is going to be just, He must punish our sins.
How did the cross declare Divine justice? In God’s great mercy He provided a way in which His wrath would be satisfied. Romans 3:25 begins by saying what God the Father did concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood“. The word “propitiation” refers to the act of satisfying God’s wrath against sin. God’s wrath is justifiably towards all sinners and as we sin we are storing up more wrath against us (cf. Rom. 1:18; 2:5). How can this wrath ever be taken away? The solution is found in the cross. As stated earlier, in God’s great mercy He provided a way in which His wrath would be satisfied. The act of satisfying His wrath came when He “put forward” His own Son “as a propitiation”.
At the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ took our place by being “put forward” publically. This means, when He was crucified it was not done in secret, but God put His Son on public display at Calvary for all to see. According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God“. At the cross Christ became sin on our behalf. We deserve to be punished; we deserved God’s fury to be unleashed on us. But those who come to God through faith in Christ Jesus had their sins imputed to Christ. He took your punishment, and God treated Him on that cross as if that was you. How amazing and humbling is that truth!
Simply put, when Jesus died on the cross He satisfied the Father’s anger and wrath towards sin. This act of sacrifice involved a cost and that was the very blood of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 1:18-19).
The Cross Declared Divine Justification
Christ satisfied the wrath of God at the cross. However, if you are going to have a right standing before God, you must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Paul writes that this gift comes to “the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Faith is coming to God on the grounds of grace, understanding that we deserve to be punished by God for our sin. Therefore, having nothing to offer we trust and adhere to Jesus Christ as Lord, and by faith we place our full confidence and trust in Him. The words from the hymn “My hope is built on nothing less” convey the grand truth in this text,
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.”
The power of the cross is seen in that God was both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Justice and love met at the cross thus forming the sound of the greatest message to ever be heard. The cross is indeed the pulpit of God’s love – this is the power of the cross.