Liberating the Cross

Biblical preaching proclaims Christ crucified. But how often does that proclamation acknowledge that the cross is embedded within a larger context? Unfortunately, failure to comprehend how the gospel fits into an overall framework can result in an impoverished understanding of the cross as well as ignorance regarding how to respond to Christ crucified.
With Genesis having exposed the hopeless situation of humanity, the framework began when God extended by grace a promise to Abram that he would be Abram’s God and the God of his descendants./1 God chose the form of a covenant as the means to take Abram and his progeny to be his people. God’s covenant was unilateral. This covenant was the product of God’s initiative and was shaped by his stipulations. Abram was merely free to accept or reject it. Abram could not quibble about God’s call for Abram to strive to live blamelessly nor about the sign of the covenant.
In consistent fashion, years later at Mount Sinai God offered to the recently freed Israelites from Egypt the opportunity to become his nation if they would accept the covenant he was presenting to them./2 The Israelites verbally acknowledged that they wanted God’s gracious promise. An altar was built and young men offered upon it burnt offerings and fellowship sacrifices. From these sacrifices the blood of the covenant was then sprinkled on the altar, the people and upon the book stipulating this covenant relationship./3 Once again, God had offered a unilateral covenant. The Israelites were in no position to wrangle about the conditions for becoming God’s covenant nation nor how they were to live as God’s people. They could simply either accept or reject God’s offer.
In consistent fashion, years later God ratified another covenant through a sacrifice. This time the sacrifice involved his Son upon a cross. In grace God promised humanity that whoever would rely upon the death of his Son he would free them from their sin and take them to become his people, children of God./4 To believe that Jesus was crucified for us is not enough. Rather, it is those who believe in the crucified Christ by having their bodies washed with water who have their hearts sprinkled by Christ’s blood./5 Christ crucified provided the blood of the covenant which would be sprinkled upon those who would obediently trust in Jesus./6 Accordingly, the promises of the new covenant (forgiveness and becoming God’s people) are granted by grace to those whose bodies have been washed and whose hearts have been sprinkled by Christ’s blood./7 God’s covenant is unilateral. Humanity is not in a position to quarrel or determine how we can enter God’s covenant community nor how we can live as his people.
The cross did not occur in a vacuum. To be aware of the covenantal context in which the cross is embedded liberates the proclamation of the gospel from being isolated in an inadvertently contrived contextless bubble capable of distorting God’s message. Jesus’ suffering in being lifted up to die and then being resurrected was how God planned for his Servant to be given “as a covenant to the people and a light to the nations.”/8
1/ Genesis 17:1-14
2/ Exodus 19:3-6; Ezekiel 16:8; (Deuteronomy 29:12-13)
3/ Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:18-22
4/ Hebrews 8:10,12; Romans 3:24,25
5/ Hebrews 10:21
6/ Matthew 26:28; 1 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 10:19,21
7/ Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27; Titus 3:5
8/ Isaiah 42:6; Acts 26:23

Share your thoughts: