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The first cross: The cross of Calvary

This is the cross that leads to the forgiveness of sins.

The “first cross” is the wooden cross of Calvary, where Jesus suffered His physical death. (Luke 23:33-43) It is possible for all people to obtain forgiveness for their sins through Jesus’ death on Calvary.

In Colossians 2:13-15, Paul refers to “the handwriting of requirements.” This was the law, given to Moses, which documented God’s will for His people, stating the requirements and the rewards for those who kept them, as well as the punishment for those who did not keep them. The bottom line was that the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23) so sinners had a death sentence – both physical death, and, much more serious, a spiritual death, which was severance from God. Because all people had sinned, all of them were under this judgment.

Satan used this to accuse people, because nobody could keep the whole law, especially the commandment, “You shall not covet.” (Exodus 20:17) Covetousness, or lust, is hidden, and the law was powerless in controlling it, because it could only deal with sin when it came out of the body. (Romans 8:3-4) Satan used these laws, or the “handwriting of requirements,” to accuse people before God and demand that they be handed over to him.

A provision was made whereby people could obtain forgiveness through the sacrifice of an animal without blemish, and the blood of the sacrifice was offered as proof of the debt having been paid. However, these sacrifices could not take away the root of sin, the lusts or sin in the flesh1, and had to be repeated year after year. (Hebrews 10:1-4)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took upon Himself the same flesh and blood as us, meaning that He was in the same position as all mankind, with sin in the flesh that all people have inherited from the Fall. As a human being, Jesus was tempted to sinful desires and thoughts as we are. However, the vital difference was that even though Jesus had sin2 (1 John 1:8; Romans 7:18), He never once gave in to temptation, and thus never once committed sin3. (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus never broke the law, not even the law that said that we should not covet. Instead, by denying these lusts and desires every time they came up from His flesh – refusing to agree with these temptations – He put to death4 all sin in the flesh. All the sin in the fallen human nature that Jesus took upon Himself when He came to earth, was conquered and overcome5 in His mortal body. Jesus offered Himself, His own will, as a sacrifice each time He was tempted, allowing God to condemn sin in His flesh. (Romans 8:3-4)

Falsely accused of heresy, He was crucified as a criminal, even though He was blameless. This physical death was actually the ultimate sacrifice, because He took upon Himself the blame for the sins of the whole world, and paid the price – death.

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14. Now Satan no longer had a claim on those who believe in Jesus. The debt for sin had been paid. He was blameless, a sacrifice without blemish, and through Him we, who are all sinners, can have our sin forgiven. (1 Peter 3:18) This is not due to any merit of our own, but we are saved by grace alone.

There was now a Man who had completely fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law, proving that it is possible for all people. (Romans 8:1-4; Revelation 12:10-11; Acts 26:18) Because Jesus overcame sin, death had no hold on Him and He rose from the grave on Easter morning, having taken the keys of Hades and of Death from Satan. (Hebrews 2:14-15; Revelation 1:18) Satan’s time as an accuser before God have ended, but he still roams the earth with great wrath, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He whispers lies and accuses us of sins we have been forgiven for (Revelation 12:7-12), but because Jesus has paid the debt of sin, those who believe in Him can now resist the devil and his lies, and he will flee from them. (James 4:7)

Through the cross of Calvary, we who were formerly sinners now have the grace to start on a clean slate, on the new and living way that Jesus has opened for us to follow Him. Through the blood of Jesus, all the sins that we have committed, and have resolved not to do again, have been forgiven by God. Now we have a way back to God through Jesus Christ. Being reconciled to God is not the finale of Christian life, but the start of a new life!

Read more about this exciting life on the “way of the cross” in the other articles in this series!

 

Glossary

  1. Sin in the flesh: The sinful human nature that all people have inherited since the Fall. This means that as a human being we are naturally tempted by sinful desires and thoughts. This is also often referred to as “original sin” or “indwelling sin.”
  2. To have sin: To “have sin” is the same as having “sin in the flesh” (see above). John says that we all “have sin” (1 John 1:8), and Paul writes that nothing good dwells in our flesh. (Romans 7:18) Having sin, however, is completely different from committing sin.
  3. To commit sin: To commit sin is to consciously do something that you know goes against God’s will and His laws. It is when you are tempted to a sinful thought that comes because of sin in the flesh, and you agree with that thought and act on it, knowing full well it is displeasing to God.(James 1:14-15) This “action” can occur in word, deed, or even thought.
  4. Put to death sin: Putting sin to death is the act of denying the thought or inclination to sin that arises from the flesh and refusing to agree with it. The lust to sin is not only suppressed, but it actually dies. (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5)
  5. Overcoming sin/Conquering sin: “Victory over sin” means that you do not commit any conscious sin – that which you know would be sin at that time when you are tempted. It doesn’t mean that you have absolutely no sin in your flesh (see the glossary term “Sin in the flesh” above), but as you continue to resist each temptation so that you do not commit sin, God reveals more of the sin that is still dwelling in your flesh, so that it can be conquered to a deeper degree. (Romans 8:37, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Revelation 2:7) In this way you are living a victorious life!
    Jesus Himself put to death sin in the flesh as God revealed it to Him through His Spirit, and thus completely conquered all sin in the flesh. This process is also called “the dying of the Lord Jesu,” which Paul says we always carry about in the body. (2 Corinthians 4:10) In other words, we also use this process in our life.
1

The message of the cross – Introduction

The cross is one of the most well-known symbols of Christianity, but its significance lies far deeper than the cross of Calvary.

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2

What is “The cross?”

Scripture actually speaks about three crosses.

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3

The first cross: The cross of Calvary

This is the cross that leads to the forgiveness of sins.

Read more
4

The second cross: Crucifying the old man and the flesh with its passions and desires

This “crucifixion” is necessary if we want to become disciples.

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5

The third cross: Taking up our cross daily as disciples

With the third cross our entire inner being can be transformed into the image of Christ.

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6

What is the result of taking up our cross?

A glorious future in the knowledge of Christ.

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