The message of the cross

One of the core teachings of Paul, this message is the crucial, most powerful key to coming to spiritual growth so that the life of Christ can be manifested in us.


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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What is “The cross?”

Scripture actually speaks about three crosses.

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The first cross: The cross of Calvary

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

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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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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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What is the result of taking up our cross?

A glorious future in the knowledge of Christ.

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Frequently asked questions

What does it mean to come to the foot of the cross?

The invitation to come to the foot of the cross is not found in the Bible. When people speak about “kneeling at the foot of the cross,” they mean that one is to kneel there and ask for the forgiveness of sins, and so be cleansed in Jesus’ blood. But that is not where full salvation can be found. The Scriptures, however, speak about being crucified with Christ – about being on the cross. We can receive forgiveness for our sins because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us when He was crucified, the just for the unjust, but not victory over sin and victory over our own nature. Victory is only obtained on the cross – the cross Jesus carried with Him daily, and which His disciples also carry. (Luke 9:23)

Read more in the section, “What is ‘The cross?’

Didn’t Jesus already finish the work for us on Calvary?

Quite often we can hear it being said, “We must rest in the finished work of Calvary.” By this people mean that Jesus has done everything for us, and that we needn’t do anything. We are and remain sinners, and when we acknowledge this and receive Jesus as our Savior, Jesus’ work will be accepted as an atonement for our sins, without any more demands on us.

There was nevertheless much more that took place in Jesus Christ. What did He mean when He called out, “It is finished!” on the cross on Calvary? When Jesus came into the world, He said, “Behold, I have come … to do Your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5-9) That is what He finished. The entire will of the flesh had been broken down because Jesus never sought to do His own will.

Jesus, who partook of flesh and blood as the children and became like us in all things, (Hebrews 2:14-18) accomplished all of God’s will in His body by taking up His cross daily. This finished work is not something that we are supposed to rest in according to the flesh and in sin, but that we shall follow Jesus and overcome sin by entering into His work as His disciples. We can overcome the same flesh through the power of the cross!

Read more in the section “The first cross: The cross of Calvary

What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?

Being crucified with Christ is a decision of faith that we take, which means that we resolve no longer to live according to the sinful lusts and desires of our flesh – we no longer commit what we know to be sin willfully and consciously. Sin in our flesh has been nailed to the cross by faith.

Unless this becomes true in our lives, we will continue to suffer defeat and failure. As long as we live for ourselves, misery will result, because in us, that is, in our flesh, dwells no good thing. But when we are crucified with Christ, reckoning ourselves dead to sin but alive to God, we can come to victory over conscious sin, as far as we have light.

Read more in the section “The second cross: Crucifying the old man and the flesh with its passions and desires

What does it mean to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus?

“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23

Jesus carried this cross every day, figuratively speaking. He had this constant cry in His heart, “Not My will, but Yours be done, O God!” (Hebrews 10:5-7) In His daily circumstances, when He met the laws in His members that went against the will of God, He denied Himself – refused to do His own will – and took up His cross onto which His self-will was nailed. In that way, God was able to condemn all sin in Jesus’ flesh – the root of sin – because Jesus never did His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him. (Romans 8:3) This is the fantastic invitation to discipleship that Jesus has called us to – denying ourselves, suffering in the flesh, and thus ceasing from sin! (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Read more in the section “The third cross: Taking up our cross daily as disciples

What does it mean that Christ “destroyed the enmity?”

Because of the law, which the Jews had received, a wall – an enmity – had arisen between Jew and Gentile. However, the flesh of the Jews was no better than that of the Gentiles. When Jesus came to earth, He took upon Himself a human nature (flesh), which also contained lusts and desires. But the sin was condemned in His flesh, so He never committed sin. His flesh was crucified – and on this cross Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. (Romans 8:3-4) He reconciled both Jews and Gentiles in one body to God, thereby bringing the enmity to an end. (Ephesians 2:14-16) All flesh was represented in Jesus’ sacrifice; therefore, God could pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and all people received the opportunity to follow Him on this way back to the Father.

Now both Jews and Gentiles have access to the Father in one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18) Once the disciples were baptized in this one Spirit, they could be built up as the body of Christ, fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law, whether they were Jews or Gentiles. This was the great mystery, that “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” Ephesians 3:6. Only the cross can accomplish this unity – nothing else!

Read more in the section “What is the result of taking up our cross?