Jesus’ death on the wooden cross of Calvary allowed all people to receive forgiveness for their sins. This death, however, was really the culmination of Jesus having taken up His cross daily – an inner, metaphorical cross on which all self-will was sacrificed and thus all sin in the flesh was put to death.
While the cross of Calvary was the end of Jesus’ physical life here on earth, this cross (the forgiveness of sins) is just the beginning for a disciple who has a genuine goal of coming to a life of complete victory over all sin in the flesh – all the sin that we had inherited from the Fall – just as Jesus did.
Scripture actually speaks about three crosses, which are explained here briefly:
- The first cross: The cross of Calvary. (Luke 23:33-43) This is the physical cross on which Jesus suffered and died. By faith in what Jesus did on this cross, we have peace with God. Christ has now become our atoning sacrifice, and we can receive forgiveness for our sins when we pray for it and repent. Through forgiveness we are saved, not based on our works or achievements, but by grace alone.
- The second cross: Crucifying the old man and the flesh with its passions and desires. This is the metaphorical cross which Paul writes about in Romans 6:6 and Galatians 5:24. This is the cross on which our “old man” – our state of mind which agreed to do what we knew to be sin – is put out of action, and the flesh with its passions and desires loses its power over us. By this cross we are born again and become disciples. We have a change of heart and mind, and no longer commit the manifest works of the flesh. (Galatians 5:19-21) We are no longer slaves of sin, to live according to the flesh. (Romans 6:15-23; Romans 8:12) We are made alive with Christ, having received Jesus as Lord in our lives.
- The third cross: Taking up our cross daily and denying ourselves as disciples. (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23) This is also a metaphorical cross, which Jesus took up every day of His entire life by denying Himself – choosing to do God’s will instead of His own will. Jesus says that no one can be His disciple without taking up this cross daily as He Himself did. When we do this, we destroy the root of sin, becoming finished with it as we continue to put to death the areas of sin in our lives that the Holy Spirit reveals to us, and which we were not previously aware of. This is the hidden life with Christ in God. This is sanctification – a deep salvation and transformation of our entire inner man, and we become partakers of the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) This is the calling of the bride.
Read more about the three crosses in the other articles in this section.