The Cross Of Christ
By J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900)
“…God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Gal. 6:14).
“…I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins…” (1 Cor. 15:3).
“…I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
You may rest assured that Paul was right. Depend upon it, the Cross of Christ, the death of Christ on the Cross to make atonement for sinners, is the center truth in the whole Bible. This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified.
This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the Law of Moses and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple, all these were emblems of Christ crucified.
This is the truth that we see honored in the vision of heaven before we close the Book of Revelation. “…In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,” we are told, “and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain…” (Rev. 5:6). Even in the midst of heavenly glory we get a view of Christ crucified.
Paul gloried in nothing but the Cross. Strive to be like him. Set Jesus crucified fully before the eyes of your soul. I believe it is an excellent thing for us all to be continually dwelling on the Cross of Christ.
It is not for nothing that the Crucifixion is described four times over in the New Testament. There are very few things that all the four writers of the Gospel describe. Generally speaking, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell a thing in our Lord’s history, John does not tell it. But there is one thing that all the four give us most fully, and that one thing is, the story of the Cross. This is a striking fact, and not to be overlooked.
I see in Christ’s Cross wisdom and power, peace and hope, joy and gladness, comfort and consolation. The more I keep the Cross in my mind’s eye, the more fullness I seem to discern in it. The longer I dwell on the Cross in my thoughts, the more I am satisfied that there is more to be learned at the foot of the Cross than anywhere else in the world.
The Father’s Love
Would I know the length and breadth of God the Father’s love towards a sinful world? Where shall I see it most displayed? Shall I look at His glorious sun shining down daily on the unthankful and evil? Shall I look at seed-time and harvest returning in regular yearly succession? Oh! no! I can find a stronger proof of love than anything of this sort. I look at the Cross of Christ.
I see in it not the cause of the Father’s love, but the effect. There I see that God so loved this wicked world, that He gave His only begotten Son, gave Him to suffer and die, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). I know that the Father loves us, because He did not withhold from us His Son, His only Son. Ah! reader, I might sometimes fancy that God the Father is too high and holy to care for such miserable, corrupt creatures as we are. But I cannot, must not, dare not think it, when I look at the Cross of Christ.
The Sinfulness of Sin
Would I know how exceeding sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see that most fully brought out? Shall I turn to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world? Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? No! I can find a clearer proof still. I look at the Cross of Christ.
There I see that sin is so black and damnable, that nothing but the blood of God’s own Son can wash it away. There I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker, that all the angels in heaven could never have made peace between us. Nothing could reconcile us short of the death of Christ. Ah! if I listened to the wretched talk of proud men, I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful. But I cannot think little of sin when I look at the Cross of Christ.
The Fullness of Salvation
Would I know the fullness and completeness of the salvation God has provided for sinners? Where shall I see it most distinctly? Shall I go to the general declarations in the Bible about God’s mercy? Shall I rest in the general truth that God is a God of love? Oh! no! I will look at the Cross of Christ. I find no evidence like that. I find no balm for a sore conscience, and a troubled heart, like the sight of Jesus dying for me on the accursed tree.
There I see that a full payment has been made for all my enormous debts. The curse of that law which I have broken has come down on One who there suffered in my stead. The demands of that law are all satisfied. Payment has been made for me, even to the uttermost farthing. It will not be required twice over. Ah! I might sometimes imagine I was too bad to be forgiven. My own heart sometimes whispers that I am too wicked to be saved. But I know in my better moments this is all my foolish unbelief. I read an answer to my doubts in the blood shed on Calvary. I feel sure that there is a way to heaven for the very vilest of men, when I look at the Cross.
Motivation for Holy Living
Would I find strong reasons for being a holy man? Whither shall I turn for them? Shall I listen to the Ten Commandments merely? Shall I study the examples given me in the Bible of what grace can do? Shall I meditate on the rewards of heaven, and the punishments of hell? Is there no stronger motive still? Yes! I will look at the Cross of Christ.
There I see the love of Christ constraining me to live not unto myself, but unto Him. There I see that I am not my own now; I am bought with a price. I am bound by the most solemn obligations to glorify Jesus with body and spirit, which are His. There I see that Jesus gave Himself for me not only to redeem me from all iniquity, but also to purify me, and make me one of a peculiar people, zealous of good works. He bore my sins in His own body on the tree, that I being dead unto sin should live unto righteousness. Ah! reader, there is nothing so sanctifying as a clear view of the Cross of Christ. It crucifies the world unto us, and us unto the world. How can we love sin when we remember that because of our sins Jesus died? Surely none ought to be so holy as the disciples of a crucified Lord.
Cause for Contentment
Would I learn how to be contented and cheerful under all the cares and anxieties of life? What school shall I go to? How shall I attain this state of mind most easily? Shall I look at the sovereignty of God, the wisdom of God, the providence of God, the love of God? It is well to do so. But I have a better argument still. I will look at the Cross of Christ.
I feel that He who spared not His only begotten Son, but delivered Him up to die for me, will surely with Him give me all things that I really need. He that endured that pain for my soul, will surely not withhold from me anything that is really good. He that has done the greater things for me, will doubtless do the lesser things also. He that gave His own blood to procure me a home in heaven, will unquestionably supply me with all that is really profitable for me during my journey through the world. Ah! reader, there is no school for learning contentment that can be compared with the foot of the Cross.
And now, reader, will you marvel that I said all Christians ought to glory in the Cross? Will you not rather wonder that any can hear of the Cross and remain unmoved?
– Adapted. J. C. Ryle was an evangelical Anglican clergyman known for his powerful preaching and extensive writing.