Summary: The apostle Peter said to the Sanhedrin, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead — whom you
That was the message of the late German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, who in his lifetime of ministry led over 78 million souls to Jesus Christ, mostly in Africa. On his Facebook page Bonnke said, “Christians have only one thing to boast about — A CRUCIFIED REDEEMER. That’s our Gospel … It is JESUS. Any success that does not come from the Gospel of Christ crucified is false success.”
The apostle Paul gave a sobering prophetic warning to us living in these end times: “The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1, NKJV). One of those doctrines of demons that will cause people to depart from the biblical faith is a so-called “Christianity” without the cross.
A short sentence, less than a dozen words … and it tells us how the world was changed forever!
Shortly before His upcoming death on the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22).
Peter reacted to that and spoke rashly, from human reasoning and not from God’s perspective. Peter said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus turned to Peter and sternly rebuked him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” You see, well-intentioned Peter did not understand what Jesus knew — that is, that Christ’s upcoming death on the cross was necessary to provide full atonement before God for the sins of the world’s people.
In God’s plan and will, only a perfect sacrifice — Jesus, “who knew no sin” (2 Corin. 5:21) — could atone for men’s and women’s sins against the holy, perfect God Almighty. The cross of Christ was necessary! No lesser sacrifice could take all the sins of mankind, past and present and future, and wash them clean in the eyes of God. That took the “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son [which] cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The cross was the place where Jesus “washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5).
The apostle Paul added: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corin. 15:17). Jesus rising from the dead is living proof that by His death on the cross “for our sins” and His subsequent resurrection to life He has for all time overcome the bondage of sin, sickness, and death that came upon mankind in the Garden of Eden. It gives further insight to Jesus’ prophetic words before His death and resurrection: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
So “the Gospel” is not some complex theory, understood only by theologians. It is a simple yet life-changing thing: Jesus the Son of God died on the cross for our sins and, on the third day after His death, rose from the grave “for our justification” (Romans 4:25), soon after that to return to heaven, where He remains to this day as our Lord and only Savior.
The cross of Jesus is not a simple “fire escape” from the eternal, fiery punishment in hell that would otherwise be due to our sins. No! It’s more than that. Because Jesus bore our sins on the cross, therefore we are enabled by Him and His cross’s power to die to sins and to live for righteousness. We are able to live the holy life that God desires of His born-again children.
This verse lists an additional benefit of the cross — “by His wounds you have been healed.” There is physical healing for our sick bodies that comes from Christ’s having suffered for us. His wounds provided for our healing. This was foretold way back in Old Testament times: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103:2-3). God has always been our faithful Healer, and He has made it especially available since the cross through Jesus Christ, who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (53:4): “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
In many ways in Scripture we have the privilege of identifying with Jesus Christ. Here Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ…” In Romans 6:4 we are said to have been “buried with Him through baptism” after having been “crucified with Him” (vs. 6). One day believers will also be “united with Him in a resurrection like His” (vs. 5).
The apostle Paul is obviously not saying we will all be literally crucified with Jesus. But there must be a very real spiritual embracing by us of what the cross means. When you come to Jesus in repentance and faith (Acts 20:21), your old self dies and you become a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corin. 5:17). That’s what Paul was getting at when he said (above), “…and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” For the saved believer, the “old” you has, in a sense, been put to death at the cross and the “new” you has Christ living in you and giving you eternal life! To believers in Him, Jesus promised, “I give them eternal life” (John 10:28).
Just think of the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ! He willingly, for our sakes, left the glories of heaven, where He had existed with God the Father for all eternity past (Micah 5:2, KJV). He entered this world through a miraculous Holy Spirit conception in the womb of a virgin woman named Mary (Matthew 1:20). He lived on the earth, preached and healed. Then He suffered a horrible execution on the cross for our sins. On the 3rd day after, He rose from the dead and shortly thereafter returned to heaven to fulfill His own earlier prayer to God the Father — “Glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5).
The message of Christ’s cross is “foolishness” only to the rebellious, to the Jesus-rejecters. To those being saved unto eternal life, the cross “is the power of God.” It takes lost sinners, separated by their sin (Isaiah 59:2) from a perfectly holy God, and brings them before God forgiven and transformed into dearly loved sons and daughters of God Almighty for all eternity!
Jesus’ death on the cross has the power to overcome 100% of the guilt of our sins. No one else, nothing else, had that power. As the apostle Peter wrote, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
He was the perfect sacrifice for hopelessly sinful mankind — “the righteous for the unrighteous.” For what purpose? “To bring [us] to God.” No one else could do it. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no way to eternal salvation that avoids the cross of Christ.
Now having come in repentance and faith to Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection, there is another “cross” for the believer. To truly be Jesus’ disciple, He said, believers must “take up their cross daily” and follow Him. Not a one-time literal, biological death by us, but a daily denying of ourselves, our carnal desires and plans, our human shortcomings, and instead taking up the cross of self-denial for our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the old saying goes, “Salvation is free; discipleship costs you everything!” Don’t be content just to get saved, then go on cruise control until you die and go to heaven. No! Choose to be a 100% committed “disciple” of the Lord who gave His all for you. Take up your cross of “denying self” daily, and follow Him. How can we do any less and still call Him our personal “Lord”?
Once more Paul talks about our being crucified. In this verse he refers to our relationship to “the world” and its enticements and anti-godly ways. Truly born-again believers, having been “crucified with Christ,” should find the carnal world around us increasingly losing its grip on us and on our desires and plans.
More and more we should reflect the heart of our Lord Jesus when He left heaven and God the Father to come to earth. He said to the Father, “I have come to do
We have forgiveness from what Jesus did at the cross. And this verse points out another very important thing done for us at Jesus’ cross — that is, the Lord’s triumph over every “power and authority” that opposes Him and the kingdom of God.
This is especially important when we read in Scripture about our ongoing warfare against hostile supernatural powers — Satan and his demons. In the Great Commission our Lord Jesus Christ promised to us believers victory in demonic battles: “In my name they will drive out demons” (Mark 16:17). To believers James wrote (4:7): “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” How can this happen? Because Jesus “triumphed over them [Satan and demons] by the cross.”
Look unto Jesus, fix your eyes on Him, our wonderful Lord and Savior. He endured the cross for us, for our salvation from the punishment due to our sins. As you encounter both the joys and the hardships of daily life, “consider Him … so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus rejoiced seeing in advance the joy that lay beyond His cross. So should we. Christ’s cross has purchased for us salvation, fruitful years serving the Lord in this life, and finally the unimaginable glories of eternal life in His presence — “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11, NASB).
All of that was made possible by the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ. And that is why we should follow the example of the apostle Paul and his bold declaration: “We preach Christ crucified!” Speak it to others. Live it out in your life. And experience the blessed results of “Christ crucified” — eternal life with Him, which the apostle Paul said — compared to life on earth — “is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).
Perhaps you’ve read this far and have come to realize that you haven’t personally experienced the salvation that Jesus bought for you on the cross. You can have that right now! Eternal life is yours, by God’s free and gracious gift through His Son Jesus. I encourage you to go right now to the late evangelist Billy Graham’s excellent short presentation that will help you to receive Jesus as Savior and to enter the eternal family of God as His son or daughter. Do that right now, and make the angels in heaven rejoice!
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©2022, James H. Feeney.
& Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.