The word of the cross is the power of God

Preaching the Word

THE POWER TO PURGE OUR CONSCIENCE

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God:-Hebrews 9:14

Most beautifully expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism.

“How art thou righteous before God?”

“How art thou righteous before God?“Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.”

And then, lest the absurd conclusion be drawn that a purged conscience is a sort of indulgence to walk in sin, it adds in question and answer sixty-four:

“But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?”

“By no means: for it is impossible that those, who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.”

A purged conscience rejoices in the perfect, imputed righteousness of God in Christ.

And thus it makes us free to serve the living God!

And the power thus to purge our conscience is in the blood of Christ.

Such, in brief, is the teaching of the Word of God in the ninth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, the fourteen verse. ……

You understand?

Though our consciences, apart from Christ, accuse us, yet, the blood of Christ overcomes all these accusations, and faith is the victory over all of them, so that I know that I am so righteous before God that I appear before Him as one that never had or committed any sin at all.

Nay more: the blood of Christ, sprinkled upon our conscience, so purges it that now there is inscribed in it the verdict of an eternal righteousness that makes us worthy of eternal life!

No longer can our sins rise up against us, to condemn us and to clamor for our damnation, before the tribunal of God.

No longer can the law curse us.

No longer can the devil, that accuser of the brethren, terrorize us by reminding us that we transgressed and still transgress all God’s commandments, and have kept none of them. Well may we agree with him on that score; yet, in Christ, we claim that it is God that justifieth the ungodly, and send the tempter away with the victorious challenge: who is he that condemns us? (Rom. 8:33, 34).

O, glorious blessing of a purged conscience!

O, blessed power of the cross.

For the power so to blot out the damning handwriting of our dead works, and of God’s verdict against them, in our conscience, is in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is in His death and perfect sacrifice on the cross of Calvary.

It is in nothing else!

In that blood it is surely! It never fails. When that blood is sprinkled upon your conscience, it surely purges it from the guilt of sin. The text emphasizes this. If the sacrifices of the old dispensation made one typically and ceremonially clean, how much more will the blood of Christ purge our conscience from dead works! …..

That blood is sprinkled upon our conscience, by His own Spirit, through His own gospel, the Word of the cross, and by means of the faith He gives us. It is all of Him, and none of self.

And through the sprinkling of that blood upon our consciences, they are purged. When the Spirit begins to apply that blood of the Lamb to our consciences, we begin by seeing our sins in a new light; we are filled with a true sorrow after God, and repent in dust and ashes. We cry out with the publican: “God be merciful to me a sinner!” And in that blood we find the answer. In the blood of the Lamb we experience the power of redemption, of righteousness, of the purging of our conscience, of perfect justification, so that we have peace with God. We have experienced and do experience the truth of the Word of God: the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord cleanseth us from all sin! That is the power of the cross!

Yet, this is not the end. Having thus been redeemed, and our conscience having been purged from dead works, we also experience a new freedom: the liberty to serve the living God! As long as we are under guilt and condemnation we have no right to this blessed service. We cannot, we will cannot will to serve God, nor do we have the right to be delivered from this spiritual bondage. But in the blood of Christ there is the power to cleanse our conscience from the guilt of sin, and, therefore, also the right to be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Justified, we are also sanctified. Redeemed, we are also delivered. And standing in that new freedom, we fight the good fight against sin and the devil, and with a new delight in His precepts we serve the living God, till He shall deliver us perfectly, and take us with Him in His blessed tabernacle! There we shall serve Him day and night!

Death’s Tyrant Destroyed

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:14, 15.     

O DEATH, where is thy sting?

O grave, where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:55-57). 

For He, the Lord from heaven, died, and went through death; and by the act of passing through death, He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and delivered us from the bondage of the fear of death that pursued us in all our living. ….

Is there then any way out?

There is not as far as man is concerned. On this side, the situation is quite impossible.

But what is impossible with man is possible with God. His mighty arm wrought deliverance out of the fortress of death, for the children He had ordained unto glory.

And this great deliverance was accomplished through death, the death of His Son.

That is the power of the cross.

For the text tells us that He, the Son of God, deliberately entered the fortress of death, destroyed the devil in his power, and delivered them who throughout all their life were in bondage through the fear of death.

Let me, to clarify the meaning of those words, be permitted to present the whole matter in the form of a figure, an extended metaphor.

When man sinned, God shut him up in the fortress of death, of darkness and corruption, as his just punishment. The key He gave to the devil, that is, not the power to open and shut the prison-doors, but the power to rule within the sphere of death, and to lord is over all within its walls. He is the prince of darkness.

Now, into that prison Christ entered. For the text tells us that He also partook of the flesh and blood of the children. By doing so, He came under the law, and in the midst of death. But He is the Son of God. He was not born by the will of the flesh. He came from above. Voluntarily, He descended into the darkness of death’s fortress. He assumed the flesh and blood of the children by an act of His own, through the Spirit, from the virgin Mary. He was, therefore, personally, not under the sentence of death, neither unto the dominion of the devil. He was free, even in that prison, to do the will of the Father. Without sin He was, neither was ever guile found in His mouth. But He came as the captain of the salvation of the children the Father had given Him, to represent them in death, to break the power of the devil over His brethren, and to deliver them from the fear of death. For that purpose, that He might take their sins upon His mighty shoulders, remove their guilt, and thus break the power of the devil, He partook of the flesh and blood of the children. ….

And this Christ did.

He destroyed the devil, who had the power of death. The meaning is not that He annihilated him, but that He put him utterly to nought as the tyrant of death. He took the power of death, the right to lord it over the children He must lead to glory, and to hold them under his dominion, away ffrom the prince of darkness.

And this He did through death.

His death is the right to liberty for all His brethren. By His death, He obtained the authority and power to deliver them from the prison of sin, and from the fortress of the fear of death; the right, too, to bestow upon them an eternal righteousness, and to lead them into the glory of everlasting life. For He tasted death for every one of them. He tasted all the horrors there is in death. Fully He recognized, in death, the heavy hand of God’s wrath against sin. There is no agony, no horror, no pain, no sorrow and grief, no amazement and abandonment, no astonishment and desolation, in death which He did not taste. And freely, voluntarily, in the love of God, as the Servant of Jehovah, that was come to do the will of the Father in and unto death. He descended into its dark depth, bore it all, and passed through it into life. For of death He made an act of obedience. Dying, He sprinkled His lifeblood upon the alter of God’s justice in the death of hell!

O, it is true, to eye of the natural man, the cross of Jesus of Nazareth on Calvary, appears only as man’s cross. It is foolishness to him. And true it is, that man played his part to erect that cross. When the Servant of Jehovah had made it quite plain that, even in the fortress of death, He had come to do the will of the Father, that He steadfastly refused to submit Himself to him that had the power of death, that is the devil, all hell broke loose, all the forces of darkness set themselves against Him, and released against Him all their satanic fury. They took Him, bound Him, condemned Him, spit upon Him, scourged Him, made Him a spectacle to all the world, and nailed Him to the accursed tree. Yet they but opened the way for Him, that He might voluntarily descend into the gloomy depth of death and hell. Every drop of blood they pressed from His hands and feet He filled with the love of God, and willingly shed upon the altar of obedience to the Father. Thus His death was a sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice of atonement for sin. And thus the right to deliver His brethren from the fortress of death, and to lead them into the everlasting glory of God’s tabernacle with men.

Through death, He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.

And through death, He obtained the authority and power to deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

And deliver them He does!

Our Redeemer is also Deliverer!

Through death, He passed into the glory of His resurrection, and of His exaltation at the right hand of the God, and is clothed with all power in heaven and on earth. He holds the keys of death and hell. This mighty Lord, through His Spirit, now stretches His strong arm of salvation into our prison of sin and death, to lead us out into liberty. He opens wide the door, breaks the shackles of sin that hold us in bondage to the will of the devil, gives us a new heart, a new life, new love, new light, new knowledge, and wisdom. He gives us the saving faith, the power whereby we may appropriate Him, and all His blessings of salvation. He calls us through the word of the cross, the word of reconciliation, of liberty, of deliverance from the slavery of sin. And we hear the voice of Jesus, the captain of our salvation, calling: “Come unto me, and rest.”

And we do come, and find rest; we repent and are forgiven; we believe and are delivered.

No longer do we accomplish the will of the devil, but have a new delight in the law of the God of our salvation.

And no longer does the fear of death hold us in bondage, for in His cross and resurrection we behold the way out, into the final glory of the tabernacle of God with us.

O, amazing power of the cross!   

Reconciled By His Death

Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

That is the word of the cross!

O, ADORABLE wisdom of God, wiser than, and bringing to nought all the wisdom of men!

O, blessed power of divine love, that many waters could not quench, that all the floods of our iniquity were not able to drown, whose weakness is stronger than men, and that puts all the power of men to shame!

We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and that, too, while we were enemies!

Was ever such a thing heard among men? Was it ever observed anywhere that men were reconciled to each other at the very moment that the offending party hated him whom he offended, insulted and abused him, slandered him and raved against him with hateful and bitter mockery and blasphemy, plotted to kill him and to obliterate his every name and memory from the face of the earth? Or, to accentuate the paradox, would it be considered possible with men that the offended party 0tuen the blasphemy and abuse, the hatred and murderous assault of the offender into the very means and basis of reconciliation?

Yet, such is the power of the cross! ….

God of God, in human nature, bearing God’s wrath, dying our death, obliterating forever the guilt of in, reconciling us unto Himself!

That is the paradox, yes, but that is the power of the cross!

And so, reconciliation is an accomplished fact. It is finished. The judgment is past. The debt is paid. Sin is blotted out. Our state of alienation and estrangement from God is changed into that of reconciliation. The covenant of friendship is established firmly and forever in the blood of Christ, in the death of His Son. Nineteen hundred years ago, when we were enemies, and when we revealed our hatred of God by nailing His Son to the cross of Calvary, yea, through that very act, God reconciled us unto Himself. We were not reconciled because we sought reconciliation, asked for it, implored Him for it, but in spite of the fact that we were enemies. And we are not reconciled now, because we believe in Him, or seek Him, even though by faith we enter into the state of reconciliation: reconciled we are solely by that act of God accomplished on the cross. And that means that sovereign love and sovereign election are the basis of this sovereign act of reconciliation. God is the reconciler of all His own, given to Christ from before the foundation of the world, and they ARE RECONCILED. For God was in Christ, not opening a way of reconciliation merely, but reconciling us by the death of His Son unto Himself. He gave His life for His sheep, given Him by the Father, and not one of them may perish. Long before they repent and believe, independent from their faith and repentance, while they were enemies, God reconciled them all unto Himself. And their sins can never be imputed to them anymore! ….

Reconciliation is an accomplished fact.

That is the power of the cross!   

And that power of the cross is conveyed to us through the Word of the cross, the gospel of reconciliation.

For the word of the cross is revealed unto us.

Never could we, in our own wisdom, have discerned the divine meaning, the idea, and the power of that cross of Calvary. Nor can human wisdom be trusted to interpret that cross of the Son of God. To us that cross is foolishness. Always we require a sign, a sign of human power, and the cross is the ultimate in human weakness: it has no sign for the wicked and adulterous generation. Always we seek after wisdom, the wisdom of this world; but the cross is the ultimate of human foolishness: it humbles all our pride. But God speaks His own Word, and He interprets His own cross. The Word of the cross, as a word of reconciliation, He spoke, by His Spirit, to the apostles. To them He revealed that He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. And by virtue of this revelation they became witnesses of the cross, and of the resurrection. They preached the word of the cross. And the Church heard and believed, through the same Spirit of Christ, preserved that word of the cross, and in turn, proclaimed it in all the world. And thus the preaching of the gospel is the ministry of reconciliation. It proclaims that God is the Reconciler, loving us with an eternal love. It preaches that reconciliation is an accomplished fact: God was in Christ, reconciling us by the death of His Son. And it sends forth the prayer, as if God did beseech us: “Be ye reconciled to God!”

O, wonder of divine grace!

Glorious light of mercy, shinning from the face of God in the cross of Jesus, radiating into the darkness of sin and death that envelops all our present existence in its gloomy shower!

And as we hear this word of the cross, the Word of God, the Reconciler, we confess our sins, bemoan our alienation from Him, humble ourselves in dust and ashes because of our enmity against Him, and turn to Him for refuge.  Through the power of His Word, of His mighty Word of reconciliation, we enter into the state of reconciliation, cast ourselves upon Him in the confidence of faith, believe that He loves us, receive the forgiveness of sins and everlasting righteousness and life, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

The power of the cross has been realized in us!          

The Power of the Cross-by H. H.

Redemption From The Curse Of The Law

Galatians 3:13
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

MARVELOUS POWER OF THE CROSS!

The lifeblood of the crucified One, dripping from His hands and feet, shed voluntarily, obediently, a sacrifice of love on the altar of God’s justice, redeems us from the curse of the law! 

And when we hear that word of the cross, and experience its power by faith, the oppressing burden of that curse is lifted from our weary souls, and the blessing of the gospel fills our hearts with the peace that passeth all understanding!

That is the power that is attributed to the cross of Jesus by the Holy Scriptures in Gal. 3:10-13: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live by them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” …

And our Lord heard that Word of God.

O, how our He heard it! No one else could have heard it. He trembled, became amazed and utterly astonished, exceedingly sorrowful filled with terror, unspeakably miserable. The Word of God’s righteous and holy anger against sin was in that cross, and it vibrated through His whole soul and body. As the slow moments of His dying hours were measured by the equally slow trickle of His blood from His hands and feet, He felt the oppressing hand of God’s wrath become increasingly heavy And as every passing moment was more heavily laden with the wrath of God, He responded with loving obedience that filled every drop of blood pressed out of Him, and by Him was sprinkled upon God’s altar, and upon the mercy seat in the sanctuary. Accentuated was the Word of God’s curse by the darkness that presently spread its horrible wings over the scene of judgment on Calvary; and in the darkness, the Saviour completely withdrew Himself, wholly occupied, with all His heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, with the task of bearing the curse, and of responding to it in loving obedience, by His dripping blood. Before the darkness set in, he could still divide His attention between His own suffering and the misery of others, in loving sympathy for His own. But during the three hours of darkness, He is completely silent. His intense suffering, the offering of the perfect sacrifice, the laying down of His life in obedience to the Father, the amazing experience of the fierce wrath of God, and the superhuman task of meeting this dreadful expression of God’s holy anger without complaint, without rebellion, yea, in the love of God, – these now require all His attention every ounce of His strength.

Thus He descended into the lower parts of the earth, into the deepest darkness of woe and desolation, ever pursued by the cursing wrath of God, yet constantly bearing it in perfect obedience.

And thus we can somewhat understand that, at the moment when God’s oppressing curse pressed Him into the very desolation and agony of hell, at the same time that His love and obedience are most perfectly and mightily expressed, His sudden outcry should become a question of amazement, wrung from His sorely vexed soul: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Christ became a curse for us!

That is the word of the cross!


THE WORD OF THE CROSS

1 Corinthians 1:18

“For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

Is not this the most amazing paradox, greater, deeper, more astounding even than that of God’s revelation in the flesh of the Babe in swaddling clothes, in the manger of Bethlehem? Is not the cross the ultimate in human impotency, and does it not symbolize all that is despised and rejected of men? How, then, can that cross be the revelation of the Most High, a Word of the Lord of heaven and earth; and how is it possible that this Word of God in and through the cross is a word of power?

Yet, does not all revelation of the infinite God to the finite creature necessarily imply a paradox?

God is God, and there is none beside Him. He is the Holy One of Israel, the incomparable One, infinitely and eternally distinct from all that is called creature. For “to whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? … Have ye not known? Have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. To whom then shall ye liken me, or shall I be equal? Saith the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:18, 20-25).

An infinite chasm, never to be abridged, there is between the Creator and the creature. He is the I AM, the self-existent One; the creature is utterly dependent. He is the Eternal, the creature is born upon the stream of time. He is the Infinite, the creature is limited on every side. In all His glorious, adorable virtues, of wisdom and knowledge, of justice and righteousness, of grace and truth, He is infinite perfection; the creature is never more than an infinitesimally small reflection of His glory. And He is Lord, the only Sovereign of heaven and earth. Of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things. To Him must be the glory forever!  

When, therefore, it pleases God to reveal Himself to us, that is, when He so comes down to our level that we may know Him, and have fellowship with Him; yet so, that He becomes known as God; known, but as the incomprehensible One; near, yet infinitely far away; immanent, yet transcendent,-He does so by performing wondrous things, those things that are impossible with man.

He does so in creation, for He calls the things that are not as if they were. “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created all these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power: not one faileth” (Isaiah 40:26).

Far more gloriously, however He reveals Himself as God, as the incomparable Lord, in the work of redemption. In creation, He calls the things that are not as if they were. In redemption, He calls out of darkness, righteousness out of unrighteousness, the glory of the eternal, heavenly day out of the darkness of the night of sin; and He quickens the dead. What is impossible with man, is possible with God! And less man should boast in his own power and wisdom, God brings these utterly to  nought, will have none of them; and deliberately chooses the weak, and foolish, and base things of the world, yea and things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are, and to become revealed as the incomparable God, who is the Lord. No flesh may ever glory in His presence!

That is the word of the cross.

The Power of the Cross by H. Hoeksema  

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11
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