These sermons were delivered at the 25th Annual Winona (Indiana) Lake Bible Conference which was held in August of 1899. Some of the sermons were later published by the Winona Publishing Society. Other speakers included G. Campbell Morgan, Cortland Myers, and A. T. Robertson.
The Cross of Christ has always been a difficulty to those who are anxious to explain its meaning. It is not irreverence to say it was a difficulty to our Lord. No one can tread often in Gethsemane and not know that. To the apostles it was a tragedy and to many of His disciples it was the signal for desertion. From Caesarea Philippi it was the burden of His ministry to show unto His own the must of Calvary. In the presence of the Greeks He reasoned again His way to its acceptance. It was over the Cross Paul fought his decisive battle and he never forgot its difficulty. He found it the stumbling block of his Gospel everywhere. The Jew abhorred it; and the Greek ridiculed it. Everywhere men were incredulous about the Cross. Paul acknowledged the difficulty. For the Cross he had no philosophy. To the natural mind it must always seem to be foolishness. Its defense was in its power, and the secret of its truth could be revealed only to experience. The marvel is, that it became so completely the foremost fact of apostolic testimony and the first responsibility of apostolic preaching. There were important points of difference among the apostles but there was only one doctrine of the Cross taught by them. To them all the death of Christ is to the Christian the basis of faith, the substance of the Gospel, the type and standard of experience, and the supreme inspiration of holiness and service.
The Cross is especially repulsive to the modern mind. All the offences of all the ages outrage its sensibilities. It has all the loathing of the Jew and all the scorn of the Greek. The objections to the Cross have always been made in the interests of religion, reason and righteousness; and in these days they are an indignant protest for the honor of God, the humanity of Christ, and the defense of faith. They come from believers more than from scoffers and they are advanced from the highest considerations of spiritual religions and the coming of the Kingdom. The Apostle Paul comes in for both abuse and criticism. One Free Church minister has declared him to be the greatest enemy Jesus ever had. He is denounced as Rabbinical, legal and theological. It is affirmed that he perverted the teaching of Christ and cast the Gospel of Luke into terms of Law and ordinances of Levitical sacrifice. They deny the unity of the Jesus of History and the Christ of faith, and protest that the apostles divide the work of Christ into distinct parts, for which our Lord Himself gives no warrant. |
This is particularly hard on Paul, for he has no teaching about the Cross that is not shared also by Peter and John. It is Peter that speaks of it as a Redemption by "precious blood as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ;" and John does not hesitate to speak of Christ as "the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." It is particularly unfair to Paul, because it dismembers his teaching and then condemns a part as if it were the whole. That is characteristic of the modern mind. It lives in a ringed fence, and reasons as a dog chases its tail. The theological discussions are like conversations from opposite sides of a fence. Neither sees the other side; and cannot be persuaded there is another side. Paul saw all sides, and that is why they cannot bear him. He is too big for their grasp.
There is something deeply moving in the devout spirit and fine temper of much modern criticism. Objections from reverent scholars whose devotion is known in all the churches is much more impressive than from blatant and aggressive unbelievers, but the substance may be the same. Preachers and Professors say many things today that a generation ago were the stock-in-trade of infidel lectures and it is for this reason that inquiry into their value should be courageous and thorough. The foes of Theological beliefs have often been the friends of Truth.
It may be freely admitted that the protest against certain interpretations of the Cross is made in all sincerity and out of an impassioned desire for its glory. There is need for a statement of its meaning in the terms of our own age. Much teaching has been repulsive, unethical and irrational. The legal aspect has been detached from that of the home; and the Levitical has been divorced from the experimental. Dramatic poets have been largely responsible. Hymnology has contributed its share. Controversy has done the rest. Revolt is seldom judicial and the protest against the extreme becomes itself extreme. A theology that expressed propitiation as the exacture of an omnipotent Shylock could not be true. The interpretation that put redemption on the basis of a cash bargain or a pawn broker's transaction could not be a true representation of redeeming Love. The mere transfer of penalty from the guilty to the innocent could not be right. God must be just in the way He justified the ungodly. Love and Holiness cannot be at variance, grace and truth must be one; and God is Light and God is Love.
The unfortunate part, is that those who protest against these crude false presentations fall into the same snare. They see no meaning in what does not appeal to them and they ignore all value in what they do not like. Take Cooper's much caricatured and abused Hymn: "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," with its revival chorus:
I do believe, I will believe;
That Jesus died for me;
That on the cross, He shed His blood,
From sin to set me free.
No Hymn has been more fiercely assailed. Sir Edwin Arnold, the author of "The Light of Asia," said it was absolutely shocking to his mind. Mathew Arnold is said to have denounced it viciously; and it has frequently been described as "the language of the scrambler." On the other hand, it has led tens of thousands to Christ. It has changed the lives of more people, by many times, than all those who ever heard the name of its critics; and I would rather have written it than all the books of all the Arnolds.
"We see the meaning of the cross when we see it as the act and deed of Christ; done with all His heart and mind and soul and strength; when for love's sake, He burdened Himself with the whole situation which our sin created, embraced the prospect of endless sacrifice, and dedicated Himself without reserve, in face of all that sin could make of us, to the task of our recovery to God and all goodness."
With that statement there can be no quarrel, nor with this: "The salvation we need is to be saved from our sins, but our sins are not to be regarded as a debt which some one must pay or as acts of transgression, for which a certain penalty is prescribed and must not be remitted without equivalent satisfaction."
True, but why should such truth be put in antagonism to the truth in the great words, atonement, propitiation, reconciliation, substitution and redemption. The words of these quoted sentences may have a vendetta against "all words ending in 'ation',” but is this not a case for co-ordination rather than for contrast? is there not a sense and a very real sense, in which the cry, "It is finished," is true? is there not a redemption price of blood that was paid once for all, though in no sense commercial? is there any redemption without such price? Orthodox theology is not so wooden as its critics assume, nor so legal as they affirm; but is there not a substitute that is essential to the faith that saves? is there no vital meaning in the confession: He loved me and gave Himself for me? is the point at which the Cross becomes the power of God to salvation a fiction and a fraud? Does faith count for nothing? Does not the necessity for it prove that there is not mechanical transfer of either sin or its penalty to an innocent victim? is there not something of a pose in the attitude of the modern mind to popular and orthodox interpretation of Christian doctrine?
The Cross of Christ is too profound a mystery for any one line of interpretation. Sin is revealed in its relation to God. The moral order, personal experience and social relationship; and the explanation of the cross must cover the same ground for "He died for our sins" after all. There is a Throne in the Heavens, and all is Law as surely as all is Love. There is a sanctuary with its High Priest and its ministry and in the midst of the Throne and the four living creatures and the Elders there is a Lamb standing as though it had been slain. The sanctuary of faith is the Righteousness of God and not in a sentiment of compassion. "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." It is true that Love is the big word of the Cross; the first and the last. The cross did not procure for us the Love of God. "Herein was the Love of God manifested . . . Herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." This is the meaning of the Cross: "That God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," and the personal meaning of that is that He reconciles the belief to Him through the death of His Son.
The Cross is both the offence and the Glory of the Christian religion. Attack compelled defense, and defense demanded explanation. Therefore the cross is central in all the controversial epistles. That is not remarkable. The remarkable thing in apostolic teaching is the way faith came so quickly to know the mystery of experience in the fellowship of the Cross. Its mystical value is much more wonderful than its theological interpretation. Each New Testament writer has his own way of expressing it, but they all set forth the mystery of being crucified with Him. As a rule they avoid the word. Paul is the only one that uses it in this connection and he uses it rarely, but in the Epistle to the Galatians interprets its relation to the experience of the believer. There the word occurs four times and in three of them it is concerned with its spiritual significance in personality, carnality and spirituality.
There is no saving efficacy in the cross apart from faith. The acknowledgment of the historical fact of Christ's death brings no redemption. Neither does an orthodox belief of its theological interpretation save. Faith is something more than accurate knowledge and correct belief. It is identification with Christ in His death and resurrection.
The general principle is stated in Corinthians V. 14. "For the Love of Christ constraineth; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died."
The personal application is: "For I, through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me; and Real Life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." Gal. I. 19, 20.
That is the logic of faith. He died for all; He loved me and gave Himself for me; therefore I died with Him. The reference is to the Law and the death of Christ as the ground of a sinner's justification. It is judicial, because it is related to sin, and therefore related to Law. The Scriptures have no interpretation of the Cross that is not related to sin. Christ died to deliver sinners from the condemnation of the Law. Faith reasons that. His death was for me, and if He died for me, I died in Him. This is the vindication of the Cross as the ground of faith and Hope; and it explains how the saving power of the Cross depends upon personal faith. It is the power of God to them that believe; for faith accepts and appropriates by personal identification. Salvation is neither by the pity of God nor by the will of man, but by the Cross of Christ.
Faith is not an assent of the mind, so much as it is an attitude of consent. The Cross is accepted as a principle of life, as well as a fact of redeeming grace. The historical facts of the Gospel are types of the experience of Grace. "He died that we might live." So do we. We are "conformed to His death." "As .... even so." That is the argument of Romans VI. "For if we have become united with Him by the likeness of His death, we shall be also by the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this that an old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be in bondage to sin—even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus."
The Galatians passage explains the experience by a death and quickening followed by an abiding indwelling of the Risen Lord. This is the mystery known only to them that believe. "Even the mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations; but now bath it been manifested to His saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the Glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory." (Colossians I. 26, 27.)
Christ in you! That is something more than a strong figure of speech to express the domination of Christ in the life of the believer. It is the statement of a living fact, realized vividly in the consciousness of tens of thousands. This is the testimony of countless witnesses whose sanity and integrity are beyond suspicion. It is this that makes a Christian. Nothing else can, for Christianity is unique in that it does not consist of systems of Truth, ordinances of religion, or codes of conduct, but in personal experience of fellowship with an indwelling Lord.
St. Paul states his experience in a text of many pronouns. Count them. "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me, and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." I—yet no longer I, Christ liveth in me—the life I now live in the flesh. What a paradox it all seems, but it is true to the experience of life in Christ . Personality is the central fact of life. In regeneration it is the person that is born again. It is not something that happens in the mind or the emotions or the will. It is the personality that is re-born. It is the personality that passes through the experience of crucifixion with Christ, in His death, and through His resurrection into newness of life.
The personality is re-born, but through all the changes the Identity of the personality remains the same. The Christ that rose, was the Christ that died, and it is "this same Jesus" that will come again in glory and in power. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So are we. The experience of grace does not destroy, absorb, or disturb, our personal identity. This is repeatedly assured by our Lord. "For whosoever would save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it." He shall find it Not another, not something different. The life found is the life that was lost.
"Christ liveth in me." The emphasis is on the Me. Though crucified, I shall live; yet no longer I, Christ liveth in me; and it is still I that live in the flesh. It is in me Christ lives. He duplicates the miracle of the incarnation, and lives again in personalities prepared for Him. The Bible nowhere speaks of personalities. Christ does ask for personalities. He seeks persons, and there is no respect of persons with Him. He turns persons into personalities, but it is for persons He cares.
This is not a subject easily explained, but it is worthwhile to try and understand. It is quite clear that no two persons are alike; and every sane person is sure that he is just himself and no one else. That is because God never duplicates personalities. Each is himself. and each has something that is given to no other. That conscious individuality is not lost in the experience of dying and rising again in Christ. There is a new creation, but it is of the same person. No quality of nature is lost; no gift of temperament is changed, no aptitude of capacity is taken away. The egos are still the same color. Musical people are still musical, and artistic people are still artistic. The Divine Person sanctifies all, and thereby perfects all. It is not so much subjection to the domination of another as the inspiration of fellowship. "I in you, and ye in me."
The best illustration is in a marginal reading of the revised version. In the story of Gideon it is said that, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." (Judges VI. 34). The margin renders it: "The spirit of the Lord clothed itself with Gideon." The spirit did not come upon Gideon to strengthen him; the spirit got inside Gideon, and took possession of him. He clothed Himself with Gideon. "Clothed," is a significant word. It means more than to be covered. It implies fitting expression. The Spirit expressed Himself through Gideon. He took possession of Gideon's brains and thought through them, took his eyes and looked through them, took his lips and spoke with them, took his hands and wrought by them. It was not Gideon that was doing things anymore but the Holy Spirit of God. Gideon was still Gideon. It did not make him a Moses or a Joshua, a David or an Isaiah. It was with Gideon the Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself.
The gift of Pentecost is a gift of personality. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and the fiery symbol sat upon each of them. The gift did not make them all alike. Peter was still Peter though wonderfully changed. He was not like Paul, and though both were filled with the same spirit they were not always of the same mind. Christ lives in each. Christ liveth in me. It is still me. His spirit dwells in my spirit. His mind is my mind. His life my life. For to me, to live, is Christ. At the Cross we die to self. The crucifixion is not our act, but it is with our consent and through our faith. It is an act with an abiding result. We have been crucified with Christ and are still crucified to all for which He died. The Cross stands between the dead and the living. Because He lives, we live. In the fellowship of His Risen Life our own life ascends. By His indwelling presence our personality is redeemed, sanctified, and perfected. Christ liveth in me, and I live in Him.
Crucifixion is an end and a beginning. The Cross completed Christ's earthly ministry of sacrifice, but it led to the Heavenly ministry of Intercession. The two are one. The Cross did not break the continuity of the redeeming purpose. He is the same in Heaven as on Earth. The same Jesus, impelled by the same motive, seeking the same end. He died for our sins, and He lives to save us from our sins. There is no cross in Heaven, but "we have an altar." Sacrifice is eternal. The Cross is the supreme manifestation in a sinful world of that which is eternally central in the heavenly order. The Bleeding Lamb is central, in the midst of the Throne, in the midst of the Redeemed, in the midst of Creation. Salvation does not come through assent of an isolated act, but by the living faith which accepts the cross as a revelation and stakes all upon its sufficiency for salvation. Christ is able to save to the uttermost, not by the fact of His death, but by the power of His endless life. The Cross must not be detached from the eternal Priesthood. Neither must it be regarded as an external fact, that saves regardless of personal identification. Salvation is entirely of grace. It is not by any word of righteousness; but it is by faith, and the faith, that saves, works.
The exultant declaration of having been crucified with Christ seemed to be final and complete. "I have been crucified—Christ lives in me," seems to leave nothing unfinished. It is surely a definite, complete and final act of saving grace. So it seems, but the apostle who said it, says also in the same epistle: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (Gal. V. 24). Crucifixion passes from the ego of personality to the carnality of nature; from "I" to "flesh." The passing involves remarkable changes from passive to active, from vicarious to personal, from an act of faith to an activity of discipline.
There is a crucifixion with the crucified; a crucifixion within the regenerate. The passage is unique, in that it distinguishes the personal and experimental from the vicarious and historic. This is a crucifixion which the believer has to secure within himself. It is not done for him; he has to do it himself and for himself. He has to keep on doing it. His crucifixion with Christ is an act of faith that leads to a maintained activity of faith. The life of faith lived in the flesh must crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.
The word "flesh" cannot mean the same in the two passages, and if Paul had known he was writing Holy Scripture he would certainly have explained the difference. There is nothing wrong with the flesh in which we have to live. Human nature is not in itself sinful. The body has not to be crucified. The reference is "to the body of sin." Paul uses the word, "flesh" for the inward principle of evil that is opposed to "spirit," and is the instrument of sin. There are lusts that pull toward evil; an affection that longs for indulgence. They may be inherited, and they may have been cultivated. They survive regeneration which is a re-birth of personality and by grace they have to be crucified that New Life may be maintained and perfected.
The "old man" must die, that the "new man" may live. The "body of sin'' must be done away, that the body may become the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The Cross condemns sin in the flesh. Sin must not reign in our mortal bodies. It must not remain. The word of grace leaves no place for it. When Christ is put on, there remains no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its affections and lusts (Romans XIII. 14). Crucifixion is not death, but it is unto death, and there must be no slackening of discipline until it is accomplished. This enemy must be given no drink, however feverish its thirst; it must not be fed, however earnestly it pleads. The crucifier must reckon on an accomplished crucifixion. I have been crucified with Christ, therefore the flesh with its affections and lusts must be crucified. There comes a point at which the "affections" cease and the "lusts" die. The time may be a conscious crisis such as the Hymns on entire sanctification describe or the occasion may be without a definite consciousness, but to the crucified Christ. The carnal mind and inbred sin must go. Even then lust may revive if the life of the Spirit declines. As the nature is sanctified through faith, so the sanctified state must be maintained by the obedience of faith. In the old Hymn Book there was a Hymn with these verses:
Bound on the altar of Thy cross,
One old offending nature lies;
Now, for the honor of Thy cause,
Come, and consume the sacrifice.
Consume our lusts as rotten wood.
Consume our stony hearts within!
Consume the dust, the serpents' food,
And dry up all the streams of sin.
Its body totally destroy.
Thyself, the Lord, the God, approve.
And fill our hearts with holy joy,
And fervent zeal, and perfect love.
The Hymn was not counted worthy of a place in the New Hymn Book. Perhaps its realism was too vivid, but more probably because the intensity no longer represents one experience of the people who were raised up of God, "to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land."
The crucifixion of self with Christ introduces a new principle and a new method. The works of the flesh are put in contrast with the fruit of the spirit. "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit, for to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His." (Romans VIII. 5-9.) That is the new principle of life. "No longer I, but Christ llveth in me."
The difference in method is that of a factory and a Garden. The flesh works; fruit grows. A factory works entirely in the realm of death; a Garden lies entirely in the realm of life. Man's work is always in dead stuff. It must die before he can use it. Fruit is God's work; not man's. Fruit comes from life, and all life is of God. Man's part in it is cultivation; but in works it is manufacture. The works of death have in them the elements of destruction. The fruits of life have in them the propagation of life. Painted fruits fade upon the canvas; living fruit brings forth after its kind. Factories are noisy places of contrivance, enterprise, and energy. Gardens are silent places of cultivation, spontaneity, and effortless production of fruit and beauty. God does not run a factory. He keeps a garden. "The works of the flesh are manifest—the fruit of the spirit is love.'' Lusts kill fruit. The fruit of the spirit cannot mature where the works of the flesh abound. They are mutually exclusive. If one lives, the other dies. That is why the crucified with Christ must crucify the flesh. As the flesh is crucified, the fruit of the Spirit abounds. Dead lusts nourish living fruit. They manure the garden of the soul.
In such a life there is no vain-glorying, no provocativeness, no annoying. The Cross makes peace in the soul and in the life. From Caesarea Philippi Calvary our Lord applied the principles of the Cross in discipleship and in fellowship, in the home and in business, in sovereignty and in service. It was central in the supper at Bethany and at the supper in the Upper Room. All life was interpreted by the Cross; and it is at the Cross all life must be judged. No one can be His Disciple who refuses the cross. If we have not His spirit we cannot be His. To be a Christian is no pastime luxury. It is a serious undertaking, in which life is to be disciplined in sacrifice. It begins in self-renunciation and is maintained by self-crucifixion. Affections and lusts of the flesh must be mortified. Does that seem hard and stern? It is redeemed from anxiety and bitterness in the fact of an indwelling Presence. "Christ liveth in me." Fruit does not grow by toiling, only by abiding. "He that abideth in me and I in Him, the same beareth much fruit" After all, that is the conclusion of the whole matter.
The interpretation of the Cross ends on the note of Glory. The final reference in the epistle to the Galatians is in the postscript. The apostle takes up the pen and in a few sharp sentences sums up the question and restates the issue. His enemies did not reject the cross. They would probably have insisted that they were its true interpreters and in it they evaded the reproach of the cross and escaped prosecution. The compromise with the flesh met a popular demand and honored an institution of divine authority and venerable tradition. Paul resisted it with ruthless logic and vehement passion. Almost alone among the apostles he stepped at one stride into the liberty of grace. The cross had put an end to all bondage; therefore he gloried in the cross and exulted in his freedom. The reproach of the cross is still with us, and there are many that seek to avoid its offense by compromising its meaning. They deny its relation to Law, and misrepresent its relation to sin. The persecutors of Paul did it, that they might fasten upon those saved by grace the yoke of bondage, and there are still those who lay upon the children of God the burden of ordinances but there are those who make the cross of no account in the interests of intellectual accommodation. The whole controversy about circumcision and the law was incidental and temporary, but the principle at stake is vital and universal. There remains no question of circumcision, but the world is still with us.
The motive for insisting on circumcision was "only that they may not be persecuted for the Cross of Christ." Paul has no desire to escape it. He glories in it. He glories in nothing else. "But far be it from me to glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world." We are back again at the passive. "Hath been crucified." By whom? He had been crucified with Christ. They that are Christ's are called upon to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. The first was by an act of faith, the second by the discipline of faith, but here there is no mention of either faith or discipline. The crucifixion by faith and the crucifixion by discipline issue in the double crucifixion in relation to the world.
It is an issue. The result of an indwelling Christ and the crucifixion of the flesh with its affections and lusts must be a double crucifixion in relation to the world. It could not be otherwise. Christ said the world hated Him and we cannot expect it to love Him in us. As He lives in us, we die to the world, just as we die to sin. As the flesh is crucified in us, the world ceases to count. The inevitable result is that the world is crucified to us, and we are crucified to the world.
There is no more difficult task than the adjustment of faith to the world. No one generation can do it for another. The problem is always changing its form. The spiritualities of one age become the carnalities of another. Circumcision and "things offered to idols" no longer trouble us. The points at issue are not always the same in the generation. Geography may make a difference. National customs may influence the Christian conscience. The case must be settled by principles. Rules and precepts may conform life to a letter and be disobedient to the spirit. Few things are more important than a right understanding of what the New Testament means to the world. It is not the world of nature. That is agreed and need not be argued. It is something that cannot dwell in the same heart with the love of God. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (John II. 15.) "Know ye not, that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever, therefore, would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God." (James IV. 4). The world in this sense is life divorced from God. It is the realm of unregenerate life. Perhaps the best definition of it is in the words of our Lord to Peter: "Thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men." It is life on the world level; horizontal instead of vertical; lived according to the world standard of values, the world standard of morals and the world ideas of happiness.
The crucifixion of the world does not consist of prohibitions and precepts nor is worldliness a question of arbitrary, capricious and mechanical conventions of piety. There is doubtless some good reason for the absurd distinctions at which we smile, but our Lord deliberately defied the traditions of conventional religion. The world crucified, means that its standards of value and method of life have been judged or condemned by the Cross. They have been renounced and forsaken; crucified unto death. Our citizenship is in another Kingdom; the Kingdom of Heaven. The mind is set on the things that are above where Christ is.
Taken from Winona Echoes: a book of sermons and addresses delivered at 25th Annual Winona (Indiana) Lake Bible Conference which was held in August of 1899