We Preach Christ Crucified: The Theology of the Cross

What does it mean to preach Christ? What does it mean to preach the gospel? The words used in the NT regarding the death of the cross are the truths that explain what Christ’s death actually did for sinners. The vital need in preaching the death of Christ is not to just preach THAT he died–of course that is true–but rather WHAT was accomplished by his death in our behalf.

In preaching the cross, is it enough to declare THAT Christ died for our sins somehow? No, that is not enough; rather, true Calvary preaching must also be the doctrinal truths that speak to the CONTENT of what happened in Christ’s death.

Concerning the work of Calvary’s cross, the New Testament uses some primary and fundamental words which convey the meaning of the cross:

1. Propitiation- definition: to bear our due wrath.

The Lord Jesus took upon himself and absorbed all of God’s wrath on our behalf, fully satisfying the wrath of God and divine justice. His death propitiated the wrath of God in our behalf. He took my wrath and yours personally, literally, and fully forever. No soul who has been propitiated for can every perish if divine wrath has actually and fully been satisfied in their behalf.

– Rom. 3:25- “Whom God put forward as a propitiaton by his blood”
– Heb. 2:17- “to make propitiation for the sins of the people”
– 1 Jn. 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins”

2. Substitution- definition: taking our place.

He was dying as a substitute in our place; anytime the N. T. speaks of Christ dying FOR us, it is directly speaking of substitution- that Christ died IN MY PLACE.

– Is. 53:4- “he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows”
– 53:5- “wounded FOR our transgressions, bruised FOR our iniquities”
– 53:6- “the Lord has laid UPON him the iniquity of us all”
– 53:11- “for he shall bear their iniquities”
– 53:12- “he bore the sin of many”
– Rom. 4:25- “who was delivered FOR our offenses”
– Rom. 5:6- “Christ died FOR the ungodly”

3. Imputation- definition: to credit to or put to one’s personal account.

In his death, our sins were literally and fully imputed to the Lord Jesus; he took them upon himself; our sins were imputed to him on the cross, in order that his righteousness could be imputed to us through faith in him. He, the sinless and righteous One, became guilty, in order that the sinful and unrighteous (us) might become righteous- our sins were imputed to him in order than his righteousness could be imputed to all who believe.

– 2 Cor. 5:21- “For He (God the Father) made him (Christ) to be made (counted as) sin for us, that we might be made (counted as) the righteousness of God in him.”

4. Ransom- definition: a ransom price paid.

A ransom paid on behalf of and for the ownership of slaves- He was the payer and the payment- a ransom for many. We were the slaves of sin and Satan and the Lord Jesus purchased us with the ransom payment of his own life and blood. He became a ransom for many.

– Mt. 20:28- “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

5. Reconciliation- definition: to bring back together in harmony and peace 2 parties who were enemies.

His death fully restored those who were enemies to right relationship with the Father, reconciling us to God.

– 2 Cor. 5:18-21- “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.”
– 1 Peter 3:18- “that he might bring us to God.”

6. Redemption- definition: delivered and set free.

His death delivered us and set us free from Satan, from sin’s bondage, the world, condemnation, and eternal damnation; thus we are free forever.

Gal. 3:13- “Redeemed from the curse of the law”
Eph. 1:17- “In whom we have redemption through his blood”
1 Peter 1:18-19 redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ”

7. Atonement- definition: a sin offering that accomplishes satisfaction

Christ’s death one time, once for all, atoned for us as a perfect offering for sin.

Is. 53:10- “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin “
Rom. 5:11- “by whom we have now received the atonement”

These specific redemptive truths of His death deal with what the cross actually accomplished- his death was not an example or potentially beneficial; it actually accomplished before the Father on our behalf all it needed to; it did not make us savable- it saved us; it was not a potential atonement, but it was an actual, successful atonement that saved forever all who would believe.

It is these truths and what they mean exactly which is the message of the cross- Christ’s work on our behalf- that alone is what it means to preach the cross. It is not enough to preach THAT He died, to preach it even sincerely and passionately, or to try to apply the message of the cross to the sinner and the believer’s life; we must preach the CONTENT of what actually happened in his death if we are to be truly preaching Christ crucified.

– Mack T.

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