The Cross of Christ: A Prism for the Glory of God
March 09, 2008 | Andy Davis
Resurrection of Christ
A Light Shining in a Dark Place Shows Its Hidden Colors
Isaac Newton’s Prism and a Rainbow of Colors
We begin our journey today in a darkened room in a country farmhouse in Lincolnshire, England, and the year is 1671. And the plague had been threatening London and caused many people to flee from that city for their lives. One of those fleeing from the deadly pestilence was a man as yet up to that point, relatively unknown, a somewhat obscure mathematician at Trinity College named Isaac Newton, who would later be known as the greatest, maybe the greatest, scientist that ever lived. He fled to his parents' farmhouse in the country to rest and to study.
Now, he'd been interested in many aspects of science, but there's one in particular that caught his attention. He wanted to study the nature of white light. Now, I won't go into why he was interested in this, that's just the way his mind worked. But he had in mind a certain experiment, he went into a room in his parents' farmhouse there, and he set up two prisms. Now, a prism is just a little triangle of glass, and he set up two of them in a certain arrangement with each other, and then he completely darkened the room, he shuttered it completely, it was totally dark in there, except for a little pinhole coming through a board, and through that pinhole streamed white light, and it went into the first prism and into the second, and it spread out in a glorious rainbow on the wall.
Now, that rainbow, that spectrum, had seven distinct colors in a certain specific order: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, these seven colors there they were gloriously, and he learned some things about white light. He noticed that once the light went through the first prism, it didn't change again. The red lights stayed red, the orange light stayed orange, it might bend a little more than the other colors, but they were done being changed, but the white light was radically changed by the prism. And from this, he learned that white light is actually a mixture of all of these different colors. That is the nature of white light.
God’s Prism and a Rainbow of Attributes
Now, I say today that the cross of Jesus Christ is a prism for the glory of God, and as we look at the cross of Christ, we can see the various attributes, the nature, the glory of God. Now, the Scripture reveals that God is light. 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” God's light reveals his essential nature, what he is like.
God said at the very beginning, “Let there be light,” and there was light. “It is light that makes everything visible,” it says in Ephesians. And so God's light, the purpose of God's light is to reveal, to expose the true nature of things. God's own light reveals his nature, his attributes, what he is really like. But I say it cannot be seen clearly without the perfect prism of the cross of Jesus Christ. The main idea of this sermon is that in the cross of Christ, we can see the perfections of God more clearly than anywhere else in the universe. Any other place in history, any other place in Scripture. It's in the cross of Christ, that we learn who God really is, more clearly than anywhere else.
Now, this light is only visible to the healthy eye of faith. You must have faith to see this light. Now, if you had been in that darkened farmhouse room with Isaac Newton, but a blind man or a blind woman, you would not see the glorious rainbow, you wouldn't see it. He could describe it to you, but it would mean nothing to you. Especially if you've been born blind, had never seen light, you could not understand color. And so it is also with the cross of Christ. Without faith, you cannot see its glory. Frankly, it's a bit grotesque. Why would Christians have as their symbol something which was used for execution? Like an electric chair or something like that. Why would we focus on something that was used and not just for any execution, but a grotesque kind of execution? The blindness of natural man to the things of God is never more acute than when it comes to the cross of Jesus Christ.
And so it says in Isaiah 53, “Lord, who has believed our message? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” You have to believe, it has to be revealed to you or you can't see it. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. So if you'd been standing there at the cross and looking up, especially with somebody on the left and the right, he's just another guy getting killed by the Romans. Happened all the time. You would not see his glory if you didn't have faith to believe. Actually, Isaiah 53 says, “Like one from whom men hide their faces.” It would be a grotesque thing to observe, a man shedding his blood, pouring out his blood on the cross, dying in a hideous way. Therefore, I say the cross of Christ is not naturally glorious, it is supernaturally glorious. And if you don't have faith, you won't see it.
Oh, I pray that if you're in that condition today, you will not leave this room in that condition, that God might reveal to your heart the glory of God in the cross of Christ, and that revelation happening, you'll be forgiven of all of your sins and headed for heaven, or you'll see it even more clearly. That's my prayer. But without a touch of God, without the vision of faith, you will not see the glory of God in the cross. It says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. And again, 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So Satan has worked somehow a blindness in the minds and the hearts of people specifically on this point, they can't see the glory of God in Christ, dead on the cross, they can't see it. O may God open your eyes to see it more and more clearly, and seeing, you might have forgiveness and life in his name.
What Are God’s Attributes?
Now, when we talk about God's attributes, you understand the different colors. You’ve perhaps done the science experiment, you've seen the spectrum, you may even have memorized the order of the colors, you know what they are. You can see that, but when we come to the attributes of God, his perfections, his glory, what are we talking about? What are God's attributes? Well, there can be no portrait of God, you can't draw or sketch a picture of God. I know Michaelangelo tried to do it in the Sistine Chapel, an old man, you remember reaching out with a finger to touch Adam. Okay, but you really can't draw a painting of God. God is spirit.
Instead, what God has given us is a series of Bible verses that give us descriptions of what he's like, and those descriptor words put together a portrait of the character of God. For example, this one, Leviticus 21:8, “I, the LORD, am holy.” So God is holy. We learn from the whole Bible what holy means, but God is holy. Or Psalm 11:7, “For the Lord is righteous. He loves justice.” Again, righteous, justice, these words come in and give us a sense of the portrait of God. Or this one, Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We have the goodness of God there, an attribute of God. Or this one, Psalm 103:8. You get a lot of them out of this verse, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.” There's a bunch more words coming in describing what God is like.
And so theologians go across all of the verses of the Bible and they call out, they bring out various attributes of God, some of these are taught through many, many different Scriptures, but there's not an infinite number of attributes. God himself is an infinite being, but there's not an infinite number of attributes, maybe somewhere between 20 and 40 depending on the theologian, and these together give us a portrait of God, God is self-existent. God is omniscient. He's omnipotent, omnipresent. These are descriptions of God, and together they give us a sense of the portrait of God.
Now, as we look at that, it's somewhat like white light. All of these attributes come together perfectly in the character of God, and there's no controversy within the person of God. God isn't conflicted within himself struggling over these seemingly contradictory attributes. He's not struggling, he's not schizophrenic or multipersonality disorder or anything like that. All of it fits together beautifully, just like white light, all of the colors coming together beautifully in perfectly white light. And so I think it'll be wrong for us to say, as we're preaching the gospel, and sometimes people say it, and if you said this, don't be hard on yourself, but just try to understand what I'm saying here. We should never say something like this, “God is loving, but he's also just,” as though somehow God's love and his justice were enemies battling within himself. No, God is loving and he is just, and he is wrathful, and he is righteous, and he is compassionate. All of these things all at once, perfectly blended in his character. There are no controversies within the character of God, all of these things are resolved.
Now, I say that we can take that white light of the character of God and bring it through the cross, and it just becomes so glorious, we can see different aspects, attributes of the nature of God, that's what I'm gonna do today.
Judas’s Betrayal a Darkened Room, Jesus’ Cross a Prism
“And It Was Night…”
Now we're gonna start, this is not a standard expositional sermon that I'm preaching today, I'm not gonna take John 13 and work through it, that would be of great benefit, but I'm not doing that today, but I do wanna start there. And that is the night before Jesus was crucified, and he's there in the upper room with his disciples, they're eating the last supper, and Jesus becomes troubled in spirit, and he says, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” And they're all troubled to try to figure out who it is. Nobody knows. Judas has done his deceiving work very well. Nobody can tell that he is the traitor; Jesus knew, he knew all along, but nobody else knew.
And so there's John laying close to Jesus, laying on his side on his breast, just really close to him, and Peter motion, says, “Ask him who he means.” He says “Who is it, Lord?” He says, “The one to whom I give this piece of bread after I've dipped it in the dish.” And so he dips a piece of bread and hands it to Judas. Now, I had a friend once that told me “I'd be running a million miles from that piece of bread, I don't want anything to do with that piece of bread.” But arrogantly Judas reaches forward and takes the role, he takes it, and the moment that he takes that bread Satan entered into him. The prince of the power of the air, the prince of darkness, enters into this man. It's a unique moment in history. And so there he's filled with Satan himself. And then notice that Jesus gives him a command, “What you're about to do, do quickly.” Satan is not equal to Jesus, Jesus is still the King. So what you're going to do, do it quickly and out he goes.
And it's amazing what John says at that moment, in verse 30, it says, “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” Now, I believe it was literally night. I think that's actually true. It was literally night at that time, no doubt about it, but I think that there's also clearly a spiritual metaphor as well.
The Light Shines in the Darkness
This is the hour of darkness, this is a time when Satan rules, but I also think it's like Isaac Newton's darkened room, it's where everything gets dark and there's gonna be a streaming white light that's gonna be broken out through the prism of the cross of Christ, and God is gonna appear glorious through it. And so, Judas's betrayal is darkness, Satan's activity is sheer darkness. But Jesus glorifies God in the midst of all of it. How wonderful is that? And so he makes this incredible statement, when he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified. And God is glorified in him.” Now, this word, “glorified,” I don't think it means that we add glory to God, that God becomes something that he isn't. It's rather that God's nature is beautifully revealed, his perfections are put on display, we're all gonna get to see who God really is now. And what does he mean by “now,” now that I'm gonna die? Now that I go to the cross, God will be revealed, he will be glorified. That's what he means. And so that is the glory of God.
God’s Attributes Displayed at the Cross
Now, what I wanna do is take a number of attributes. I put out a sheet once that had 26 attributes of God. That would be a long sermon, friends, to go through all 26. But I really believe that you could do it. You could take each of the 26 attributes on that sheet and find how the cross reveals that nature, that aspect of God, but I've just chosen these 10, and let's begin with grace. How does the cross of Christ show the grace of God? Well, in Romans 3:23-24, it says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Simply put, all of us are rebels against Almighty God, we have rebelled against his kingly throne, against his rule, we have broken his laws, and we deserve to be condemned by him, by his justice. But instead of condemning us, God sends his only begotten Son to die in our place. Amazing grace! And to pour out the punishment that we deserve on him. Incredible that he would do that to his only begotten Son on our behalf.
Now, what is grace? Well, some say that grace is “unmerited favor.” I'm not too partial to that; it's easy to remember, but it's just too pale a reflection, too weak. Unmerited favor will be if one of you went out in the street and found somebody you didn't know and gave him a $20 bill. Now that is unmerited favor. Unmerited. What did they do to deserve the $20 bill? Favor. It's a $20 bill. Do you see now why unmerited favor is way too weak for the cross of Christ? Unmerited? We merited wrath. We merited the just wrath of God, we deserved hell. What do we get instead? We get heaven, we get glory, we deserve death, we get life. We deserve rejection, we get eternal acceptance by Almighty God. We deserved infinite negative, we got infinite positive. That is the grace of God, and it flows to us through the cross of Christ.
The cross of Christ is the clearest display of grace there will ever be in the universe, and I believe that anything good that God has done for the human race in all of history has been done channeled through the grace of God shown at the cross. It's because he was thinking of Jesus dying on the cross, that he sends his Son and his reign on the righteous and the unrighteous. It's because of that, whether they acknowledge him or not, but it's because of what Christ did at the cross, that the sun rises in the morning and that the rain comes that we need, and thank God for it. I hope you took the time to thank God for the rain this week, because we've been in a drought condition and many have prayed. Did you remember like the one man to go back and thank God, thank Jesus for what he did? But realize this, that rain came to both the just and the unjust here in the Triangle region because of the cross of Christ. In this way, he has loved his enemies. It is by the grace of God that sinners are not killed instantly the moment they break the first, the least commandment of God, it is by the grace of God that he refrains and holds back because of the cross of Christ.
It is by the grace of God that Christians and non-Christians alike can enjoy the natural splendors and the physical beauty of the world. Just take a tour of the national parks, go to Yellowstone and see Old Faithful, the Geyser. Go to Denali in Alaska, if you can get there, it's an incredibly huge majestic display of the glory of God. Go to Acadia National Park, the rocky coastlines, and just how beautiful it is there, and how winsome and attractive and sweet. Or the Grand Canyon, and how powerful God must have been to make something like that so glorious and beautiful. And millions of people go to see all these natural beauties, they come to us by grace, but I say to you all of these displays of grace are as nothing compared to the cross of Jesus Christ. I believe all of them have come to us indeed through the cross of Christ. We deserved hell, we get heaven and why? Because Jesus died in our place.
Secondly, look at the love of God. It says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This verse, Romans 5:8 is speaking of a display, a demonstration of love. The Greek word means that it was put on display so that all could see it, God was proving his love, showing its nature, putting it on display. Now, “God is love,” it says in 1 John 4:16. But I ask, What is love? We're confused on this issue. If you put on a popular radio station, you're gonna listen within a few minutes to a song about love probably, but it isn't love usually that's being sung about, it's probably more likely lust. It's a self-serving thing, you make me feel good, you do these good things for me, I am dependent on that from you, that kind of thing. That's not love.
What is love? The more I've studied the Bible, the more I'm convinced that love has to do with a connection of the heart that an individual has toward another, desiring and delighting in good for that person and willing to sacrifice to bring that good about, that is love. It's a heart connection to another person, that they'd be blessed and have good things, and that I'm willing to sacrifice in order to bring it about.
Oh, we see the love of God most clearly at the cross of Jesus Christ. It says in 1 John 4:10, “This is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” And notice both in that verse and in Romans 5:8 the unconditional nature of God's love. We tend to think of love in this way: there must be something really good about me that you love me this much. But Romans 5:8 removes that forever. While we were still sinners, rebels against God, that's when he displayed his love most clearly. No, no, no, the love of God flows from the nature and character and commitments of God, and therefore it's unshakable. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” It's not like the stock market going up and down. It's not like that at all. It's not based on your performance, it's not based on anything in you at all. It's based on his commitment to love you, and he's done that through the cross of Christ. While we were still sinners, he loved us. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us. That's what these verses teach.
And this love is so infinite, it is so great, it is so immeasurable, that it really takes a special power from God to believe it. We still don't really feel loved by God, we still struggle with that, many do. I mean, I spend time in counseling with people and you just see how people struggle to feel accepted and loved by God. And that's why Paul prays in Ephesians 3 for the Ephesian Christians and really all of us, for all Christians, he says, “I pray that they may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and that they may know this love that surpasses knowledge so that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Wow! That's expansive language, just so that you learn how much God loves you. But it's an infinite love, and the clearest display of it is at the cross of Jesus Christ.
We see thirdly, the kindness of God. Now, I tell you this, when you come to attributes, I have a difficulty distinguishing between grace, and mercy, and kindness, and love, and goodness. These things are also closely related together, that it's really hard to see, like the difference between, let's say, indigo and violet in the spectrum, they're very close. And as one goes from the other, they're very, very similar to one another, but there are specific verses that talk about the kindness of God to us in Christ. For example, Titus 3:4-5, it says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
So it is slightly different than love because it says “When the kindness and love of God our Savior…” When you think of a kind person, what do you think of? I think of somebody that's - I hate to put it this way, but user-friendly. You know what I'm saying? Easy to access. There's a gentleness in the approach, they're easy to be with, there's a meekness there. It has to do with a gentle, peaceful, welcoming spirit and a desire to do good things for the person. Acts of kindness as well. So it's both, it's both. A willingness to be generous, in a welcoming demeanor and to give blessings with open friendliness.
There's a good display of it, I think in Genesis 50. Remember the story about Joseph and his brothers? His brothers hated him, jealous of him, sold him as a slave, wanted to kill him, chose in the end to get some money out of him and sold him as a slave to Egypt. Years later, it turns out he's second in command of all of Egypt. His brothers come, they're rather shocked that he's still alive, never mind that he now has power over them, life and death and all that. And once Jacob has died, they come and grovel in front of him and say, “We're your slaves. Please be nice to us. Oh, our father Jacob said before he died, ‘Please be nice to your brothers.’”
And Joseph with that maturity that suffering had given him, just is moved, he's like he wants to weep. He says, “Don't you understand what God has done here? You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to save many lives as he's doing right here.” And then it says this, “‘So then don't be afraid, I will provide for you and for your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” Do you see it? The kindness of Joseph, the tenderness. He sets their fears at ease. When you get to heaven, you get in the presence of Almighty God, he will set you at ease. You're not gonna be terrified to be in his presence because of his kindness expressed to us in Christ.
And I tell you this, it is so infinite, this kindness, that it's going to take eternity for God to show you how kind he has been to us in Christ and how kind he still will be to us in Christ. Ephesians 2:7 says “That in the coming ages, he might express incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” He's got eternity to show you how kind he is to you in Christ. Oh, how sweet is that. The kindness of God.
Fourthly, we see the holiness of God at the cross, the holiness of God. And what do we mean by the holiness of God? It's that he is entirely separate. Holy and pure, separate from all evil. Holiness is the only attribute of God stated three times in succession. Isaiah 6:3, They were calling to one another as they covered their faces, the seraphim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory.” The holiness of God. Holiness is absolutely required of us if we're to be in his presence.
It says in Habakkuk 1:13, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” Well, how then do we see the holiness of God in the cross of Christ? Well, at the height of his suffering, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the only begotten son of God, and in some mysterious way, his Father had forsaken him. Why? Because of the transfer of guilt that had happened. God made him, Christ, who knew no sin to be sin for us. He took our sin on himself, and then God turned his face away in some mysterious way. Christ separated because of sin from the Father in a way we can't really fathom, it's very deep.
But that is a display of the holiness of God, and also that it took that to make sinners like us holy in his presence, and such we must be if we're gonna spend eternity in heaven. We must be made holy. And so it says in Hebrews 13, in verse 12, “Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his blood. And through the suffering of Jesus, we are made holy, we are made pure in his sight.” So also Ephesians 5 links our personal holiness to Christ's sacrifice. It says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.”
Friends, can I say quite plainly, if you're not holy you're not going to heaven? Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. And the holiness, the fountain of holiness comes from just one place: The cross of Jesus Christ. It comes from no other. Justification, holiness comes from the cross of Christ. So also sanctification, holiness flows from that same source. Therefore, the cross is the greatest display of holiness there has ever been.
Fifthly, we also see the justice of God at the cross, and here we see it quite plainly in Romans 3:25-26, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance, he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did this to demonstrate his justice at the present time so as to be just, and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” God's justice is his righteousness to uphold his standards, his law. That's what justice is all about, to uphold what is right in a case, in a matter.
God's commitment to justice is infinite. It cannot be measured, and the cross is the greatest display of it there has ever been in the universe. It says in Psalm 36, verse 6, “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains. Your justice is like the great deep.” So if you went to the Himalayas and you saw Mount Everest, there is Mount Everest, 29,000 feet towering up into the sky. God's righteousness, his justice is like that.
He hates any form of injustice. He hates the merchant that uses tricky weights, you know, that are hollowed out with a little cork in the center or something like that? Uses it to cheat or swindle his customers. He hates that, or the modern version, a multinational conglomerate that uses fancy bookkeeping techniques to swindle the stockholders out of millions of dollars that are rightfully theirs or the government out of taxes. He hates that. He hates any form of injustice. Or a schoolyard bully who uses his physical strength, throws his weight around so that all of his playmates will make sure that he wins the game or else they're in trouble. He hates any form of injustice, any at all. Or a judge that takes a bribe so that his eye gets blinded to what the reality of the case is, and he acquits the guilty and condemns the innocent.
He hates any form of injustice, but here's the thing, let's get more personal. You could say, “Well, I'm actually a very fair person, I don't do any of those things.” Well, any injustice that there is, is a breaking or violation of God's law. Any sin therefore is injustice. Any time you sin, you have been unjust, you have broken the law, and the wages of sin, quite frankly, is death. Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul who sins shall die.” And so God has an infinite commitment to justice.
Now, there's a bit of a problem there, isn't there? But let's take the case of King David. You all know what happened with David. What happened to David? Well, he walks out on the roof of his palace and he notices a beautiful woman bathing there, and he lusts after her and he lays with her, is another man's wife. She becomes pregnant. He tries to cover it over and when he can't, he ends up killing the husband to cover his sin. Wickedness, great sin. And God sends the prophet Nathan, and Nathan confronts him with a parable, exposes his sin and his guilt. David acknowledges that he has sinned. He says, “I have sinned.” Then Nathan says a shocking thing. “The Lord has taken away your sin, you are not going to die.”
Now, just stop for a moment and ponder that. Now for us, what’s shocking is that he would die. I mean, come on. It's just natural, isn't it? Just a kind of a natural thing. No, it is not natural, it is contrary to God's nature, it is great wickedness and sin. So to us, it's shocking that death is even discussed for adultery. But not to God, the real shocker is that David, this great sinner is just like that, acquitted. Imagine if you are at the great tribunal, the great courtroom, where David is brought before the judge, and let's say to make it even more intense, you are Uriah's parents. He's the man that was killed. You're Uriah's parents and you're looking for... What are you looking for? Justice. And what does the judge say? At a certain moment, he stands up and he acquits David. He says, “You're not guilty, you're free to go.” What are you wondering at that moment? Where is the justice? What? I guess, you gotta be a friend with the judge. If you're a friend of the judge, then you can get into heaven. How can God justify wicked people like you and me and get us into heaven? How can it be?
The cross of Jesus Christ is the answer to that question. God establishes the cross over history to say, “I am just and every violation, every transgression of my law will be justly dealt with in one of two places, at the cross of Christ or eternity in hell.” Those are the two places, we have no other choice, and therefore the cross of Christ stands towering over the wrecks of time to display the justice of God so that he can be just and also the justifier of us, we sinners who have faith in Jesus. Hallelujah! A display of the justice of God, there's never been greater.
Very closely coupled with this is wrath. God displays his wrath at the cross. Now, what is wrath? Wrath is God's passionate emotional response to evil. It causes him to get up out of his throne and do something. He's not a passive kind of laid-back person going with the flow, not at all. He has an emotional reaction to evil. It moves him. Now, there have been many displays of God's wrath throughout history. Certainly the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden is a display of the wrath of God. They're not getting back there, there's an angel with the flames sword going back and forth, you are gone.
That's a display of wrath and even more in Genesis 5, when Adam dies centuries later. Display of the wrath of God. Or even greater, in Genesis 6-8, the flood of Noah, when every living thing that had the breath of life in its nostrils: Men, women, children, infants, kitties, dogs, elephants, anything that wasn't on the ark died because of the sins of man. A great display of the wrath of God. Or, Sodom and Gomorrah, when fire and brimstone falls from heaven on that wicked place and burns it up, a display of the wrath of God. But I say to you, there is no display of the wrath of God as clear and as powerful as the cross of Christ. Even hell doesn't compare. Hell is the place where any who have not trusted in Christ will spend eternity. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest, day or night. A display of the wrath of God, no doubt.
But the cross of Christ is greater. And why do I say that? Because the wrath of God at the cross was poured out on his only begotten Son. Now, how do I get wrath from the cross? Well, it has to do with one particular Greek word, which is translated propitiation in some verses. Romans 3:24-25, “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.” Now, people tell you in preaching school, don't use big words people don't know. Nobody knows what propitiation means; we all had to learn it. So let's learn what this word propitiation means. What it is, is that God has an active wrath against sin; propitiation is the turning away of that wrath by the giving of a sacrifice. Pagan religions had it all the time. There would be a deity like Jupiter or the god of the sea, Neptune, and you had to offer a sacrifice and then he wouldn't be angry at you anymore. And you think, “Oh, what a pagan concept,” but it's at the heart of what happens at the cross, how God propitiated himself, he turned his own wrath away by pouring it out on Jesus. Pouring it out in Jesus.
Now, why did he pour it out on Jesus? Remember I said the justice of God is displayed at the cross? It's because God transferred our sin off of us on to Christ, and then struck his only begotten Son in our place. He became therefore our lightning rod, he absorbed the wrath of God completely. He became our propitiation and suffered, and because of that, we need never fear the wrath of God again, we will not experience the wrath of God. There will be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It says in Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him.” We're not waiting for the wrath to come, we have been delivered from it, and praise God for it. The clearest display is the wrath poured out on the Son of God at the cross.
We see also the wisdom of God in the cross. God's wisdom consists in his ability to discern the best destination for our journey, and the best way to get there. The best destination and the best road there. Now, I have one of those GPS things stuck to my windshield with a suction cup, ever seen those things before? They got a little map, all the time they tell you where to go, the purple thing, you follow the purple. There's all kinds of interesting stories about those GPS things, people drive into storefronts because the machine told them to turn left in 100 yards, alright? You still need to use your common sense. I had the thing up there for one day and I checked it, I checked it to see if I could change a lane. Okay? No, that's a rearview mirror, that's up here, okay? The GPS doesn't tell you if the coast is clear to change a lane. So I had to learn how to use it. One thing the GPS won't do though, is tell me where to go. You may try it sometime, go and sit down and say, “I don't know, I'm wide open, GPS. Where should I go today?” It's sitting there like a servant passively saying, “You tell me what you want, and I'll tell you. You want a restaurant? I've got some options, okay? Wanna get to New York City? I can do that, but I cannot tell you where to go. That's up to you.”
God's wisdom knows the final destination of human history and the best way to get there, both. That's the wisdom of God. The destination is the glory of God. We're going to a place where God is gonna be central and constantly revealed and glorified, that's where we're heading. And everything that happens toward it builds toward the wisdom of God, toward the glory of God, and the cross is at the center of his wise plan for the human race. He chose to save us in such a way that we will be humbled, that we would need faith that he alone could give. This is the wisdom of God. And why is that? We wouldn't have chosen salvation this way, we have chosen to do some great thing, and if you did that great thing, then you could be saved and forgiven of your sins. That's human religion. Uh-huh. He says, I'll do the great thing. You believe in me and I'll save you. That's how it works. God's wisdom is different than ours. For his thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts higher than our thoughts and his ways than our ways. That's the wisdom of God.
And so therefore, it says in 1 Corinthians 1, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those whom God has called both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of God, stronger than man's strength.”
Of course, that brings me naturally to power, that same verse teaches that the cross of Christ is the power of God. And what do I mean by the power of God? Well, it's a strange kind of power that is so plainly displayed in weakness. Jesus dying, saying things like, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit,” a passivity it seems, a weakness it seems, and yet the power of God flowing through the cross, transforming the world, changing all of history, reaching into small little hamlets, even into people's living rooms, and changing the way husbands relate to their wives, the way that parents relate to their children, the way that people relate to sin issues, the way they spend their money, all of that flowing to the ends of the earth, power from the cross of Jesus Christ. An incredible power. An awesome display.
To me, that's an incredible thing. My life has been changed by the cross of Christ. I'm a new creation, the old is gone, everything's become new. And I've been walking in that newness now for 25 years, and it's still new, and it keeps getting newer, and I keep discovering new sources of power. Next week, I'm gonna talk about how believers en route to heaven need to come back to the cross all the time. I'm gonna talk about that next week, but I come back and I find power there. But there's a power there for the salvation of sinners in every tribe and language, and people and nation, all to the ends of the earth, the power of God for salvation flowing through the cross of Christ.
And here we also see the infinity of God. How do you see the infinity of God? Well, that one man on one afternoon, three hours on the cross can do all that. It says in Zechariah 3:9, “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” Wow, that's the power. The power and the infinity of God.
Now, how can he do that? How can Jesus's suffering kind of like the other two did, they suffered worse, they had their bones broken, you could argue. No, they didn't suffer worse, because there was a spiritual dimension, and Jesus was our sin bearer, and he was suffering in our place the wrath of God, which they were not. And in three hours, he can atone for all of my lifetime of sins, every bad thought, every harsh word, every wickedness in my life, but not just mine, a countless multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation, multiplied across all the ages of time, from the beginning, from Abel, all the way through to the final person that will be saved, all of their sins atoned for in three hours. How? How? Because he was infinity stepped into time. He was an infinite person, he was God the Son, dying on the cross, and therefore he could do an infinite amount of work in just three hours.
The infinity of God, and finally we see the patience of God. How do you see the patience of God in the cross? Well, salvation by the cross is a very patient thing that God did. Before the foundation of the world, the Bible says, “Jesus was slain. Slain from the foundation of the world.” How slain from the foundation of the world? Because he knew he would do it. And through all of the twists and turns of history, Jesus knew when he saw any of those who would believe in him sinning, he's saying, “I'll pay for that, I'll be paying for that. That's me, I'm gonna cover that.” He's waiting, he's waiting. And at the right moment, the right moment of history, he steps into time, in the fullness of time, Galatians 4, “He's born of a virgin.” But even then, he's gotta wait. He's waiting for just the right time. They tried to kill him, but his hour had not yet come. It wasn't the time yet, but then at last, John 17:1, he says, “Father, the time has come.” Waited all that time. And now at last, the time has come, and so he dies. He dies on the cross, and he shows patience while he's up on the cross because they're taunting him, saying, “Come on down! Come off the cross. If you're the Son of God, you could have done it,” but he's bearing patiently our sin, standing under the wrath of God until it's exhausted, until the work is finished.
But even then, the patience isn't done yet. That is redemption accomplished, but now it needs to be applied to individual people to the ends of the earth, that's been going on for 2,000 years, and he's bearing patiently, sinners like Saul of Tarsus are breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. And he's waiting and he's waiting and at just the right time, he moves with power and saves Saul and converts him. Or he waits for Augustine who's trying out all the urbane philosophies, the pagan philosophy. He's just dabbling a bit, breaking his godly mother's heart as she's weeping for him in prayer, but he's still dabbling, he's trying the sensual pleasures, he's trying sexual immorality, he's trying all this sort of stuff and breaking his mother's heart, but God waiting patiently for just the right time. And at just the right time, God moves and he saves that sinner.
The patience of God displayed. And so it says in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God is waiting and waiting still, and to the end of time, when the last person who will believe in him, finally trusts, finally repents, then the work of the cross, the patient work of the cross will at last be over.
Come to Christ
Now, how do we apply all of this? Well, maybe God's been waiting for you. Maybe God brought you here and you have waited all this time, all the days of your life for this moment now, that you would repent and trust in Christ. Perhaps something moved inside of you as you listened to this preaching of the gospel, that my sin, you could say, my sin can be taken off of me and given to Jesus as an act of power and authority. He can do that, he has that power, he's the King, and that his righteousness can be given as a gift to you. He has that power to do that, and then no one can accuse you, you'll be free, come to Christ, trust in him.
Make the Cross the Center of Your Life of Worship
And for you as Christians, full application will be next week, we're gonna talk about all the ways we come back to the cross, but start here. Come back to the cross for worship. Look at these attributes, look at them this afternoon, and just take him and spread out before God and say, thanks be to God for the cross of Christ. I worship you, Lord Jesus, for what you have done.
And then finally, it says in our vision statement, “We exist to delight in, display and declare the glory of God.” We begin in that darkened farmhouse there in England, 1671. There's Isaac Newton, he's got that prism, and all that. Well, you know that of course is a natural prism all the time after many storms, you see it. Noah's rainbow, right? The bow out there in the sky, and you can see that spectrum, it's so majestic and beautiful. Where'd that come from? Where is the prism? Well, it's these little droplets of water, all these droplets of water up there in the atmosphere, and the sunlight goes through and the refraction is glorious, the spectrum is spectacular. Even unbelievers can look up and see it and just be moved by it. That's what we're called to do, we're called to glorify God, to take these attributes and display them in the world. All of these things, but most especially by declaring what Jesus did at the cross, sharing the gospel, so that people can see the glory of God there. Close with me in prayer.