“The cross of Christ is clearly central. In a great post on the nature of the gospel, C.J. Mahaney points out that while the gospel is the “good news of God’s saving activity in the person and work of Christ” (a definition he borrows from Jeff Purswell) it focuses more particularly on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And more specifically still, he asserts, the gospel is summarized by the cross–”For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2. The resurrection is essential, for without it the cross’s message would be pointless, but the cross is where the gospel is seen most clearly.
The cross, then, proclaims the message that God became man to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins. Further, the perfect and righteous life of Christ–the God Man–enables God to give us the righteousness of Christ graciously and freely. This transaction occurs to those who believe on Jesus Christ and is wholly of grace and not in any way deserved by man. The cross shows the seriousness of sin–in that God would sacrifice His own Son because of the weight of our sins; and it also shows the magnitude of God’s mercy–that God would offer up His Son for us who in no way deserve mercy.
Further, the cross is seen as central in that it is the pinnacle of history, for it is the ultimate display of God’s glory–which is the ultimate purpose for God’s creation and all of its subsequent history. (I would encourage you to check out my friend Nathan Pitchford’s “Meditation for Good Friday” posted over at Reformation Theology Blog which deals with the centrality of the cross in all of history.)
But the cross is not only central to our faith, it is singular. Or rather it should be. What do I mean? Look at these verses:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14)
The cross–and the Christ of the cross–should be our single treasure, our single pursuit, our single love. Every boast should only be in the light of the cross. Our only boast should be the cross. John Piper put it like this:
“Only boast in the cross of Jesus Christ. This is a single idea. A single goal for life. A single passion. Only boast in the cross. The word “boast” can be translated “exult in” or “rejoice in”. Only exult in the cross of Christ. Only rejoice in the cross of Christ. Paul says, Let this be your single passion, your single boast and joy and exultation.” (from pg. 49 of Don’t Waste Your Life–available as an online book here)
All of life should be viewed through the view of the cross. And as Piper points out later in that book, we can only boast singularly in the cross when our lives are crucified by and on that cross (notice Gal. 6:14b). Everything we do should be as a result of or a reflection of the cross. C.J. Mahaney points this out well in his book The Cross Centered Life. Our struggle to be pure in this world and our struggles to provide for our family–every aspect of our lives is touched by and should be shaped by the cross.
Let us aim to appreciate the centrality and significance of the cross of Christ, and endeavor by God’s grace to make it our single affection, joy, and boast!
On the issue of THE CROSS and Mormons too ..
MORMON’S FALSE OPPOSITION TO THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST AND WHAT IT STANDS FOR
May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galations 6:14)
To the Christian the cross represents salvation and eternal life, because it was there on the cross that Christ atoned for our sins. It reminds us of the awful cost of our redemption, and of how much we owe the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hero, our Saviour and our life.
However, Mormon women do not wear a crucifix as jewellery. And the LDS will not permit a cross to be displayed anywhere on their premises. Strangely, seeing they insist that they are Christians, they don’t display any of the other symbols of Christianity anywhere on their premises either. Instead, the inside of their temple is decorated with Masonic/pagan symbols, and the external masonry with pagan, occultic and satanic symbols. (As a matter of interest, the cross is never featured alongside that type of symbolism because they oppose one another.)
Because of the unbiblical LDS teachings Mormons are taught that they have to earn the right to the forgiveness of their own personal sins through obedience to LDS laws and ordinances, good works and a virtuous life. So they can never be sure whether or not they will eventually make the grade. And this diminishes the work of Christ in their eyes. Consequently, they could never ever be beholden to Christ in the way that Christians are. Nor could they ever enjoy the same saving relationship with Christ as do Christians.
Almost None of the LDS doctrines are biblical. Nor do they bear any resemblance to Christianity. In fact their teaching on the atonement opposes the foundational doctrine of Christian salvation, as preached by the apostles in the primitive church. For this reason Mormons cannot even begin to imagine the joy, freedom from guilt, peace of mind and overwhelming gratitude that accompanies the Christian’s assurance that Christ Himself earned the forgiveness of “my sins” when He bore my penalty in my place, that day on the cross at Calvary. Nor do they realize the utter devotion to Christ that is part and parcel of the Christian life. To the Christian the cross represents salvation from sin. It reminds us of what Christ achieved on our behalf, as well as of the tremendous cost to Himself.
THE REASON FOR THE CROSS
Contrary to what the LDS maintains, the cross wasn’t merely a weapon that was used to execute Christ. It was on the cross at Calvary that Christ defeated Satan, sin, death and hell, and earned our salvation (c/f John 12:31-33). So in the mind of a Christian, the cross is symbolic of all these things.
Furthermore, Christ wasn’t merely “killed,” as the LDS puts it. He went to the cross of His own free will and voluntarily laid down his life for the specific purpose of earning our salvation from the consequences of sin. He could have turned from the cross at any time. But instead He deliberately set His face steadfastly towards Jerusalem, knowing full well what awaited Him there (Luke 9:52). Then He gave His life on that cross, in our place, as our substitute, to pay the penalty for our sins, as was fore-ordained and so graphically illustrated in the “pictures” provided by the Old Covenant sacrificial system.
Throughout the Old Testament God has used the picture language of rituals to explain hard-to-understand concepts that were to become part and parcel of the coming New Covenant of Grace. And salvation from sin through a substitutionary sacrifice was one of these important concepts. You will find a more in-depth explanation of this fascinating topic in the article, “Baptism, Salvation and the Use of Biblical Symbolism,” a lead to which is provided for your convenience, at the bottom of this page.)
Christ’s whole purpose in coming to earth had been to sacrifice His life on that cross at Calvary, so that we could be set free from the stranglehold of sin. And moreover it was the will of God, as foretold by His prophets in the Old Testament.
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man take it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again ….. (John 10:17-18, KJV) (Italics inserted by writer.)
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43, KJV)
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. ….. (Isaiah 53:5-6, KJV)
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. (Acts 8:30-35, KJV)
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3, KJV)
And you, being [spiritually] dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Colossians 2:13-14, KJV) (The writer’s italics.)
… Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24, KJV)
One can’t help but wonder what the LDS motivation is in teaching these false doctrines, as they will not be found anywhere in the pages of the Bible, no matter how long or hard you search. On the contrary, the above scriptures very clearly tells us that Christ atoned for our sins on the cross at Calvary.
Christ was fully aware that His suffering and death on the cross was the terrible price He would have to pay to cancel our debt of sin. But He voluntarily and selflessly chose to go through with it, for the likes of us:
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. (John 12: 31-33, KJV).
(Christ said:) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15, KJV)
From that time forth began Jesus to shrew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (Matthew 16:21, KJV)
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, KJV)
THE CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE CROSS
The church I attend has a large cross behind the pulpit, with a crown of thorns resting on it. Hanging down next to it is a banner that reads, “He died for me”. This is very effective in stimulating sincere and fervent worship. And every time I enter the church, I am deeply humbled at the sight of that cross. It reminds me that the best, the bravest and most selfless Person ever, suffered and died for me, in my place, because of my sins. And my heart fills with gratitude. But that is just why the cross is there. It is to remind us of who we are, who Christ is, what He did for us, and how much we owe Him.
Mayer Pearlman had this to say concerning the Christian’s attitude towards the cross of Christ: “The cross is the dynamo which generates in the human heart that response which constitutes the Christian life. ‘I’ll live for Him who died for me,’ states the dynamic of the cross. The Christian life is the soul’s reaction to the love of Christ. The cross of Christ inspires true repentance …..” (Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible, Part Two)
CHRIST’S SHED BLOOD COVERS THE SINS OF ALL WHO TRUST IN HIM
The LDS ignores what the Bible so clearly teaches, and insists that Christ’s atonement only covers the penalty for Adam’s sin and guarantees universal resurrection, thereby opening the way for us to earn the right to forgiveness of our own personal sins. Here are some scriptures that prove without a shadow of a doubt that Christ was crucified to pay the full price of all the sins of those who trust in Him for salvation:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou salt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, KJV)
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew. 26:28, KJV)
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3, KJV)
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10, KJV)
… Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelation 1:5, KJV)
We see from the above that Christ’s death on the cross was vicarious, in that He died in our place, to pay the price of our sins. And that’s why the cross was always central to the gospel message preached by the primitive church:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23-24, KJV)
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, KJV)
Christians wear a cross as a testimony to their allegiance to Christ and as a symbol of their faith in His atonement for their sin through His sacrificial, substitutionary sacrifice on their behalf on the cross. And churches that follow the teachings of the Bible always prominently display a large cross at their place of worship, as a constant reminder to the congregation of who they once were (condemned sinners) and of what Christ has done for them (set them free from the guilt and the penalty of their sins). It also effectively reminds us of the terrible price He paid for our forgiveness.
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
THE GOSPEL THAT CHRIST PROCLAIMED
Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (Galations 3:21-25, KJV)
In His wisdom and mercy God provided a way of salvation under a New Covenant of grace, that allowed for the fallenness of man. In, by and through Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross, He dealt with fallen man’s sin problem, and reconciled us to Himself.
God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV)
Although He had no sin, Christ paid the consequences for our sins, in our place, on the cross at Calvary. However, just as the Old Covenant sinner had to identify himself with the substitutionary sacrifice that was to die in his place to cover his sin, so we too need to identify ourselves with Christ by putting our faith in Him. And the moment we do that He becomes our our substitute sin bearer/saviour, and we are counted as being “in Him.”
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, KJV)
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (Ephesians 1:7-8, NASB)
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Colossians 2:13-14, KJV). (Italics inserted by writer.)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV)
This was the most amazing, liberating news. All the Old Covenant had ever done was to prove that fallen man could not live up to God’s standards of righteousness. But now the promised Jewish Messiah had come down to earth and had vicariously died to save us both from the consequences of our sins and from the power that sin has over us. The burden of guilt and the resulting fear of death and judgment was to be no more!
After His resurrection Christ appeared to His disciples, instructing them to be witnesses of His death on the cross, and of His resurrection three days later. He also commanded them to proclaim in His name, repentance and the forgiveness of sins:
Then He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:45-48, KJV). (Italics inserted by writer.)
And then just before His ascension, He confirmed this instruction:
“Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, KJV)
Notice that the gospel was to be all about Him and how He had earned the forgiveness of our sins. They were to be witnesses as to who Christ was and what He had done for and on behalf of fallen mankind through his death and resurrection. This is why the gospel of Christ’s church was, and still is, always centred on Christ and the cross. As Paul said:
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:23-24, KJV)
However, Satan doesn’t give up that easily. Although he knew that he had been defeated and was destined for judgment and hell, he wants to thwart God’s plan to redeem fallen man, and thereby take as many of us with him as he possibly can. With this aim in mind he sends out his messengers to proclaim counterfeit gospels with counterfeit saviours and a counterfeit salvation. Paul warned the church at Galatia concerning this danger:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galations 1:8-9, KJV)
As mentioned, the gospel preached by the apostles in the primitive church was centred on Christ, the New Covenant of grace that He had ratified, and the forgiveness of sins that He had earned on our behalf on the cross. In contrast to this, the LDS has banned the symbol of the cross on their premises and their gospel is centred on Joseph Smith, their church and their supposed authority. But this was precisely the sort of thing that Paul was warning us about. The Mormon gospel bears no resemblance to the gospel that Christ instructed the apostles to preach. It is “another gospel.”
Although the LDS calls their gospel, “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” it is in reality the gospel of Joseph Smith. The “good news” that their missionaries proclaim from door to door is that God allowed the church that Christ had died for, to go into total apostasy, and that He also permitted the Bible, the standard of truth that He’d given us for our spiritual guidance and protection, to become corrupted and unreliable. They then go on to claim that their prophet, Joseph Smith, has restored the “true” church in these latter days, and that salvation can now be attained only through themselves.
Christ is sidelined, his atonement is deprecated and Joseph Smith and his LDS church are given all the glory.
One of the things Mormons are taught is that Christ’s atonement only covers universal resurrection. So the sad fact is that although the Bible clearly tells us that Christ died for the sins of those who identify themselves with Him by faith, Mormons don’t go that route. Instead they have opted to follow the way of salvation proclaimed by Joseph Smith, i.e. that they have to earn the right to forgiveness of their sins through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the LDS organization, plus virtuous living. (See the articles on this site entitled “Mormon Salvation and its Deceptiveness.” and “Mormon Salvation Exposed to the Light of the Bible.”)
Considering that under the Old Covenant nobody was ever able to satisfy God’s demands for righteousness in this way, the Mormon gospel places its followers in a precarious position. Not only that, they have trampled underfoot the precious blood of Christ that He so selflessly shed to earn, once and for all, the forgiveness of all our sins:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7, KJV)If you wish to gain a deeper understanding of this subject, click on the following links:
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:9, KJV)
Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5, KJV)
Heralding the Messiah’s imminent coming, John the Baptist exhorted the people, ” Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2, KJV).
During His lifetime Christ also proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, which He sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of God. We know that these two expressions mean the same thing because sometimes they are used interchangeably, such as in Matthew 19:23-24.
Christ’s gospel (good news) was that Satan’s reign on earth was all but over because He had come down from heaven not only to atone for our sins but also to defeat Satan, God’s enemy and ours too; thereby breaking his hold on mankind and restoring the rule of God, or the Kingdom of God, on earth.
When we read the book of Acts, we notice that the disciples explained the gospel of Christ to the Jews by showing them via the scriptures, how the Old Covenant had been fulfilled in Christ. And so in order to understand the gospel properly, we will need to take a very quick look at both the Old and the New Covenants.
THE OLD COVENANT
Under the Old Covenant, when the Israelites had sinned, God didn’t tell them that they would have to earn the right to forgiveness (as does the LDS church). He knew fallen man was incapable of ever doing such a thing. So instead, He instituted the substitutionary sacrifice. The sinner had to take an unblemished animal to the altar and place his hand upon its head to indicate that it would represent him, and would die in his place, to cover his sin (Leviticus 1:4, 4:29,33). This was a picture of the coming, promised Jewish Messiah who would sacrifice His life to pay the full penalty for the sins of those who had indicated by faith, that He was their substitute sin bearer.
In his epistle to the church at Galatia, Paul explains that the Old Covenant was used by God to convince fallen man that he is, of himself, incapable of living according to God’s standards of righteousness. The constant plume of smoke arising from the sacrificial altar bore witness of this fact. Although they were God’s chosen people, who had enjoyed His protection and were in possession of His Law, and had every intention of fulfilling it; they nevertheless found themselves continuously slipping up in word, thought and deed. God’s Laws and Ordinances didn’t have the power to save anyone. All they did was reveal the holiness of God on the one hand, and the innate sinfulness of fallen man on the other.