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The Attraction of the Cross
“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 12:32-33)
That is Christ’s own testimony to the power of his death upon the cross. There is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that saving, effectual power that draws sinners to him in faith. Christianity is a religion about a cross. The cross of Christ is the key of knowledge which gives us understanding in Holy Scripture. As Martin Luther said, “There is not a word in the Bible which can be understood without reference to the cross.” Everything we believe has the cross for its foundation, its superstructure, and its’ covering. The cross of Christ is the essence of all biblical doctrine and the motivation for all biblical precepts. We look to the cross for the forgiveness of all sin, for justification and acceptance with God. We look to the cross for sanctification, to be made holy before God. We look to the cross for motivation, as our rule of life in this world. And we look to the cross for our entrance into heaven’s eternal glory, as the door of hope regarding the life to come.
I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but his:
I shall ne’er get sight of the gates of light,
If the way of the cross I miss!
For the believer, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is everything. We say with Paul, — “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is not necessary for me to remind you of what I mean when I talk about the cross. I am not talking about the Roman gibbet upon which our Lord was crucified, or about the idolatrous crucifix which has become a piece of jewelry to so many, or about some imaginary magical sign of the cross which the papists use. I am talking about the glorious doctrine of the cross as it is set forth in the Word of God. I am talking about the atonement of sin by the death of Christ upon the cursed tree. I am talking about the putting away of sin by the suffering, bleeding, and dying of the Lord Jesus Christ as the sinner’s Substitute.
This is the cross our Lord was talking about when he said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” The doctrine of Christ crucified has a marvelous, saving power. The power of the cross is not destructive power, but saving power. It is not punitive power, but forgiving power. It is not repulsive power, but drawing power. The cross of Christ is not harsh or compulsive, but attractive. Horatius Bonar wrote, “The sun draws up the vapors from the sea, and then hangs a brilliant rainbow upon them; so Christ draws up the sons of men from the depths of our low world, and glorifies them.”
The attraction of the cross is like that of the sun. It is also like the attraction of a magnet. Like the far distant North Pole, by some unseen influence, lays hold of the motionless nettle in a compass and turns it to itself, so the cross of Christ lays hold upon the hearts of the sons of men and turns them to himself, by the unseen power of his omnipotent mercy and irresistible grace. Have you felt the magnetic power of the cross? Does it now turn your heart to Christ?
It is not simply Christ himself who is the magnet; it is Christ crucified. It is our Lord’s crucifixion and death upon the cross that has imparted to him this power to draw sinners to himself. It is not Christ without the cross, nor is it the cross without Christ, but both together which draws us to him.
The Power of the Cross
Now notice the greatness of the power of the cross. It draws all men to him. Obviously, that does not mean that every person in the world will be drawn to Christ as the result of his death upon the cross. There are millions in hell who were not drawn to Christ. And there are millions upon the earth who shall never be drawn. How can they be drawn who have never heard? Yet, there is marvelous, saving power and efficacy in the cross which extends to the entire world, so that by virtue of his death upon the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ draws some from all mankind to himself. He draws Jews and Gentiles, men and women, black and white, bond and free, rich and poor, learned and unlearned. Behold the wondrous power of the cross. In the last day there shall be some of all men, some out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue gathered around the throne of the Lam, all drawn to our Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the cross.
The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the center from which divine omnipotence goes forth in the saving operations of grace. It is the place from which the saving power of God goes out to arrest sinners and bring them to Christ. What gives the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ such magnetic, drawing power? What is the attraction of the cross? Obviously, that is a bigger question than I can answer; but I want to show you seven things about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the crucified Christ draws sinners to himself through the preaching of the gospel.
The One Who Died
This is the first attraction of the cross. — The One who died upon the cross was no ordinary man. Many men died by Roman crucifixion before our Lord Jesus was crucified. Two men died when he died. And many were crucified after him. But this man was and is the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).
Someone said, “The wonder of the cross is not the blood, but whose blood, and to what purpose.” If that man who died upon the cross is himself God over all and blessed forever, as he most assuredly is, two things are certain.
He shall see his seed. He shall see all his chosen seed, all his redeemed justified, sanctified, and glorified. He shall see them with himself in heaven’s everlasting bliss. He shall prolong his days. That is to say, he shall live again in resurrection glory. The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He will rule the universe to accomplish the triune Jehovah’s eternal purpose of grace. He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. By his knowledge he shall justify all of those whose iniquities he bore.
The Love of God
This is the second attraction of the cross: — The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the revelation the love of God (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10).
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky!
The cross of Christ proclaims what the law could never reveal: – “God is love.” In the cross of Christ we see “what is the length, and breadth, and depth, and height” of the love of God. The breadth of God’s love encompasses a world of perishing sinners. The length of God’s love spans eternity. The depth of God’s love reaches down to dregs of fallen humanity. The height of God’s love lifts us up to eternal glory. The cross of Christ shows how far men will go in sin. We crucified the Son of God. But it also shows how far God will go for man’s salvation. He gave his only begotten Son! We could never have known the love of God as we now do, had we not fallen in Adam that we might be redeemed by Christ.
The third attraction of the cross is this: — The cross of Christ is a vindication of God’s righteous character and his strict justice (Isaiah 45:20-22; Romans 3:24-26). Here, in the cross of our Lord Jesus, mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other, and while the indescribable fury of God’s wrath is completely satisfied by the death of his Son, his infinite saving mercy is poured out upon all for whom his Son was slain.
The fourth attraction of the cross is the fact that — The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of God’s being (John 1:18; Psalm 85:9-13). — “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (Proverbs 16:6). Creation tells us that God is great. Conscience tells us that God is righteous. The law tells us that God is just and holy. But only the cross of Christ reveals the entirety of God’s character. In the cross we see that God is holy and merciful, just and gracious, righteous and good, immutable and wise, omnipotent and kind, omnipresent and compassionate, omniscient and forgiving.
Here is a fifth attraction: — The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the center of God’s purposes and the ratification of God’s covenant. The death of our Lord Jesus Christ was not an afterthought with God. It was not something God did as the result of man’s disobedience to and rejection of his Son’s claims as the Messiah. Far from it! The cross of Christ is the reason for which God made the world and the object which he had in mind when he created man upon it.
The cross of Christ is the center and focal point of God’s eternal purposes and decrees (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:18-25). The cross of Christ was the central object of all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures. — “To him give all the prophets witness” (Acts 10:43). And the cross of Christ ratified, confirmed, and fulfilled the everlasting covenant of God’s grace (Hebrews 9:14-17; 8:10-12).
Here is the sixth attraction of the cross: – The cross of Christ is a proclamation of redemption fully accomplished (John 19:30; Hebrews 9:12; Isaiah 40:1-2). The cross of Christ declares to sinners everywhere: Atonement is made, justice is satisfied, sin is put away. — Believe and live!
Complete atonement Christ has made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
All that His people owed:
Nor can God’s wrath on me take place,
I’m sheltered in Christ’s righteousness
And sprinkled with His blood.
Since Christ has my discharge procured
And fully in my room endured
The whole of wrath Divine –
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.
There is yet a seventh attraction in the cross. — The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ has a marvelous healing and transforming power. There is healing in the cross. He who looks to Christ is healed, healed in every part of his being, and completely healed. The healing begins now in the soul; it is completed here after in the resurrection body. Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One, is our Healer. His name is Jehovah-rapha, — “The Lord that healeth thee” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). “The saving power of the cross,” J. I. Packer wrote, “does not depend on faith being added to it. Its saving power is such that faith flows from it.”
In the cross of Christ I find life eternal, propitiation with God, reconciliation to God, rest from all my labor, inspiration for my life on earth, and hope for the world to come. The cross of Christ, the gospel, is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. The cross irresistibly draws our hearts to Christ. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the theme of our preaching and praise here. And the cross shall be the theme of our song in glory! — “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14).