In Sight of Calvary
by Inglis Fleming
At a celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the heart of darkest Africa, one of the natives when giving expression to praise, said,
“Lord we have come this morning to sit for a while at the foot of the Cross, and to think of Thee.”
In this attitude of mind shall we consider together, briefly, what happened at the Cross of our Lord Jesus, as it is brought before us in the Epistle to the Galatians.
That Cross, “the centre of all eternity,” as if has been termed, is showed from various points in the epistle. Each of the chapters of the apostle’s letter presents the work of our Saviour and Lord upon the tree of Golgotha, from one aspect or another.
Turning then to chapter 1, we read of Him,
“Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world (age), according to the will of God and our Father” (vv. 4-5).
At the Cross the question of our sins was raised, was entered into and was eternally settled. “Our sins” were dealt with there. Not some of our sins, not many of our sins, not most of our sins, but “our sins” in their totality were borne and put away for ever.
Never will that matter be re-opened between God and the believer.
“Though the restless foe accuses,
Sins recounting like a flood;
Every charge our God refuses,
Christ has answered with His blood.”
Isaiah 53:6 has helped many to see his truth:
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him (caused to meet on Him) the iniquity of us all.”
The verse begins with the all of sin and ends with the “all” of salvation. We enter by the first “all”, in repentance and faith, owning our sins and sinfulness. Then we reach the closing “all” with the assurance that all our sins were caused to meet upon Christ at the Cross. They have been taken away “into a land of forgetfulness” for ever. God now says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). This was the will of God and our Father. He is glorified (made known) in the putting away of our sins.
Chapter 2:20 takes up the deeper question of what we were “in the flesh,” in our sinful state before God. It too has been met by the death of Christ.
“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
In the death of Christ we have been ended as to all that we were in our sinful state. Ended not mended as it has been said, removed not improved.
To be crucified is to be brought to a close as not fit to live. All that we were as “in the flesh,” that is in our natural unconverted condition, has been brought to its “Finis” before God at Calvary. Notice the personal pronoun “I” at the beginning of the verse. Paul himself, not his sins is the subject. As linked with Adam fallen he has been crucified. As Saul of Tarsus in what he was morally he has been terminated in judgment. Yet he still lived as a man on earth, but it was no longer the old Saul, it was now Christ living in him. Christ was his life (Col. 3:4). Paul now lived by faith in the Son of God who loved him and gave Himself for him.
Chapter 3:13-14, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” shows how Christ has redeemed from its curse—those who were under the law—He having been made a curse for them on the tree. And this was in order that blessing might come upon the Gentiles and the Holy Spirit be given to them. Redemption has been wrought and as a consequence the Holy Spirit has been given to empower Christians for their pathway.
As to the past the Holy Spirit is the seal upon us that we are redeemed to God and are now owned by Him.
As to the present He is the anointing by which we know our place as in Christ and have intelligence in the mind of God for us.
As to the future He is the Earnest of coming glory, the firstfruits of the great harvest to be reaped by us before long.
Thus past, present and future are provided for by Him.
One comprehensive passage brings this before us:
“Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ and hath anointed us, is God, Who hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1:21-22).
“When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (chapter 4:4-7).
In these verses the work of Christ is again presented. Here it is seen to be the foundation upon which the pleasure and purpose of God our Father, are fulfilled. It was His wish to have sons knowing Him, loving Him, worshipping Him.
The time long promised arrived. The Son of God came. Truly God, truly Man, truly an Israelite, He came to accomplish the mighty work of atonement, that sonship might be ours. The sinnership matters were all settled in that same work as we have seen. That subject is closed entirely. Now the place of sons is given to us and the power to enjoy that position is bestowed as well.
Our Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, cried, ‘Abba, Father’ when in Gethsemane’s dark garden. He prayed that the cup of judgment might pass from Him. In His perfection that cup from which He shrank, was taken to darker Calvary and there it was completely drained. Now, in result, we are brought into the blessed relationship with God and we too cry “Abba, Father” and share with Christ His joys.
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (chap. 5:24)
This shows how “those that are Christ’s” have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. We are all looked upon as having done this if we are true believers. In sight of Calvary we judge the flesh which led men to crucify the Son of God. God has condemned “sin in the flesh” in the judgment that fell upon our Lord when He was made a sin-offering for us. We say ‘Amen’ to what He has done. We do not try to improve or educate or cultivate it, but we reckon ourselves “dead indeed unto sin” and alive to God in Christ. We live before God in the spirit and are called to “walk in the spirit.” So doing the life of Christ will be manifested in our words and ways. For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (self-control).” All these graces were seen in perfection in “the life of Jesus” and now that life is to be manifested in our mortal bodies.
Nothing less than this was in the thoughts of our gracious God and Father in giving His Son to redeem us and in giving the Spirit of His Son to indwell us.
“But 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” (chap. 6:14).
Here we see the apostle’s exultation in all that the Cross has effected for him (and for us). Others night seek to glory in what they were in the flesh and in the world. Not the apostle!
The world has cast out and crucified the Son of God. He is my Lord and Saviour and I judge that world which has rejected Him. Then in response the world which rejected Him rejects me if I am loyal and true to Him. So at the Cross the world and the Christian part company. In the Cross, where all this has come to pass, we boast and glory. It is the basis of all our blessing for time and for eternity.
These of which we have spoken are but some of the many aspects of the work of the Son of God at the Cross, brought before us in the Word of God. There God has been glorified. Our sins have been blotted out. The self-life has been judged and ended. Redemption has been wrought so that the Holy Spirit might be given to us. Sonship nearness has been brought to pass. The flesh and the world are seen condemned.
May we learn well these and other lessons of that Cross. It is “our great lesson book” as it has been termed. And may we have grace to answer to its teachings while we wait to be with Him Who endured its sufferings for the glory of God and for our eternal gain.