The Cross of Calvary
by Inglis Fleming
The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians has been called “The Cross of the Christ.” Reversing the terms we may call it, “The Christ of the Cross.”
For our Lord is presented again and again in connection with His crucifixion. Indeed every chapter has reference to His death.
It may be of benefit if we consider briefly some of the occasions in which He is seen at Calvary from varied points of view.
The first chapter speaks of Him thus:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
The serious question of our sins is taken up. There was no other way in which that question could be met, but by our Lord Jesus Christ’s death. In grace He came. In grace He gave Himself as a sacrifice. He “suffered for sins,” the Just One for us the unjust ones “that He might bring us to God” and that He might deliver us from this present age. The evil of the age has been fully manifested. It refused and cast out the Son of God. From it and from its prince, the power of darkness, He would deliver us. And this was in fullest accordance with “the will of God and our Father,” Who has brought us into relationship with Himself.
The whole matter of our sins was taken up between a holy sin-hating God, and His holy, but sin-bearing Son, at Golgotha where He died. There it was settled in fullest righteousness to the entire and eternal satisfaction of the holy throne of God.
We who believe rejoice to know that all our sins, not some of them—not most of them—but “our sins”—all of them, were borne by our Saviour “in His own body on the tree.” He who lived His spotless life in the favour of God, He of whom the Father declared, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,” He “who knew no sin,” He “was manifested to take away our sins” and became the sin-offering for us. Then He was dealt with in righteous judgment, in order that we might be dealt with in righteous grace. He “was delivered for our offences” that we might be delivered from our offences for ever.
In chapter two we see the infinite work of Christ from another angle. There we read:—
“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 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.”
Evil teachers had come among the young Christians in the Galatian assemblies. They had taught them that unless they were circumcised and kept the Law of Moses they could not be saved. They wished to make these converts proselytes to a Christianised Judaism. The apostle would not have this teaching for a moment. With unsparing severity he sets it aside. It was “another gospel” which was not the true gospel at all. It was a perversion of it altogether.
The law was like a looking glass let down from heaven to show sinners what they were. It did not, it could not, cleanse or relieve them. A mirror can show me a smut upon my face. It cannot remove it. The right effect of the seeing the soil will be that I go to the wash basin to put away the defilement. The right effect of the law will be to drive the sinner to his knees to seek cleansing from God. The law could not give righteousness, it could but condemn. It could not give power, it could only show weakness. It could not bless, it could only curse. Thus the gospel was needed.
“I through the law,” cries the apostle, “have died to the law that I might live unto God.” Under the law self is the object in attempting to gain righteousness. The law said “Thou shalt,” “thou shalt not.” It prohibited that which was natural to sinful man. “Thou shalt not covet” (or lust), disclosed the very nature of man it stirred up the corruption that was in man’s nature. The law itself is “holy and just and good.”
So the law slays the sinner in his conscience showing how helpless and hopeless he is. But the believer lives in Christ risen, that now, freed from the law, he may walk with God and for His pleasure.
“I have been crucified with Christ” exclaims Paul. He had been brought to his end in judgment when Christ died. In His death he had died. All that he had been “in Adam” as a sinner had been ended, not mended. Sinful flesh was removed and not improved by the cross.
“Nevertheless I live,” adds the apostle, “yet not I but (a new life altogether) Christ liveth in me.”
Christ is risen. Christ is our life. The old life is judged and set aside in the death of the Son of God. It is ours as believers now, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to judge any manifestation of the flesh and live to God in the Spirit.
In chapter three we find the apostle addressing those who had been under the law.
“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;” Then he adds “that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
From the glory where Christ is enthroned He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all who believe.
The cross sets aside the flesh judicially. The Holy Spirit sets aside the flesh practically. He enables us to walk for the glory of God.
The promise to Abraham is fulfilled, “In thee all nations of the earth shall be blessed. The Holy Spirit is not given to Jewish believers only, but to the Gentile believers as well. Atonement having been accomplished by Christ, God has been glorified and the way has been opened for the Holy Spirit to come. And He has come to be our power for witness and work and worship.
In Ephesians 2:18 we read of the whole Trinity of the Godhead in connection with the Christians’ privilege. “For through Him (through Christ, now risen) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit (the Holy Spirit now indwelling us) unto the Father.”
In chapter 4 we have another view of the work of our Lord.
“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.”
In this passage we learn the thought of God toward us was that we might be sons before Him.
Let us look at the verses in some detail, “The fullness of the time was come.” The period had been reached which had been looked forward to so long. “The Seed of the woman,” promised aforetime, the lamb for a burnt offering which God would provide for Himself, the sacrifice, pointed to by the offering upon the Jewish altars, the One whose day Abraham saw and which made him glad, the glorious Son of God had come. Sent forth of God. He had come of the Virgin in true holy Manhood. He was a true Israelite come under the law. He had come that according to the good pleasure of His God and Father we might receive sonship.
Every question as to our sinnership was settled in His work of redemption. Thus the way was opened for the will of God the Father to be carried out and for us to be brought into nearness to Him as His sons.
“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father.”
This was the cry of our Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, in Gethsemane’s dark hour. There He had said,
“Abba Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me; nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt.”
That cup of judgment from which, in His perfection, our Lord shrank, could not pass from Him, He drank it to all its depths. Now the cup of eternal blessing passes to us. It is filled to the brim with everlasting privilege. We are become sons and heirs of God. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God’s Son, cries the cry of nearness and dearness and relationship “Abba, Father.” The cry is for the Father’s ear, as it comes from our hearts.
Soon we shall be in the Father’s house. There “conformed to the image of God’s Son” and there for His pleasure and delight, “that He may be first born among many brethren,” we shall sing the Father’s praises eternally.
The Father desired to have sons before His face. To have those who knowing Him should love Him and loving Him should worship Him, both now and in His own house and home for ever.
Yet another view of the cross of Christ is seen in chapter five.
“They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
Upon that cross we see CHRIST bearing OUR SINS, ending OUR SELF-LIFE and condemning THE FLESH OF SIN.
Thus the believer is viewed as saying “Amen” to what has happened at that cross.
The Holy Spirit is our power for walk. Living in the Spirit we are called to “walk in the Spirit.” As we do so “the fruit of the Spirit” will be manifested in us. That “fruit” is just that which came out in Christ in His lowly life on earth. It is like a bunch of nine grapes: Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance (Self Control).
These are all in contrast with the flesh-works, of which verses 19-21 tell us. The end of these works shows the nature of the flesh. It is unchanged and unchangeable. God has condemned it and we learn to condemn it too, and are seen as having crucified it with all connected with it. It remains in the Christian until the end. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.” They are in constant warfare. They are irreconcilable. “They that are in the flesh (that is in their natural condition as come of Adam) cannot please God.” “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
As we have said, the Christian’s power is to walk in the Spirit and doing so he will not fulfil the lust the flesh.
The engine in the airplane enables the airman to overcome the law of gravitation which would hold him down to the earth. In the power of the engine he can rise above the clouds. If he gets engine trouble he will come down to difficulty and disaster.
So the Holy Spirit of God enables the believer to live to God to live above the power of the flesh and to rejoice, in service and worship. If the Holy Spirit is grieved by allowed sin, the believer is shorn of his strength and comes down to spiritual disaster and it may be to the open dishonour of the Lord.
“If we live in the Spirit” (and every true believer does this) “let us walk in the Spirit” is therefore the apostolic exhortation.
In chapter 6 the apostle cries,
“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” (v. 14).
Here the world is seen in its entirety as crucified, that is ended in shame and judgment upon the cross. This is the evil world of which chapter 1 spoke to us. It is seen as utterly condemned. It lies under the judgment of God now and soon that judgment is to be outpoured.
With all its boasted, vaunted inventions and advancements and achievements it has shown what it is in the action of its “princes.” They crucified the Lord of Glory.
We who have come to Christ are on His side. We have enlisted under His standard. For us the world is crucified. We are in the world still. But we are no longer part and parcel of it.
Then as we openly confess our Lord the world will reject us as it rejected Christ. It will not want us as it did not want Christ Himself. Thus we read, “The world is crucified to Me and I am (crucified) to the world.”
Today the world comes with a white kid glove upon its hand, and says to the Christian “Let us shake hands and be friends.” But that gloved hand is stained with the blood of Christ. If we are true and loyal to Christ we shall testify to the world that its works are evil and hold ourselves aloof from it whether in its foulest or its fairest character.