Friday, September 14, 2007

The Cross - Christ's Authority to Save

I said the next several posts would be on the cross of Jesus Christ. If we want happier marriages, we have to desire God more than marriage. We must be weaned off the idolatrous pursuit of well-being in worldly things - like marriage. Only then, can marriage achieve its true goals. For you new-comers to my way of thinking, I'll explain what I mean. You may think I'm actually against marriage by saying we need to be less marriage-focused. It's really the opposite.

What I'm saying comes into sharper view through this illustration I often use. Suppose I come to your house and see you trying to cook dinner on top of your television set. That's not what television is made to do, yet you've deluded yourself into thinking you can make it work. If I tell you, "Stop doing that, and put your dinner in the microwave," am I against the television set? Not at all. I'm all for the television set being utilized to fulfill its purpose. What I'm against is the frustrating, wasteful hijacking of television's true purpose in order to use it for foolish purposes. That illustration is what I think most of us do with marriage. So, I say again, that if we want happier marriages, we have to desire God more than marriage. In order for that to happen, we have to see God for who he truly is. The next several posts will be devoted to seeing who God is through the cross of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:18-20 we read: "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"

This text is Matthew's record of the risen Christ's last words to his disciples before ascending to his throne in Heaven. Most Christians are familiar with the "great commission." I want us to look at something many may not be familiar with - the phrase, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me." We read over that phrase so quickly, we may miss its impact. I think we read over it so quickly because we think we know what Jesus means up front. We know Jesus was God incarnate. We know of God's authority over creation. So we just plug in what we know already into this text, rather than letting the text shape what we know.

Jesus is saying something entirely new here. The authority that Jesus speaks of is not his authority as God's Son. Jesus always had that. Why would Jesus wait until after his resurrection to say it? And then there's the word "therefore" in the next verse. Jesus says he's been given all authority. So what? Therefore, go and make disciples of the nations. How does the word therefore connect Jesus' authority and the great commission? Here's how.

In all of God's sovereignty, in all of God's power, in all of God's omnipotence, there was one thing besides sin that he could not do. You may think I'm blaspheming God by saying there's something he can't do. But I assure you, he can't do something. Up until the moment of Christ's death on the cross, God could not vindicate man's sin. He could pass over man's sins for a time, but not justify them. For all of God's authority over creation, the one thing God couldn't do without Christ's cross is save. Jesus always had authority to condemn. He could have sent Adam and Eve to damnation along with everyone else without ever leaving the comforts of Heaven. But what he couldn't do was save them. God's justice must be upheld.

Until Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, he did not have the authority to save. His justice wouldn't allow it. He earned that authority on the cross. The cross satisfied his justice on our behalf. The cross is where God's justice and grace, God's severity and kindness meet. That's why Jesus came after his resurrection and proclaimed his authority to save. The authority to save was a new authority that even God didn't acquire until the resurrection. Jesus merited the power to save, and sent out messengers of his salvation to the nations.

The cross is the center of God's dealings with man. No good can come to man except through the cross. Christ actually has the authority to bless us now because of what he accomplished. And the fact that Christ faced the cross shows his desire to bless us.

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