The Modern Smooth Cross

 

The Comfortable Cross for the Twenty-first Century

 

A W Tozer

Originally published in The Alliance Witness – 15 May 1963, entitled ‘Modern Smooth Cross’ three days after the death of its author Dr Aiden W Tozer (1897-1963).  The paper I was given provided a number of helpful scriptural references, so I reproduce it with the scriptures below.

It was written over 50 years ago – but remains relevant – maybe more so.

 

The New Cross 

 

All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different; the likenesses are superficial, the differences fundamental.
From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life; and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique, a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.
‘I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 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.
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.  (Gal 1:6-10)

 

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.  (2 Cor 11:14-15)
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Tim 3:5)
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim 4:3-4)

 

Friends with the World 

The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather it is friendly pal, and if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasures, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plan morally, if not intellectually.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.   And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)

 

An Easy Cross

The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before the new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather it offers the same things the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers; only the religious product is better.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Col 3:3)

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17)

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (John 3:6-7)

 

A Pleasant Cross

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says,”Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egoist, it says,”Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill seekers it says,”Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The modern message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue, thereby catering to human taste and reasoning.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely all the meaning of the cross.
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 Cor 1:18)
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Rom 7:18)
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Phil 3:3)
And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41I receive not honour from men. (John 5:40-41)

 

A Symbol of Death 

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected; he was going to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck swift and hard, and when it had finished its work the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation, and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him, and then raising him again to newness of life.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil 2:8)
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor 15:22)
We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin… Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it
saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:9,19-23)
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin…. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:3-7,23)

 

Public Relations Agents? 

That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of the hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world; it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do no bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to Big Businessmen, or the Press, or the World of Sports, or Modern Education. We are not diplomats ,but prophets, and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isa 55:8)
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Prov 14:12)
 
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. (Gal 6:14)
 
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.  (1 Cor 1:18-21)
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech youby us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20)

 

Death unto Life

God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 18:13)
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him….The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!  But wisdom is justified of all her children. (Luke 7:30, 34-35)
[Paul was] testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)

 

Forsake and Trust 

What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent, believe and receive Christ as Saviour. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure.
 Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and re-birth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner, and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.
 
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isa 55:7)
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? (Luke 9:23-25)
  
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.   
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 3:14-16)
 
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
 
 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Rom 14:17-18)
 

Christ’s Sufferings from Men and from God, in His Spirit, and in Anticipation

sufferings of Christ.

His sufferings at the hands of men.
His sufferings at the hand of God.
His sufferings in relation to the state of man.
His sufferings in anticipation of His work on the cross

A Summary by Sosthenes of J.N. Darby’s ‘The Sufferings of Christ’

In this paper, written to the Editor of the “Bible Treasury”, Darby outlined four aspects of the sufferings of Christ.

  1. His sufferings at the hands of men.
  2. His sufferings at the hand of God.
  3. His sufferings in relation to the state of man.
  4. His sufferings in anticipation of His work on the cross

To view the complete paper – The Sufferings of Christ

To download book (JND Collected Writings – Vol 7 Doctrinal 2– p139) containing this article click here

Christ’s Sufferings at the Hands of Men.

We have to distinguish Christ’s sufferings from man and His sufferings from God.  He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  The world hated Him because He bore witness to the fact that the world’s works were evil.  It hated Him before it hated His disciples.   He was “light,” and he that doeth evil hateth the light, nor comes to the light, because his works are evil. In a word, Christ suffered for righteousness’ sake.

Christ’s Sufferings at the Hand of God.

Upon the cross, Christ also suffered from the hand of God.  He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him … It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief; when He shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed. (Isa. 53:5,10) He who knew no sin was made sin for us, (2 Cor. 5:21) and then. He suffered the just for the unjust; (1 Peter 3:18).  He suffered, not because He was righteous, but because we were sinners, and He was bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. As regards God’s forsaking Him, He could say, ‘Why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ (Psalm 22:1)   In Him there was no cause.  We can give the solemn answer: In grace He suffered the just for us, the unjust.   He was made sin for us.

Thus at the hands of men, as a living man, He suffered for righteousness; at the hand of God, as a dying Saviour, He suffered for sin.  It is most interesting to contrast these two characters of Christ’s suffering as expressed in the Psalms.

Christ’s Suffering for Sin

In Psalm 22 we have both His suffering from the hand of God (v. 1-11) and the sufferings at the hand of men (v. 11-21).  At the height of His sufferings, God, His only resource, forsakes Him.  This is the great theme of the psalm – the consequence of His bearing our sin, the wrath due to us.  But He came to put sin away by the sacrifice of Himself.  Hence the result is unmingled grace — nothing else.  He drank the cup at His Father’s hand.  God heard Him, and raised Him up and gave Him glory, because He had perfectly glorified Him as to sin.  He is raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6:4).  This name of His God and Father He immediately declares to His brethren, ‘I will declare thy name unto my brethren’ (Heb. 2:12).

God’s testimony was now of grace, and Jesus leads the praises of His redeemed.  Now we have praise sung in all Israel, the great congregation, (v.25) ; then all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD (v.27).

Such is the effect of the cross.  Sin was put away in the suffering and judgment on the cross.  The judgment was borne, but passed away with its execution on the Victim.  He had in grace substituted Himself; and when we appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, we will appear before the One who put away our sins.   Indeed He will have come to fetch us, so that where He is, we may be also (John14:3).  In a word, will be the One who suffered for sin, not for righteousness; and the effect, pure grace.

Christ suffered for sin that we never might. We are healed by His stripes. We do not partake in them,  Christ suffered alone, as forsaken of God in wrath, so that we never should taste one drop of that dreadful, bitter, and to us insupportable cup.

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

We who believe have been given to suffer for His name. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him (2 Tim. 2:12).   If we suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are we, and yet more blessed if we suffer for His name.

The difference of suffering for good and for evil is touchingly contrasted in Peter’s epistle; while both are attributed to Christ, we are warned against the latter.  Suffering for righteousness may be our happy portion; suffering for sin, as regards the Christian, was Christ’s part alone.

Christ’s Sufferings in Relation to the State of Man.

We should note two other characters of suffering in our blessed Lord.  Firstly, the sufferings in His heart of love due to the unbelief of unhappy man,

in John 11:35, at the tomb of Lazarus, He wept and groaned within Himself at seeing the power of death over the spirits of men, and their incapacity to deliver themselves.   He also wept over Jerusalem, when He saw the beloved city about to reject Him in the day of its visitation.  All this was the suffering of perfect love in a scene of ruin, where man’s self-will and heartlessness shut every avenue against the love, which was so earnestly working in its midst.

Sin itself must have been a continual source of sorrow to the Lord’s mind.  He was calmer than righteous Lot in Sodom.  Still He was distressed by sin.  He looked about upon them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5).

The sorrows, too, of men were His in heart.  He bore their sicknesses, and carried their infirmities. (Isa. 53:4)  There was not a sorrow nor an affliction that He did not bear on His heart as His own.  In all their afflictions He was afflicted. (Isa. 63:9).

Christ’s Sufferings in Anticipation of His Work on the Cross

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.” (John 12:27).   The other characteristic was the anticipation, when it was time for Him to look at death.  He could not take His part with the excellent of the earth, and bring them into real and permanent blessing, without first going through death – death as the wages of sin, for even the excellent of the earth were sinners.

And for Him death was death — all dark, without one ray of light even from God.  Perfect obedience was needed, and (blessed be God) it was found in Him.

We see:

  1. Man’s utter weakness
  2. Satan’s extreme power
  3. God’s just vengeance, alone, without one sympathy
  4. Christ forsaken of those whom He had cherished
  5. The rest of men His enemies
  6. The Messiah delivered to Gentiles and cast down
  7. The judge washing his hands of condemning innocence
  8. The priests interceding against the guiltless instead of for the guilty
  9. Man would not have the Deliverer

He anticipated death, and all it meant to His soul;  He looked for deliverance.  He could not wish for, nor fail to fear, the forsaking of God and the cup of death that He had to drink.  He was heard in that He feared (Heb. 5:7).  That was truth, and true piety.

He took the cup just as it was being brought to Him, though He would take it from none but  His Father’s hand.   The tempter now returns to try Him with all that was dreadful for His soul.  Above all, He had persevered in His obedience and work to the end.  If the Lord was to effect salvation in the wretched race, He must be, not a mighty living powerful Deliverer, but a dying Redeemer.  It was the path of obedience and the path of love.

We find Him with His Father, occupied with the cup He was about to drink, and His obedience shone out in perfection.  God was not forsaking Him yet; He was conversing with His Father about the cup of His being forsaken of God. “Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:27).

He got His answer to obedience to death, an answer of real and complete victory.  It was the widespread opening out of the God’s revelation of love, even though in it the world had been judged.  But all was closing in in Gethsemane.   We read of His sweat as drops of blood, and see the power of darkness and the Lord’s deep agony expressed in a few mighty words.   But His obedience was perfect.   The tempter was utterly foiled; the Name of Jesus sufficed to make his agents go backward and fall to the ground.   As far as they were concerned, and as far as Satan’s power went, He was free.  But the Father had given Him the cup to drink, and He freely offered Himself to drink it, showing the same unweakened power as ever.  He in blessed, willing obedience now takes the awful cup itself from His Father’s hand!  Never can we meditate too much upon the path of Christ here.

Love brought Him to the cross, without the present joy of a ministration of love.  He was not dealing with man, but suffering in obedience, under the hand of God, in man’s place and for man.   He endured unmingled, unmitigated suffering – God’s forsaking.   All His sorrow was the direct fruit of love — He felt for others, about others.   What must He have felt about those who took away the key of knowledge, and entered not in themselves, and hindered those that were entering?  Righteous indignation is not sorrow, but the love that gives birth to it.

Conclusion

He felt the violation of every delicacy that a perfectly attuned mind could feel.  What broke in upon every delicate feeling of His nature as a man!  Men stood staring at Him as He suffered.  Insult, scorn, deceit, efforts to catch Him in His words, brutality and cruel mocking, He bore it all in a divinely patient spirit.  He was deserted, betrayed, and denied — “I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none(Psalm 69:20) Reproach broke His heart. He was the song of the drunkards.

Jehovah knew His shame, His reproach, and His dishonour.  All His adversaries were before Him; but He endured it all.  All sorrow was concentrated in His death, where neither the comfort of active love, nor the communion with His Father, could provide any alleviating sweetness, or be for a moment mingled with that dreadful cup of wrath. His royal glories were given up.   Now He has been received up with a better and higher glory from His Father’s hand.   He always had this glory, but now He has entered into it as Man.