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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Calvary — Where We Come to Know God

By Joseph R. Flower
June 27, 2010

The apostle Paul’s personal objective in his quest for truth was to know Christ “and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, if by any means,” he said, “I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10,11, KJV). But his objective also was to make Him known, for in writing to the Corinthians he stated, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

There was a special reason for this emphasis at Corinth. The Greeks magnified human wisdom. The cult of philosophy reached its apex here. They deified the human intellect. They were ever learning, but never able to come to the full knowledge of the truth.

What a marked contrast distinguished Paul’s message. There was no speculation, theorizing or uncertainty about it. It has been written in bold, blood-red letters on the canvas of sacred history, from creation to consummation: “Christ … died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9,10).

There are at least four aspects or degrees in our apprehension of this great redemptive truth: intellectual, emotional, spiritual and experiential.

Apprehend it intellectually

The crucifixion of Christ was an historical event that took place nearly 2,000 years ago. Hatred and envy motivated the act. Four Gospel writers bear harmonious testimony to it.

The facts stand. They have already stood a long time, and they will continue to stand throughout eternity. If there is a plan that lifts man to a higher spiritual plane in this life, and that gives hope for a life to come, we should expect God to make it known — and He has! We can know it.

Furthermore, the simple clear concept we see in the Scriptures is that the way to God is through a blood sacrifice. This was depicted in the animal sacrifices offered by Old Testament patriarchs, and typified in the offerings which God provided for Israel under the Law.

There were many details relating to Christ’s suffering and death which were predicted by the prophets, such as the betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, the parting of His garments and casting of lots for His robe and His death by crucifixion instead of stoning.

Christ was aware of His mission and the purpose for which He came into the world. He emphasized this continually toward the end of His earthly life, as He endeavored to prepare His disciples for His departure. Instead of negating the truth, this self-awareness speaks loudly in support thereof.

Looking at the surface of things we would have to declare that in the crucifixion of Christ there was a breach of justice, a judicial miscarriage. One who was innocent was condemned to death in total disregard of the due processes of law. But it was not merely an act of man that condemned Him, for He was delivered up to death by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

Our Lord has instituted a memorial to His death in the Lord’s Supper. Thus He made sure we would not forget His sacrifice, and emphasized its supreme importance in His plan to save the lost.

But intellectual apprehension is not enough.

Be moved by it emotionally

The episode of Christ’s passion was emotion-packed. It has in it all the elements of a great tragedy; in fact, it is the greatest tragedy in history. But it is also the greatest triumph!

Think with me of this Man of Sorrows. He wept over the city of Jerusalem, the city that had a history of killing prophets sent by God. In the Garden of Gethsemane His soul was exceedingly sorrowful unto death, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). The indifference of the disciples must have hurt Him deeply.

Think of the indignities He suffered. He was scourged, smitten, spit upon. In mockery a purple robe was placed upon Him, a crown of thorns platted upon His head, and a reed for a scepter put in His hand. His visage was marred more than that of any man. He was forced in His weakened condition to carry the cross, until finally He fell under the load. Then He was laid upon the cross and cruel spikes were driven into His hands and feet. He was reviled; impious epithets were hurled at Him as He innocently suffered the agony of a painful death.

Discern it spiritually

We need to come to a spiritual understanding of the deeper significance of the Cross. Paul refers to this as “the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom … which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7,8).

It is the Spirit of God who searches the deep things of God, and it is only by the Spirit that we may discern the deeper meaning of the Cross.

There on Calvary Christ took our place, became our Substitute, bearing the stroke of God’s wrath on sin that was our due. There the price of redemption was paid. There forgiveness was provided. There the enmity between God and man was taken away, reconciliation was effected, and fellowship with God made possible. At the cross, God was revealed as being not only just, but also the justifier of the ungodly. There He conquered death, the grave and hell. There through His shed blood we are enabled to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil.

What glorious paradoxes are displayed in and through this drama of the ages — on the one hand, sin in all its hideousness; on the other, holiness in its crystal purity. At the cross are displayed both dishonor and honor; darkness and light; hatred and love; enmity and reconciliation; sorrow and joy; bondage and liberty; poverty and wealth; despair and hope; death and life; apparent defeat and ultimate triumph.

It is possible that we might intellectually accept this truth of the sufferings of Christ in our behalf, be affected emotionally, and even apprehend something of its spiritual significance, without really appropriating its benefits. God would have us know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. There is a final step to take. We must experience it by faith.

Experience it by faith

What Christ accomplished at Calvary must be translated into personal experience. He was crucified as our Substitute; we experience crucifixion by identifying ourselves with Him in His death — “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).

Christ’s death opens the way for our spiritual resurrection. Our identification with Christ extends beyond His death to His resurrection. This means that our old nature with its deeds is accounted dead, and we may rise in newness of life to live in righteousness through the Holy Spirit.

Whatever the manifestation of the old nature is, it is a work of the flesh, and if we live after the flesh we shall die. But contrariwise, if we through the Spirit will put to death the deeds of the body, we shall live (Romans 8:13). Whatever that deed is — pride, resentment, lust, self-seeking, hatred, envy, etc. — we must identify it as a work of the flesh, and by faith reckon that it died when God’s Lamb gave His life for us.

Lastly, Christ’s death and resurrection open the way for our physical resurrection. His death for us assured us that “whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10). The fact we are now experiencing the benefits of a spiritual resurrection from a state of spiritual death, and have the earnest of the Spirit, is God’s pledge to us that our bodies shall be made like unto His glorious resurrection body. Our physical lives hang by a fragile thread, but our hope of resurrection is an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure.

The late JOSEPH R. FLOWER served as general secretary of the Assemblies of God for 18 years, and in many other ministry roles in the AG. He first delivered this message as superintendent of the New York District at the 1969 General Council.

From the Pentecostal Evangel, Oct. 26, 1969.

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