Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Random Thoughts

Some thoughts culled from my random file. Some have occurred to me in moments of quiet reflection, some in discussion with others. Some are aphoristic and avuncular. For your edification, inspiration and/or amusement — or your money cheerfully refunded.
  • Faith is not primarily about a proposition but about a person, because truth is not primarily a proposition. Truth is a person. Jesus said, “I am … the Truth.” So faith in God is not merely a belief about God but a personal relationship with God. It is for the sake of this relationship Jesus has come into the world, for He is not only the truth but the way and the life as well (John 14:6).
  • People act on the basis of what they believe. Watch how they act and you will know what they believe. We reveal what we truly believe by what we consistently do.
  • Sometimes we hang on in faith. Sometimes we let go in faith.
  • The lifestyle of prayer is a habit of devotion, always in communication with God and fully consecrated to Him. It is a persistent attentiveness to God, a life that holds on to faith and hope, regardless of the circumstances. It is a peaceful life of joy, knowing that God hears and will answer.
  • Prayer is not just words directed to God, but being mindful of God, being present to God and waiting before God.
  • Often we do not know what to pray. Pray anyway.
  • I think we often have more faith in our interpretations and understandings and articulations about Christ than we have in Christ Himself.
  • All the words in the Bible taken together do not exhaust the revelation of God we have in the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.
  • James said that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Paul said that faith expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). So then, faith without love is dead.
  • When our love is lacking, so is our faith.
  • Through Jesus Christ, we not only enter into eternal life, we enter into eternal love.
  • God is love, and love does not withhold what is good from those who are loved. God has given us the greatest thing — His Beloved Son. And in Him we have every good thing.
  • God is love. Grace is the love of God reaching out. Glory is the revelation of God's love reaching out.
  • The cross of Christ and the kingdom of God are not in competition anymore than means are in competition with their ends. The cross is the means and the kingdom is the end for which Jesus went to the cross. All of it is the gospel.
  • Tears speak when words cannot.
  • Live today today. Don't try to relive yesterday or pre-live tomorrow.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Anointed with the Holy Spirit and with Power

Peter preached to Cornelius and household about how God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power, which was how Jesus went about “doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). This anointing, however, was not just for Jesus. It belongs to all who belong to God through faith in Jesus.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, speaks about the Holy Spirit and power in relation to those who have received the Lord Jesus. We are, he says, “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Then he offers a prayer that God would give us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” — wisdom and revelation by the Holy Spirit — so that we may know God more and more (1:17). In particular, Paul prays that we may know, deeply and intimately, three things:
  • The hope (joyful expectation, positive anticipation) to which God has called us (v. 18). Paul spoke of this in 1:3-10, about our adoption as children of God, redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the abundance of God’s grace toward us, and about being gathered together along with everything in heaven and on earth into one — into Christ.
  • The riches of the inheritance God has given us (v. 18). Paul spoke of this in 1:11-14, with the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of our inheritance. It is not just about what we have in Christ but also who we are in Him — and who He is in us.
  • The exceeding greatness of God’s mighty power toward us who believe (v. 19).
It is this third one that I want to consider more closely here, for Paul goes on to describe the “exceeding greatness” of that power. It is the very same power by which God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at God’s own right hand in the heavenlies. That is to say, the power of God has seated Jesus in the place of ruling and reigning. Paul tells us the extent of His reign. It is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (vv. 20-23).

The power God has toward us is not only the power by which God has raised and seated Jesus, it is also the power by which He has made us alive, too, who were once dead in “trespasses and sins” (2:1-3). God has not only made us alive together with Jesus, He has also raised us up together with Jesus and seated us together with Him in the heavenlies — in the place of ruling and reigning with Him (2:5-6).

In Ephesians 3:20-21, Paul speaks of this power again as he takes a moment to offer a praise to God: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,” Paul says, and He does it “according to the power that works in us.” This is the power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father. the power Paul fervently prays we might have a deep realization about through the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it is the power of the Holy Spirit Himself, who is at work in us.

It is far more wonderful than anything have even begun to imagine, and God does not hold any of it back from us. But what does hold it back is our own unbelief. We do not have because we do not ask, James says, and even when we do ask, we ask with wrong motives, because we do not think beyond our own pleasure (James 4:2-3). But faith expresses itself through love, which gives and serves. When our love is lacking, so is our faith. Then we are hindered in our ability to ask, think or imagine the amazing things God wants to do in us, with us and through us in the world.

But God’s Spirit, anointing and power are there in us nonetheless. Waiting.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

For God was With Him

That word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:37-38)
How did Jesus do the things He did? Jesus gave His own answer at the Last Supper: “The Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10). And now Peter, in his announcement of the gospel to Cornelius provides an answer:
  • God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power.
  • God was with Him.
Now understand, Jesus was (and is) fully divine as well as fully human. In other words, He is God. Yet Peter does not say that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, for He is God.” Rather, he says that it was because “God was with Him.” The miracles Jesus performed, He performed in His humanity but anointed with the Holy Spirit, and because God the Father was with Him.

But how was God with Him? Remember, when Jesus was baptized, the voice of the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” This identified Jesus as the Son God promised would come to rule and reign over Israel and the nations, and whom God would anoint with His Spirit. That anointing happened at Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested on Him (Matthew 3:16-17).

The Holy Spirit was always with Him and in Him, of course, but now the Holy Spirit was upon Him, anointing Him (this is why Jesus is called “Christ” or “Messiah,” which means “Anointed”). And when the Holy Spirit comes, there is power. And it was by this anointing and this power that Jesus went about doing good and working miracles of healing and deliverance from demonic oppression.

Peter gives us this account in Acts 10. But think back now to Acts 1, where Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the “Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). By this, He meant that they were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. He said,
You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Ten days later, during the festival of Pentecost, as the disciples waited at Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit came upon them — just as He had upon Jesus! Throughout the rest of the book of Acts, the power of the Holy Spirit is revealed in them through miracles, healings, exorcisms, and other ways — even raising the dead. God was with them just as He was with Jesus.

This same anointing with the Holy Spirit and power is available today for all who come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith. The history of the Church is full of the same sorts of miracles and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. God is still doing today what He has always done, that we may show the evidence of who Jesus is and bring healing and freedom to the nations in Jesus’ name.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Father Who Dwells in Me Does the Works

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10)
How did Jesus do the things He did? Why did He say the things He said? Our first inclination is that it was because Jesus is God — fully divine — and that He therefore operated out of His divinity. But the point of the Incarnation is that the eternal Son of God became fully human to dwell among us as one of us. He did not merely appear human, or put on humanity as a garment. He became human. So Jesus was (and is) fully human as well as fully divine. That has always been the faith proclaimed by the Church.

However, Jesus did not operate out of His divinity. He operated out of His humanity. The miracles, the healings, the exorcisms were all performed by Jesus in His humanity. Even the things He said were spoken by Him in His humanity.

In John 14, we see Jesus on the night of the Last Supper preparing the disciples for what was going to happen over the next days. They had not yet truly comprehended who He was or why He came. Or how He said and did all that He said and did, even though He had spoken of it before:
  • Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)
  • I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)
  • When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (John8:28)
Now He repeats it again as He prepares the disciples for what lay ahead, and He tells them plainly. “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.”

Everything Jesus spoke, He spoke by the authority of the Father. Not by His own divine authority as the Son of God, but as a human being who heard the voice of the Father. He said only what He heard the Father saying. He was not seeking His own will or His own words. He was completely about doing the will of the Father. So He listened for the will of the Father and spoke and judged in agreement with it.

Likewise, everything Jesus did, He did by the power of the Father. Not out of His own divine power as the Son of God, but as a human being obedient to the Father and observant of what the Father was doing. He did only what He saw the Father doing. And, indeed, it was the Father dwelling in Him who did the works. Jesus was energized by the Father.

All fine and well, a good study in Christology. Praise God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Ah, but watch how Jesus moves this forward in His instruction of the disciples. Just two verses later, He says,
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12)
Jesus promised whoever believes in Him would do the same works Jesus did. Indeed, they would do even greater works than those Jesus did. Remember now that the works Jesus did, He did not do out of His divinity but out of His humanity — it was the Father who dwelt within Him who actually did the works. Would it be any different for the disciples? Would they be able to do the same works Jesus did (and even greater works) on their own? No! It would have to be God Himself doing the works, just as it was with Jesus.

But then how would this be? The answer I see is in the next few verses and seems to come in two parts, although perhaps they are two sides of the same coin. First, Jesus says,
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).
Jesus was going to the Father, but He gave the disciples (and by extension, all who believe in Him) the authority of ask of the Father in His name. And whatever they asked in His name, Jesus Himself would do.

Asking in Jesus’ name is not a matter of tacking “In Jesus’ name” onto the end of our prayers. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask as Jesus would ask and for the reason Jesus would ask — that the Father may be glorified. Jesus was all about the words of the Father, the works of the Father, the will of the Father and the glory of the Father. His desire was that the Father would be glorified in Him, but also in the disciples.

The second reason the disciples (and us, too) would be able to do the works of Jesus (and even greater works) is this: Jesus said,
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
When Jesus went to the Father, He was going to ask Him, and the Father was going to give them “another Helper” who would abide with them. This Helper is the Holy Spirit, who was already dwelling with them but would now be in them. It would be God Himself dwelling in them by His Spirit. Just as the Father dwelt in Jesus and was the authority and power behind all Jesus said and did, so also the Holy Spirit was given to dwell in us.

Through prayer to the Father in Jesus’ name, and by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (and in all who believe on the Lord Jesus), we can manifest the works of Jesus, and even greater works. For it is God Himself who does the works — in us, with us and through us.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Philip’s Gospel to the Samaritans

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. (Acts 8:12)
The Greek verb for “preached” is euangelizo, which means to evangelize, to preach the gospel. The New International Version translates it as “proclaimed the good news.” Notice then how Luke, who is the author of the book of Acts, summarizes what the gospel message Philip preached was about: 1. The kingdom of God, and 2. The name of Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God. Back in those days, the Greek word for “gospel,” euangelion, did not refer to just any piece of good news there might happen to be but was about the announcement of an important victory that had been won, or of the arrival of a great king or other dignitary. The book of Mark tells us that “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus was preaching the gospel, announcing the arrival of the God’s long-promised kingdom. And now Philip was taking that good news to the Samaritans, announcing that the kingdom of God had now come into the world.

The name of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God has come into the world precisely because Jesus the King has come into the world. Identifying Jesus as Christ, or Messiah, shows Him to be the King God promised in Psalm 2 (throughout the Old Testament), who would set things right for Israel and rule over the nations.

Going to the Samaritans was a new stage in the mission of the Church. These were not Gentiles, but nor were they altogether Jewish. They were mixed, both ethnically and religiously, and practiced an incomplete form of Judaism. But they did have an expectation about a Messiah who was to come, as we can see from Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in John 4. “I know that Messiah is coming,” she said. “When He comes, He will tell us all things” (John 4:25).

And now here was Philip, venturing out beyond Jerusalem and Judea, stepping outside the boundaries of proper Judaism, to announce to the Samaritans that the Jewish Messiah and His kingdom had now come. That was significant in itself, for as the woman at the well had said, Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans (John 4:9). Just as significant, however, is that these Samaritans eagerly received this good news about Jesus the Messiah and the kingdom of God, and were baptized in His name.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Paul’s Gospel

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel. (2 Timothy 2:8 NIV)
Let's look at how Paul refers to his gospel, the gospel he preaches, in his letter to Timothy. Notice three key elements in his summary:

  • Jesus the Christ
  • Raised from the dead
  • Descended from David
This is very similar to how he portrays the gospel in Romans 1. We often think of verse 16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ ...” But he describe that gospel in the first four verses of Romans:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:1-4 NIV)
Here we can see the same three key elements that we found in 2 Timothy 2:8.
  • Jesus the Christ
  • Descended from David
  • Raised from the dead
Christ means the same thing as Messiah, “anointed,” and refers to the one whom God anointed and established as king over Israel and the nations, as prophesied in Psalm 2. In order for Jesus to be Messiah, it was necessary for Him to have been descended from David, to sit on the throne of David as king over Israel.

The resurrection from the dead by God through the Holy Spirit powerfully demonstrates that Jesus is the Son of God. This identification of Jesus as Son of God and Messiah shows Him to be the one God has chosen to be King over Israel and the all the nations of the earth (see Psalm 2 and Today I Have Begotten You). So Paul understands the ministry of the gospel as calling all the nations to respond to King Jesus in faith and obedience: “Through Him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles [nations] to the obedience that comes from faith for His name’s sake” (Romans 1:5 NIV).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Peter’s Gospel to Cornelius

In Acts 10, the apostle Peter preached the gospel to the household of Cornelius, “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2; see also verse 22). The use of the words, “one who feared God,” indicates that Cornelius was devoted to the God of the Jews, though he was uncircumcised and not fully converted to the Jewish religion.

Peter was divinely instructed in a vision to go and announce the gospel about Jesus the Messiah to one who was a Gentile. This was a new and unexpected turn, and for Peter, a confusing one. His sermon is recorded in Acts 10:34-43( I am using the New International Version), and it is interesting to see how he proceeds, because it is not the way we are used to hearing the gospel preached in many churches today.
Then Peter began to speak: I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (vv. 34-35)
This is a very interesting section and raises a number of questions. But that is for another discussion on another day. For now, it is sufficient to point out that Peter’s new realization that the gospel of Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah, is not just for Jews but also for the Gentiles.
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (v. 36)
Here we see that this is indeed about the gospel. The Greek verb translated as “announcing the good news” is euangelizo, which is the word for evangelism. There are three things to note about the gospel here:

First, we see that the gospel is about “peace.” The Greek word is irene, but being Jewish, Peter would no doubt have had in mind the Hebrew idea of shalom, which speaks of wholeness and restoration. This gospel is about peace with God, reconciliation between God and man, a restoration to proper relationship. Paul’s understanding was that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). That is the peace that Peter’s gospel announces.

The next thing we see is that this peace comes through Jesus the Messiah. Being a Roman centurion, Cornelius would have been aware of the prevalent Roman sentiment that Caesar was the one who brought peace into the world (Pax Romana, the “Roman peace”). But as one who “feared God,” he would also, no doubt, have been familiar with the messianic expectation, that it would be Messiah (and not Caesar) who would bring true peace and salvation into the world. And now Peter’s gospel specifically identifies Jesus as that Messiah. This peace comes through Jesus.

The third thing to note is that Jesus the Messiah is explicitly identified as “Lord of all,” not just the Lord of the Jews but also of the Gentiles — indeed, Lord over the whole world. As Peter earlier preached at Pentecost, God has made this Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached — how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. (vv. 37-39)
Being a centurion, Cornelius would have likely been aware of the new sect (Christians) that had arisen, and something about the figure it was centered around, and may have recognized right away who Peter was speaking of. Peter describes a bit about Jesus and His ministry and how His anointing was revealed. Peter did not speak merely of what he had heard but he was an eyewitness to the things Jesus did in Jerusalem and throughout Judea.
They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen — by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (vv. 39-41)
Here is the cross and the resurrection. But we see that it is the resurrection that receives the much greater emphasis here. This is consistent with what we find throughout the book of Acts: The cross is mentioned a few times, but almost in passing, and not in terms of atonement or of a penalty paid for sin, of as something done in our place. In the epistles, both Peter and Paul do talk about those things, and they are important. But Peter does not speak of any of that here in the gospel message he brings to Cornelius. There is indeed salvation in the cross, but Peter does not explain how it is that the cross saves. He is much more focused on the resurrection.
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. (v. 42)
After the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and before He ascended to heaven, He announced to the disciples, “All authority has been given to men in heaven and on earth.” Then he sent them into the world to go and make disciples in the name of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). In Acts 1, where Luke records this commission in a bit different way, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon the disciples at Pentecost, and they would be His witnesses, beginning in Jerusalem and extending throughout the earth.

But what is particularly interesting here in Peter’s gospel to Cornelius is the point about which he is sent to testify. It is a point about judgment day, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God has appointed as judge of the living and the dead. This is the same point Paul makes when he preaches the gospel to the Greek philosophers in Athens, that God has “appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (v. 43)
Finally, Peter announces that all who have faith in Jesus the Messiah, who is Lord of all, receive forgiveness of sins. This was the same message the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament testified about the Messiah, and now fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord of all.

Peter offers no explanation of how this forgiveness can now be so. He has brought no theory about the atonement, or justification, or even the cross. He simply announces that it is so, for those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have forgiveness of sins.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Does the Cross Save Us?

How does the cross save us? This is a question about the atonement, that is, how does the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross bring salvation?

(This question is not about how we receive salvation — we receive it by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, it is about how the cross effects salvation.)

We often think of atonement as the “payment” Jesus made or the “penalty” Jesus bore for our sins on our behalf in order to turn away the wrath of God. This theory is called “penal substitutionary atonement” (PSA). It is a development of the Reformation and has been the front-and-center theory of atonement for much of evangelicalism today. Though other theories have also been accepted by evangelicals, it is PSA that has been given pride of place and is in the driver’s seat about what atonement is and means.

However, the problem of the world and of humanity is not simply that there were sins that needed to be paid for or penalized. A problem that is just as great, if not greater, is that mankind was in bondage to sin — we needed to be set free from the power of sin. But this, too, was accomplished at the cross. Paul says,
  • Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:6-11)
  • For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. (2 Corinthians 13:4)
  • I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
  • But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:14-15)
The work of Christ on the cross means that not only has the debt/penalty of sin been paid, but it also means that we are now dead to sin and no longer in slavery to it — sin no longer has rightful dominion over us. Christ was crucified in our place, so we are now crucified to the world and the world is crucified to us. In the atoning work of Christ, we are made “new creation.” In the cross, the power of God was revealed, and it is by this same divine power that we can now live. This is much more than simply penal substitutionary atonement.

There is also another major aspect that Christ addressed on the cross. That is the matter of the devil and of death. “The whole world,” John tells us, “is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). But John also assures us that, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

The power of the devil was broken at the cross. When Jesus predicted that He would be crucified, which was about to happen shortly, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). The “ruler of this world” is the devil. At the Last Supper, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of judgment, “because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11). This judgment and casting out of the “ruler of this world,” happened at the cross.

Paul speaks of how Christ, “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15). The principalities and powers are the demonic influences that so often control governments and cultures in the world. It was at the cross that Christ disarmed them, made a public spectacle of them and triumphed over them.

The author of Hebrews also speaks of the victory of Christ over the devil: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). The power of death was broken at the cross because the power of the devil was broken at the cross.

Through the cross, we are reconciled to God, brought back into proper relationship with Him. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them,” Paul says (2 Corinthians 5:19). “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

In Philippians 2, it is because of the cross that Jesus has been highly exalted and given the name that is above every name, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” In other words, the reign of Christ over all heaven and earth has been established by His work on the cross. And now, as Paul says, “He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24).

So the saving work of Christ on the cross is not just about the payment and/or penalty for sin, or appeasing the wrath of God. It is much more than that. The very power of sin, of death and of the devil was broken so that now all who are in Christ are dead to sin and alive to God.