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The cross of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the central theme of the gospel.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (I Corinthians 15:1-4).
Sometimes we forget that there were actually three crosses at Golgotha so long ago! Two others were crucified with Jesus on that black Friday.
“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two others with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:17,18). Let’s briefly notice these three crosses; who was on them and why.
On the first cross a man died IN sin. This man was a thief (Mark 15:27). He was guilty of sin, and he deserved to die. There seems to have been no sorrow for what he had done. Rather than expressing regret for his actions, he added insult to injury by reviling Jesus.
“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, ‘If thou be Christ, save thyself and us’” (Luke 23:39). His suffering on the cross did not soften his heart or change his attitude.
Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Following death all that this man had to expect was eternal punishment (II Thessalonians 1:7-9; Matthew 25:41). How tragic for anyone to die in sin!
On the second cross a man died TO sin. This man was also a thief, and in the beginning he also reviled Christ (Matthew 27:44). But this man had a change of heart; he repented. “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, ‘If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.’ But the other answering rebuked him, saying, ‘Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss’” (Luke 23:39-41).
He realized that he was being justly punished. In verse 42 he turned to Christ seeking help. “And he said unto Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’” This man went to the right one for help (Acts 4:12).
Jesus promised, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus has made salvation available to everyone (I Timothy 1:15). Even though he waited until the last minute, this man did seek Jesus. He died to the practice of sin.
On the third and final cross, a man died FOR sin. This was a cross that tells how serious sin really is. It was our sin that caused the Son of God to be crucified. Paul wrote, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3).
Jesus did not die for his own sins, for he lived a perfect (sinless) life (I Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15). It was necessary for Jesus to die for our sins as the perfect sacrifice because our God is a just God. Man was guilty of sin, and the penalty for sin is death (eternal separation from God) (Romans 6:23).
Justice demanded that penalty be paid. Jesus died for us to pay that penalty.
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).
Christ has made salvation available to all who are willing to obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). Have you obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ?
If you would like to study the Bible either by correspondence course (mail) or personally, please write to us at: Rockford Church of Christ; 8997 U.S. Hwy. 231; Rockford, Al. 35136. Search the Scriptures!