The Imperative of the Cross

The suffering and death of Jesus provide the pattern for how his disciples must live in this fallen world, and the measuring rod for judging spirituality. Whether examining anyone’s wisdom, teachings, conduct, or supernatural deeds, the Cross of Christ is the dividing line between truth and falsehood. No man can know God or comprehend His ways and words apart from the imperative of “ Christ crucified .” God has revealed Himself in the Crucified Messiah.

Becoming His Disciple

The disciples witnessed Jesus heal the sick, exorcise demons, forgive sins, and even calm a violent storm, and all done with great authority. Yet rather than faith in the Son of God, his miracles produced confusion and fear among many, including his disciples, and raised the question, “ WHO IS THIS MAN? ” Only at his execution did someone begin to understand who this Nazarene was, namely, a Roman officer who observed his death.

One New Man

Paul is clear and unequivocal. Considering what Jesus accomplished in his death and resurrection, there no longer can be divisions between Jews and Gentiles in the One People of God. By his sacrificial death, he “ dismantled the middle wall of partition ” that separated Jews and Gentiles so “ he might reconcile them both in one body for God through the Cross .” Through him, God is building Jewish and Gentile disciples into one habitation of God “ in the Spirit .”

Emulating the Father

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorted his disciples to become “ perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect .” But how can anyone emulate the perfect righteousness of God? His answer to this question is clear - by performing acts of mercy, ESPECIALLY to one’s enemy. Self-sacrificial love goes to the heart of the Nazarene’s message and mission. After all, he is the one who submitted to an unjust death for others even when they were still the “ enemies of God .”

Spirit Baptism

John the Baptist administered a baptism or “ immersion ” in water “ for the remission of sins ,” and he announced to all Israel the imminent arrival of the “ Coming One .” John was the forerunner of the Messiah, just as Isaiah prophesied, “ Behold, I send my messenger before your face… The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord .” This Coming One was the King of Israel who would baptize his people “ in spirit and fire ” after his death and resurrection.

Defeating Death

The resurrection of believers is not a major subject in Paul’s “pastoral” letters, but he does raise the subject in 2 Timothy when dealing with false teachers in Ephesus. As he writes, “ God did not give us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind .” The theme of “ sound teaching ” is prominent in the three pastoral letters, and the future resurrection is a classic example of foundational apostolic doctrines. After all, Jesus “ abolished death ” when God raised him from the dead.