They believed in the cross, but they did not understand it.
The above quote is from Dr. Tom Schreiner from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is a profound quote. Dr. Schreiner is talking about Galatians in a series of expositions. The Galatians were living in a way that contradicted the gospel and were in danger, not of losing their salvation, but proving they had never trust in Christ alone to justify.
There is no shortage of people who believe in the “cross.” I live in the South. There is a church on every street corner. Even more, I go to a Southern Baptist undergrad college. The “cross” is somewhat common around these parts. And yet there is little gospel fruit. We “believe” in the “cross” but we also glory in our own efforts, in our school work. We love to watch Game of Thrones or laugh at things that God hates. This is not a legalistic issue. We are not saved by avoiding HBO. This is an affection issue. We think and love as if the “cross” were not true and good. But the “cross
There is no doubt that to many this is a salvation issue. Even at our school, there are so many people who are severely deceived. They have no affection for Christ, no hatred for sin. It is heartbreaking. There are, too, many who I do believe are in the Kingdom of God. But I’m not sure if they really understand the “cross.” They, perhaps not unlike the Galatians, live in direct opposition to the cross of Christ. The cross is offensive and the air we breathe is one of relativism. Only a correct understanding of the cross will satisfy us, producing godly affections and holiness.
What happened on that bloody cross? In a word: obedience. Christ is the obedient one who never acted, thought, treasured, or desired anything sinful. Christ is the perfect, spotless lamb. Christ is also the ultimate high pries having no sin of his own to atone for. Christ came to serve by coming to ransom a people for Himself. He did not come to serve humans, at least not in the sense that we usually talk about. Jesus came with an eye to the glory of the Father. This cross is God-centered. God’s glory and namesake was on the line. He had deferred his wrath and punishment on sinful people whom he had chosen before the foundation of the world to save. Is this holy God not holy anymore? No. God poured out this wrath on the Son as if he were us. He took the penalty for not obeying the law, not loving the Lord with all the heart, soul, mind and strength. The Cross is not about Jesus identifying with us, trying to be clued in on human suffering. Jesus came to save us by his merit alone. God’s glory in salvation will not go to another. This obedience has an active part as well. Jesus’ obedience also is credited to us by faith. We are seen as perfect in Christ!
This is what the cross is all about. Penal. Subsitutionary. Atonement. Jesus reconciling infinitely sinful people by becoming accursed for them. Christ is all. This is the cross! God help us to live like it. This cross produces holiness when we see Christ in his beauty clothed in the gospel.