Why is the Cross So Important for Christians?

25 Jul

When you consider the cross was a method of brutal punishment, it’s surprising Christians make such a big deal of it. I mean isn’t it a bit of an embarrassment that our leader was crucified?

Here are two reasons why the death of Jesus is important to Christians:

The Cross Brings us to the Father

The Bible teaches that we deserve punishment in hell and separation from God because of the bad things that we do.

However, on the cross Jesus took our punishment on himself.

In a court of law if you are fined and someone else pays it you are free to go, even though you haven’t paid it. So it is in God’s courts. If Jesus takes the punishment you are free to go, even though you haven’t paid it.

Instead of hell we are given an eternity with God, who will give us an eternity of joy. If this joy comes through the cross then it is well worth talking about!

The Cross Shows Gods’ Love for Us

This payment wasn’t an easy process, however. On the cross Jesus had to go through his Father’s hatred and punishment for us. They had loved each other perfectly for eternity, but now they were separated.

If Jesus was willing to be sacrificed and the Father was willing to put his son to death, then how much must they love us! It is a debt we could never pay off, and they don’t demand any payment.

Yes the cross brings us to the Father. But it is also the reason we would want to come to him. Has anyone loved you like this? Don’t you want to know this love more.

The cross wasn’t the end for Jesus, he rose from the dead. And now the man who loved you enough to die for you offers you eternal life.

If you are considering Christianity, look hard at the cross. Here is everything you need to know. Here is the good news of Christianity. If you reject this, you reject it all. But if you accept this crucified Saviour as your way to the Father who loves you, you know everything you need to know.

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(Picture “autumn church” by Grant MacDonald under the Creative Commons Licence)

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17 Responses to “Why is the Cross So Important for Christians?”

  1. Eshu August 18, 2008 at 6:50 pm #

    Thanks for that, very concisely put.

    What I’ve never understood, if God wanted to forgive us, why not just forgive us? He makes the rules surely?

    So why does He have to have a part of Himself murdered by us in order to convince himself to forgive us for a crime which He invented and which He knew we were going to commit?

  2. Tim Wilson August 19, 2008 at 8:16 am #

    Glad to be of service Eshu.

    Your question is excellent because it starts with a Biblical understanding of God. He is in control, he makes the rules. He could have made the world in such a way he doesn’t need to die to save or humans couldn’t sin and yet he doesn’t. Why didn’t he.

    The Bible says God does things for his glory. This is a very confusing concept, but basically God has created the world in such a way that his character can be fully understood and appreciated by humans. Everything that happens shows us something about him.

    It’s like appreciating art. There was a famous piece of art in the UK which used cow dung instead of paint. This seems odd to those of us who aren’t arty. But those in the know tried to understand the piece “Why did this artist use dung instead of paint? What was he trying to convey in this picture?”

    It’s the same with this, we must consider what God is trying to convey. God is a God not just of words and ideas but of demonstration. He shows us himself through actions.

    What things would be lost in the demonstration if God just simply forgave?

    1) That God is holy.

    He cannot abide with sin, it has to be utterly destroyed. He would prefer even to destroy his own Son (who as you say is a part of himself) than live with sin.

    2) That sin is not good enough for humans.

    The cross shows human sin must be rid of, we can’t just let it live and everything be okay. The cross shows us how horrible our disease is.

    3) That God is just.

    Even though our systems of justice differ to his, we can clearly see he will always act justly. The completeness of God’s love. Just forgiving would give some idea of his love, but it wouldn’t give us an idea of it’s extent. You can say to your wife “I’d do anything for you”, but throwing yourself in front of a car to save her shows it’s true.

    That’s why God did it.

  3. Eshu August 20, 2008 at 6:19 am #

    Thanks Tim, that’s probably one of the best answers I’ve heard to that one!

    What things would be lost in the demonstration if God just simply forgave?

    On the plus side we’d also lose:
    – The idea that vicarious punishment makes moral sense.
    – The idea that before forgiveness there needs to be suffering or bloodshed.
    – The idea that people deserve punishment for failing to live up to an impossible standard.

    He cannot abide with sin

    Then why allow sin in the first place? Presumably he can’t abide a world in which humans can hurt each other with merely the power of their minds, or one in which a single human could destroy the universe or travel faster than the speed of light, etc, etc…

    He would prefer even to destroy his own Son (who as you say is a part of himself) than live with sin.

    But Jesus wasn’t destroyed, he rose again. It’s hard to understand what this human suffering actually meant to the supernatural Jesus and God for whom it was presumably all part of the plan.

    That God is just. Even though our systems of justice differ to his, we can clearly see he will always act justly.

    Well, if he makes his own definition of justice, then yes, by definition anything God does (or endorses by not doing) must be just.

  4. Tim Wilson August 20, 2008 at 11:56 am #

    Excellent questions once more! I’ve tried to do them justice so apologies for the length.

    On the plus side we’d also lose:
    – The idea that vicarious punishment makes moral sense.
    – The idea that before forgiveness there needs to be suffering or bloodshed.
    – The idea that people deserve punishment for failing to live up to an impossible standard

    Let me consider each one by one:

    1) There are no other instances that spring to mind where vicarious punishment is acceptable in the Bible. This is a special case because the Bible’s teaching on the matter is that Jesus became one with us (Romans 6:5). Therefore, when Jesus was punished he was being punished on behalf of the whole, and when we were blessed we were blessed on behalf of the whole.

    These things were totally just. The only analogy I can think of is that of a corporation. If a certain chain won an award for best service, the manager may accept the prize even though he isn’t involved in the service sector, since he is a representative of the company. Moreover, if a certain store is fined a million pounds it may be that other stores contribute money to pay the fine. This is only right because the corporation is seen legally as a unit though it is made up of many parts.

    In the same way the Christian is united with Christ so that legally they are one. So I’m not sure the idea of vicarious punishment is even in this doctrine at all. It’s more an individual part of the whole being punished on the whole’s behalf.

    2) This would be the case if we didn’t read the Bible as a whole. However, God made clear “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him…”” Romans 12:19-20.

    3) Precisely, and God says loud and clear that punishment for an impossible standard is right. I can’t really think of a way to explain that unfortunately. All I can think to say is this, God wants a world that we can experience in perfection. Therefore a perfect standard is required to be kept by all involved.

    Then why allow sin in the first place? Presumably he can’t abide a world in which humans can hurt each other with merely the power of their minds, or one in which a single human could destroy the universe or travel faster than the speed of light, etc, etc…

    Excellent comeback, apologies for my lack of clarity. In all our moral systems we have to have a trump. For example it’s illegal to murder, but what if you are a policeman who kills someone firing his machine gun at a classroom of school children? Most people would say you shouldn’t be punished. Certain things trump other things.

    For God his ultimate trump is his glory. People must know who he is, or else the highest good can never happen. So it was worth sin happening that we could see more clearly how God hated it.

    You might say, “It’s alright for him to say sin can happen. He never had to be sinned against and didn’t have to experience sin in himself.” But the fact is he did.

    He came to Earth and was sold for a few coins. On the cross our sin was put on him. He experienced thousands of people’s sin on him. So he bore the worst weight for this decision. But it was worth it as he saw it.

    But Jesus wasn’t destroyed, he rose again. It’s hard to understand what this human suffering actually meant to the supernatural Jesus and God for whom it was presumably all part of the plan.

    Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t focus much on the human suffering. It certainly doesn’t spend any time on the physical suffering, we have no Mel Gibson-esque descriptions of the torture of crucifixion, though it was definitely tortuous. If it does focus on human suffering it is all emotional (rejection by friends, verbal abuse etc.)

    The main focus is actually on the “godly” suffering, the suffering we can’t understand. In heaven, he was appreciated as God and given the glory he deserved. On the cross, he was derided and put to shame. In heaven, Jesus and the Father had the most perfect relationship, beyond everything we can compare. On the cross, he was punished by the Father and cried out “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”.

    Yes, he was raised, but really what he went through was much more than you and I can possibly imagine. Admittedly the word destroyed didn’t quite convey that, I apologise. Nevertheless, the spiritual pain of Jesus shows just how bad sin is.

    Well, if he makes his own definition of justice, then yes, by definition anything God does (or endorses by not doing) must be just.

    True. I know it’s hard to accept that he can make a definition of justice and we can’t. The question is do you trust his justice? I do. It is a justice that has time for love, even towards terrible people like me. And it is a justice that will rid the world of all hurts eventually. I trust his definitions, because I can see they will be incredibly good. I hope you will look at him and that he will open your eyes to bring you to trust him as well.

    Keep asking those questions and keeping me on my toes! Hope that was helpful.

  5. Eshu August 21, 2008 at 10:30 pm #

    Hello again Tim, thanks for your patience and your thorough responses. I will attempt to answer in the same manner.

    There are no other instances that spring to mind where vicarious punishment is acceptable in the Bible.

    How about that fateful apple? All of humanity is made to suffer due to the sins of the father. Why not just punish the individual and let each newborn person choose?

    Then we have Exodus 20:5:
    “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me;”

    What about Genesis 19? Perhaps that isn’t actually vicarious punishment, but it’s certainly someone put in harm’s way in place of another:
    “5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

    To make matters worse, Lot was thought by God to be a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-10). Apparently they do exist.

    There are several other examples of women and children getting punished (at the behest of you-know-who) for the alleged sins of their fathers/people.

    For God his ultimate trump is his glory. People must know who he is, or else the highest good can never happen. So it was worth sin happening that we could see more clearly how God hated it.

    He couldn’t think of a better way to do it?

    This is akin to a fire fighter setting fire to people’s homes, then rushing in to save them and saying, “Look what an heroic, glorious fire fighter I am!”. And it’s not even as if he saves everyone or no one gets hurt in the process.

    Sorry, but for me (and probably many others) that makes him seem conceited, cruel and slightly crazy, not glorious.

    True. I know it’s hard to accept that he can make a definition of justice and we can’t.

    Sorry Tim, I wasn’t wishing I was God so that I could decide right and wrong, I was alluding to the Euthyphro Dilemma.

    In fact, I think the progress of human rights over the last few centuries has been encouraging – abolition of slavery, women’s rights, protection of children, concern for animals welfare… I admit I haven’t read the Bible cover to cover yet, but I don’t think any of those could have been down to a Biblical view of justice, otherwise we probably would’ve got there a bit sooner. Furthermore, most of them are actually against what the Bible says.

    The question is do you trust his justice? I do.

    Having read much of the Bible, especially those bits quoted above, no.

    I think you must be selectively taking the bits which conform to modern western views of justice with which most of us (thankfully) grew up.

    Keep asking those questions and keeping me on my toes! Hope that was helpful.

    Yes, thank you. I hope it has been thought-provoking for you too.
    – Eshu

  6. Tim Wilson August 22, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    Hmm…even though I thought of some of those passages I hadn’t quite considered the actual wording. I’ll try and think them through. It may be my assumptions of vicarious punishment are wrong. Thanks for your challenge.

    Few things to say that are just floating in my mind and I’ll get them out here before I have chance to think about it further.

    One thing that certainly isn’t selecting bits that conform to western views is discussing idea of corporate responsibility. Family units, nations and yes mankind are all represented by one person. We may argue it’s unjust if some of them hadn’t sinned but the fact of the matter is they all had. So for example, Adam represents all humanity (except those who are represented by Christ) so he was punished for it all. But we all sinned so he is a fair representitive.

    Secondly, on the Lot thing, I would never assume that a narrative passage necessarily agrees with actions taken. Also, righteousness in the Bible can be two things: perfect and saved. Lot is definitely saved, only God (all three persons) is perfect. In a similair vain, David is called a man after God’s own heart but nobody would argue that his sleeping with Bathsheeba was God-like.

    As for your ideas on progression being hindered by the Bible:

    Abolition of slavery: William Wilberforce, a Christian, started the whole thing off. Slavery is never argued for in Scripture. Slavery was allowed in Israel, but it was voluntary not forced (a sort of benefit system for those who were bankrupt and they could buy their way out of it), a very different idea to the African slave trade. Paul said that slaves should work hard for their masters but I’m pretty certain he said they should pay their way out if they could (I’ll look up chapter and verse when I have time). Again this Greek system was much different to the African slave trade. Being a slave was like having a permanent contract, many of the famous Greek philosophers were slaves. When Christians saw what the African slave trade truly involved many of them fought against it. I know things were different in the US (if that’s where your from) but I’ll avoid my patriotic rants about much of American “fundamentalism”.

    Women’s rights: I think the idea that women’s rights movement has improved society is erroneous. Let me say first of all I agree with much of what is in the women’s rights movement. However, there has been unnecessary pressure on women to get careers leading depression in women to be astronomically high and children being put in to day care from an extremely young age, which from my own experience working in day care is extremely harmful to children’s development. Women are not respected for doing stereotypically female things, though most women would prefer to be a mother than a lawyer.

    Protection of children: Jesus criticised the Jewish idea that children (and women) were worthless, letting the children come to him. Christians have been the forerunners in schooling throughout our existance. We have set up many orphan homes and doing so is a requirement of the Bible. It tells parents not to “exasparate” their children. Yes the Bible does encourage mild corporal punishment, but sometimes discouragement is needed (if you were a teacher you’d get it).

    And I know I’m going to sound like a Republican (I’m not honest, I’m British!) but abortion is not protection of children. In our country you can kill a child with Down Syndrome up to the point they are born! Whether you or pro-life or pro-choice you’ve to say this is a terrible hypocrisy from a government pushing disabled rights.

    Concern for animals welfare: Again look up William Wilberforce founder of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in the 18th Century.

    I’ll consider the rest at a later point. Thank you once again, you’re questions have been very thought-provoking. Hope to see you around much more, and must check out your blog.

  7. Eshu August 25, 2008 at 8:30 pm #

    Hi Tim,

    Sorry for the delay, here are my responses:

    I’ll try and think them through. It may be my assumptions of vicarious punishment are wrong.

    Well, whether or not you call it “vicarious” is probably splitting hairs, I guess. But it’s at least a bit odd.

    We may argue it’s unjust if some of them hadn’t sinned but the fact of the matter is they all had.

    So under the doctrine of original sin, being born is effectively a sin?

    Secondly, on the Lot thing, I would never assume that a narrative passage necessarily agrees with actions taken.

    Good point. If righteousness is whatever God defines it to be on a particular day, then we can’t assume what is wrong to us is wrong to God also. I’m afraid I haven’t read around this passage very much – are there any indications that God disapproved of Lot’s actions?

    Slavery was allowed in Israel, but it was voluntary not forced (a sort of benefit system for those who were bankrupt and they could buy their way out of it)

    I have a vague memory that this applied only to Israelite slaves, those of “heathen” races were yours for keeps… not sure, so don’t quote me on this one!

    Abolition of slavery: William Wilberforce, a Christian, started the whole thing off.

    Indeed he did. But weren’t most of his opponents also Christian, along with the majority of the population? I note that contemporary abolitionist, Bishop Beilby Porteus had to petition the Church of England over the abolition of slavery for some time before they took him seriously. Were they not real Christians?

    My point isn’t really about the affiliation of any single person who did something in history. I’m saying that it’s very hard to make a case against slavery using only the Bible. It is however reasonably easy to justify slavery given that the Bible seems to condone it.

    This article on the Bible and slavery goes into more detail.

    For me, the big problem is the simple fact that a book supposed to be morally informative, authoritative even, fails to condemn slavery and a host of other evils which we take for granted as being abhorrent today.

    Here are more quotes and details on religion and slavery, including one from a holy book which advocates freeing a slave as a moral act. Any guesses what that book is? I was surprised. Unfortunately it doesn’t continue in that vein.

    Women are not respected for doing stereotypically female things, though most women would prefer to be a mother than a lawyer.

    I think there’s a lot of truth in this. I know women who enjoy cooking but feel guilty about it because their feminist education told them they had to be doctors, lawyers or scientists. This is partly a misguided idea from gender feminists. Surely feminism should give women the choice. They can be professionals, but they don’t have to be. From the Bible, it looks like Paul didn’t get this.

    Christians have been the forerunners in schooling throughout our existance. We have set up many orphan homes and doing so is a requirement of the Bible.

    Interesting, I’ll certainly look that up.

    Concern for animals welfare: Again look up William Wilberforce founder of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in the 18th Century.

    Again, no doubt he was a great man and a nice guy, way ahead of his time, but where in the Bible does it say that animals should be treated with kindness? I guess we need to discern the goodness of the man from the goodness of the religion.

    If no Christian had ever been involved in the slave trade, then you’d certainly have a good point. I’m glad that most Christians seem to be a lot nicer than their holy book, but that’s just as well!

    Thank you once again, you’re questions have been very thought-provoking. Hope to see you around much more, and must check out your blog.

    Likewise, I appreciate your patience.

    By the way, I realise that we (mostly I) have gone way off your topic of the cross, so sorry about that. I do think the discussion is interesting though, so I’d be happy to host it on my blog as an open thread or continue via email if you prefer.

  8. Milagros September 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

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  9. Marcus March 26, 2013 at 3:49 am #

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  10. ACHEAMPONG CALEB September 11, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    the cross as Paul says is foolishness those who are perishing

  11. banda July 5, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Hey, is not comment but a question I heard from other christian saying that a church building must not have a cross because the cross is where Jesus get a punishment so is not good for church to have a cross so pls help me, banda

  12. angel November 3, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

    its not true

    • angel November 3, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

      yess it is

  13. Martin September 2, 2016 at 8:16 am #

    Hey, thank you for the good job. But kindly add more content on it

  14. Marcus Chidi March 28, 2017 at 2:20 am #

    Thanks so much. I’m already blessed reading this.

  15. Annah Nandul September 22, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    Mine is not comment but a question. What is the relevance of a cross to the believer with a reference to the catholic believe to the use of cross, rosery. etc.

  16. Annah Nandul September 22, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    What is the relevance of the study of African Traditional Religion to Christian evangelism and the church’s mission?

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