© 1999 James A. Fowler

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I. Background of word "cross."

    A. Greek word stauros originally indicated pointed, vertical stake. Used of fence posts.
    B. Later used to refer to an instrument of torture and execution.
         1. Used by Egyptians, Persians, Carthaginians, Greek and Romans.
         2. Many varieties.
             a. Vertical stake on which offender impaled.
             b. Stake with cantilever on which offender hanged. Esther 7:9
             c. Crossing of two timbers in form of X, T or Ý.
         3. Romans considered public display of crucifixion as deterrent to crime. Crosses stood
             outside of most major towns on Roman roads.

II. The physical, material instrument on which Jesus was executed.

    A. Jesus bore a cross (cross-member?) - John 19:17
    B. Assisted by Simon of Cyrene - Matt. 27:32; Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26
    C. Inscription on cross, "King of Jews" - John 19:19
    D. By-standers around the cross - Matt. 27:39; John 19:25
    E. Jesus taunted to come down from cross - Matt. 29:40,42; Mk 15:30,32

III. Historical action of crucifixion. Greek verb stauroo - "to crucify".

    A. Jesus had prophesied such - Matt. 20:19; 26:2; Lk 24:7
    B. Jewish mob demanded, "Crucify Him" - Matt. 27:22,23; Mk 15:13,14; Lk 23:21; Jn 19:6,15.
    C. Roman proconsul delivered to crucifixion - Matt 27:26; Mk 15:14; Jn 19:16
    D. Roman soldiers
         1. Led Jesus to be crucified - Matt. 27:31; Mk 15:20
         2. Crucified Him - Mk 15:25; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:18
         3. Divided up His belongings - Matt. 27:35; Mk 15:24; Jn 19:23
    E. Site of crucifixion
         1. Near the city of Jerusalem - Jn 19:20
         2. Close to garden - Jn 19:41
         3. "place of the skull" - Matt. 27:33; Mk 15:22; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:17
             a. Aramaic word for skull - Golgotha
b. Latin word for skull - calvaria - (KJV - Lk 23:33)
    F. References to the historical event
         1. Angel at empty tomb - Matt. 28:5; Mk 16:6; Lk 24:7
         2. Men on road to Emmaus - Lk 24:20
         3. Peter at Pentecost - Acts 2:36
         4. Peter to Jewish leaders - Acts 4:10
         5. Paul to Corinthians - I Cor. 2:8

IV. Theological significance of the Cross.

    A. Jesus gave His life as ransom for many - Matt. 20:28; Mk 10:45; I Tim. 2:6
    B. From the cross Jesus exclaimed, "It is finished" - John 19:30
    C. Paul uses the word "cross" to refer to "finished work" of God in Christ.
         1. I Cor. 1:17,18,23; 2:2 - "cross of Christ; word of cross; Christ crucified"
         2. Gal. 3:1; 5:11; 6:12,14 - "cross of Christ"
         3. Eph. 2:16 - "new humanity through the cross"
         4. Phil. 3:18 - "enemies of the cross of Christ"
         5. Col. 1:20 - "peace through blood of cross"
    D. Spiritual Identification with the Cross
         1. "Crucified with Christ" - Greek word sustauroo.
a. Rom. 6:6 - "old man crucified with Him"
             b. Gal. 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ"
         2. "Crucified the flesh" - Gal. 5:24
         3. "World crucified to me" - Gal. 6:14
         4. No on-going process of applying or appropriating cross or crucifixion of Jesus in the life
             of a Christian.
         5. "Taking up a cross" - Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23; 14:27
             a. Prior to Jesus' crucifixion on a cross.
             b. Generic and figurative reference to termination of selfish tendencies. Not a call to "die to

V. Mystical usages of the "cross."

    A. Earliest Christians eschewed symbol of cross. An execution instrument.
    B. Constantine used cross as symbol to merge Roman empire and Christian religion.
    C. Cross became fetish to ward off evil spirits. Idolatry.
    D. Idea of cross invested with deified and personified power.
         1. "the cross is divine."
         2. "the cross saves you"
         3. "submit to the power of the cross"
         4. "have faith in the cross"
         5. "place yourself on the cross"
         6. "allow the cross to put you to death"
    E. Christians must reject the mystical use of the cross.
         1. Unscriptural
         2. "Works" theology
         3. Gnostic concept of spirituality.
              a. Elitism.
              b. Perfectionism
              c. Subjectivism
         4. Idolatrous

VI. The gospel is the message of the cross.

    A. Christ took our death consequences in order to give us His life.
    B. The "finished work" of Jesus Christ is operative in Christians today.

Consult full article on The Cross of Christ



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