"As there is only One GOD so there can be only one Gospel. If GOD has really done something
in CHRIST on which the salvation of the world depends, and if He has made it known, then it is
a Christian duty to be intolerant of everything which ignores, denies, or explains it away. The
man who perverts it is the worst enemy of GOD and men; and it is not bad temper or narrowmindedness
in Paul which explains this vehement language (Galatians 1:8), it is the jealousy of
GOD which has kindled in a soul redeemed by the death of CHRIST a corresponding jealousy
for the Saviour. Intolerance like this is an essential element in the true religion. Intolerance in
this sense has its counterpart in comprehension; it is when we have the only Gospel, and not till
then, that we have the Gospel for all." -- James Denney in
The Death of CHRIST.
That Church, therefore, as well as Paul himself, believed that the first and fundamental truth of
Christianity was the death of CHRIST for our sins; and Paul must have received and taught this
truth within seven years -- according to other chronologies, within even a shorter period -- after
the death of JESUS.
The death of CHRIST on the Cross is to Paul of the first importance and the weightiest article of
his faith. It is fundamental. It is the keystone of the arch, the cornerstone of the temple of truth.
That this is true is evident from the place the death of CHRIST occupies in the Scriptures, in the
apostolic message, in the two ordinances as administered by the Church, and in the earliest as
well as the latest Christian hymnody. The evidence is cumulative and overwhelming. The Cross
is not only the universal symbol of Christianity, it is its universal and unmistakable message. It is
the very heart of the Gospel -- the word quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword; for
nothing convicts of sin like the Cross.
There we can see "our secret sins in the light of His countenance" whose eyes are as a flame of
fire. Listen to Bishop Lancelot Andrewes as he pours out his heart in private devotion before the
"Thou who didst deign that Thy glorious head should be wounded:
Forgive thereby whatsoever by the senses of my head I have sinned;
That Thy holy hands should be pierced:
Forgive thereby whatever I have done amiss
By unlawful touch, or unlawful act;
That Thy precious side should be opened:
Forgive thereby whatever I have offended
By lawless thoughts in the ardour of passion;
That Thy blessed feet should be riven:
Forgive thereby whatever I have done
By the means of feet swift to evil;
That Thy whole body should be extended:
Forgive thereby whatever iniquity I have committed
By the help of any of my members.
And I too, O Lord, am wounded in soul;
Behold the multitude, the length, the breadth, the depth of my wounds;
And by Thine heal mine."
The Cross of CHRIST is the searchlight of GOD.
It reveals GOD's love and man's sin;
GOD's power and man's helplessness,
GOD's holiness and man's pollution.
As the altar and propitiation are "first of all" in the Old Testament, so the Cross and the
Atonement are "first of all" in the New. There is a straight line from every point in the
circumference of a circle to the centre. So the Old Testament and the New Testament doctrine of
salvation in all its wide circumference and with all it includes of a new heart and a new society,
and a new Heaven and a new earth, leads back in a straight line to the centre of all -- The Lamb
that was slain before the foundation of the world.
Consider the place the story of the Crucifixion occupies in the New Testament. It is mentioned in
every book save in three short Epistles, Philemon and the Second and Third of John.
The synoptic Gospels devote more space proportionately to it than to any other aspect of
CHRIST's life or teaching.
Matthew (not to speak of the many passages where CHRIST's death is foretold) relates the
tragedy in two long chapters of one hundred and forty-one verses.
Mark gives one hundred and nineteen verses to the story; two chapters and they are the longest
out of sixteen.
Luke also devotes two long chapters to describe the arrest and crucifixion.
Nearly one half of John's Gospel deals with Passion week.
In the Book of Acts all the preaching centres in the death and resurrection of our Lord. This is
the Good News of the Gospel. "
To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by
created thing joins in the Hallelujah Chorus.
Little children in many lands and languages sing the very heart of the Gospel: --
"JESUS loves me, He who died
Heaven's gate to open wide.
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in."
It is the same message that the great mystic, Bernard, put in glorious lines: --
"Properter mortem quam tulisti
Quando pro me defecisti
Cordis mei cor dilectum
In te meum fer affectum."
What a large proportion of the hymns of the Church are passion hymns or an interpretation of the
atonement made on the Cross! Who can forget the rendering into so many languages of "O haupt
voll Blut and Wunden" or the pathos of its melody as sung by German Christians? The Stabat
Mater Delorosa belongs not to the Latin Church but to all true believers who have stood beside
Mary at the Cross.
"Just as I am without one plea,"
"When I survey the wondrous Cross,"
"There is a fountain filled with blood,"
"Rock of ages cleft for me,"
-- and many others familiar to us all, make CHRIST's death the great theme.
"JESUS paid it all,"
"What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of JESUS."
"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy Cross I cling;
Naked come to Thee for dress,
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
For I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die."
If JESUS of Nazareth were merely man and not, as He is, the Son of GOD and our Saviour, His
tragic death would still be the greatest event in human history.
The wealth of detail given in the contemporaneous records of His suffering and crucifixion;
the dreadful accompaniments in the realm of nature;
the seven words from the Cross;
the effect on those who saw it and on all ages and all nations,
-- all these clearly indicate its universal and cosmic import. We must not shift the emphasis.
The supreme event in the life of JESUS, and to JESUS Himself, was His death on the Cross for
sin. The words of James Denney are none too strong: "
If the atonement, quite apart from