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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Central Place of the Cross

Now, I want you to note what a wonderful place this chapter occupies in Isaiah. You will recall the analysis of these prophecies. The first thirty-five chapters are occupied with a wide sweep of judgments, beginning, as always - note that - with the people of God. That is a Divine law: how can He judge the world until He has judged His own people? Chapters 36 to 39 form a short interlude dealing with Hezekiah; and then the final section, chapters 40 to 66, is occupied with restoration and rebuilding. Now, midway in the last section  which has twenty-six chapters, and is occupied with the new prospect, with recovery and rebuilding, comes this chapter 53. Is that not significant? It gives the Cross the central place in building, in recovery, and that is always true, is it not? But perhaps you might react, and say, 'Isaiah is ancient history - far away and long ago!' I would therefore like to put in here a long parenthesis.

This whole sequence that we have just considered is carried right into the dispensation in which you and I are living. It is brought in, or introduced, in Paul's letter to the Romans; and (as we shall see in the next chapter) it is completed in that same Apostles' first letter to the Corinthians. You remember the letter to the Romans. The first section opens up the sweep of  Divine judgment over the whole race of Adam; it is God's 'No.' It leads up to the focal point of chapter 6: the Cross. That chapter is placed over against the whole situation which has gone before, declaring that the Cross says for ever "No" to all that. But when we pass from chapter 6, through chapter 7, into chapter 8, we find we are moving out of that old situation into a new, from the negative to the positive. In chapter 8 we come into an altogether new prospect, an altogether new opening up. "There is therefore no condemnation ..." All that which was condemned has been dealt with in the Cross. We are "in Christ Jesus," and "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death."

This new and wonderful prospect, then, is in view. What does it amount to? It says this: God, Who ever had in view the building of His wonderful and glorious Church, "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing," looked at the situation among men, in order to find that which would serve as a foundation for His building. But what did He find? He found the state of things that is described in those early chapters of the letter to the Romans. What a description it is - the sin, the corruption, the tangles, the complication - a hopeless picture of human depravity. That is what he found when He came to lay a foundation for His glorious Church, and He said: 'I cannot put a foundation on that; I cannot found My Church upon that. I must clear the ground, clean up this whole situation, burn it in fire' - and so the Cross did that. The Cross, in the intense fires of judgment, like the mighty Brazen Altar, dealt with that twisted, distorted tangle of human nature. Now God has His  foundation - Christ crucified. Now He can proceed to build His Church.

This is the interpretation of the Cross. It is God's means of getting rid of everything that makes it impossible for Him to do what He wants to do, to carry out what He has in mind. He has a mighty purpose in view, but He finds things in the way, and He says: 'These must be dealt with.'

Let us, however, in closing this chapter, return to the positive note again. When we hear the phrase, "The Cross," let us guard our minds against that sudden uprising - 'Oh, the Cross again, the Cross again, the Cross! It is all death, it is all crucifixion, it is all negative!' That suggestion must be resolutely refused! It is satan's twist given to God's most wonderful instrument for realizing His glorious purpose. When we hear 'The Cross,' let us say: 'Ah, that means prospect! That means a clearing of the way; that means something more, not less; that means that God's Arm is going to be revealed!' Let us join with Paul in saying: 'God forbid that I should glory in anything, save in the Cross ...' (Galatians 6:14).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(next: "Building Upon God's Foundation")

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