Paul, Sin, and the Cross

We are continuing our look at Paul’s view of the cross. In the last lesson, we looked at the problem of sin in our lives and how all have sinned and have been separated from our God. In this lesson, we are going to look at how the cross intercedes in context of this problem.

Earlier in his life, Paul strove against Christ in his attempt to live pleasing to God, and, when Christ appeared to him, the meaning of the cross and all it implies came crashing down on Paul. The cross is God’s salvation, and it is a culmination of all the Old Testament promised.

The Role of the Cross

  • It Was the Culmination of God’s Promises. In Romans 1:1-2, Paul says that the gospel is promised through the prophets and the scriptures (the Old Testament). I Corinthians 15:3-4 states that Christ’s death and resurrection is according to those same scriptures. In Romans 10, Paul quotes Isaiah to teach Christ, and Galatians 3:8 claims the gospel was shared with Abraham when He made the promises. (See also verse 14.) It was important to Paul to impress on his audiences that Christ’s sacrifice and the gospel message is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament foretold.
  • It Delivers Us. In Romans 6:1-2, Paul asks if we should sin more to gain more grace from God. He emphatically denies this idea, saying that Christians have died to sin, and this idea continues through verse 6 where he describes us as delivered from sin. (See also verses 16-17.) We are no longer dominated by sin. We are redeemed (Galatians 3:13), bought back from slavery to sin by the blood of Christ, and Galatians 4:4-6 reinforces the concepts of redemption and adoption. Finally, Galatians 5:1 says Christ’s sacrifice is for the purpose of freedom.
  • It Justifies Us. Justification carries with it the idea of being acquitted of a penalty we deserve. Jesus stepped in and took that punishment we deserve. In Romans 3:21-26 we are described as justified through Christ who came to take our sins to the cross. Staying in Romans, chapter 5:9 and 18 speaks of free justification through Jesus. The demands of justice are met and God handles this process justly.
  • It Reconciles Us. Romans 5:10 says we were reconciled even while we were enemies to God. (See also verse 8.) This all serves as an illustration of God’s infinite love, for God did not wait for man to become humble or pious before He set Christ up as the sacrifice for our sins. II Corinthians 5:18-20 states that we are reconciled to God through Christ and that His message is a message of reconciliation.
  • It Sanctifies Us. Returning to Romans 6:22, the idea of sanctification is included with these concepts of deliverance and justification. In I Thessalonians 4:4-7 and 5:23, Paul says that God calls us to sanctification.  Chapter after chapter in the Old Testament parallels sanctification with blood offerings, and, in the New Testament, Christ’s sacrifice provides that sanctifying blood.


Sin affects all, and it separates us from Christ. However, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross intervenes on our behalf, acting as the fulfillment of all God’s plan had been pointing toward. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ offers us deliverance, justification, reconciliation, and sanctification.

lesson by Tim Smelser