This is the third lesson looking at Paul’s writing and the role of the cross in those works. Remember, as a Pharisee, Paul’s entire spiritual life once centered on rejecting and refuting the cross. This all changed when Christ appeared to him. In these lessons, we have looked at the problem of sin and its consequences. Then, we looked at the cross in God’s plan to remedy the problem of sin, and, in this lesson, we are going to look at our response to that cross.
Our Response to the Cross
- Trust & Faith. We are wholly and completely letting go of ourselves and putting ourselves in the hands of our Creator. II Corinthians 5:7 emphasizes the role of faith in our lives, and Romans 3:28 talks about the role of faith in justification. (See also Ephesians 2:8.) Trusting in the cross requires a letting go of trust in ourselves, and we place our trust in our God. Habakkuk 2:4 states that the just live by faith, and Paul quotes this passage two times in his writing (three if you count Hebrews), and he cites faith as a central element to the Christian life. See also I Thessalonians 1:3, II Corinthians 1:24, I Thessalonians 3:10, and II Thessalonians 1:3.
- Repentance. Paul had to make huge adjustments in his life when he turned to Christ, and in II Corinthians 12:21, Paul writes that he mourns for those who sin and do not repent. In II Corinthians 7:9, Paul takes joy in those who did repent as a result of their godly sorrow, and he goes on to say that godly sorrow leads to repentance that brings about salvation, free of regret. Finally, in Romans 2:4, Paul asks his audience if they are unaware that God’s goodness leads us to repentance. Left to ourselves, we may recognize our sin but not turn away. In contrast, knowledge of God leads us down a path of correction and repentance.
- Baptism. In Romans 6, Paul describes the process by which his readers died to sin. Those who are baptized are baptized into Christ’s death, and we are resurrected a new person, dead to sin but alive to God. Paul saw baptism as how we come into contact with the blood of the cross. In Galatians 3:24-27, Paul explains that baptism puts us into Christ and makes us partakers in spiritual promises.
- An Obedient Life. None of these responses are one-time actions. Our faith is continual. Our repentance is sustained, and the life we lead after baptism needs to be maintained. Galatians 5, Paul describes our spiritual life as a walk. In verse 16, we walk by the Spirit, and he clarifies this in verses 22-25. Ephesians 4:1, we are asked to walk worthily, and Ephesians 5 asks us to walk in love, in light, and in wisdom. Our godly life is an ongoing effort.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul says he has been crucified with Christ and has a new life to lead. For Paul, the message of the cross is simply that Christians are to be Christ-like. We have to place our total trust in Him and be willing to completely submit to His will, repenting from our sins, and living a life of service and obedience.
lesson by Tim Smelser