It Kills to Give You Life

Crucifix Vine

Colossians 2:13-14 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

Guns were created for one purpose: to kill. I am not trying to wade into our nation’s debate about the Second Amendment and public safety here. I am simply stating a fact. Guns are the instrument of choice for so many who have a need or desire to kill. It would be rare or strange to think of them giving life.

Crosses were made for one purpose: to kill. Thousands of people were executed on crosses during the reigns of the Roman emperors. It was a form of execution designed to be a deterrent to the worst kinds of anti-empire rebels among the conquered peoples. The sheer agony of dying this way was meant to scare people into submission. Crosses were made to kill. It would have been strange to think of them giving life.

But that is the way God works. He does what is unheard of. He uses things in ways no one would have ever imagined. In God’s hands, the cross doesn’t kill us. The cross makes us alive.

Jesus’ cross makes us alive by its power to cancel the accusations of God’s law against us. Spiritually, the cross couldn’t kill us because we were already dead. The funny thing is, by nature people think that they are already alive. They think they love God, but the God they think they love is not the One who really exists. They think they love the God who makes pretty flowers; and paints the sky a gorgeous combination of yellow, orange, red, and deep blue at sunset; and lets them fall in love. They are convinced this God has easy standards and overlooks their rather obvious moral failings.

That God is only a myth. It’s true that God paints the flowers and the sky. But the real God punishes every sin and damns men in hell. By nature, people don’t love that God. They fired that him long ago. They hate him, like Thomas Jefferson, who said that a God who damns men in hell is a monster, not a God.

Or they hate him because he lets them fail, and suffer, and even die. They hate him because he lets them go blind and they can no longer see the beauty he has made. They hate him because they never find a special someone to love them, or those who once did turn on them. They hate him because everyone else has so much more, so much easier, so much better. That’s spiritual death, and it is the natural condition of everyone born into this world. It chokes our spiritual life, and fill us with hate for the God who punishes every sin.

But “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” God punishes every sin, but in the gospel he reveals that he has punished every sin in his Son on the cross. The very cross that brought Christ death makes us alive! The written code of God’s law was like an eager executioner, happy to deal death to each derelict who crossed its path. The law isn’t just a definition of right and wrong. It is also the enforcer of the just consequences of breaking it. And the wages of sin is death.

But God has canceled the written code by nailing it to the cross. We are familiar with the power of a cross to cancel life. We have read the next-to-last chapters of the gospels often enough; we have sung enough hymns about the cross to be thoroughly familiar with its power to sap Jesus’ life from him. The cross was created to kill people, and it fulfills its mission without fail.

Thank God it does! There was more than the body of Jesus Christ hanging on that cross the day he died. You remember another passage Paul wrote to the Corinthians? “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus was our sin hanging on that cross. Or Peter’s words? “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” The law had its day in court at the cross of Jesus Christ. There our executioner was satisfied. There our executioner was silenced. The demands of the written code for our death were cancelled, because its demands were completely met at the cross.

There the demands of the written code also die. You probably know that honey bees only sting a victim once, and then they die. The barb on the stinger tears it from the bee’s body, tearing open its abdomen, and it cannot survive the injury. The law injects its deadly sting only once. There is no double jeopardy. After it has killed once, the written code loses its power. It dies with Christ at the cross, cancelled by its power, nailed there forever. And so the same cross that kills Christ and cancels the threat of the law makes us alive.

That’s how an instrument of death became our source of life that cannot end.

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