H101 - The Power of the Cross
Hymns are beautiful.
Oxford Languages defines the word "art" as "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.." If art is the expression of human creative skill then hymns are divine works of art. Through His spirit God has generated many beautiful melodies that praise the majesty of His name and His works. The entire book of Psalms is The Louvre of all God-honoring pieces of music. Psalm 145:7 says, "They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness." When we sing aloud of God's righteousness and do so because of His abundant goodness, we honor Him.
Old hymns are the most God-honoring pieces of music. Hymns such as "It is Well", "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing", and "Holy, Holy, Holy" will forever ring through the sanctuary of churches everywhere. I do not believe God is opposed to us singing these very songs when we are in glory with Him one day. Why would He be? Because of man's depravity, the only reason we could imagine a song that honors God would be because of His power working through us. I do not equate hymns to the theopneustos, or "God-breathed" , Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Holy Writ, all 66 books, is breathed out by God. Hymns are spirit filled believers pouring out praise to their creator.
Ironically enough, the first hymn of our Hymnology section isn't exactly... old.
Written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty in 2005, "Oh, to see the Dawn [The Power of the Cross]" certainly feels like a classic. The following lyrics were taken straight from Stuart Townend's website, stuarttownend.co.uk:
Oh, to see the dawn Of the darkest day: Christ on the road to Calvary. Tried by sinful men, Torn and beaten, then Nailed to a cross of wood.
This, the power of the cross: Christ became sin for us, Took the blame, bore the wrath: We stand forgiven at the cross.
Oh, to see the pain Written on Your face Bearing the awesome weight of sin; Every bitter thought, Every evil deed Crowning Your bloodstained brow.
Now the daylight flees, Now the ground beneath Quakes as its Maker bows His head. Curtain torn in two, Dead are raised to life; ‘Finished!’ the victory cry.
Oh, to see my name Written in the wounds, For through Your suffering I am free. Death is crushed to death, Life is mine to live, Won through Your selfless love.
This, the power of the cross: Son of God, slain for us. What a love! What a cost! We stand forgiven at the cross.
In the Chorus we see the gospel. "Christ became sin for us" and because of this we stand forgiven before the throne of God. This is the doctrine of double imputation. The word "impute", in layman language, means that you are giving someone something you did that they do not deserve. The only reason we stand forgiven before the throne of God is because we are washed clean by the blood of the lamb (1 John 1:7). This means that the perfect life that Christ lived (1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15) had to be given to us. And if God's wrath was satisfied in Christ on the Cross that means that our sin was imputed, or given, to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 sums this up perfectly:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (NASB)
Christ became sin "on our behalf" so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. How sweet a savior!
That dreadful day in history that we now celebrate on what is called Good Friday was the darkest day in human history. All throughout the night before, Christ was put on trial by His own people first (the Jews), then by those who would soon be grafted in to the olive tree (the gentiles). These sinful men brought forth false witness and condemned the savior of the world, the very one who breathed life into their lungs.
The important part of this first verse is that he was nailed to the cross of wood. Galatians 3:10 says, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'" We cannot will or work our way into heaven. We are saved by grace through faith alone! If we can not rely on the works of the law so that we may get to heaven, that makes us cursed! However, Paul does not stop there. He continues: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13) How sweet a savior!
Here we get a taste of the humanity of Christ. If Christ were only deity and not human there would have been no suffering on the cross. However, Christ took on flesh to die in our place as a propitiation for our sins. It was necessary for Christ to take on humanity. His incarnation fulfilled promises from God to the patriarchs that the one who would crush the serpent would come from the seed of a woman, or that the messiah would be from the lineage of David.
Imagine our Lord nailed upon that cross bearing the weight of all the sins of all His sheep. The blood dripping from His head, crowning His brow as He cried out to God! How sweet a savior!
Most of the third verse comes from Matthew 27:51-52: "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.." After the death of Christ on the cross there was an earthquake across Jerusalem. We also see that the veil of the temple was torn in two. This is significant because all throughout the Judaic temple period the veil of the temple separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. The Holy of Holies was God's dwelling place on earth which contained the ark of the covenant. There is symbolism in the tearing of the veil that through the death of Christ those who put their faith in Him are now reconciled to God. Through faith in Christ we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit which makes believers a living temple (John 14:23, 1 Corinthians 6:19).
"It is finished" were some of Christ's last words on the cross. The debt was paid and the wrath of God was appeased. Christ's sacrifice was once for all (Hebrews 10:1-18)! The error of the Roman Catholic church is that in the eucharist they say that Christ is being sacrificed all over again. This is not the gospel. Our savior's blood was sufficient enough for all the saints for all time, one time. How sweet a savior!
Isaiah 25:8 in prophesying about the future messiah says "He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken." Christ crushed death to death. It seems to me this is a play on a hyperbole frequently used by man. For example, when someone got whooped up on at school and they looked pretty rough one might say they were "beaten to death". However, this isn't a hyperbole. Christ's death actually defeated death. For someone new to the Bible this may sound as logical as putting out a fire with fire but to those who have had their hearts illuminated by the Spirit of God this is well understood and well cherished (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Scripture tells us that God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). While the Jews expected a handsome general on a white horse galivanting into Jerusalem to slay the romans and bring back Israel's status as a sovereign nation God instead sent a baby born to a teenage girl that had a knack for carpentry when he got older. This is beautiful! God does these things to show that He is sovereign and that His plans and thoughts are higher than ours. God receives ultimate glory in revealing His sovereign decree by means which no man could ever conceive. What's foolish to man is that Christ abolished death by His death and in doing so brought life and immortality through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). How sweet a savior!
Christ was slain for us. What a cost! It has been said by wise men that our salvation is the most precious gift in all of eternity because the highest price that could ever be paid was given for it! What an incredible love God has shown us in giving up His son to die for the salvation of sinful man. This is one of the most poetically gospel descriptive hymns of the modern era. Praise Him for the inspiration of the Spirit in these men to craft this piece of art!
Again, how sweet a savior.