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“The Wondrous Cross”
By Dennis Lee
As I contemplate Easter and what’s coming up next Sunday, what I began thinking about is just how wonderful and glorious the cross of Christ really is, given that the cross was the most horrific and torturous deaths ever been devised by humanity.
During this time of contemplation I began singing a remix of the classic hymn by Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The remix is called “The Wonderful Cross.” The song was inspired by Galatian 6:14.
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
While preparing for a communion service in 1707, Watts wrote this deeply moving and very personal expression of gratitude for the amazing love revealed through Jesus’ death upon the cross. It was actually the first known hymn to be written in the first person, and it introduced to congregational singing a personal religious experience rather than limiting itself to doctrine, which was the prevailing practice of that day.
It first appeared in print that same year in Watts’ collection, “Hymns and Spiritual Songs.” The hymn was originally titled “Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ.” It was and still is considered one of the finest hymns ever written. Theologian Matthew Arnold called this the greatest hymn in the English language
But why is this hymn so beloved and stirs our hearts today as it did Watts? It’s because there is no other message given to humanity that’s as important as the cross of Christ. It’s at the heart of the gospel message which conveys the only way a person can be saved, not only from the bondages of this world and our sinful desires, but through belief in what Jesus did upon the cross, eternity in heaven now waits.
It is the preaching of the cross, the preaching of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on that cross that is at the very heart of the Christian gospel and message. And it is in the cross that Apostle Paul boasts and glories. It is the central theme of Christianity and the thing that matters the most above everything else.
The Apostle Paul found it necessary, however, to talk about the cross to the church even though he had already taught upon it, and that’s because there were false teachers that had come up from Jerusalem teaching something completely contrary to the Christian message.
The Apostle Paul says that what they were preaching wasn’t even on par with the gospel message of Jesus Christ; in fact it wasn’t even good news. It was a different gospel, which was evil from the very get go. And so Paul twice pronounced a curse upon those teaching anything other than the true gospel of Jesus Christ, Galatians 1:6-10.
This Sunday morning we’ll be taking the road Jesus took to Calvary in our series, “A Journey To and From Easter.
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