The Centrality and Universality of the Cross (1927)
"Now unto the principalities and powers."
At length we come to consider the meaning of the Cross in its
vaster ranges and its initial and final impact which is back of
the universe and of history. It requires but little spiritual
insight to recognise that the whole background of what is
recorded from Genesis to Revelation is spiritual and not merely
historical. The historical is but the effect in a limited degree
of what is going on behind. This earth after all only receives a
faint echo of what is taking place beyond. The more spiritual
the Lord's people become the more they realise the true nature
of the battle (Ephes. 6:12), the more they feel the impact of a
super-kosmic conflict, and the more possessed of the secrets of
spiritual effectiveness they become. Moreover, the more
spiritual they become in all their conceptions of the methods
and means by which the ends of God are to be obtained or
The Church which is Christ's spiritual Body is a heavenly
organism, not an earthly organisation. While it is represented
here on the earth, it is universal in its range (Heb. 12:22-24).
The whole Church in heaven and on earth is interested and
concerned in the battle which rages. The issue is the outworking
of Calvary's triumph. It is not a matter of whether Calvary is
victory, that was settled in eternity past and transacted
literally on this earth by the Son of Man. It is the progressive
realisation of all the content and implications of the Cross
which is being challenged so fiercely.
Now this brings us to the deep significance of spiritual truth,
and we must seek to keep clearly before us the difference
between a mental enquiry which may be merely speculative, and a
spiritual understanding which is essentially practical and
potent in its effect. Firstly as to this earth. It must be
remembered that this earth is not isolated and self-contained.
It is part of a system. While this is true in other respects it
is especially true spiritually. How far this is so is
not revealed, but it is made clear that other realms and orders
unto the "heaven of heavens" and the "far above all heavens"
encircling "the heavenlies" where "principalities, powers, world
rulers of this darkness, and hosts of wicked spirits" have their
present abode are all interested in and have their eyes directed
toward this earth because of some special vocation which rests
upon it relative to all these. It does not make much difference
to the essential truth whether there be material worlds
involved, and it would be going beyond our present specific
purpose to discuss it. The truth is that some mighty, eternal,
and universal purpose has been related for its decision and
outworking to this earth, and this earth is central to a purpose
which is as wide and inclusive as God Himself.
Then as to man. So far as we know, man is an unique creation and
the only being in the universe who combines in his own nature
the intuitional faculties of a spirit with the reasoning powers
of a mind. "God is a spirit," and the angels are spirits. In
creating man God determined to have a race at the centre of
whose being, as the supreme and dominating reality, was Himself
in life and nature. The life of His creation when it attains to
His intention is a reproduction in finite form of the elements
of His own life and being. To this end He gave man a spirit, in
order that He, being a Spirit, might reside within man and
reproduce Himself in the human spirit. Thus in carrying out and
perfecting His purpose in the creation of man He subjects
Himself for a time to the limitations of humanity, but by the
incarnation of Himself in the Person of His Son He will lift
humanity out of those limitations with which we are familiar
into greater infinitudes of spiritual capacity.
But our theme holds us especially to the other phases of man's
being. This is the psycho-physical (physical and soulish) body
with the power of procreation ("Be fruitful and multiply"): the
man who thinks and loves and determines. The entire government,
and therefore all the issues of this man should, according to
the Divine intention, be in and through his spirit and spirit
faculties which linked him with the spirit or spiritual world,
and it all depended upon how faithful he was to this law of his
spirit as to what the result would be immediately. If his spirit
walked after "The Spirit" Who is God there would be spiritual
growth in the Knowledge of God and in the capacity for
fulfilling the purposes of God. His seed would also have been a
spiritual and God-controlled seed. By this course he would have
held Divine and spiritual sovereignty in the earth.
But there were other possibilities and this really brings us to
the main point of our theme.
The spirit as the "inner man" could listen to the
psycho-physical or outer man and conduct himself accordingly and
not after his spiritual Head. In this case all the issues would
be psychical or soulish and not spiritual. This possibility made
room for another element and this is the key to the whole
At this point the theme opens out in several directions or along
several lines. In all, however, we accept without discussion the
presence of Satan in the universe and especially interested in
what is taking place on this earth.
Satan now approaches in the knowledge that if he can fertilise
this beginning of the race with a seed from himself, he can
capture and be the God of the race. This seed, which is known
throughout scripture as "the lie," of which Satan is the father,
he presents to the psycho-physical man, the man who reasons,
loves and determines. Instead of in turn testing it by the
spirit at the court of God, the inner man capitulates and the
outer man takes ascendency. Do we see what has happened? The lie
has entered by consent in the place of the truth. The false word
has taken the place of the true. The seed of Satan has been sown
in the race, it has its lodgment in the psychical man, it is a
blinding and paralysing and fatal lie, and the blindness and
paralysis and death have slain man's spirit Godward, that he
cannot know God's mind or will or purpose or fellowship.
But this is not all, there is a positive as well as a negative
element. Man thus incapacitated is called "the natural
There is, however that which is called "carnal." This is the
flesh principle, not mere incapacitation, but positive enmity to
God and His Things. It only requires a sufficiently divinely
spiritual presentation to make it manifest as being in every
member of the race. This is the Satanic element as in the entire
race in Adam. Those most conscious of this element are those who
have been spiritually quickened, and such know best the warfare
of flesh against spirit and vice versa. Before following this
line further, let us return to take up another, which really is
not another but only a different aspect.
This interference of Satan with the psycho-physical man had to
do - as we have seen - with the power of procreation and
therefore in the covenant of life in blood. Blood was from the
beginning recognised as life, its outpouring as the pledge and
gift of life, its interchange as a life covenant between those
who shared its substance. The function of procreation could only
be fulfilled by a shedding and encirclement of blood. Thus the
shedding of blood became the door or threshold of life by a
covenant in blood on the part of the first parents. From that
time onward the significance was given to all kinds of
thresholds. The threshold of life and death in sprinkled blood
is one of the most familiar things of the Bible. We have the
shedding of blood to secure a covering for the fallen pair
doubtless at the gateway of the garden. God's answer to Cain's
complaint is that "if thou doest not well a sin-offering is at
the door." Then we have the encirclement of blood at the
door of Israel's national life; the passover being to them "the
beginning of months." This was not only a covenant of life
against death on the ground of judgment and the threshold of
their national life, it was also a spiritual marital covenant,
between Jehovah and Israel by which He would propagate a race
for His own glory. He that day betrothed the virgin daughter of
Israel unto Himself (Jer. 31:31, etc.). Judgments were always
"in the gate," in Israel. And so from the time when first a
twain were made one in a covenant of blood, thresholds, doors,
gates, were places of altars and a spiritual significance was
attached to them. The altar was at the door of the Tabernacle
and there the blood of the covenant which was taken into the
holiest was shed. All this is very important when we come to
consider Christ's work in the Cross by which He was indeed the
"Door" and place of the covenant of life. We leave this,
however, till later.
The covenant sign with Israel was circumcision, an encircling of
blood at the beginning of life. It represented a cutting off
from all the uncircumcised and a cutting off unto Jehovah for
His peculiar possession and purpose. It pointed to a spiritual
truth, even the putting away of the whole body of the flesh by
the Cross - even the flesh in which Satan had actual and
judicial place and hold (Col. 2:11). Circumcision took place on
the eighth day. Eight is the resurrection number in Scripture.
By the resurrection of Christ it has become the first day of the
week. It is in the resurrection of Christ that there is a
specific Divine declaration as to His Sonship - see Rom. 1:4,
Acts 13:33, etc. Our sonship is on the ground of resurrection
union with Christ as begotten from the dead, the whole body of
the flesh having been cut off.
What we want to see is that the nature of sin and the nature of
the fall, the basis of Divine judgment, the ground of the awful
wrath of God, and the background of all, is spiritual
fornication. Satan had a hand in the functioning of procreative
capacity and inoculated the race with evil, his own nature. It
is not difficult to trace the fact by its fruits, although many
might find difficulty in understanding the term "spiritual
fornication." All forms of Satan worship have had a sensual
element strongly developed.
In Israel the constant deviation from spiritual loyalty to
Jehovah was marked by the setting up of groves with "pillars" or
obelisks, male symbols, and Asherah, female symbols (Exodus
34:12-15; Deut. 16:21-22, etc.). This was a projecting of the
Satanic system on one of its sides. Jehovah never treated these
or any other forms of idolatry as just acts of innocence or
ignorance, and smile at the foolishness of it all. He took it
very seriously and destroyed the people with their idols if they
forsook them not. He knew what was behind all this and what this
implied on Satan's part. It was an abiding testimony to what
Satan had done at the beginning, and of his footing in the
nature of the race.
Without accumulating the vast evidence in the Word of God as
well as outside of it we are surely by this able to see that by
reason of an interference to which Adam gave way, Satan has in a
very real sense captured the race and propagated a seed with his
own nature. In what we have said about spiritual fornication in
Israel we have only intended to illustrate the truth. The issue
is the same without any Obelisks and Asherah. To summarise this
- to the soulish-physical man possessing pro-creative powers,
Satan presented a false gospel, a system of lies beautifully and
attractively adorned with a view to obtaining an opening for
himself to capture the race and by men's consent hold judicial
and actual ground in man's nature. The offer of Satan being
entertained and acted upon brought about the immediate rupture
of fellowship with God in spirit and the suspending of the
Divine intention through Adam. This act of spiritual fornication
slew man's spirit in its relation to God, and deadened his
capacity for the spiritual interchange with God by which all the
purposes of God could be realised. God was infinitely removed
from man in fellowship, knowledge, likeness, and co-operation.
Man became another species than that intended. A foreign and
sinister element leavened the race. Satan installed in man that
which would be suitable to his government and which would
answer to his suggestions (the entire range of deception), and
which would make possible his entrance into man for his own
incarnation. All this does not necessarily mean that man
realises or believes it. He may have highly developed religious
feelings and sublime ideas and conceptions. He may even be given
much to religious activity and service, and yet he is still the
natural man, repudiating the demand for being born again, and
becoming "a new creation." However fine a specimen a man may be
of this species the word still holds that "that which is born of
the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is
spirit." It is the nature of man, not his positive attitude
which is enmity. It is in the light of this interference in the
propagating powers of the first parents and the result in
polluted, tainted soul in the blood that the true nature of
those new born sons of God are said to be "begotten, not of
bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,
but of God" (John 1:13).
Now we are ready to see how initially and basically the Cross is
central to the spiritual universe. There God in Christ,
incarnate with a sinless human soul, by the Eternal Spirit
poured out that soul in His blood unto death. On the one hand He
took on His soul all the pollution of the race - as only God
could do - and carried it away into a land of forgetfulness.
Only a sinless soul could do this voluntarily and effectually,
for corruption by pollution has no native inherence there,
therefore it can be flung off as not constituent.
So the works of the devil are nullified and for man by
the Cross in the power that is in that blood, even the
fleshless, enmityless, sinless soul of the Son of Man, there is
"Remission." - "This is My blood shed for remission." - Matt.
"Redemption." - "In Whom we have redemption through His blood."
- Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14, 1 Peter 1:19.
"Reconciliation." - "Peace through the blood of His cross, to
reconcile all things unto Himself." - Col. 1:20.
Justification. - "Being now justified by His blood." - Rom. 5:9.
Purging. - "How much more shall the blood of Christ purge." -
Heb. 9:14, Rev. 7:14.
Nearness. - "Made nigh by the blood of Christ." - Eph. 2:13.
Access. - "Boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of
Jesus." - Heb. 10:19.
Liberty. - "Loosed from our sins by His blood." - Rev. 1:5.
Sanctification. - "That He might sanctify with His own blood." -
Cleansing. - "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin."
- 1 John 1:7.
But there is more. On the other hand not only Satan's works but
Satan himself met the impact of Christ. The whole Satanic
hierarchy was dealt with when "He stripped off principalities
and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them
in His Cross," Col. 2:15. It is in that reality that the supreme
significance of the Cross is found and its transcendant power is
Back of Egypt and the Egyptians were "the Gods of the
Egyptians." Every judgment was ultimately against the deity
represented by the symbol. The "sacred" Nile, the frog, the
beetle, the lice, polluting altars, priests, and sacrifices,
etc. Jehovah went behind the symbols to the spiritual system.
"Against all the Gods of the Egyptians." So with the Canaanites.
They, like the Egyptians, knew of Jehovah, and recognised His
supremacy, but continued in a system which was spiritualistic at
root. There were the rites of initiation into occultism as in
"passing through the fire," the worship of demons, all working
out in the grossest uncleanness.
In like manner the events of Daniel 3 are the challenge of the
false spiritual system through the great image - the symbol and
representation of the fire God Isbah. It is not Nebuchadnezzar,
or Babylon as such, but Satan behind, and the tenth chapter
exposes the real seat and nature of the conflict. "World rulers"
of this darkness are behind, and these marshalled and directed
by him who was - before calvary - called "the prince of this
world," and is still "the god of this age," "the prince of the
power of the air."
The whole mighty thundering of God against idolatry has as its
reason this false and antagonistic system of Satan whereby he
would "be as the Most High," worshipped as God, sitting in the
Temple of God, swaying the race and the world.
The persistence of the forces of Satan by every conceivable
means - in prosperity or adversity, in false prophets in whose
mouths were lying spirits, by bribe, by fear, by impatience, by
subtle and almost imperceptible assimilation, by false charity
and sympathy, by fleshly passions, to institute idolatry was
ever with a view to necessitate Israel's casting off by God and
the ruin of their witness and testimony to His sovereignty.
Keep this well in mind, for the device did not cease with Israel
after the flesh.
Such as work in heathen countries know only too well the truth
of this. The idol or fetish is not the ultimate, it is the
spiritual system behind which the heathen are held in chains of
iron. It is not such a far cry from this to the cultured,
educated, civilised capitulation to the revival of spiritualism
The whole subject of total abandonment and utter consecration to
Christ is not merely something extra to "Christianity" or the
Christian life. Its appeal has its strength in the tremendous
fact that anything which limits the Lordship, Sovereignty,
Proprietorship of Christ in any life is an ally to him whose
eternal quest has been to capture the place of the Son as given
by the Father, and at least to divide the honours. This is
idolatry. Not necessarily acute forms of devotion to other
objects of worship, or initiation into occultism, but a divided
heart, a reservation from Christ. In the long run it will be
manifest that such gave the enemy his ground for wrecking the
whole Christian life, drawing right away from the Lord.