The Triumph of the Cross
“Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:14-15)ERV
“But thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savour of his knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)ERV
When God placed Adam in Paradise that he should not only dress it but “keep it,” (Genesis 2:15) it is evident that there must have been some power of evil against which he had to watch and guard it. Since all that God created during the six days was very good, the evil must have already existed. Scripture does not reveal how and whence it came: it is enough to know that it exists, and that it threatens the very center of the new creation, the garden of God and the dwelling of man, with danger and ruin. God seeks to rob this evil of its power, and purposes doing so through the medium of man. No doubt this was at least partly why God made man—to conquer the evil that had existed before him. It is this that makes our world of such importance in the eyes of God and His angels: this is the battlefield where heaven and hell meet in deadly conflict.
The Enemy of the Cross
The terrible history of mankind can never be rightly understood until we allow Scripture to teach us that, even as God overrules all with a purpose, there is also an organized system of opposition, a kingdom that holds rule over men, keeping them in darkness, and using them in its war against the kingdom of God’s Son. On a scale beyond our small conception, through the slow length of ages which God’s patience bears, amid all the liberty of human will and action and what appears nothing but a natural growth and development, there is an unceasing contest going on. Though the outcome is not in doubt, the struggle is long and destructive. In the history of that struggle the cross is the turning point.
In our text we have a wonderful lifting of the veil to show what the redemption of the cross implies. “Having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in [the cross].” (Colossians 2:14-15)ERV In the darkness of the cross the powers of darkness had made their onslaught; together they pressed on Him with everything that is terrible in their power, surrounding Him with the very darkness and misery of hell. They formed a cloud so thick and dark that the very light of God’s face forsook Him. But He put them off from Himself; He beat back the enemies and overcame the temptation. He made a show of them openly; in all the spirit world, before angels and devils, it was known that He conquered.
The very grave gave up its dead. And so He triumphed over them. In the other world the cross is the symbol of victory. He led them in triumph as prisoners: their power forever broken, the gate of the prison-house in which they hold men captive broken open, and liberty is proclaimed to all their prisoners. The Prince of this world is now cast out. He no longer has power to hold in bondage those who long for deliverance. He now only rules over those who consent to be his slaves. There is now a perfect deliverance for all who yield themselves to Christ and His cross.
The Cross Is a Triumph
This is the great lesson of our text. The cross is a triumph, which began when Christ cried out, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) It is the beginning of a triumphal procession in which Christ moves on through the world in hidden glory leading captivity captive, leading into liberty His ransomed ones. And the believer can now ever rejoice, “Thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)ERV Every thought of the cross, every step under the cross, every proclamation of the cross, ought to be in the tone of a Divine triumph. “Death is swallowed up in victory…. thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54,57)ERV
Without this, our understanding of the meaning and our experience of the power of the cross will be defective. We will find this both in our personal life and in our labors for others. In our personal life the cross will be counted a burden: the call to bear it, a law hard to obey; the attempt to live the crucifixion life, a failure; the thought of a daily death, a weariness. To crucify the flesh demands such unceasing watchfulness and self-denial that it is given up as a hopeless or fruitless task. It cannot be otherwise, until we know in some measure that the cross is a triumph.
We have not to crucify the flesh: it has been done in Christ. The act of crucifixion on Calvary is a finished transaction; the life and spirit that goes forth from it works unceasing power. The call to us is to believe, to be of good cheer. Nothing less than His death can suffice us; nothing less than His death is at our disposal. “Thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.”
It is just as important in our service in this world that we believe in the triumph of the cross over the powers of darkness. Nothing less than an insight into this truth can teach us to know the supernatural strength, and the spiritual subtlety of our enemy. Nothing less can teach us what our objective must be as we wrestle “against the world-rulers of this darkness” (Ephesians 6:12)ERV—rescuing men away from the world and the power of its prince. Nothing less than this, an insight into the triumph the cross has won and forever given, can make us take our true position as the servants of our conquering King, our one expectation to be led in triumph in Him. And nothing less can keep alive in us the courage and the hope which we in our great weakness need as the mighty power of the enemy ever force themselves on us. Faith must learn to say in all its service and warfare, “Thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.” The cross with its foolishness and weakness, its humiliation and shame, is the everlasting signal of the victory Christ has won by weapons not of fleshly warfare. Yes, and of the victory which and every servant of Christ in particular can continually win as he enters more deeply into the spirit of His crucified Lord, and so yields more fully to Him.