Posted by: rcottrill | April 18, 2011

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

Words: Elizabeth Cecelia Douglas Clephane (b. June 18, 1830; d. Feb. 19, 1869)
Music: St. Christopher, by Frederick Charles Maker (b. Aug. 6, 1844; d. Jan. 1, 1927)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

As the old saying goes, if you don’t stand for something, chances are you’ll stand for anything! To use an analogy, if a boat isn’t tied to the pier, it could drift just about anywhere. In our spiritual lives, we need to have convictions, life principles that direct our lives. Some things are a matter of opinion, but for Bible believing Christians there are certain things that are non-negotiable (cf. Jude 1:3).

The Apostle Paul was very definite as to where he stood, and where he was anchored. He told the Corinthian Christians,“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….We preach Christ crucified” (I Cor. 1:23). And “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).

Clearly, Paul did not mean by the latter statement that he preached and taught about nothing else. He was careful “to declare…the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). But the cross was the central fact in his preaching. As he draws his Galatian letter to conclusion Paul writes, “God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). Everything else flowed from that. Without Christ’s redemptive work, he had no message to declare.

The cross is a great paradox. It is a place of ugliness, of cruelty, and terrible suffering. Yet, for the Christian, there is a radiant beauty in the cross. It is an expression of divine love that can neither be equaled or fully comprehended. Christ is the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). No sooner had the devil, in the guise of a serpent, seduced our first parents into sin, than God stepped in and promised One to come who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15).

The Christian gospel rests upon three critical facts of history, the central one of which is the cross of Calvary. Before that there was the incarnation. Only by becoming Man could the sinless Christ take our place under the wrath of God. And the death of Christ would have been worthless without the resurrection afterward. The empty tomb is the final evidence that salvation’s work is done. That the “It is finished [literally paid in full]” that the Saviour cried from the cross (Jn. 19:30) is a reality.

No wonder Elizabeth Clephane revels in the cross of Christ. With poetic imagery she describes it as a sheltering shadow, a home in the wilderness, a place of rest (CH-1), and a refuge, a place of eternal safety (CH-2). In a colourful turn of phrase in CH-2 (a stanza seldom used), she calls the cross a “trysting place.”

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet!

The term usually speaks of an appointed meeting place, especially of those who love one another. But here, it is where God’s love and justice meet. Oh my! Infinite love and absolute justice meet at the cross. To get hold of that is to understand something important about the reasons for Calvary. God’s love for humanity is a wonderful thing. But it could not welcome into the heavenly kingdom sinners whose debt of sin condemned them to eternal death. An utterly holy God cannot condone sin, or compromise His righteous standard.

However, what a just God did, in love, was to provide a perfect Substitute to die in our place, paying our debt of sin. That is the meaning of John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In the realization of such sacrificial love, we bow before Him in faith, and say with the hymn writer, “My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross” (CH-5).

1) What did Paul mean when he said he had nothing to boast about except the cross (Gal. 6:14; compare Phil. 3:4-7)?

2) How would it affect our lives if we determined to take a stand beneath the cross, as Elizabeth Clephane did?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Thank you Mr. Cottrill for your post–it was excellently written. Today in MBI’s chapel one of our professor spoke about the resurrection to remind us how this is essential to the Gospel. Thanks again for another reminder! Jesus bless you!

    • Thanks for your encouragement. My late father was a music major at Moody back in the mid-1920’s, and I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for the school. Attended a couple of pastor’s conferences there. God bless.


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