According the Early Church, Jesus’ primary activity of the cross was not the forgiveness of our sins. In fact, it was Western culture that brought in the idea that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penance to his wrathful Father for all of our sins. The Early Church believed that the cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. Granted, the result of that defeat was our opportunity to be rescued by a God that loves us. It did provide a way for man to be in relationship to God, but the primary significance of the cross was God’s defeat of Satan. God won the battle, and the cross is the reminder that He is the victor.
The real battle was between God and Satan from the beginning. It started when Satan decided he wanted to be God, left his post as an angel and declared war on God, trying to take his place as ruler of all things. (Is 14:13-14) Satan’s biggest blow was his attack on Adam and Eve. God allowed it because he didn’t want his creation to be summoned to love him, but instead wanted his creation to choose him. Satan saw this as a prime opportunity, tempted man, and got man to choose to want to be God as well. This saddened God, because he longed to be in relationship with his creation, and it saddened man because he was created to be in relationship with God.
In light of the Cross, the question then becomes, is there a battle still going on, and if so what is it? The battle is now against an ongoing relationship between us and God. Yes, that’s it, Satan’s primary concern is to keep men and women from being in a real and growing relationship with this Almighty One. Satan will stand for anything else before he will lie down and let us sit with the one and only true God. He will tolerate good works, giving, worship, Christian fellowship, education, reading, etc, but he can’t stand when one of God’s children grows in relationship to the Father.
As we consider the cross this Lenten season may we see it through the eyes of the Early Church. They saw the big picture, rejoiced in the defeat of Satan through the Cross, and grew in relationship with God and one another.
Lie: The primary activity of the cross was the forgiveness of sin.
Truth: The result of the cross was forgiveness, but the primary activity was God’s defeat of Satan.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb 2:14-15)