These three terms are prominently used in the Bible to tell the wondrous story of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. They are often used interchangeably almost, as if they meant more or less the same thing, which they do NOT. They bring before us three altogether different truths, which we want to consider briefly.
One famous preacher used to quote the phrase from I Cor. 2:2 "we preach Christ crucified," and then would go on to preach the Gospel. But Christ crucified is not the Gospel. We never read in Scripture that Christ was crucified for our sins, or that Christ was crucified for the ungodly. No, it always says that Christ died for our sins I Cor. 1 5:3; that Christ died for the ungodly -Rom. 5:6 and so forth. The death of Christ is the truth in relation to our sins as sinners; the message of the Cross of Christ is in relation to believers, as we shall see. How could the Cross possibly be the message of salvation for sinners? The Cross is what man did to Him and that could not possibly be a message of salvation. But His death tells the story that after man had expressed his vileness in nailing Him to the Cross, He in infinite love gave Himself there for our sins. He offered Himself without spot to God and died to bear our sins under the fearful judgment of a thrice holy God. The Cross tells what man did to Him; His death tells what He did for man. These two truths could nol be more opposite.
Christ died for our sins. And, by the way, it never says that "Jesus" died for our sins, as is so commonly but wrongly said. A wicked man like Pilate might put the Name of Jesus on the Cross, but God does not. He ever gives Him a title, for it is Christ that died; it is the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me NOT Jesus. Startling this blind persecutor Saul of Tarsus as he neared Damascus, our Lord was pleased to tell him that Jesus of Nazareth was speaking to him. No doubt to make him realize how fearfully mistaken he had been. But when Paul answered he did not say "Jesus! what wilt Thou have me to do?" did he? No, he called Him Lord which teaches us to do the same. For at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess Him Jesus? No, shall confess Him Lord. May the Lord give us always the deepest possible reverence for Him Whom God has highly exalted. It is the grossest irreverence to call a king sitting upon his throne by his name. Enough said on this subject which should cause us to think scripturally.
The death of Christ. It is always used in the New Testament in regard to the matter of sin and the sinner. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" Rom. 5:6. He died to put away our sins as we trust Him as our Saviour; He died also to put away sin itself, so that one day we shall drop all that is of sin, and have a perfect spirit, soul and body - I Thess. 5:23.
The Cross of Christ. The crucifixion of Christ has its message not to the sinner, but to the believer. As His death puts away my sins, His Cross puts away myself. As Paul says so eloquently "I am crucified with Christ." Not my sins, but me. That's why this truth is so little stressed. To get rid of "self" is such a painful process that we'd rather not think of it. Yes, with believers also, "self" is altogether too prominent, isn't it? The crucifixion tells the story. It is the slowest, most excruciating death. It is connected with shame and reproach, as the poor sufferer hangs there naked exposed to the contempt, or mere curiosity or perhaps pity on the part of the onlookers. Christ in a physical way suffered thus for six hours; in a spiritual way the believer is to know something of the shame, and to share the reproach of Christ. Our blessed Lord bore the Cross to Calvary and then hung on it; the believer in God's sight hung on that Cross with Christ (for he is crucified with Christ) and now is to bear that Cross the rest of his life. Not easy, is it? It is not meant to be. Our Lord told His disciples to "deny themselves" and take up the Cross. Not to deny things, but self. The whole life of the Christian is to crucify the flesh with its passions and its lusts (or desires) - Gal. 5:24. The Cross for the believer has the solemn message that self is to be out of the picture, as we read in Gal. 2:20, I am crucified, yet I live (yet not 1) but Christ lives in me.
Seven times in the epistle to the Corinthians and seven times in Galatians the Cross is mentioned and only five times in all the other epistles together. Why? Because in Corinth sinful ways marked the saints; in Galatia sinful teaching (adding good works to the perfect work of Christ). In Corinthians the Cross is stressed because it does away with sinful self; in Galatians because it does away with moral self. The Cross puts self out of the picture - good or bad. On the Cross we see Our blessed Lord; we see Satan condemned there - John 3:14; we see the world judged - Gal. 6:14; and we see ourselves there -- crucified. The Cross is man's estimate of Him. We love Him, so we go forth unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach-- Heb. 13:13.
The blood of Christ. As the death of Christ points to sin; the Cross to self, so the blood points to Him Who hung on the Cross and there died for us. This is clearly seen in John 19:33- 35. As the soldier pierced that holy body, which had been dead already for some time , blood and water flowed forth. Now it is well known that blood will not flow from the body of any mere man. The moment the heart stops beating, the body grows cold, the blood coagulates and cannot possibly flow, because at death the body goes to corruption. But His body did not see corruption Acts 2:27, and so the blood flowing from His pierced side tells us He was not a mere man, but God manifest in flesh. That's why the apostle John alone records this miracle, for he tells us in chapter 20:31 that he wrote his gospel, not first of all that men might believe in Jesus, but that they might believe Who Jesus is, that "ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Yes, the blood our Saviour shed points to Who He is; therefore the use of that term "the blood of Christ," "His blood," etc., always calls our attention to Who it is that died for us on that Cross.
Four times it says in the Bible that it was His "own" blood - Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:12; Heb. 13:12 and Rev. 1:5. We don't say when someone for instance gives a pint of blood to another that he gave his "own" blood; we just say his blood. But God wants us to know that this blood He shed is special; it is whose blood it is that is of vital importance. It is the only blood ever called "precious" (or priceless) blood. And again I say, it is that because it is the blood of the Son of God. The priest of old gave the blood of others (animals) for his own sins--Heb. 7:27, but our blessed Lord gave His own blood for the sins of others. Praise His Holy Name!
When man dies that is the last thing lie does, but when our blessed Lord shed His blood it is the first thing fie did for us. That's why it says in I John 5:6 that He "came" by blood. We say when a man dies that he went, but when our Lord shed His blood oil the Cross, it says He came. Praise God, His precious death His precious blood -ushers in an eternity of bliss for the believer in Him.
In the Old Testament the blood was never put on the sinner; it was put on the believer. It was put on the priests -Ex. 29:20, and we know they represent the believers of this day, for we are the holy priesthood. In Lev. 14 it was put on the cleansed leper, who of course pictures a saved sinner. This blood was the blood of the ram of "consecration." Thus the blood of Christ is put on the believer not for salvation, but for consecration as I Cor. 6:20 tells us; "we are bought with a price," henceforth to be consecrated to His service. It was put on the ear, the hand and the toe, for henceforth we are to hear His Word, do His Will and walk in His way. The "blood" tells the story that since the holy Son of God gave Himself for me, I now must give myself to Him. That's the meaning of the blood. So much more could be said. May God bless these few thoughts!
The death of Christ concerns sinners and salvation.
The Cross of Christ concerns believers and self-abnegation.
The blood of Christ calls for total consecration.
--August Van Ryn