The cross, like the fish, is one of the symbols of Christianity. The one wearing or putting up a cross in a building or a tomb or anywhere else is saying, “I am a Christian, a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ”. The cross without the image of Christ symbolize that Jesus did not remain nailed to the cross because He resurrected on the third day as the Scriptures say.
What about the fish? The Lord Jesus Christ in selecting his disciples said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Where do fishermen catch fish? From the most shallow portion of the sea to its deepest part. The deeper the sea, the more valuable and the bigger the fish to be caught. That is why the Lord Jesus told Peter, “Put out into deep waters and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4, NIV).
It is more difficult to evangelize important people, usually the very rich and the highly educated ones who can manage their life on their own. One has to go into the “deep” so to speak, not just in the shallow part of the sea to evangelize these class of people. And to go to the deep is fraught with dangers and sacrifices. There in the deep, you will “catch” people of the likes of Nicodemus and Zaccaeus or Saul later re-named Paul. These class of people, if caught, will be influential in catching others like them for the kingdom of God.
Back to the cross, the Apostle Paul said, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and he further said, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23). “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (vs. 24).
Furthermore, he said, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (or payment) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission (or forgiveness) of sins that are past; through the forbearance (tolerance or patience) of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (vss. 25-26).
And he further elaborated,
“1Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins. 2You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God's anger just like everyone else. 4But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, 5that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that you have been saved!) 6For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms -- all because we are one with Christ Jesus. 7And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus. 8God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Eph. 2:1-9 NLT)
The Penalty for sin whether small or big sin is death. So all have to die with no exception because no one is sinless. But because of the immeasurable LOVE of God to His very special creation whom He created after His own image and likeness, God provided a remedy and that is, “He sent His only begotten Son to be crucified and to die on behalf or in substitution of all sinner-believers of Jesus Christ (also God in human form), so that the sinner-believer shall have eternal life, and will abide with him in heaven forever and ever and “there will be no more death, or sorrow or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:3-4 NLT).
But notice very well the requirements:
1) Faith in Jesus Christ;
2) Purely by grace (defined simply as unmerited or undeserved favor). Meaning, the sinner does not deserve the gift of eternal life because of his sin, but by the grace of God (because of His infinite LOVE even if a man is a sinner) and purely because of the sinner’s faith or full trust in Jesus, that sinner is given the gift of eternal life.
The Apostle Paul emphasized that a sinner-believer of Jesus is not saved by his own efforts and not of his good works (Eph. 2:8-9), and he further said, “a man is not justified by the works of the law (or by following to the letter the ten commandments and other lesser laws) but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16). Here is the exact quotation of Gal. 2:16:
“16 And yet we Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ—and not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law.”
This remedy is necessary because as already said above, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Bible says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10 KJV). The Bible tells us, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if there is even one with real understanding, one who seeks for God; all have become corrupt, no one does good, not even one!” (Psalm 14:2-3 NLT). But God “does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).
But the sinner must believe with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “He who believes in me though he were dead yet shall he live” (John 11:25) and he shall have eternal life for believing and will never perish (vs. 26 NLT). He is referring to spiritual death. Meaning, the earthly body dies, but the soul and spirit of man who repented of his sins, believed, accepted and received the Lord Jesus as his only Savior and Lord shall resurrect and live eternally. Thus, Jesus said, “you believe in God, believe also in me… and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, so that where I am (in heaven), there ye may be also… (John 14:1-3), and “because I live, you shall live also (vs. 19).
The second requisite is faith or belief in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
What is faith? The Bible itself defines it. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 KJV). In another rendition, it says: “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (NLT).
Saving Faith is something we are hoping for because we cannot or have not seen it fulfilled yet. Because if we have seen it or can already see it, that is no longer faith. Thus, the verse or expression, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7 KJV). In another rendition, it says, “we live by believing and not by seeing” (NLT). For example, we are yet hoping to resurrect like the Lord Jesus Christ. We have not resurrected yet because in the first place, we must physically die first like Jesus, but we believe with all our heart that after we die physically, on resurrection day, we shall resurrect just like the Lord Jesus. Also, we hope to be in heaven with Jesus and live with Him there forever and ever because that is his promise (John 14:3). We have not been to heaven yet and we have not seen heaven, but we believe with all our heart that what we are hoping shall truly and really come to pass.
Faith is best demonstrated by the two lepers who approached the Lord Jesus Christ for healing. The Lord Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord”, they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”, and their sight was restored (Matt. 9:28-29 NIV). Everyone who approached the Lord Jesus for healing, Jew or Gentile, Roman or whatever be his nationality, was healed, because Peter said, “of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (or does not show favoritism), but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts. 10:34-35 KJV).
Remember, the Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). In another rendition, the Bible says, “Yet faith comes from listening to the message of good news – the good news about Christ” (NLT). So, one must hear (or read, study and accept and believe) the Word of God. The perfection of our faith is knowledge of the Word of God. Hear/study the Bible – the Word of God. That is why, the Lord Jesus told His disciples (and every believer is a disciple) “Go into all the World and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:16-20 NLT).
The cross symbolizes and is the evidence of the infinite LOVE of God for mankind to such extent that God gave and sent His only begotten Son to suffer a substitutionary death in the cross of calvary (John 3:16). Jesus Christ suffered the supreme sacrifice by way of substitution for the sinner who is decreed to suffer the sentence or penalty of death. So, the sinner who has faith and believes on God/Jesus and His promises, the best of all is salvation and eternal life, though guilty is absolved or redeemed from his death sentence, but instead is assured of eternal life now and in the new world to come, to be lived with Jesus Christ in the ultimate destination of all believers – Heaven.
More than the above symbolism is the fact that Jesus Christ was 100% human because He died, but at the same time 100% God or “divine” because He resurrected as he foretold, since only God and God alone has the power to resurrect any human being, and only God has the power of resurrection.
[FGBMFI Davao City Chapter Bulletin March 31, 2013]