THE TWO-FOLD WORK OF THE CROSS
by Chip Brogden
3rd May 2007
"Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should
follow His steps" (I Peter 2:21).
If we were to ask a Christian, "Have you accepted the work of the
Cross?" Many of them would say yes. If you ask them what the work
of the Cross is, they would respond by saying that the work of the
Cross is the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus for the sins of the world.
While this is true enough, it can be misleading. A better question
to ask is, "Have you accepted the two-fold work of the Cross?" Try
this out on a few Christians and you will probably get a puzzled
reply along the lines of, "What is the two-fold work of the Cross?"
That is because most people are only familiar with one side of the
Cross, not both sides.
For many years I was only taught one aspect of the Cross - that is,
the cross on which Jesus died for me. That is all I knew, and so
that is all I taught. On this cross He was crucified as my
substitute. He laid down His life for me. His precious blood was
shed for the forgiveness of my sins. Not only that, but the Bible
says that God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. John the Baptist
calls Him, "The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the whole
By identifying with His sacrificial death, He becomes our Substitute.
We enter into His finished work. We are made one with Him there on
the Cross. Thank God we do not have to pay this debt, for it has
been paid for us. We do not have to go to the Cross and be crucified
for our sins.
I would suggest that almost every Christian is familiar with this
aspect of the Cross. It is the foundation of evangelicalism, the
basis of millions of sermons to millions of believers. It is the
truth, and we thank God for the truth whenever it is proclaimed.
There is another side to this Cross, another dimension of the same
truth, which is not as well-known, and is hardly preached at all. As
a result, many believers are content to embrace the "Sinner's Cross";
that is, they have confessed Jesus as Savior, and they understand and
accept Him as their Substitute. It is certainly true that Jesus is
our Substitute, and that He died on the Cross for is. But as we have
said, there is a two-fold work of the Cross.
Peter alludes to this two-fold work when he writes, "Christ also
suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His
steps." Christ suffered FOR us; that is the first aspect. But He
left us an EXAMPLE; that is the second aspect.
So the work of the Cross is two-fold. First, Jesus is our
Substitute. Secondly, He is our Example. In the first case, He took
up the Cross. In the second case, I take up the Cross. The first
work of the Cross is for the Sinner; the second work of the Cross is
for the Disciple.
Jesus said that the way to Life is through a narrow Gate and a
difficult Path. The Gate is only the beginning of the journey; it is
not the destination. So we must have both the Gate and the Path.
One is not complete without the other. Once we are through the Gate,
there is a Path for us to walk. The Gate makes it possible for us to
walk the Path, but the Gate is incomplete without the Path. The Life
is at the end of the Path, not at the beginning.
This corresponds to the two-fold work of the Cross. The "Sinner's
Cross" is the Gate. Because Jesus is my Substitute, I can now walk
the Path. The "Disciple's Cross" is the Path. Now I am following
His example. Can you see the difference?
Jesus says the way to Life is through a Narrow Gate and a Difficult
Path. The Narrow Gate is Christ. It is Narrow because He is the
Only Way. But why is the Path so difficult? Partly because it is
much easier, much more appealing, to accept Jesus as a Substitute
than to accept Him as an Example. Stated differently, it is much
more appealing to accept Jesus as Savior than to accept Him as Lord.
With a simple prayer I can acknowledge Him as my Substitute and
Savior. But to make Him my Example and my Lord, to actually walk in
His footsteps, is not so appealing.
Why? In the first case I simply embrace the "Sinner's Cross" and
everything is done for me. But in the second case I must take up the
"Disciple's Cross" and actually follow in the steps of the Master.
It only takes a moment to pass through the Gate, but the Path takes a
lifetime of walking.
Peter wrote of this two-fold work of the Cross, but we see in Matthew
16 that he did not always have this understanding. In Matthew 16 we
see Jesus as our Substitute and our Example all in one chapter.
First there is Jesus as the Substitute. He begins to show His
disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be
killed, and raised the third day. For His sins? No, for our sins.
So in this He is our Substitute.
Peter, taking offense over this, pulls Jesus aside and begins to
rebuke Him. Imagine! Peter is rebuking the Lord Jesus over this
issue of the Cross. It is, indeed, a difficult thing to comprehend.
But Jesus turns and rebukes Peter. Yes, it will be so. I will go to
Jerusalem and die for the sins of the world. I must complete My
But the two-fold work of the Cross goes deeper than the physical
death of Jesus. And so Jesus immediately begins to speak to them,
not about HIS Cross, but about THEIR Cross:
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after
Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For
whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his
life for My sake will find it'" (Mark 16:24,25).
Peter objected to the death of the Lord Jesus and wanted to prevent
His crucifixion. The Lord Jesus responded that not only must the
Master be crucified, but anyone who desired to follow after the
Master would, of necessity, have to take up their Cross as well.
Peter eventually learned this lesson, and it is time we learned it as
well. Jesus is both my Substitute and my Example. Jesus, is both my
Savior and my Lord. Jesus is both the Narrow Gate and the Difficult
If there is any doubt as to the reason for a lack of power, a lack of
joy, a lack of faithfulness, a lack of Spirit-and-Truth today, we
need only examine a person's ultimate attitude towards the Cross. Is
the Cross, to them, something that Jesus saved them FROM, or
something that Jesus saved them FOR? The fruit, or the lack thereof,
tells the whole story. For there never will be, and there never can
be, any fruitfulness apart from embracing the two-fold work of the
The question will of course arise: can Jesus be Savior, but not be
Lord? Can I accept the salvation but not the discipleship? Can I
enter the Gate but not walk the Path? And the underlying concern is
really this : can I pray the Sinner's Prayer, live any way I please,
and still go to heaven when I die?
The question itself is very revealing in the ones who ask it.
Consider that it takes two beams to make a Cross; one beam is not
enough. If we accept only half of the two-fold work of the Cross
then we have not truly embraced the Cross. If we continue to preach
an easy Gospel and bring sinners to an easy Jesus by having them pray
an easy prayer then we are guilty of propagating another gospel, a
false gospel, a Gate without a Path.
The Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus with the exact same concern: what
must I do to inherit eternal life? His primary concern was going to
heaven when he died. For many Christians that is the ultimate
objective and the motivation behind everything they do. In
actuality, Jesus said comparatively little about "going to heaven
when you die." But He had quite a bit to say about being obedient to
the will of God and producing fruit while you're still living here on
To the Rich Young Ruler who wanted to be saved, Jesus offered
discipleship, not salvation:
"Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'One thing
you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross,
and follow Me.' But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful,
for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to
His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the
kingdom of God!'" (Mark 10:21-23).
Not "how EASY for them to enter the Kingdom of God", but "how HARD it
is". The two-fold work of the Cross is a hard saying for rich and
for poor alike. Many turn away sad and sorrowful at the thought of
taking up the Cross as a disciple. For that reason, only the first
half of the two-fold work of the Cross is preached.
I suspect that the Rich Young Ruler would have eagerly accepted Jesus
as his Substitute - because the subtle implication is that since
Jesus died on the Cross, I won't have to die! But like all the other
suggestions of the adversary, this too is only a partial truth. For
the whole truth is that the work of the Cross is two-fold, and we can
embrace both, or neither, but we cannot keep one and discard the
You may be concerned that if we make salvation contingent on
discipleship then fewer people would get saved. That's exactly the
point. This is precisely what Jesus meant when He said, "Few find
it" (Matthew 7:14b).
So what are we do to? Should we continue to give false comfort to
those who are unwilling to take up their Cross, deny Self, and follow
Jesus? By no means. Instead, let us endeavor to show others, by
example, that the only way to Life is through Death; the only way to
reign with Him is to suffer with Him; not those who hear, but those
who hear and put into practice, are His true disciples.
May the Lord Jesus Himself bear witness of these things, that they
are true. Amen.
I am your brother,
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