As a technical term, the word cross has a deeper meaning. It represents the gospel of Christ, particularly His atoning death. In fact, sometimes the word cross and the word Christ are used indistinguishably. For example, Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now you might say to Paul, “Remember it is not about the cross but about Him on the cross. Don’t boast in the cross but in Christ.” What do you think Paul would say to you? He might say, “I know that. But you seem to have missed my point. I am using the word cross here metonymically.” It is helpful to understand that in Paul’s mind to glory in the cross and to glory in the Lord Jesus Christ are equivalent in meaning. Why? Well, because Paul also writes in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Observe also that for Paul the preaching of the cross and the preaching of the gospel are one. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 we read, “For the word [or the preaching] of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” According to this verse, the cross is “the power of God,” and according to Romans 1:16, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Hence, here the cross and the gospel are the same.
What is the gospel? Interestingly, in Mark 1:15 Jesus speaks, “[R]epent and believe in the gospel” and you will be saved. Then when the Philippian Jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31). Notice that Paul and Silas did not say, “Believe in the gospel,” but instead “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” Note also that Jesus says, “[B]elieve in the gospel,” and not “believe in me.” Here then we see that the gospel and Jesus Christ are essentially synonymous. The gospel is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the gospel.
Here’s the key: in the Bible the terms cross, gospel, and Christ are sometimes used interchangeably.
Here are some of my favorite cross-centered hymns:
1. “It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Gates Spafford (1828–1888)
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
2. “Old Rugged Cross” by George Bennard (1873–1958)
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
3. “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts (1674–1748)
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.