The cross is the burden of the gospel (‘we preach Christ crucified’, 1 Cor. 1:23; cf. 1:18; 2:2). It is the centrepiece of God’s eternal plan of grace (‘you redeemed were redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb…chosen before the creation…revealed in these last times for your sake, 1 Pet. 1:18-20; cf. John. 3:16f; 10:14-18; Gal. 4:4f). It is a sacrifice for sins (‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,’ 1 Cor. 15:3), quenching the divine wrath against sinners (‘making peace through his blood, shed on the cross’ Col. 1:20; cf. Eph. 2:18-20), securing our present justification and adoption and guaranteeing our future hope as God’s heirs (‘Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!’, Rom. 5:9; ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Rom. 8:32). It is the mediatorial initiative (for Christ’s passion was truly His action) that established Him in His saving role, as the author of salvation and so the proper object of saving faith (‘the life I live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’, Gal. 2:20; ‘through faith in his blood’, Rom. 3:25). It is the reality signified by the two sacramental ordinances that Jesus imposed (‘baptised into his death buried with him through baptism into death’, Rom. 6:3, 4; ‘This is my body, which is for you’…‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me’, 1 Cor. 11:24-25). It sets us standards of self-giving love and self-denying humility (‘live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us’, Eph. 5:2; ‘Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers’, 1 John 3:16; ‘he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross’, Phil. 2:8). It calls for, and calls forth, consecrated service and devotion (‘You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body’, 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; ‘Christ’s love compels us…one died for all…that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them’, 2 Cor. 5:14, 15). It models endurance in the face of hostility and pain (‘Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps’, 1 Pet. 2:21; cf. Heb. 12:2ff).
…Trusting, loving and following Jesus necessitates keeping the cross in view at all times. Our living Lord calls for what we may call cruciform discipleship, clear-headed, open-eyed and whole-hearted. ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Gal. 6:14). The cross must shape our faith, and thereby reshape our entire lives. [J. I. Packer, Puritan Portraits, 50-51.]