And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Colossians 2:13-14).
The Old Rugged Cross has been a hymn in heart from my earliest memories and it is one of my favorites. Like many of the hymns in my heart I first heard The Old Rugged Cross at the Highland Park Baptist Church and often as a congregational song. I have heard it countless times over my life; it never gets old.
The Old Rugged Cross tells of the author’s thankfulness of Christ sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross, what the cross did for him and all that trust Christ, and how he should carry his cross for Christ. The song paints simple but strong pictures of cross: suffering, salvation and service.
Christ was crucified on the old rugged cross. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst (John 19:17-18). He suffered much and was forsaken by God the Father. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me (Mat 27:46)? That very act was prophesied in Psalms 22:1: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? His suffering and death for our redemption was also prophesied in Isaiah 53. Verses 3-5 tell us: He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Verses 10-12 tell of our redemption through His death: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bear the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Further, we have the knowledge that Christ did make that intercession for us: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Pet 2:21-24). For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven(Col 1:19-20). Yet Christ died willingly; no man could have made him do that, only His love for us. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven (Phil 2:6-8).
Christ’s redemptive work was not finished with his death on the cross though we are saved through the blood he shed there. He also conquered death for Him and for us on the third day. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay (Mat 28:5-6). O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:55-57). The cross is a symbol of our atonement but it is not a symbol of an eternal fate of death.
People that have not yet found Christ think the message of the cross of Christ is foolishness. The Bible talks about this also. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18). For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Cor 1:21). Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:25).
The cross of Christ is an example to those that love Christ to follow him, to follow Him in serving, to follow Him in loving, and to following Him in suffering. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me(Luke 9:23). If Christians are truly following Christ, they will bear their cross; they will never seek personal glory but shall seek to show glory in the cross of Christ. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal 6:14). What awaits Christians that bear their cross is a crown of reward in Heaven. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Tim 4:7-8). Is it too much to ask to carry a personal cross in order that Christ, who gave Himself for us, should receive glory and to be able to trade that cross for a Heavenly crown?
The lyrics of The Old Rugged Cross were written in 1912 by a Methodist evangelist, George Bennard. Charles H. Gabriel and Mr. Bennard wrote the melody that has stood popular for almost 100 years. The Old Rugged Cross was first performed in 1913 at a small church in Pokagon, Michigan. It has been performed countless times since around the United States and in many countries. The song has been recorded by both sacred and secular artists; among them are Al Green, Vince Gill, Mahalia Jackson and George Beverly Shea.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
Chorus: So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
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.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.