When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

Title: When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

Bible Book: Selected Passages

Author: Franklin L. Kirksey

Subject: Cross; Crucifixion



Robert J. Morgan recently sent information about the release of his third volume in the set of informative and inspirational books on hymns, titled Then Sings My Soul.

Maybe you remember reading or hearing someone recite a list of hymns for those of certain professions, or pastimes. These are some of my favorites:

The Dentist's Hymn – “Crown Him with many crowns”,
The Weatherman's Hymn – “There Shall Be Showers Of Blessings”,
The Contractor's Hymn – “The Church's One Foundation”,
The Politician's Hymn – “Standing On The Promises”,
The Optometrist's Hymn – “Open My Eyes That I May See”,
The Gossip's Hymn – “Pass It On”,
The Realtor's Hymn – “I've Got A Mansion Over The Hilltop”,
The Pilot's Hymn – “I'll Fly Away”,
The Architect's Hymn – “How Firm A Foundation”,
The Zoo Keeper's Hymn – “All Creatures Of Our God And King”,
The Postal Worker's Hymn – “So Send I You”,
The Lifeguard's Hymn – “Rescue The Perishing”,
The Travel Agent's Hymn – “Anywhere With Jesus”,
The Librarian's Hymn – “Whispering Hope”, and
The Geologist's Hymn – “Rock Of Ages”.

There should be at least one more “occupational hymn”. It came to me as we passed a land surveyor adjusting his transit on the side of the road. Therefore, allow me to add, The Surveyor’s Hymn – “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”.

In his book titled Near to the Heart of God, Robert J. Morgan writes, “Lowell Mason is among the giants of American hymnody. He was born January 8, 1792, in Medfield, Massachusetts, but he grew up in the Deep South. Though at first he went into banking, eventually he became the first music teacher in the American public school system. He also served as music director for various churches and as a music publisher and complier of hymnals. We know him for composing the melodies for 'Joy to the World,' 'O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,' 'Nearer, My God, to Thee,' 'There Is a Fountain,' and this great hymn by Isaac Watts [1674-1748], 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.' Lowell Mason [1792-1872] is rightly called the Father of American Church Music."[i]

Our purpose is to provide a Scriptural survey of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

I. First, note the prophetic announcement of the Cross.

From Genesis 3:15 we read God’s word to the serpent, “And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman, / And between your seed and her Seed; / He shall bruise your head, / And you shall bruise His heel.” This is the first prophecy of the Cross.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) refers to Psalm 22 as “An X-Ray of the Cross”. Here David writes, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? . . . But I am a worm, and no man; / A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; / They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, / ‘He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; / Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!’ . . . For dogs have surrounded Me; / The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; / I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, / And for My clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:1a, 6-8, 16-18).

Isaiah 53 has the designation “The Forbidden Chapter” because it speaks so clearly of our Lord Jesus Christ hundreds of years before His birth. Here Isaiah writes, “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, / And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; / And when we see Him, / There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, / A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; / He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs / And carried our sorrows; / Yet we esteemed Him stricken, / Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, / He was bruised for our iniquities; / The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, / And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; / We have turned, every one, to his own way; / And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, / Yet He opened not His mouth; / He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, / And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, / So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, / And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; / For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked— / But with the rich at His death, / Because He had done no violence, / Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; / He has put Him to grief. When You 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 the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, / For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, / And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, / Because He poured out His soul unto death, / And He was numbered with the transgressors, / And He bore the sin of many, / And made intercession for the transgressors.”

Other passages revealing the Cross in the Old Testament are Genesis 22; Exodus 12; Leviticus 16; Numbers 22; and Psalm 69.

In these passages we discover a preview of the plan of the cross.

II. Furthermore, note the historic appointment of the Cross.

Each of the gospels records the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and related events, Matthew 27:1-56; Mark 15:1-41; Luke 23:1-49; and John 19:1-37. Although each of the gospel accounts share information differing from the others, each serves a great purpose. For example, Matthew focuses on the Jewish mindset; Mark focuses on the Roman mindset; Luke focuses on the Greek mindset; and John is a universal gospel.

Down through the years several Bible scholars published their harmony of the gospels. This provides the Bible student the ability to see the events recorded by each gospel writer together. Kermit Zarley takes a slightly different approach in his compilation called, The Gospels Interwoven. V. Gilbert Beers follows a similar approach in The Interwoven Gospels. Allow me to share a sample from The Interwoven Gospels in a section titled “The Crucifixion” (Matthew 27:34-38; Mark 15:23-28; Luke23:33, 34, 38; John 19:18-24), “Now it was the third hour when they crucified Him. And they offered Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but when He had tasted it, He would not drink it. And with Him, they crucify two robbers, one on His right hand and one on His left, and Jesus in the midst. (And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, ‘And He was reckoned with the lawless.’) Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part; also the coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore to one another, ‘Let us not rend it; but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be’: that the scripture might be fulfilled which saith, ‘They divided My garments among them, And upon My vesture did they cast lots.’ The soldiers therefore did these things: and sitting down they watched Him there. Now Pilate also wrote a title and superscription of His accusation, and put it on the cross over His head. And there was written: ‘THIS IS JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.’ This title, therefore, many of the religious leaders read; for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Therefore the chief priests said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, I am the King of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’"[ii]

In these passages we discover a view of the picture of the cross.

III. Finally, note the salvific accomplishment of the Cross.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language defines “salvific” as “Having the intention or power to bring about salvation or redemption.”[iii]

From Romans 3:24; 5:1; and 6:1-14 we read, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. . . . Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

From 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; and 15:1-4 we read, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, / And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. . . . Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Paul the apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-5 and 6:14, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. . . . But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

John writes in 1 John 1:5-7, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

In 1 John 2:1-2 we read, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

In these passages we discover a review of the power of the cross.


Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe shares, “Some Christian missionaries once visited Mahatma Gandhi [1869-1948], and he asked them to sing him one of their hymns. ‘Which one?’ they asked. He replied, ‘Sing for me the one that best expresses what you are preaching.’ It took them but a moment to decide; and together they sang ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.’ They made the right choice.”[iv] From In Praise of Plodders we read, “Dr. Charles [W.] Koller [1896-1983] called the cross ‘the plus sign on the skyline’.”[v]

Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) writes in, “Remembering my own deep imperfections I would think and speak with charity of all who take upon them the worthy Name by which we Christians are called. But if I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of self-assured and carnal Christianity whose hands are indeed the hands of Abel, but whose voice is the voice of Cain. The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before the cross it bows and toward the cross it points with carefully staged histrionics—but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.”[vi]

Someone shares, “A young boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring to him; too far behind the times, tiresome tunes and meaningless words. His father put an end to his son’s complaints by saying, ‘If you think you can write better hymns, then why don’t you?’ The boy went to his room and wrote his first hymn, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.’ The year was 1690, the teenager was Isaac Watts. ‘Joy to the World’ is also among the almost 350 hymns written by him.”[vii]

Dr. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) penned these poignant words, “When I survey the wondrous cross, / On which the Prince of Glory died, / My gain I count but loss, / And pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, / Save in the death of Christ, my God...”
How encouraging it is, when I survey the wondrous cross.

[i]Robert J. Morgan, Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns, (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2010), January 8 Reading

[ii]Adapted from The Interwoven Gospels © Books for Living, Inc., Digital Edition by V. Gilbert Beers, © 2009 Bible Studio, LLC., Available from: http://interwovengospels.com/The_Crucifixion.htm Accessed: 04/01/12

[iii]The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, 2009), p. 1539

[iv]Warren W. Wiersbe, Prokope, [a bimonthly newsletter for Christian Workers] (Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible, January-February 1989)

[v]Warren W. Wiersbe, In Praise of Plodders, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1991, 1994), p. 87

[vi]A. W. Tozer, God's Pursuit of Man: Tozer's Profound Prequel to The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1950, [renewed 1978 by Lowell Tozer]), p. 53, Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

[vii]Available from: http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/view/1253/ Accessed: 01/18/12

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com


http://www.webspawner.com/users/franklinlkirksey / [email protected] / (251) 626-6210

© April 1, 2012 All Rights Reserved

To view all sermons by Kirksey on SERMONCITY, click on the link below and then click on the SERMON icon:


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