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What is meaning of the expression «I cling to cross of Christ»? (1) In the context of this expression, what does the act of clinging mean? Was it an expression or something similar used by early Christians?


Notes

  1. For example, a fragment of the hymn Rock of Ages says:

    Simply to Thy cross I cling;

  • Hmm. It's not that common of a phrase, nor is it a very idiosyncratic phrase. So I'm not sure whether this question is on-topic. Lets see what everyone else thinks. – curiousdannii Dec 31 '14 at 3:38
  • While your question is interesting, I do not know how there could be one accepted answer. – The Freemason Dec 31 '14 at 14:53
  • This question should be on the English.SE site I think. – jay_t55 Jan 1 '15 at 17:35
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a figure of speech. People also cling to beliefs, cling to ideas, cling to loved onces... This is in no way unique to Christianity. – David Stratton Jan 1 '15 at 19:21
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The type of clinging referred to is one in which the subject does not trust their footing to bear their own weight, but depends on the object to which they cleave to support it. It is a metaphor for trusting in the atoning work of the cross for salvation and standing with God, and completing repudiating any sense of merit in one's own character or works. It is an expression of sola fide which Protestants believe to be consistent with the views of early Christians in general and Pauline soteriology in particular. Although this particular phrase was most likely popularized post-Reformation, there is a sense of it's meaning in St Thomas a' Kempis's De Imitatione Christi:

In cruce salus, in cruce vita.

tr: In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life.

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The general meaning of the expression is that one's faith is in the efficacy of Jesus' crucifixion for them, especially up and against the idea of meriting salvation.

The full line that it appears in Rock of Ages is:

Nothing in my hands I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

The narrator is placing their faith in the graciousness of God for their salvation as found in the gift of Jesus crucified for their sins. Likewise, the reference to "clinging" is recognizing that natural propensity to want to move on after the fact to attribute salvation to one's good works, or what one can "offer" God in return. Clinging to the cross is an expression of being unwilling to move on past the crucifixion of Jesus for you.

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Meaning of the expression “I cling to cross of Christ”

The hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" was written in 1913 (now in public domain). The date of the writing is about the same time the tracts were being distributed regarding the "fundamentals" of Christianity. The use of the word "cling" represents an attempt to remain faithful under difficult conditions. At the time the rapid ascendancy of secular doctrines such as with Freud, Darwin, and Marx and the infiltration of theological practices such as higher criticism (standing on the shoulders of German rationalism) left many Christians feeling as if they were under assault.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

    Refrain:
    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.

Oh, 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.

The declaration “I cling to cross of Christ” is a defensive statement reflecting an emotional sense of attack and an affirming pronouncement of position similar to Luther's "Here I stand".

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