Sunday Reflection: Part 3: The Preaching of the Cross
Part one is here. Part two is here.
With Peter’s ship, The Teaching about the Cross, beginning to take on water, it became necessary for us to abandon ship.
As we walk across the causeway of the Book of Acts, we are now going to be sailing with the Apostle Paul. Paul will bring us to our final destination. We are about to sail across the deep waters of the finished work of Christ, which is uncharted territory prior to the Pauline revelation. As we plumb the depths of these waters, we are going to find that the Apostle Paul was the first to show us the significance of the death of Christ. He proclaimed the Cross as good news! There is always one of two responses to this message; either it’s received with thanksgiving or it’s rejected as mere foolishness!
THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS
“For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).The term “preaching” is not one of the typical words the apostle uses when referring to the proclamation of the Cross. For example, in II Timothy 4:2, Paul instructs us to “Preach the Word.” Here the apostle uses the Greek, kerusso, which signifies a herald. It refers to the one who announces clearly and loudly the entrance of the King. In like manner, we are to give a clear presentation of the gospel of salvation. Interestingly in I Corinthians 1:18, Paul employs the term Logos—the Word. So then, it is the Word of the Cross, which is the power of God unto salvation. It is the apostle’s objective to contrast the Word of the Cross with the word of man.
The Cross to the natural man is mere foolishness—why, it’s absurd to think that God would take on a human form, be crucified, and rise again in order to redeem mankind! To the natural man this is beyond the realm of reason. Therefore, Paul challenges the world to step forward and match its wisdom and knowledge with the wisdom and knowledge of God.
“Where is the wise [intelligentsia]? Where is the scribe [doctor of the law]? Where is the disputer [debater] of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (I Cor. 1:20).Paul summons the world to answer these age-old questions, if they will. Where did man come from? How can he be made right with God? What is his purpose in life? What is his final destination? The natural man’s attempt to answer these questions apart from God is like the man who’s blind, searching in a dark room for a black cat that doesn’t exist. The world’s philosophy to the above is as follows:
1. Origins: In the dateless past, out of nothing came something, out of which life eventually emerged from the bogs of primeval seas. Over a 5-billion year period, this one cell entity called an amoeba evolved into a complex multi-billion celled being called modern man.
2. Justification: If my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds on the scales of life, God will accept me into heaven when I die.
3. Purpose: On one side of the coin, the epicurean philosophy is, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” After all, you owe it to yourself to indulge in everything the world has to offer. On the other side of the coin, the stoic says you must devote yourself to fleshly inhibitions to find fulfillment in life.
4. Eternal Destiny: Most unregenerate men deny that there is life beyond the grave. In the words of Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer, “Death is the end!”
According to the Word of God, in the beginning God created man in His image (Gen. 1:26 cf. 2:7). John Milton said: “The greatness and sacredness of man’s soul is attested by two facts: First, the creation of his soul in the image of the eternal God; and second, the price that had to be paid for the redemption of his soul.” Today, man is justified by the grace of God through faith in the finished work of Christ, apart from works (Rom. 3:24 cf. I Cor. 15:1-4). Upon conversion, man’s chief end in life is to glorify God, with whom he will spend eternity in the heavenlies (Rev. 4:11 cf. Col. 1:5).
The world by human wisdom will never know God! Thus, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21). The phrase “foolishness of preaching” is the rationale of the skeptic—it’s nothing but foolishness to them. But the preaching of the Cross is to those who are saved a demonstration of the power of God. It convicted us of our sins and brought us to salvation. The power of God transformed our lives!
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (I Tim. 2:3-6).The preaching of the Cross clearly teaches us that Christ died for all. The term “will” in this passage has the sense that God “desires” all men to be saved. If He willed it, then every man would be saved. Here again we have the sovereignty of God and human responsibility intersecting one another. God, in His sovereignty, convicts man through His Word, yet He never violates man’s will. Man is responsible to believe the good news that Christ died for his sins.
Paul adds, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” A mediator is one who stands between two parties, he technically represents both sides. What better representative could the Godhead and man have than the person of Christ? He is perfectly suited for the task at hand, simply because He is God manifested in the flesh. Christ is the perfect Redeemer!
When Christ came into the world He gave Himself a ransom for all. In biblical times, the “ransom” was the price paid to purchase a slave out of slavery. In similar fashion, Christ stepped into the slave market of sin to redeem us back to God. While our salvation is free, it did not come without a cost. The ransom the Father required was blood, the precious blood of His dear Son. According to Paul’s gospel, the scope of redemption is unlimited. Christ gave Himself a ransom “for” Gr. huper “on behalf of” all. A provision has been made for all, which is confirmed in II Corinthians 5:14: “If one died for all, then were all dead.”
May I inquire, is there anyone reading these lines who does not believe that all men are dead in trespasses and sins when they enter this world? (Eph. 2:1-3). If you agree, then you must also agree that Christ died for all because this is the argument of this passage.
According to I Timothy 2:6,7 these things were “to be testified in due time” through Paul’s apostleship. As he says, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle.” You see it was given to Paul to explain the significance of Calvary. He was the first to reveal that Christ is the mediator between God and man, the first to teach that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, the first to show that we have redemption through Christ’s shed blood, even the forgiveness of sins, the first to make known that Christ died for all, the first to reveal that Christ was the propitiation for the remission of sins that are past (prophetic saints), through the forbearance of God. A failure to acknowledge this truth is to anticipate revelation, which does a great injustice to the Word of God.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13,14).As the Apostle Paul brings us within view of heaven’s glory, we are going to learn that our passage has been bought and paid for by the shed blood of Christ. The Word of God is unmistakably clear that “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Dear ones, we must never underestimate its value in our redemption. There are those who would rob us of this wonderful truth. The liberals deny it, the new evangelicals avoid it, but we who seek to defend the faith thank God for the precious blood of Christ. We plead guilty to preaching a gospel of blood! The Bible is a book of blood; it’s woven throughout the pages of the sacred record.
On June 6, 1944, commonly known as D-Day, the tide of World War II turned in favor of the Allies. General Eisenhower had assembled one of the largest invasion fleets in history. While political and military strategies played a role in the victory at Normandy Beach, our young men who courageously fought and bled and died for the cause were essentially the ones who conquered the enemy. We owe these men a great debt of gratitude for their heroism. The Second World War was won because many of our troops paid the ultimate price.
Likewise, in God’s war against sin, He has conquered the enemy by the shed blood of Christ. When we consider Christ’s coming into the world to redeem mankind, we are immediately faced with what appears to be an insurmountable problem. How can God’s only begotten Son enter the human race without sin? After all, human parents who are sinners can only reproduce sinful offspring. The answer is found in Hebrews 2:14:
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”Here is a classic example as to why it is so important to consult the original languages at times, to arrive at the proper sense that the Spirit of God initially intended. Thankfully, we don’t need to be Hebrew or Greek scholars, simply because the work has already been done for us by those who are gifted in these languages. God has not left us without assistance!
When it states that the “children are partakers of flesh and blood,” the term “partakers” is the Greek word koinoneo, which denotes “to share in common or to share fully.” Thus, the human race shares something in common—flesh and blood—through which has passed the sin nature. But the Spirit of God is careful to draw a distinction between the human race and Christ’s identification with humanity.
“He also Himself likewise took part of the same.”Notice Christ is said to have “took part” of the same. The Greek word here is metecho, denoting “to share or participate in, but not fully.” Through the miraculous conception and virgin birth, Christ laid hold of human flesh without inheriting the sin nature. Since “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” we can safely assume that His blood was not tainted with sin. This certainly cannot be said of us. The life of the flesh is in our blood only in the sense that the blood coursing through our veins keeps us alive to sin another day. Little wonder Peter calls it “the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:19). It is the antidote for the disease of our sins.
While this is denied by some, we believe Christ literally shed His blood at the Cross. When the priest in Israel poured out the blood at the foot of the brazen altar, it symbolized the foot of the Cross, where the blood of the Lamb would one day drip (Lev. 4:32-34). Blood is an interesting paradox: murderers attempt to get rid of it, God cleanses our sins with it. This crimson thread is woven throughout Paul’s epistles leaving us with a tapestry of redemption.
“But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:8,9).Today God is justifying ungodly sinners on the basis of the shed blood of Christ. In this context, justification means to be declared eternally righteous by God. Justification is a legal term. For example, if a prisoner is brought before the bar of justice there is only one way he can be justified. He must be found NOT GUILTY. If it is proven he is not guilty then he is a just man.
But let us consider another case. A man commits a federal crime and is found guilty and sentenced to death. The President of the United States can pardon him, but he can never justify him. Even though the man is pardoned, he is still a criminal guilty of the crime. There is no way to justify him or remove his guilt.
But wonder of wonders, we are found guilty before the bar of God’s justice, yet we are justified by God’s grace. The law points its bony finger into our face and says, “You are a sinner, guilty as charged, and therefore condemned to die” (Rom. 3:19,20). As the sentence is about to be read, Christ says to the Father, “I will bear their guilt and punishment.” Christ gave Himself a ransom for all. He took our place!
God did not overlook the penalty of our sins—the death of Christ paid for it. Our sins and guilt were placed upon Him, and His righteousness was imputed to us. In Christ, we are guiltless before God, accepted in the Beloved One, and delivered from the wrath to come. This is the wrath of God we would have experienced at the Great White Throne Judgment and subsequent sentence to the Lake of Fire. By God’s grace, we are beyond the reach of God’s righteous judgment. As the apostle declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). As the apostle pondered the character of Christ through the prism of the once-for-all sacrifice, he was moved to write, “Let this mind be in you.” In other words, be compassionate, humble, generous, forgiving, etc. Christ loved the unlovely. Allow me to illustrate:
George Whitefield, in one of his travels, found himself at an inn one evening. To his surprise, in the next room there was a company of gamblers. Their language was terrible. Whitefield and his friend spent a little time in prayer and reading the Word, and then he said, “Before I retire, I must go in there and testify to those men,” and he did. He went into the other room and told them about the Lord. They listened, but by the time he got back to his room, they were as bad as ever. His friend said to him, “Brother Whitefield, what did you gain by that?” And he said, “I gained a soft pillow. I can now go to sleep.” 1
George Whitefield had a burden for lost souls. He loved the unlovely. Even though his words appeared to fall on deaf ears, he could rest easy that evening having shared the gospel and warned these ungodly men of the judgment to come. I fear sometimes that believers are so busy majoring on minors that they fail to realize that lost souls are slipping away to a Christless eternity, while they are trying to prove a point.
May the lesson that we learn from Calvary be this: a humble heart is one that can be greatly used of God. As it has been said, “The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself; he simply does not think of himself at all! Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it!”