The Message of the Cross

 

 “The message of the Cross is to them who perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent”, 1Corinthians1:18- 19. The Apostle Paul is in effect saying to us that, spiritual things cannot be discerned by un-redeemed [unbelievers] people. Just the same, the Cross of Christ cannot be understood unless it is preached to a dying lost world. The preaching of the Cross is the Power of God, for it is at the Cross that the total sin debt was paid, allowing the Holy Spirit, in and through whom that power resides to work mightily in a believer’s heart and life. As the Prophet Isaiah so effectively says in chapter 29:14, “therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid”. The prophet is speaking here of Israel’s religious establishment and learned men [the Pharisees and Sadducees] who will reject Christ and His claims as the One sent by God. So it reflects to the modern day wherein we live as the wise men [secular world] of our day reject Christ as the only Way and Truth and the Life by which we can reach the Father. So also the modern church has rejected the very truth of God’s Word, thinking themselves to be wise but forsaking the ways of the Lord. Even more sad is the fact that the so-called Pentecostal and Charismatic churches of our day have come to the point in their history where the Cross of Calvary is no longer [or very little mention of it] preached. Not only is the Cross an offence to the world at large but it has become somewhat of an offence to most of the Church. No longer is the Cross mentioned in their sermons, [maybe just in passing reference] as pastors and preachers preach a watered down gospel; which somehow has only to do with how prosperous you must be, and how much seed you must sow into God’s Kingdom. Do I need to mention the Word of Faith Movement who has no other message but to be prosperous? But let me clear something here before I am looked upon as someone who is negative toward prosperity. Prosperity is not the gospel message of the Bible. The Cross is the central theme of the Bible and the foundation of the Christian faith. No I am not ignorant of the fact that God does want to bless and prosper His children. But my friend, God will supply your need and not your greed. Why do you think the proponents of the prosperity gospel are so successful? It is because they want to feed their own fleshly materialistic needs. They abuse\misuse\and twist God’s Word to mislead so many un-suspecting people into parting with their money. One can ask the question here, how many of these poor misled people are truly prosperous and how many have become millionaires after listening to these prosperity-pimps. So many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have bought into this false gospel\doctrine of prosperity, as many millions of misled believers are still waiting to be blessed out of their socks by God, as these preachers have promised them He would. Have you noticed how it is only the preachers and their spouses who drive the Mercedes Benzes, Rolls Royce’s etc? Have you noticed it is only the preachers and their spouses who live in security protected mansions? Have you noticed it is only the preachers and their spouses who go on expensive overseas holidays? Have you noticed it is only the preachers and their spouses who wear the expensive designer outfits? Do I need to continue? This is not the spirit of the gospel of the Cross when preachers with such high-profile ministries want to preach to congregations when their own marriages are failing. Recently a high-profile preacher’s wife has started divorce proceedings against him. Yet these same preachers reckon themselves above the Word of God, even though the Bible gives guidelines concerning marriage. And they carry on preaching the gospel as if nothing is wrong in their lives. High profile ministers need to get their personal lives [marriages] in order. They should by all manners place aside their mega-ministries and try to save their families. My friend let me state here un-equivocally that God is not impressed by mega-churches. The only answer to a failing marriage is the Cross. The Cross is the answer to your children’s disobedience and their drugs and alcohol problems. The Cross of Calvary and the One who was crucified on that Cross is the answer to all of life’s questions. The Cross was the only means by which God could reconcile men to Himself, “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. And you, who were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled”, Colossians 1:20-21. There is no other in which salvation has been brought to a world, but by and through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul clearly states his position in 1Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”. Paul did not resort to all kinds of gimmicks, [as most of these prosperity preachers do], or the knowledge and philosophies of the world regarding the preaching of the gospel. Jesus Christ and Him crucified is and always will be the message that will save the sinner, and set the captive free; and also give the believer perpetual victory over sin, and address their everyday lives\problems as Christians. Let me state here again that the Cross is the central theme of the Christian faith. The Cross is the foundation of everything that is godly. When a person comes into the revelation [of the Cross] that they are raised from the dead with Christ then they will walk in the spiritual maturity and power of the resurrected Christ and the finished work of the Cross. The message of the Cross seems foolish to those who are physically [carnally] minded, but for us who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit we know it is part of God’s perfect plan, 1Corinthians 1:18.

We are living in a day when the message of the Church is changing. Churches, even whole denominations, are moving away from the old message of salvation through the Blood of Jesus. The Church is moving away from the old fashioned preaching of the Cross, and is moving toward a message of salvation through social activism and good works. The old bloody message of the Cross is quickly being replaced by a bloodless and powerless message that lacks power and hope. Instead of hearing the devastating, yet life changing news that men are sinners, people are subjected to messages that tells them, I’m OK and you’re OK”. Hence the messages of the liberal preachers that tells you that you are not a sinner because it is offensive, and it is a let-down to your self-esteem. It degrades people and breaks their self worth. Well folks, let me take the same stand that the Apostle Paul took when he spoke to the Church in Corinth. Paul reminded them that he had been called to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That message was to be his focus and that message was to be his ministry. I want to say to you that it was that event that took place at Calvary 2000 years ago that altered the future for every person who places their faith in the One who died there that day. That is the message of the gospel. That is and should always be the focus and central theme of the message brought from behind the sacred pulpit. The Church must return to the preaching of the Cross. Countless people are going to a lost eternity thinking that they are saved by their good works. Countless people are going to a lost eternity because they listened to a watered down, compromised gospel. Let’s look at what this preaching of the Cross is all about.

The preaching of the Cross is a strange message. Out of the preaching of the Cross [death] comes life. The Jewish nation was looking for a Messiah who would throw off the yoke of Rome and bring liberty and freedom from their captors. They totally missed the fact that their Messiah would be the One who would suffer for the sins of the people, Isaiah 53. Hence the reason for Paul stating, that the preaching of the Cross is foolishness to them who are perishing. The word “foolishness” comes from the same word we get the word “moron”. So to the lost the very idea of trusting in a suffering, bleeding man for salvation is moronic to say the least, 1Corinthians 1:21-24. The preaching of the Cross is a shocking message that relates a brutal, awful death for the one hanging on said cross. The death that Christ died on the Cross was one of absolute torture. We cannot even remotely imagine the excruciating pain that the Master was forced to endure the last few hours of His earthly life. Here is a refresher on what Christ had to endure for our salvation:

Scourged -- Matthew 27:26

Beaten - Luke 22:63-64

Spit upon – Matthew 27:30

Beard plucked from His face – Isaiah 50:6

Mocked – Matthew 27:26-29

Stripped naked – Matthew 27:35

Nailed to the Cross – Matthew 27:38; John 20:25

The ancient Assyrians were the first to “crucify” their victims. But they did not nail them to the cross but merely impaled them on sharpened stakes and left to die. The Romans came along and added a little touch of humanity to their victims by actually nailing them to the cross. The sufferings of Christ cannot be comprehended by us as we were not there, but it was necessary for this act so that salvation can be wrought on our behalf. So it is necessary that the sufferings of the Cross be preached, so that people can understand the tremendous price attached to our freedom. History has proven over and over that freedom is bought with bloodshed. So the truths of Christ’s sufferings don’t even begin to scratch the surface what He endured on our behalf, Isaiah 52:14. His was a bitter cup, but one which Jesus drank willingly, Luke 22:41-42. There is no salvation apart from faith in the finished and complete work of Christ at Calvary. No amount of good works [however noble] can buy your salvation. No amount of Hail Mary’s and going to mass will buy your salvation. No amount of scripture quotations can buy your salvation. It is your faith [belief and acceptance] in Christ and what He did on the Cross. The problem with most of the modern church is that too much emphasis is placed on certain conditions to salvation. But the Bible clearly states that we are saved by accepting in faith what the scriptures teach about Jesus and His atoning death on the cross. In other words we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The pastors and ministers of the gospel within the modern church no longer preach the un-compromising gospel that is why no one is getting saved. I have been a member of a Pentecostal church for several years and I cannot recall that one person has been saved in all this time. Why is this? Because there is no preaching of the Cross as Paul declares in 1Corinthians 2:2. The church must come back to the preaching of the Cross so that not only the un-saved can come to Christ, but that those within the Church [the believers] may stay close to the One who died on the Cross. There are people within the ranks of the local congregations who come to church-services but who have not made a commitment to Christ because they are constantly in-undated with sermons that tickle the ears, 2Timothy 4:3. All they hear is that “I’m OK you’re OK”. Congregations are constantly being fed with a diet of how good and prosperous it has to be. They are constantly bombarded with how they must sow into the Kingdom, to be blessed out of their socks by God. Less and less there are pastors who have totally abandoned the preaching of the Cross. They have abandoned the preaching of the Rapture of the Church. I do thank the Lord for pastors and ministers who still preach the old fashioned, Holy Ghost inspired, devil-chasing, sin killing, true blue and red hot gospel of the Bible, and that is Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. Please folks don’t misunderstand me? I believe in the deeper teachings of the Word of God. There are treasures of Spirit filled inspired messages that comes from the Word, but all of these treasures find their origin only through the preaching of the Cross. Everything originates and comes through Calvary. Right through the Old Testament we read of the love of God toward the nation of Israel. Although God’s plan of salvation was brought first to the Jews [Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Jeremiah 3:3] that love would eventually come to the Gentile nations of the world. This love overflowed to the entire earth when Christ hung on the Cross, declaring to the entire world His boundless and matchless mercy, love and grace, Romans 5:6-8. The atoning death of Christ is what the preaching of the Cross is all about. It’s about people coming to Christ and placing their faith and trust in Jesus and Him alone for salvation. Many people today have a non-plussed attitude concerning the preaching of the Cross, and of the Blood of Jesus. That is why they have this don’t care attitude about going to church maybe on a Sunday morning or evening. If preachers will preach more on the Cross and the dangers of the neglect of the gathering of the saints, so-called born-again believers will wake up and get on fire for God. Also we need more preaching and warnings of the rejection of the Cross, and then the lost will get saved. We cannot get away from this truth saints! The Bible, tells us that there is no other way to cleanse sin, but through the sacrifice of an innocent one in the place of a guilty one, Hebrews 9:22. No amount of good works within the church, or no amount of reading your Bible and quoting scriptures all day long will save you, and set you free. It is your belief in the finished work of Christ and what He did on the Cross. All the way back to the Tabernacle and the Temple we see that sin was atoned for by the blood of sheep, bulls and goats, Hebrews 10:4, 10-11. But Jesus went to the Cross and died for the sins of humanity, and it is there that His death on the Cross forever settled the sin debt of men, Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:12-14. There is no more need for sacrifice of blood to atone for the sin debt. It’s been paid for by the one sacrifice for all time never to be repeated by Jesus. That is why it is necessary to preach the Cross. As Paul states, “for it is the Power of God to save the sinner”.                                                                                                                                                  

The preaching of the Cross is about the defeat of Satan. Ever since Lucifer rebelled against God’s authority and became the devil, that old serpent, he has been busy through the ages gone trying to hinder the work of God. Satan has tried through millennia’s to discredit the atoning death of Christ on the Cross. He has tried through agnosticism, atheism, communism etc, but his efforts have failed over and over. Jesus made this victorious statement to Peter, when He declared that the, “Gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church”, Matthew 16:18. Satan loves nothing more than to keep souls in bondage so they can go to a lost eternity. That is why he is known as murderer, liar and deceives the people of God, Revelation 12:9. One of the weapons in his arsenal is to make people believe that he does not exist. As the above scripture indicates that, “he deceives the whole world”. Because deception is his greatest weapon he continues to deceive as he is deceived, and uses that tool to great effect, Ephesians 2:1-3. But folks the good news is that Satan is a defeated foe. He was defeated by Christ on the Cross at Calvary. He may now roar like a ferocious lion and try to keep the sinner from God, 1Peter 5:8; but he is totally defeated by the power of [God] and the preaching of the Cross. Complete victory over the devil and his demons is found in the Blood of the Lamb which was shed on the Cross.

My friend there is three great and wonderful things that are appropriated when the Cross is preached.

1.     Sin dies: When a person places their faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, that person is forever changed. The chains of sin are broken, Romans 6:14.That person is made a new creature in Christ, 2Corinthians 5:17. The new believer no longer is in bondage, Romans 6:6.This is accomplished through the wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb.

2.     Hell is defeated: a person, who has come into true repentance and acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, will never experience the flames and fire of hell, John 5:24. No believer in Jesus Christ will come to condemnation when they place their faith and hope in the finished work of the Cross, Romans 8:1.

3.     Heaven is delivered: The blood of Christ shed on the Cross is the key that unlocks the gates of glory! When the blood is applied to a sinner’s heart and life, that person who is now a child of the Living God is destined for an eternity with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in Heaven. That is His promise to all who come to Him, John 14:1-3. And the only way to this glorious place spoken of here is found, John 3:3, 7. This experience that Jesus spoke about to Nicodemus is a born again term that the Lord used to explain that a person has had a natural birth experience, but now must experience the spiritual-birth, which comes by faith in Christ and what He had accomplished on the Cross.

Everything we are, everything we aim to be, everything we accomplish in our spiritual walk with Christ comes through the Cross. Yes, the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us, but He is working solely within the parameters of the Cross. The Apostle Paul explains in Hebrews 9:14, “How much more shall the Blood of Christ, Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?”. From this scripture one can come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit told Christ when to die [or give up His spirit]; in fact, no man took His Life from Him as He gave it up freely, John 10:17-18. The fact that the Son offered Himself without spot to the Father, contradicts the un-scriptural doctrine that Christ died “spiritually” on the Cross as well as physically. If Christ had to die spiritually, that would mean that Jesus died a sinner; which would also contradict what is taught by the Bible and even in this verse that He was without spot or blemish when He offered Himself to a Holy God as the offering for the payment of the sin debt. The Bible says without spot or blemish as a Lamb led to slaughter. That means He was sinless, He knew no sin, He was pure and faultless before the Father. Jesus could not offer Himself without spot or blemish, because God will not and cannot accept an offering that was not perfect. Do the pro-ponents of the above doctrine not read the Old Testament, where it is taught over and over that the animal sacrifice had to have no broken bones, or spot, or blemishes on their bodies? God would not accept such offerings. Do they not read in the Bible that God killed men [priests] who dared to bring strange fire to the altar, Leviticus 10:1; Numbers 3:4; 26:61; 28: 3, 9, 11, 17; 29:26?

The message of the Cross is simplistic and not clouded by demands and details; rather it is and should be delivered in simplicity and clarity. The problem within the modern church is that too many conditions are attached to our salvation. The Bible is very clear when it tells us that the way to be saved is for the sinner to repent first and then to accept in faith what scripture teaches about His atoning death, Romans 10:9-10, “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto Righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto Salvation”. All that Heaven requires is for you to confess that Jesus is the Lord of Glory, and the Saviour of all men, and that He died on the Cross that we might be saved. Heaven also requires us to believe that God raised Jesus bodily from the grave. We must believe’ and not feel. Believing in Christ, and believing that His Sacrifice of Himself atoned for all sin. So when Faith comes forth its silence is announced to proclaim the Glory and Grace of the Lord. That produces confession as spoken of in the above scripture. Friend there is absolutely nothing complicated about the message of the Cross. It is the Cross that stands between you and a lost eternity, therefore it is a simple message so even a small child can hear and understand it. The Bible teaches us that there is no other way to cleanse sin, but through the sacrifice of an innocent for the guilty, Hebrews 9:22. This is seen all the way back to the beginning in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:21, until Christ came and sacrificed Himself on the Cross once and for all time. By this the message of the Cross is offensive because it reveals the unvarnished truth about our spiritual condition. The truth about Christ and the atoning sacrifice offends and deflates people’s pride. God’s way of salvation is an affront, a scandal, an insult and ultimately speaks of the insufficiency of mans effort to attain righteousness before a Holy God. The message of the Cross is offensive to fallen human nature because it speaks of man’s attempt to justify their life here on earth. The message of the Cross implies that our sinful condition is and was so profound that it took the death of Jesus Christ to satisfy God’s wrath for us. Lastly but not the least the message of the Cross implies that humanity is sinful and under sentence of divine wrath, and therefore the Cross is an offense because it represents condemnation of the world at large. But contrary to what so-called liberal preachers, and the New Age thinkers say, the whole world lies in wickedness, 1John 5:19. The Cross reveals to us that we are lost, and apart from the intervention and saving grace of God all men are doomed. The Cross is the only answer to the redemption of all men everywhere. The reason for the Cross being an offense is because there is no other name but the name of Jesus Christ by which humans can be saved, John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1Corinthians 1:23; 1John 2:23. No other name, no other name, no other name by which men can be saved, but Jesus Christ. Many church-growth experts offer up an “in-offensive” gospel that appeals to the “felt needs” of seekers. When pastors and ministers preach the un-compromising message of the Cross people will get saved. The offense of the Cross is assuredly part of the message of salvation, and therefore never intended to cease, Galatians 5:11. Jesus said the following, take up your cross and follow me”. Taking up your cross will offend the world and most of the Church. If the preacher ceases to preach the Cross as the only way of salvation and victory, then opposition and persecution will cease, but so also will salvation.

In closing, this gospel my dear friend is not a glamorous gospel, but rather a bloody gospel, a gory gospel, and a sacrificial gospel. Our salvation was bought in blood and much pain. I am sure that five minutes after we have stepped into eternity we will wish we had sacrificed more, wept more, bled more, grieved more, loved more, prayed more and given more. The cross is a death sentence to all who oppose it, but a “crossing over” to those who accept it; into another world to come. So while the message of the Cross is scandalous to the worldly mind and all human reason, it is of inestimable worth, and a pearl of great price, the true treasure of the heart, a joy unspeakable and full of God’s glory.

 

Amen.

 

  


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