The Message of the Cross
by David Scott
In 1 Cor. 1:18 (NKJV), Paul wrote, "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." In view of the many messages being preached today (faith message, sonship message, etc.), I see a definite need to focus more upon the message of the cross. Lacking the message of the cross, these other messages have gone to extremes that do not rightly interpret the Bible.
What is the message of the cross? It is defined in the previous verse: "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 to no effect." This verse proves that the gospel is based upon what Jesus did on the cross. Thus, the message of the cross and the gospel are synonymous. The apostle Paul elaborated further about the emphasis of his message in verse 23: "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness." Paul also wrote in 1 Cor. 2:2, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Of course, the gospel message would not be complete without the resurrection of our Savior. Paul clarified this fact in 1 Cor. 15:1-4.
What is the significance of Jesus' crucifixion upon the cross? Rom. 5:6 tells us, "...Christ died for the ungodly." Verse 8 explains further: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Thus, the message of the cross is a revelation of God's love and the fact that His system of justice required Jesus to die in our place.
When Jesus died in our place, He accomplished several things all at once. First, He provided a means for us to be reconciled to God (Eph. 2:16). Col. 1:20 explains our reconciliation more clearly: "And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself,...having made peace through the blood of His cross." While some people are teaching that our reconciliation was accomplished by some further suffering Jesus did in hell after His death on the cross, this verse proves our reconciliation was completed at the cross. Nothing more was needed than the shedding of His blood.
Col. 2:14 reveals a second thing Jesus accomplished at the cross: "Having wiped out the handwriting of ordinances that were against us, which were contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Jesus didn't need to do anything more in hell because it was finished at the cross. Verse 15 further reveals that what Jesus did at the cross had a third effect of disarming principalities and powers. His death on the cross made a public spectacle of them and He triumphed over them in it.
The fourth thing Jesus did at the cross is recorded in Rom. 6:10: "For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God." Thus, His death paid the penalty for our sins. The fifth thing is closely related - Rom. 6:6 says, "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." In other words, when Jesus died on the cross, He not only bore our sins upon Himself, but also bore our sinful natures. He paid the penalty for our sins and at the same time put to death our evil natures, which influenced us to commit those sins.
Paul elaborated upon this in Gal. 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 the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Col. 2:20 also confirms the fact that when Jesus died on the cross, we died with Him. When Jesus was crucified, we were also crucified. Can a dead man sin? If you know that you were crucified with Him (Rom. 6:6), then you can reckon yourself dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). It is amazing how powerless temptation is when you see yourself dead to it.
Thus, the message of the cross not only focuses upon what Jesus did, but also on how it applies to us. His death reconciled us to God; His blood was a propitiation for our sins (Rom. 3:25). His blood also justified us and redeemed us (Rom. 5:9; Rev. 5:9). Everything we will ever need from God was provided by the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross (John 19:30).
Another way in which the cross applies to us was taught by Jesus Himself in Luke 9:23 - "...If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Thus, the message of the cross also includes a message of self-denial. Examples of this today are seen in the ministers who gave up lucrative careers to serve God for less pay. They are not concerned about status or worldly possessions; they are willing to deny themselves anything that hinders them from obeying God and they are content to wait for the payday that will come beyond the grave.
Paul summed it up best when he wrote Gal. 6:14: "But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." The health and wealth that God promised in the Bible must come to us through the cross, not apart from the cross. Too many people are failing to make this distinction. May all of our preaching and teaching be balanced by the message of the cross.
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