The Preaching of the Cross
Roy Blizzard III © 2015
Text: I Corinthians 1:18-31, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 24) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29) That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Isaac Watts, the English Non-conformist Christian theologian, logician and hymn writer of the 1600s, wrote over 750 hymns like the wonderful Christmas tune Joy to the world and the beautiful When I survey the wondrous cross. I especially love the words to this latter song as it reminds me of what the central message of Jesus’ Gospel.
1) When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
3) See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
5) Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
You see, the Cross is the central theme of the Bible. It is the central point in the redemption of man and the redemption of the world, central in mankind’s history, central in our worship of God and the Messiah, and should be most central in our experience as believers. The Cross is the meeting place of opposites:
1) Of Noon and Midnight – 3 hours of Sunlight followed by 3 hours of darkness.
2) Of Love and Hate – The Lord’s sacrifice versus the acts of His enemies.
3) Of Love and Justice – God’s Supreme Gift to mankind versus the costliness of that offering gift which paid the penalty of man’s sin.
4) Of Innocence and Sinfulness – I Peter 3:18 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust…”
5) Of Divine Sacrifice and Human Greed and Lust – The mind of the Blood shed of a Divine Sacrifice versus the mind of man’s betrayal and the thirst for blood.
6) Of Good and Evil – Here Transcendent Good overcomes the Diabolical Evil engaged in the battle for the power of man given by God in the Garden.
7) Of the Law and the Gospel – Jesus’ death subjugated the Law to the seal of the Resurrected Savior.
8) Of Life and Death – Jesus’ Resurrection versus the Book of Sin and Death.
To preach Jesus crucified is to preach that “…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” I Corinthians 15:3. Preaching Jesus, our Christ crucified, preaching the Cross and preaching the Gospel are equivalent expressions to the same end.
In our text, the Apostle Paul alludes to 3 types of minds and describes their respective reactions to the preaching of “Christ Crucified”:
- A) To the Jews – Jesus says that this preaching of “Christ Crucified” is a stumbling block to the type of mind set that is dogmatic and legalistic in nature, which is only seeking after some sort of a “sign” and which measures all religious experience and exercise in terms of strict conformity to man’s prescribed law and ritual and traditions. Naturally, to such men as this the preaching of the Cross with its philosophy of sacrificial love is a stumbling block. It was so in Jesus’ day, in Paul’s day and continues so in our day. After about 2,000 years, the Legalistic Jewish individuals are still blinded by the veil of the Mosaic Law.
- B) To the Greeks – This preaching of the Cross was “foolishness”. The Greeks represents the speculative philosophical type of mind that takes special pride in its liberality and broadness and continually questions facts while wandering around aimlessly in the realm of the relative and speculative, never arriving at any definite conclusions of convictions other than to possibly say God doesn’t exists so they don’t have to deal with the difficult questions of their own salvation.
- C) But unto them that are Called – This preaching of the Cross was and still is effective unto Salvation. Finally, there is the spiritual mind represented by those first believers of the 1st century, to whom the preaching of the Cross was the “power of God unto Salvation”, I Corinthians 1:18 and it was the “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”. I Corinthians 1:24 The early believers were able to discern within it the Authority, the Wisdom and the Overcoming Love of God as revealed within Jesus their Savior. Thus, it became to them the “Power of God unto Salvation” as it indeed is “to everyone that believeth”.
The Challenge of the Cross is a Challenge and Call to Faithfulness is the Service of Jesus and His Kingdom.
Listen to these words of George McDonald, a Scottish minister of the late 1800’s about the Path of Obedience:
I said: “Let me walk in the field”;
God said: ‘Nay, walk in the town”;
I said: “There are no flowers there”;
He said: “No flowers, but a crown.”
I said: “But the sky is black,
There is nothing but noise and din”;
But He wept as He sent me back,
“There is more,” He said, “there is sin
I said: “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun”;
He answered: “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone.”
I said: “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say”;
He answered me, “Choose tonight,
If I am to miss you, or they.”
I pleaded for time to be given;
He said: “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in Heaven
To have, followed the steps of your Guide.”
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said: “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”
Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light Divine,
The path I had feared to see.
The preaching of the Cross is the one thing that is most needed in this shallow, superficial snazzy, jazzy, materialistic world and age that we are passing through.
In ” Christianity in the New Age” by Emily Herman we read
“And the offence of Christianity centres in the Cross. To preach that Cross, not merely as a model of selfless love and sacrifice which we can follow, though at a distance, but as a great, unique, objective fact, a settled axiom of the spiritual world which must re-make us
before we can speak of “recapitulating” it, is to preach the great “offence.” To lift up the
Cross once more as the supreme revelation of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment ; as the redeeming Act of God giving Himself in love that risks all;… It is because she has done so little to make men truly and wholly Christian and so much to keep them Church members that her message lacks power, and her rule fails to convince.”
Modernists reject the theory of the Atonement. Some often denounce it as a “Bloody Gospel” while another has claimed that, “The Blood on the Cross is too old to be of any aid to me.” Popular preachers today present the death of Jesus as the supreme example of obedience and submission to the will of God, as the sublime illustration of the principle of suffering, as a mighty appeal to the nature of men. The problem is that Satan just laughs when he hears the Cross of Jesus preached this way for he doesn’t even have to worry himself about his demons to do his bidding.
You see, when we go to the Bible, we discover that Jesus died within God’s great provision of Justice and Mercy that He might remain Just and yet be the Justifier of them that believe into Jesus. That awful transaction on Calvary has its effect on both God and man, making it right and possible for God to forgive our sins and yet Justify the sinner. On the Cross, Jesus took the sinner’s place, drank the sinner’s cup, felt the sinner’s stripes, and was bruised for the sinner’s transgressions.
It is when you come to preach Jesus as the Atonement, as the Divine Sin-Bearer, as the one who was made to be a sin sacrifice on our behalf, that you approach the Glory and Power of the Believer. Wherever the Gospel is preached with the great doctrine of the Atonement left out, there the offence of the Cross has ceased. The Atoning, Saving Blood of Jesus, shed freely for the sins of the world, The Atonement, is the one doctrine in Jesus’ Kingdom that the world scorns and which the gates of Hell Fear.
It was the doctrine of the cross that Jesus offered up for sinners that the Apostles declared “First of all”. It was that doctrine which established the early church within a pagan world and has kept believers secure in the storms and persecutions of the ages.
One of the most alarming tendencies of our day is the tendency to dilute and tone down the Gospel out of Fear, to suit the prejudices and unbeliefs of the world within which we live. We need to thank God for the Cross and what Jesus accomplished there and we need to pray that God saves the Church from weakness and apostasy. Our churches are becoming not just like lighthouses whose light has gone out and are allowing people to crash upon the rocks of sin, but more like lighthouses whose lights are flashing with false lights deceiving and luring men and women to their deaths.
Jesus came and died for one fundamental purpose, to awaken love for God in every human heart and thereby allow man to re-covenant with God. It was when Jesus’ hands were pierced that Jesus gripped humanity. It was when mankind Crucified Jesus that they Enthroned Him. Jesus was under no obligation to pay the debts of man, that is to die for his sin. It is appointed to man once to die, but not Jesus. He was given the power over death and the power to lay down His life and take it back up. Think with me for a moment on this point. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus was beyond the deadline of mortality and He might have abandoned the sinning and suffering world to its fate, but even then He was telling Moses and Elijah that He was going back to Jerusalem to be Crucified. He chose to die that He might come into contact with dying men. Here again is a manifestation of gracious descent from superiority even though no man could take His life from Him.
Jesus would cross the boundry between mortality and immortality at will. He might go by the gateway of Transfiguration of by the dark, painful, shameful, one of Crucifixion. For man’s sake, Jesus chose the latter and humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the Cross.
“Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.”
Song By KRISTIAN STANFILL