The Word of the Cross
1st Corinthians 1:17-18
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. Vs 18- For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Vs 21- “…God was well pleased through the message preached to save those who believe.”
Intro: In Part one of this teaching on the “Word of the Cross,” we observed that it took the early followers of Jesus some time to process the meaning of what exactly God was doing in allowing His Beloved Son Jesus to die such an ignominious death. The early disciples understood the crucifixion, but the idea of the “cross” needed God’s further revelation.
Explain: “The Cross” has at least three meanings in the New testament:
- The Cross– literally means the Roman instrument of death. Jesus used it this way when he referred to his coming death. He said to his disciples, The Son of Man must suffer and die on a cross.”
- The Cross– used as a Symbol of suffering. Jesus said to his disciples, “if anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
- The Cross of Christ– in later years this becomes the phrase used most to describe what God accomplished thru Jesus’ death.
Which brings back to this “word” that comes from the Cross of Christ- what is this “word’ this Message from God thru the Cross?”
- It is a word of ATONEMENT and Sacrifice= Propitiation has been made
The death of Jesus is God’s offering to us of cleansing, and forgiveness of sins. Christ’s death is the fulfillment of the book of Leviticus. All our guilt, our shame, and our sins are washed clean by the blood of Christ. He is God’s lamb offered to the world for the forgiveness of sins.
- It is a word of REDEMPTION.
This is the message of freedom from bondage, from slavery. The ransom price for our sins has been paid. We are set free- redeemed. Slaves no more!
- It is a word of JUSTIFICATION– We have peace with God. Romans 5:1,2
The word of the cross says we are at peace with Holy God because thru Christ’s sacrifice we can enter his holy presence -just-as-if-we’d-never-sinned!
- It is the word of RECONCILIATION– we are restored to fellowship with the Father
Jesus used the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 to illustrate this reconciliation that was accomplished at the Cross.
All of this seems too good to be true? Indeed, to the unbelieving it is “foolishness.”
Paul, the man who wrote these words to the Corinthian believers needed both time and God’s revelation to open his eyes to the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ. He did not see all this nor believe all this immediately.
Explain: Paul’s letter to the Romans has the theme of “justification by Faith.” It reveals sublime heavenly words of the Cross. However, Romans also reveals Paul’s personal struggle to accept the fact that he truly was accepted by God.
For Example: Romans 7:24 and Romans 7:25 probably has many years in between. Not that it took Paul many years to write verse 25 after writing verse 24, but rather that it took him much reflection to BELIEVE that verse 25 really was true in his own life. The “wretched man that I am, who will set me free from the body of this death? is the heart cry of a former persecutor, murderer, blasphemer and violent aggressor against Christ; who is still struggling with finding victory over sin, finding peace with God and finding forgiveness for the shame and guilt of his past life. The message of the Cross of Christ has not yet penetrated his soul.
When Paul writes Romans 8:1, “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” He has become a mature believer in the message of the Cross.
Apply: Do you believe the word of the Cross? Really believe it? Let us test your faith in the Cross.
First– the Word of the cross is that Atonement has been made for your sins. It says guilt and shame are gone- blotted out. You no longer must try to make up for your past failures.
Illustration; In 1986, Hollywood produced a Robert De Niro film called “The Mission.” It is the story of a Spanish mercenary and slave trader, portrayed by De Niro. He has been capturing Indians in Paraguay South American & selling them to Spanish plantation owners. When he returns home he discovers his brother Filipe is having an affair with his wife. There is a duel and Rodrigo Mendoza kills his brother.
With great remorse he goes to his priest- father Gabriel. For a penitence, the priest makes the Mercenary go with him on a mission to the same tribe of Indians he has been killing and capturing as slaves. There is a scene in the movie where as a punishment for his sins, Robert De Nero is climbing a water fall, dragging a large netted bundle of his guns, his armor, his sword. With great struggle he is climbing to the top of the falls where the Tribe lives. He is the picture of guilt and shame.
Apply: I know men like that. Men who have never forgiven themselves for past failures or present sins. They go thru life dragging their shame and guilt along with them.
Brothers- when you do this, you are not hearing the word of the Cross. The word is- Jesus has atoned for all your sins. His blood has cleansed us who believe. Faith says, “Since God has forgiven me- I must believe him and forgive myself!”
Second, The Word of the cross is that We are Redeemed. Ephesians 1:7.
Do you believe that? If so, ask yourself, are you free in Christ? Because to be redeemed means we are set free from the bondage of rules, performance and trying to impress God and others with our religious activity. To believe it means you have moved from trying to trusting. Joy in not found in your doing for God, but rather in what He has done for you.
Thirdly, the word of the Cross is a message of Justification. This means the war is over. Judgment has not come to me because it came to Jesus in my place, which brings peace. The cross of Christ is God saying to you & me- We are no longer enemies of God, but blood bought sons. The war is over, we have peace with God, because Jesus death has removed all guilt and satisfied the wrath of God.
Apply: Do you believe that? Are you at peace with God? If not, then the word of the Cross has not been heard by you. Men who have believed the message from the Cross are at peace with God.
Lastly, the word of the Cross is about Reconciliation.
We are told to believe that because of the Cross we are adopted into God’s forever family. We have been reconciled to God. The Judge has become our Father.
Apply: Do you really hear that word? Do you believe it? Ask yourself, do I embrace the truth that the God of the Universe is also my Father in Heaven. He knows me, and still loves me.
James Michener wrote a book called” The Source.” It was about a group of Archaeologists digging on a “tell” in Palestine. As each level of civilization is unearthed, Michener tells the story of those people living at that time in history. When they come to the middle ages, known as the Byzantine period, when the Greek Orthodox were living there, Michener tells a remarkable story.
AN Orthodox church is being built in the village. The stone masons doing work on the church are Palestinian Christians. One of the stone masons is a Palestinian young man who falls in love with a Jewish Girl. They are madly in love and want to marry. The young man goes to his sweetheart’s Father to ask her hand in marriage. The Father is incensed and forbids his daughter to marry a Palestinian Arab. The young man is crushed by this rejection. The daughter will not go against her father and family.
One day as the young man is laying bricks in the floor of the Chapel near the altar, The Priest comes by to talk to him. He sees the sadness in the youth’s countenance. Asking what is wrong, the young man tells the priest his story. He says, “I am not good enough for her. I am a filthy Arab not a Jew. I can never be good enough for her. When the kind-hearted priest hears these words, he reaches down to the youth and grabs him by the neck, raising him up and pointing to the Cross, a crucifix, the priest says, “Well then, my son, tell that to Him. Tell the Son of God who died for you that you are not worthy. Tell him you are not good enough. He will have none of that talk! He died for you, so you are good enough. You must believe that!
The message from the Cross is that we are reborn Sons of the living God. Reconciled forever in Christ.
It is true, we must believe this, or we are hopelessly lost in our sins. If God says you are good enough- then believe it. Live by it.
Illust: Martin Luther struggled with the word of the Cross. It took him years to believe it. Trying to save himself he joined an Augustinian Monastery, where he Fasted, prayed, and repented repeatedly trying to remember every unconfessed sin. He even made pilgrimage to Rome, walking the entire way from Germany. He was told that if he came to St John’s cathedral and crawled up Pilot’s staircase where Jesus was sentenced to die, then each prayer prayed over each step, would release his soul from some 1,000 years in purgatory. When he reached the top, Luther turned and looked back down the stairs and said to himself, “I doubt that this is true!”
Apply: The message from the Cross says, “Not true. Confession does not forgive sin, only the blood of Christ and it has been done for all sins for all time. Believe it and rejoice!
Conclusion: This then is the word from the Cross. To the unbelieving it is foolishness. Do you believe it? Is your faith in this message from the Cross, real enough to change the way you live? Does it change how you relate to God our Father? I pray so, because this word from the cross is the power of God to change the world- and you and me!