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 Corinthians 1:18).
Many people professing Christianity wear a cross about their necks, or on some other form of jewelry. Others have crosses on their walls at home or in their cars, hanging from the rear view mirror. Others will have the cross printed on their t-shirt or on their jackets, apparently making some statement of rebellion. Still others have a cross permanently tattooed on their bodies. Some religions make the sign of the cross with their hands, supposing it has some religious value while some denominations have crosses set up in their buildings as objects of adoration or meditation. The Bible, of course, authorizes none of this.
Instead of adoring some intrinsically valueless material object, Paul said we ought to preach the cross of Christ (I Cor. 2:2). This is essentially what Jesus commanded in the Great Commission when He commanded the apostles to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). To preach the cross of Christ means to tell people of it’s meaning. Many people think preaching the cross should involve advancing some psychological pablum, lecturing on some self-help jargon or advising some Norman Vincent Peale style power of positive thinking message. But notice how the New Testament defines the preaching of the cross.
First, to the world, preaching the cross is foolishness (I Cor. 1:18). In their twisted, secular minds, there can be neither any lasting value nor any spiritual efficacy in the death of one man two-thousand years ago. This is because they do not want to admit the existence of God and, consequently, the reality of sin. Men of this kind called the apostle Paul a “babbler” (Acts 17:18) and ultimately mocked him (Acts 17:32). Unfortunately, there are those who still do this today and their numbers seem to be increasing daily. While the world sees the preaching of the cross as foolishness, to those of us who are saved it is the power of God.
Second, the preaching of the cross means preaching submission to God’s will (Phil. 2:8; Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23). Jesus did not have to go to the cross. He said no man took His life from Him, but He laid it down of Himself (John 10:18). Jesus could have called on more than twelve legions of angels to defend Him, but He chose to fulfill God’s will (Matt. 26:53,54). Jesus chose to humble Himself, to make Himself of no reputation, leave the glories of heaven and come to this sin-cursed world so that we might have the hope of eternal life (Phil. 2:5-9). Humbling Himself in such a grand way, it is no wonder that Jesus commands us to likewise humble ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 10:38; 16:24). This is a daily task (Luke 9:23).
Third, the preaching of the cross means preaching that offends people (Gal. 5:11). Christians to day are perhaps the least acquainted with this concept as any generation of Christians ever because they have been conditioned by our culture through political correctness never to say or do anything at all that offends. However, the Jews were offended because the cross revealed their rejection of the true Messiah (Acts 2:22-24). Jesus offended the Pharisees when He pointed out that their hearts were not right (Matt. 15:10-12). Jesus so offended His generation that they crucified Him. The apostles offended their generation by preaching the cross of Christ and were imprisoned and martyred for it. If we preach Jesus and Him crucified we will also be offensive (II Tim. 3:12).
Fourth, the preaching of the cross means preaching endurance. Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2). Jesus was not a masochist. He did not want to go to the cross for He prayed to the Father, “If it be possible let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39). Jesus went to the cross willingly so that He could deliver us from the fear and bondage of death (Heb. 2:14,15) but He went not without strong crying and tears (Heb. 5:7). He was despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3). If we follow the example of Christ, we, too, must endure trials (I Pet. 2:20,21).
Fifth, the preaching of the cross means preaching against false teaching. Paul observed that there were many who were enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18). There were already too many in the first century perverting the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-9), grievous wolves, they were, entering into the fold and not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29,30). John warned against believing every spirit and commanded Christians to try those who come to them with a different doctrine (I John 4:1).
Finally, preaching the cross of Christ means preaching reconciliation to God. Paul said God reconciles both Jew and Gentile unto Himself by the cross (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20). To preach man’s reconciliation to God (note that it is not God’s reconciliation to man) means that man has sinned and left God (Is. 59:1,2). God is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Hab. 1:13). It was only through Christ coming into this world and shedding His blood that we could have this reconciliation (I Cor. 5:14-21).
On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff’ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain
O that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary
In the old rugged Cross, stain’d with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To pardon and sanctify me
To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I’ll share
So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown
The cross is not an object to be worn but a life to be lived and a message to be preached.
Eric L. Padgett