Divided Opinion …
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
—1 Corinthians 1:18
A large part of Christendom rejects the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of these people acknowledge the historicity of Jesus. They consider that He was a personage to be reckoned with, a leader to be followed, an example to be emulated. They may express admiration for His teachings and urge their application in modern society. But although they may not voice hatred of Him, they are inimical to His cross. In their estimation the crucifixion of Christ was little different from the death of some other martyr. The essential truth of the Christian faith, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4), is of small importance to these people.
1. There is no Christianity without the cross. What would the Christian faith be without the cross of Christ? Such a religion would differ little from other religions. It would offer an ethical system comparable in many respects to the moral principles of paganism — better indeed, but without the dynamic for performance. Stripped of the cross of Christ Christianity would be powerless to save a single soul.
2. The proclamation of the cross is folly to some. Why is it that the message concerning Christ’s cross is foolishness to those who are perishing? Is it not because they are not willing to acknowledge to God their guilt on account of sin? They refuse to admit or even recognize that they are alienated from Him. They repudiate the biblical doctrine that man is lost and needs redemption, that God alone can provide for their salvation and has done so through the substitutionary sacrifice of His only Son. To all who do not believe the Bible’s estimate of man and his spiritual helplessness apart from Christ, the preaching of the cross is foolishness.
The sure destiny of those who reject the Christ of the cross and His resurrection is destruction (Phil. 3:18-19). Not only will they perish, they are already perishing. To disavow the cross of Christ is to make it impossible for God to do anything for the dissenter, since the only power God has for man’s redemption is that cross.
3. To others the cross is God’s power to save. Whereas the message of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, “unto us who are saved it is the power of God.” This is the most wonderful truth. In the cross of Christ there is salvation. It is because of His death and resurrection that the believer in Him is born anew through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Because Christ died and rose again His redeemed people become new creations and heirs of God. The only way to these blessings is the way of Calvary.
The cross of Christ is God’s power for believers in another respect also. For not only do we need deliverance from sin’s penalty but we need liberation from sin’s power as well. Through the cross, as Romans 6 reveals, our old man — all that we are apart from Christ — has been put to death. Consequently we need not serve sin but reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, which no longer has dominion over us, and live unto God (vv. 6, 11, 14). With Paul we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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” (Gal. 2:20).
To preach the cross of Christ is to speak of it, yes, and to sing of it too. Above all, if we would carry the message of the cross we should live it, for it is God’s power for salvation to all who believe in His Son. Only in the cross can the Christian take pride. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
—E. Schuyler English
in The Pilgrim