Saturday, 22 March 2014
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. 1 Corinthians 1:18
“For the message of the cross” is a phrase which needs to be considered in the context of what Paul just noted, which was “the preaching of the gospel.” In Greek, he now states Ho logos gar ho tou starou – For the doctrine (word) of the cross…” In this phrase, the second article is definite and it is emphatic. The message is the essence and the very purpose of the cross he is referring to.
Therefore, the cross is the gospel, but it isn’t the piece of wood which is erected in the form of an instrument of torture. The cross has been used on criminal and martyr alike thousands upon thousands of times. On the day Christ was crucified, there were two others on crosses next to Him. The instrument of the cross itself then isn’t what Paul is referring to.
It also is not the message of the one who follows Christ, picking up and carrying his cross daily. In other words, it isn’t the burden that we have as a follower of Christ. Though it may seem foolish to the world around us that we would be willing to give ourselves in this way, this is not what Paul is referring to either.
The “message” or “doctrine” of the cross is the truth that Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, died on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for those who trust His work. To the world, this message is nonsense because they don’t see sin as a problem. But the cross of Jesus Christ shows that sin is an infinitely great problem; one of such magnitude that there is no way for us bridge it in order to be restored to God. Instead, God had to provide the bridge. Jesus Christ, fully human, could mediate for his human followers. Jesus Christ, fully God, could mediate to His infinite Father.
But the message of the cross doesn’t stop there. It is true that we believe Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but the cross is also the only atoning sacrifice for sin. Apart from the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no other way to be reconciled to God. Because of this, those who aren’t “in Christ” because of His work, are destined for eternal condemnation. This… this is what is foolishness to the world.
The world looks to self for righteousness before God. The cross bestows God’s righteousness upon undeserving self – apart from any personal merit. This glorious “message of the cross is” indeed “foolishness to those who are perishing.” The verb for “perishing” in the Greek is a present participle which indicates the current process of what is happening – they are “on their way” to destruction. Because they find what God has done for them as foolish, they are enemies of God and heading towards a bad end. However, until one dies, they have the opportunity to change the course which they have taken.
In contrast to them, Paul then explains the believer’s state when he says “but to us who are being saved.” There are those who perceive the doctrine of the cross as foolishness and they are on the way to destruction, but there are those who believe this message and they have moved to another category – “being saved.”
Again, this verb is a present participle which indicates that we are in the process of what is occurring. Unlike those who don’t believe though, this status will not change. The Bible consistently proclaims eternal salvation. And so the believer’s on-going process is one with the certain happy end intended by that act of faith in the ability of the Lord to completely save us through His cross.
And this is because the cross to us “is the power of God.” As Paul says in Romans 1:16, ” For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The message of the cross is “salvation for everyone who believes.” It isn’t limited in ability only in scope. Anyone who turns and believes can and will be saved. The limiting factor of the cross is a simple lack of faith. One must turn from self and to Christ, accepting that what God has done is in fact not foolishness, but glorious. From that moment on, God’s power can and will save the once wayward soul.
Life application: Sin is what necessitated the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross of Jesus Christ is what is capable of atoning for sin. No other thing can atone for sin. Therefore, there is no other way to be reconciled to God except through the cross of Jesus Christ. Believe in the message of the cross and be saved.
Glorious Lord Jesus, when I reflect on why You went to the cross, it amazes me all the more. Our sin and our unrighteousness has placed a wall between us and our Creator. Your cross was necessary to atone for our sin and to break through that impassable wall. Our sin… my sin… Lord, I believe that what You did is fully sufficient to wipe away that which once separated me from God. Thank You for Your cross. Thank You! Amen.