Monday, July 7, 2014

THE CROSS DIVIDE (1 Corinthians Chapter 1)

1 Corinthians 1:23, “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to show how are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.”

In his book “The Cross” Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote, "My dear friends, there never can be a more important question than this: what does the cross do to you?  Where do you find yourself as you think of it and face it?  It is the test of our church membership, indeed, of our whole position and profession.  There is no more subtle test of our understanding than our attitude toward the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, the cross passes judgment upon us all, immediately and out of necessity.  You cannot remain neutral in the presence of the cross.  It has always divided mankind and it still does.  And what the Apostle says is that there are ultimately only two positions in respect to it.  The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is either an offence to us or else it is a thing above everything else in which we glory.”

With respect to the message of Christ-crucified radically divergent opinions are held by various groups.  To the Jews it is a stumbling block, to the Gentiles it is “folly.”  “Folly” translates the Greek word moria which is related to our English word moron.  It is refers to that which is stupid, silly, or absurd.  Some years ago someone passed on to me a letter to the AARP magazine they had come across.  The writer said, "Every day I am shocked by how many superstitious people live in our country.  They choose to accept, without proof, a reality involving an invisible man who determines whether you go to an invisible place after death.  I am seriously amazed by how many intelligent people think this way."  The writer of that letter considered the message of Christ crucified to be sheer folly.  Such is the view of the perishing and theirs is the majority opinion. 

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and by a work of the Spirit the believer is led to behold the glory of the person and work of Christ (Cf. John 16:14; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6).  Divine power, wisdom, and love—indeed all of God’s glorious attributes-are all visibly demonstrated in Christ’s willing sacrifice.  What love is this that would compel God to send and sacrifice His own Son for rebel sinners (Cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8)?  The “manifold wisdom of God” orchestrated a work that man would have never devised (Cf. Ephesians 3:10).  Divine power, to save from sin and death, was availed to man when Christ died for sins and rose from the dead.  The world might deem the message foolish, but it alone represents “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Paul repeatedly affirmed his wholehearted devotion to the “Christ-crucified” message (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17, 23, 2:2, 9:16).  He was not ashamed of the message (Cf. Romans 1:16).  He called it “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11).  He thanked and praised God for it (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:12, 17).  By that message he himself had been saved and radically transformed from a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” into a loving Apostle and faithful servant of Christ (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:13, 11).  He gloried in the cross, saying, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

The story of told of a small English village that had a tiny chapel whose stone walls were covered by traditional ivy.  Over an arch was originally inscribed the words: WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED.  There had been a generation of godly men who did precisely that: they preached Christ crucified.  But times changed.  The ivy grew and pretty soon covered the last word.  The inscription now read: WE PREACH CHRIST.  Other men came and they did preach Christ: Christ the example, Christ the humanitarian, Christ the ideal teacher.  As the years passed, the ivy continued to grow until finally the inscription read: WE PREACH.  The generation that came along then did just that: they preached economics, social gospel, book reviews, just about anything.  We live in the later times.  The ivy has covered and obscured the message so that it is hardly discernable any more.  But regardless of what anyone else says or thinks, the word that God has given to us to believe and proclaim is Christ crucified.  There is power in that message, and that message alone, unto the salvation of souls.

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