Summary: The atonement is essential to the Christian message and should always be a priority. Although there are many teachings that are appropriate, we must not allow the peripheral to push out the essential.
1 Cor. 2:2
I want to take as our subject this morning, The Cross as absolutely Essential to:
(1) God’s plan of salvation,
(2) The Church’s message, and
(3) The Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
Paul said in 1 Cor. 2:2 “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”i That is a focus we must never, never lose. “There is power in the blood of Jesus; there is power in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus—and in the message of His death and resurrection. There is power in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The devil does not want that power unleashed against him. He does not want you and me proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He does not want churches that gather in the name of Jesus and He does not want people whose faith rests upon the finished work of Christ. And so—there is always the danger that we would get diverted onto some good thing that takes our attention off of Jesus and diverts us from the central message of Calvary. Therefore, today I remind you and I remind myself—with determination like Paul had—we will keep our focus on our Savior Jesus Christ and on His work of salvation in our behalf. The Cross is Central. Without the Cross there is no real Christianity. The Cross is essential.
(I) In God’s Plan of Salvation.
Rev. 13:8 declares Jesus to be “the Lamb Slain before the foundation of the world.” Before the earth was ever formed, before the sun and moon ever shinned, before there was ever one blade of grass or one drop of ocean water, before God ever made the first man or breathed the breath of life in him—the Lamb was in the heart of the Father as part of His plan for you and me. Redemption was not God’s reaction to Adam’s sin; it was not afterthought; it was God’s plan before creation ever happened. Adam freely made his own choice, but Adam’s choice was not a surprise to God. So you know the story of Adam’s disobedience and the consequence of that disobedience. Adam not only brought himself into a state of sin and condemnation but he passed that fallen condition on to his seedii so that all of humanity was affected. And every one of us behaved according to that fallen nature so that Romans 1:23 declares “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
The bad news for every son of Adam is that you were born self-absorbed and bent on going your own way. “All we like sheep have gone astray (Isa. 53:6) we have turned, every one, to his own way.” That is the condition of every human being without Christ. The one common condition is that each and every one has turned and gone his own way. For one person that might be extortion and murder and for another person it might be gluttony and gossip. It doesn’t matter exactly how the independence from God is expressed—going our own way is rebellion against our created purpose and leaves us guilty before God—condemned already according to John 3:18.
The good news is that Jesus is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.iii He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. There is forgiveness in His name. There is acceptance before God through Him. In Jesus there is salvation available to whosoever will. Look how Paul summarizes all this in Romans 5.
Verse 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned….Verse 17 “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”
So here is the contrast that Paul gives. Adam’s act of disobedience at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil brought judgment on him and all his seed—even the whole human race. Jesus’ one righteous act of obedience at the Tree of Calvary brings the free gift of justification to all who will receive it (One act of disobedience—one act of obedience). Adam’s act brought sin and judgment. Jesus’ act brought forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.
So the basis of our salvation is not many individual acts of good works.iv That’s the way humanistic religion thinks.