Summary: What do you think the cross is about? Why do we think Jesus died? We must answer that question. It is the cross that tells us that we are not playing a game of religion. It is the cross that tells us that the stakes are real.
7/21/13 The Gospel of Christ
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 D. Marion Clark
We have spent two Sundays exploring the gospel of man in its two forms. There is the gospel of law-keeping, which tells us that if we do our part in meeting the requirements of God, he will do his part in accepting us. The other form of the gospel of man is the gospel of the heart, which declares that there is nothing for us to do because we are already accepted by God, who knows that our hearts are basically good.
In analyzing each form of the gospel of man, I reasoned out responses. Law-keeping seems honorable, but it inevitably leads to pride and turning God into a dealmaker. Trusting in one’s heart, however heartening it may seem, is ultimately disheartening due to the truths about ourselves that we have to hide. I think the reasoning was sound, but even for me it was not fully satisfying.
If we are to find satisfaction, we must turn to the cross. In our present heat wave, I am sure we have all drunk water to quench our thirst. If we have been hiking in the sun and come across a cold stream, we would delight in bending down and scooping the water into our mouths to satisfy our thirst. But we would likely do something else with the water. We would splash it on our faces. The sun and long walk have not only made us thirsty, but physically and mentally weary. It is difficult to think clearly. But the splash of water refreshes us so that we become mentally awake and alert.
That is what meditating upon the cross does for us mentally as we regard spiritual matters. Without the cross, the gospel of man seems sensible. For without the cross, the nature of sin diminishes, as well as God’s holiness, his righteousness, and his mercy and love. Without the cross, it makes sense that law-keeping is what wins his acceptance of us. Without the cross it seems reasonable to regard ourselves as basically good people doing the best we can and accepted by a kind, grandfatherly God who just wants everybody to be happy.
And then we come to the cross. We behold the Word, the Lord's Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God hanging upon a symbol of curse. What is sin that its horror be so exposed? What is holiness; what is righteousness that requires such sacrifice? What is love; what is mercy that willingly takes on such suffering?
What do you think the cross is about? Why do we think Jesus died? We must answer that question. It is the cross that tells us that we are not playing a game of religion. It is the cross that tells us that the stakes are real. The unending “dialogue” about God and spirituality, the pleasant journey of finding God in our own unique ways – this is not a game. This is not a discussion over a novel or a movie, which, when it ends, allows each of us to go back to our comfortable homes, holding onto our comfortable perspectives.
The cross makes knowing God personal, not merely personal for us but for God. He sent his Son to die! He paid the price that no human father or mother would ever pay for the sake of anyone. His Son Jesus gave up glory itself for the purpose of dying for us. What are we going to do with that? What do we think the cross is about?
The apostle Paul understood what law-keepers (as expressed in the Jews) and heart-followers (the Gentiles) think of the cross. To the former it is a stumbling block, for on the cross must be a law-breaker. How else could God allow such a curse to occur to his prophet? To the latter, the cross is folly. How could a good-hearted God approve of such a travesty, especially when it was unnecessary?
Paul credits both attitudes with foolish pride. Whether a law-keeper or a heart-follower, man thinks he is wise enough to figure out what is sufficient for God, and he definitely knows that a man hanging on a cross is not the answer. But it is this Christ by man rejected who is the power and the wisdom of God. And it is Jesus Christ and him crucified that Paul will proclaim, however it may sound to anyone. It is Jesus Christ and his crucifixion that reveals what is true – who God is and what he demands. It is Jesus Christ and him crucified that shines the spotlight on men and women, whether they desire God’s acceptance or not, whether they believe he exists or not.
Let me ask again the questions that the cross answers: What is sin that its horror be so exposed? What is holiness; what is righteousness that requires such sacrifice? What is love; what is mercy that willingly takes on such suffering?