"And I, brethren, if I
still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense
of the cross has ceased." (Galatians 5:11).
It is a perfectly obvious fact
that wherever the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ has been most faithfully
preached and presented - while bringing hope and new life to many - it has
almost invariably been the cause of trouble.
Wherever it has gone it has
aroused antagonism. As it was a stumbling block to the Jews and an absurdity to
the Greeks in the first days, so, ever since, it has been unacceptable, not only
to the men of the world as such, but to the religious communities also.
This we unhesitatingly affirm
to be as true today as ever, in spite of the fact that it is the most popular
symbol in the world. There is hardly a city in Christendom where the
architecture, galleries of art, collections of literature, conservatoires of
music and religious institutions do not declare to the world a certain regard
and honour for this sacred sign.
It is found necessary even in
certain phases of some missionary enterprise today to eliminate from the text
books and hymn books, the mention of the Cross lest it offend.
Much of the preaching and
teaching in the Christian Church is either confined to the "Historic Jesus"
which presents a Crossless Christ, or gives a very modified meaning to His
And yet it is surely necessary
to get rid of the Bible before we can get rid of the fact that it unites in all
its parts to declare the Cross is God's way of salvation, God's sufficient and
God's only way.
It is, further, surely very
clear that the Cross has proved to be the means upon which God has made to rest
the full weight of His mighty saving power. It was dominant in New Testament
days. The recovery of, or re-emphasis upon some vital and essential phase of
that Cross gave rise to such movements as are signified by the names of Luther,
Moody, Finney, Jonathan Edwards, Whitfield, the Wesleys, Spurgeon, and many
other especially God-honoured men.
Now we ask why has the Cross
always been such a maker of trouble and such a cause of offence? And why is it
that it is today behind much of the upheaval even in many of our professedly
evangelical institutions, and denominations, Christian homes, local churches and
individual Christian lives?
This we will seek to answer,
but first let us discriminate. It is not the heroics of the Cross or the
aesthetics which cause the trouble.
Sacrifice, suffering, unselfish
devotion, self-effacing service for the good of others, enduring the penalty of
setting oneself against the evil current of the times, etc; these are romantic
elements and are seized upon as the themes by which multitudes are captured and
It is the deeper meaning which
the Bible gives to the Cross which causes the aggravation, this can be seen in
one or two clearly defined applications.
1. The Cross condemns
In His Cross Christ created a
great divide between the old world and the new, a divide which cannot be
Two distinctly different
systems, scales of value, standards of judgment, sets of laws, prevail on
the two sides of the Cross, the system of each is not only entirely different
but irreconcilable and forever antagonistic to the other.
The Cross demands an absolute
distinctiveness of interests, and objectives, relationships and resources.
It draws the final distinction
between the saved and the unsaved, between the living and the dead.
The Word of God emphatically
declares that the age is evil, and that "the whole world lieth in the wicked
one," and that its ways, motives, purposes, ideas, imaginations are all the
opposite of God's and that it is utterly incapacitated from either receiving the
revelation of the divine mind, growing of itself into the divine image, enjoying
and appreciating real fellowship with God, or being entrusted with the privilege
of co-operation with God.
These are alone the
consciousness, capacities, relationships of the newly-born or regenerated soul.
It is this verdict, condemnation, and demand of the Cross which is unacceptable
and irritating to a very great number of even professing Christians. Further, it
is the presence of much that is called "worldliness" both in the individual
Christian life and in the Church which absolutely neutralises their
effectiveness in the realisation of the essential purposes of the Cross.
2. The Cross condemns
By it the Word of God declares
that "our old man has been crucified with Christ." "One died for all, therefore
all died in Him, that they which live should henceforth live no longer unto
themselves but unto Him." We have tried to bring some of the old creation life
into the new creation and God won't have it. The history of the fallen race was
concluded so far as God was concerned at Calvary. From that time onward, God's
entire concern was the new creation, but alike our human capabilities as our
infirmities, what we call our better human side, as our worse, our goodness and
our badness have been included in that death. Henceforth we are called to live
not on a human level but on a divine. Humanly we possess nothing which is
acceptable to God. It is always the assertion of some human element, some like
or dislike, some fad or fancy, some ambition, some personal interest, which
paralyses the real spiritual work of God. To regard not only our sins but
ourselves as having been taken to the Cross by Christ is the only way by which
the purposes of God can be wrought out through our lives. It is strange that
while we ourselves are the bane of our own existence, the trouble of our own
lives, we are so slow to accept our crucification with Christ, to have the Cross
wrought out to our death in order that the life of Christ might be made manifest
in us. Herein lies the offence of the Cross, not only for the worldling but also
for the Christian.
3. The Cross casts out
Here we touch, perhaps, the
deepest cause of the offence, for the world and the flesh are only the
instruments and weapons by which the great hierarchy of Satan maintains its hold
and its existence as the controlling force. Christ said, as He approached the
Cross, "Now is the prince of this world cast out," Paul reflecting upon that
Cross said that by it "Christ stripped off principalities and powers, making a
show of them openly, and triumphed over them." It is perfectly natural, then,
that the great hierarchy should by every means and resource seek to make the
Cross of none effect. By the "pale cast of thought" it will dilute the message
of the Cross; by pushing in the world's methods, its means, its spirit, it will
tap the spiritual vitality of the Church; by stirring up the flesh, the self and
the old Adam, it will cause schism, strain and disintegration; or by making much
of the human element in its artistic, aesthetic, heroic, humanitarian side, it
will be blind to the need of regeneration. Reputation, popularity, bigness, the
world standard of success, are all contrary to the spirit of Christ, but they
are the toys with which the enemy engrosses the minds of many, even Christian
ministers. If, therefore, the Cross is preached in its full victory over and
emancipation from the world, the flesh and the devil, it is to be expected that
by hook or by crook the intelligent forces of evil will leave no stone unturned
to stop it, and will stir up every cause of offence to lay to the account of the
In conclusion let us not forget
that the enjoyment of the full life of God, the experience of victory, and
executive co-operation with Him that sitteth upon the Throne in the sure
realisation that His eternal purposes are ours just in so far as we are one with
the full and essential meaning of the Cross as set forth in the word of God. "I
have been crucified with Christ, henceforth... no longer I but Christ." "They
overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their
testimony, and they counted not their lives dear unto the death."
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony"
magazine, Jan-Feb 1932 Vol. 10-1