What is the church without the message of the cross?
This fundamental, core understanding of the Christian gospel is what creates growth and binds the body of Christ.
The message of the cross: The cross destroys the enmity
Nothing in this world has caused more offense or been a greater blessing than the cross. Christ bore His cross patiently, and it made Him triumphant over principalities and powers. It gave Him a princely education.
The Jews had long nurtured a deep hatred for the Gentiles. But by the cross, Jesus – in His– abolished this enmity and in Himself made one new man from the two, thus making peace. He reconciled the two in one body to God, through the cross, thereby slaying the enmity. (Ephesians 2:14-18)
If such opposites as Jews and Gentiles have become one in that one body, how much more should two Gentiles be able to melt together in that same body, which is the church? But only the cross can accomplish this – nothing else!
The cross obliterates sin in our flesh
God loves the cross; therefore, He let His only begotten Son bear it all His life. The cross can give you a better education than the finest schools on earth, because the training these schools give only helps you in this life; but the training of the cross benefits us in this life and in the life to come. The devil can accept everything but the cross. It is the worst thing you can offer his children. They are all for doing good, as long as they can avoid the cross. The widow’s last mite was united with the cross, thus she gave more than all those who gave out of their abundance.
God’s Spirit draws us to the cross. Christ was the first one to be drawn to the cross, and now we are being drawn in that same direction. Christ offered Himself by the power of an eternal Spirit, and we can constantly commit ourselves into death by the power of the Spirit of Christ – the Holy Spirit. This is how we are conformed to Christ in His death.
The cross unites with the wisdom of God
When Paul first preached to the Galatians, he did so in the weakness of his flesh, and they received him as an angel of God. They would gladly have plucked out their eyes for him. (Galatians 4:13-15) But when the cross had done its work in the apostle and he came back to the Galatians, he spoke in such a way that they could no longer bear him, and he was compelled to say, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Galatians 4:16.
We will also learn the same lesson. When we are first converted, we get many friends; but if we take up the cross God gives us to bear, those friends become our enemies. If we take the message of the cross out of Christianity, even the world can enjoy it for its social and religious entertainment, which provides the flesh with abundant benefits and pleasures.
Paul experienced something quite different. The cross drove him to the place where he felt that he was displayed in lowliness, as a man condemned to death, because he was a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. (1 Corinthians 4:9) He was a fool for Christ’s sake, but the Corinthians were wise, as their followers are today. No one knows as much as a fool. He knows much about everything, and is very quick to tell what he knows. He is willing to go anywhere there is opportunity for him to pour out his folly, which he, of course, believes is wisdom. He believes himself to be very wise in Christ and, therefore, feels that he is strong and mighty.
Paul, on the other hand, was weak. The cross had shown him that all his knowledge, even that which he had received at the feet of Gamaliel, was as dung and loss when compared to the knowledge of God he received in and through the Holy Spirit. The Corinthians were held in honor, but the apostles were without honor. The cross takes away our honor. Therefore, if you have not yet counted the cost, count it now. Are you prepared to lose all your honor by the cross? Are you prepared to be united with your Lord and Master in dishonor? Are you prepared to cleanse out all the old doctrines, all the old preconceived ideas and all the old leaven? If so, God will make you into a new dough. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Through death, the cross produces life
Just look at the Christianity that despises the cross. You will discover that it has no vitality. It cannot produce life. What help are the gifts of tongues, prophecy, interpretation of tongues – whatever gift of the Spirit we can mention – if the cross is left out? Look at the many independent groups across the country, and you will see that many of them are dying out because their leaders have not preached the cross. Every kind of debauchery goes on in secret. And why? People hate the cross, and the result is dissipation.
It is time to wake up and really take this seriously, because the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God, that is, with us! (1 Peter 4:17) It will begin from within the Holy Place. If anyone thinks that he is “inside,” then he must be reconciled to being judged as one who is on the “inside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12) The Lord is doing a work in our day, but He is beginning on the inside and working outward so that it will be a work of Himself and not of man.
The time has come for the message of the cross to be preached
Long enough has God endured empty Christianity – that is, Christianity without the cross. Now He is causing the message of the cross – the true gospel – to once again resume its rightful place so that these “anything-goes, liberty preachers” will hear it, grieve and be put to shame. They will indeed be ashamed when the work that they have not preached emerges to destroy the work of wood, hay and stubble which they have sought to piece together without the cross.
The message of “Freedom, Freedom” has been preached long enough! Religious people have enjoyed themselves in all this freedom, and multitudes have used it unreservedly for their own fleshly satisfaction. Therefore, it is high time to preach “Cross, Cross,” because the time has come when God is working to make this message known.
This article was first published in Norwegian in BCC’s periodical “Skjulte Skatter” (“Hidden Treasures”) in August 1912, with the title “The Cross.”
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag
Watch this video, where the message of the cross is preached by Kaare J. Smith!
You may be interested in reading more about the message of the cross on our theme page about the cross, or in these selected articles:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.