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Monday, December 23, 2013

Christ Crucified

By Bobby Duncan

     Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:22-24).
    Is this statement by Paul concerning his preaching an oversimplification? Or is it actually the case that the term Christ crucified accurately denotes the preaching of that peerless apostle? In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 he declared: And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
     This verse affirms not only that Paul preached “Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” but that his preaching was limited to that theme; he knew nothing else to preach. That which he here terms, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” he calls simply, “the cross,” in 1 Corinthians 1:18, where he wrote, “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.”
    While we know that the preaching done by Paul was not limited to the mere fact of the crucifixion of Christ, it is significant that he used these terms to denote what he preached. The cross of Christ was central to the preaching, not only of Paul, but of all inspired preachers in the New Testament. The magnificent sermon delivered by Peter on Pentecost of Acts 2 centered around the cross, and showed both logically and scripturally that Jesus of Nazareth whom the Jews had crucified had been raised from the dead, thus proving Him to be the Christ, the Son of God. In preaching to Cornelius and his household, Peter declared: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest (Acts 10:39-40).
     The Jewish leaders at Jerusalem knew exactly what the theme of the preaching was that was done by the apostles. They said to the apostles on one occasion:
     Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us (Acts 5:28).
     Obviously, the apostles had been preaching about the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus was speaking of His crucifixion when He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
     We understand that Jesus had to die to enable God to be infinitely just and at the same time justify sinners (Rom. 3:24-26). But why the cross? Why crucifixion? The cross underscores the seriousness of sin and God’s hatred of it. The world glorifies sin. The religious world, in large measure, has chosen to classify sin as an ailment instead of a misdeed. Even in the church, sin is overlooked and its seriousness is minimized. But if one wants to know if sin is really bad, let him look at the cross. For me to behold the cross, realizing what took place there was brought on by my sins, causes me to see that sin is not something to be smiled at; it is serious. God hates sin.
    The cross emphasizes man’s lost condition. The familiar parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boy (Luke 15) remind us that the “Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). If one wants to know God’s estimate of how terrible it is for one to be lost, then let him look at the cross and see the price God was willing to pay to redeem lost humanity.
    The cross points to God’s love for sinners. Though God hates sin, He loves sinners. That which pictures God’s hatred of sin is that which portrays God’s love for sinners. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
     Perhaps a passage even more meaningful in one sense is Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
     This passage does not merely say He died for sinners, but for me; as much for me as if I were the only sinner in the world. He loved me, and gave himself for me!
     The cross emphasizes the necessity of obedience to the Scriptures. Jesus went to the cross because that was the only way He could be obedient to the Scriptures. With the cross casting its shadow over Him, He said: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Mat. 26:53-54). In Philippians 2:8 Paul wrote that Jesus “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Do you want to know if obedience to that which is written is important? You will find the answer when you look at the cross.
     But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14).

- via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere Church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website:
http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org

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