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Jackson Drive 2012 Fall Series
"Early Parables Of Jesus From Matthew"
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November 25, 2012
The Offense of the Cross
For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over them, Then they will fall and be broken; They will even be snared and caught.” (Isaiah 8:11-15)
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1Corinthians 1:22-24)
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (1Peter 2:7-8)
In the above texts, Isaiah, Paul and Peter all allude to what is called the “offense” (stumbling-block) of the cross. The greatness of this offense is evident from the persecutions and sufferings that were heaped upon the proclaimers of the message. Notice how Paul describes his own sufferings for the message (2Corinthians 11:23-27). To whom and for what reasons is the preaching of the cross so offensive?
It Reveals the Majesty of God’s Rule
It is offensive became it reveals the majesty of the divine law which requires the offering of the cross. This is an age of “freedom”—of freedom gone bad. As men rebel against authority, they prostitute liberty into license and seek to bring about a universal law of every man for himself and his own desires. To the cynical, sensual, and materialistic, preaching of death on a cross as sacrifice is offensive. Whatever a man sows is that which he reaps, is to them an offensive doctrine. Notice the attitudes of most of our “cultural” leaders. The blind lead the blind in our day and generation.
It Reveals the Fact of Sin
It is offensive to worldly-minded “spiritual” people because it reveals the fact of sin. Men think that bad things in this world of ours call for an explanation. Many reasons are given, but there is a strange general avoidance of one explanation, which is sin. Even from many so-called Christian pulpits sin is never mentioned, or when it is spoken of it is explained away. People of this age [or any age, for that matter] pride themselves on their culture, refinement, and respectability. They don’t like to be told that they are sinners. But the preaching of the cross declares that sin is a fact of life of human beings. This is offensive. Sin is a terrible thing, as proved by the awful anguish and loneliness of the cross. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1Corinthians 15:3).
It Reveals the Depravity of Human Action
It is offensive because it reveals the depravity of human action. Man is not totally depraved as a Calvinist might argue, because if so he would be unable to respond to the invitation of the gospel. Nevertheless man is depraved in his actions, even though he does not like to admit it. So many choose to ignore where they stand spiritually—they choose to live immoral lives which are exposed and condemned by the cross. Paul warned about this (2Timothy 3:1-9).
It Reveals the Wages of Sin
It is offensive because it declares the results of sin. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2). A very popular doctrine is that “death is a delusion.” Even Mark Twain promoted this idea: “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Currently, there are philosophers and “anti-negative thinking” gurus [Bard Canning and Dr. Wayne Dyer come to mind] who expound the belief that death is only in our mind so there is no consequence of sin or death. To those who hold such a theory the preaching of the cross—that by sin came death—is offensive.
It Reveals Man’s Helplessness
The cross is offensive because it reveals man’s helplessness. Man tends to be proud and boastful; he does not like to hear that “he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” That is an offensive saying. Men propose many remedies for sin, some of which are of the most vile concoctions ever brewed. Years ago, the so-called “Christian” evolutionist, Lyman Abbott, said, “our hope is in the advance of scientific knowledge of evolution, and the growth of the democratic spirit.” But scientific knowledge is uncertain at best, evolution as a theory is exasperatingly devoid of facts, and the democratic spirit of man is unreliable. One historical solution of man, eugenics [self-directed human evolution; selective breeding], says that we should be well-born, but makes no provision for those who have already been born. Other remedies which have been offered are salvation by character, social regeneration, the religion of humanitarianism, and even psycho-analysis. But there is only one cure for sin—the blood of Christ. There is only one means of knowing—the preaching of the cross. So, the preaching of the cross is an offense.
It Reveals the Hopelessness of
Those Who Reject Salvation
Finally, it is offensive because it reveals the eternal hopelessness of every human being who “neglects so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). “The wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). There is no intimation of postmortem salvation in scripture. The verdict at judgement will be: “Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4). “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” (Revelation 22:11). The cross is God’s final, complete and all-sufficient offer of salvation (Isaiah 1:18; Hebrews 10:26-31).
Jesus stated expressly that it should be the work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world in respect of sin and of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8). Since the Holy Spirit operates through the word of God, it follows that His work is achieved only through the faithful preaching of the cross (1Corinthians 1:21; Romans 10:14-17). The Holy Spirit operated on the day of Pentecost through the first gospel sermon upon the minds and hearts of thousands of people. Remember Peter’s fearless denunciation of their sins (Acts 2:23,36)? Note, also, that as a result of his preaching the hearers were pierced to their hearts (v.37). One of the ear-marks of gospel preaching is denunciation of sin in all its forms. Equally there is the presentation of the blood of Christ as God’s one and only remedy for sin. This means the preaching of the cross.
As Christians, let us be determined to know nothing among those with whom we live but “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1Corinthians 2:2). If you are not a Christian, the question arises, “What about the cross is offensive to you?” If you claim no offense at the cross, then why not obey?
-—S. Scott Richardson Sr.