The Message Of The Cross
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:18
The word of the Cross is to them that are going to perdition an absurdity, but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God. I want to speak to you about the message of the Cross. Do not think that those words were spoken by a man at random, under the strain of irritating circumstances.
Paul always wrote his epistles with clearness of expression and with deep conviction, without any faulty indecision, because he knew that what he wrote and spoke was true. And the reason which he gives for his forceful language and for his convictions he gives in another epistle, where he says, “I certify that the gospel which was preached by me was not after man, and I neither was taught it of man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul could say with perfect truth that he was an apostle, not of the will of man, but of God. He was not the choice of the disciples to fill the place in the disciples’ band left vacant at the death of Judas, just as he was not the choice of the apostles, so he was not educated in the school of the apostles for the work of an apostle. You remember after his conversion he went into Arabia where he spent three years, and there he received by direct revelation from Jesus Christ the message which he was to be sent through the world to deliver, and more than in the case of any other apostle, that message pre-eminently was the message of the Cross. Therefore when you read what Paul says about the Cross you are to understand that that is what Christ means about the Cross. That, I think, was the secret of the boldness of this great apostle as he proclaimed the message of the Cross.
Supreme Love of God
What is that message for you and for me? The message of the Cross is the message of the supreme love of God. It always begins there. One of our old Scottish preachers of a by-gone generation, was asked a question, “What is Christianity?” He answered it by saying, “Belief in the inexhaustible love of God for man.” That is perfectly true. That love has been manifested in the Christ, in atoning sacrifice. It is not limited in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. It stands for what John Wesley called, “full salvation now.” And if you read your Bibles you can see this, that all Scripture centers in the Cross. The cross overshadows everything; explains everything.
You go to the Old Testament and you see that the types and the sacrifices are all pointing to the coming of the one who should be the Saviour of the world. Whenever the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of the purpose of His coming to Earth, He showed that it was to give Himself a ransom for many, and to express to men the fact of the love of God, deep in its compassion for us, merciless in its condemnation for our sin, but strong in its determination to find a way for us to be delivered from sin.
The history of the Christian church reveals the unbroken triumph of the preaching of the Cross. The central thought of the epistles is the Cross. Look at the last book of the Bible, God’s picture book of the future. And you see the Lord Jesus Christ revealed in eternity. Not as a man, not as a miracle worker, not as a Teacher, but as a lamb that had been slain. The Lord Jesus Christ has His place of prominence in Heaven tonight in virtue of that atoning sacrifice on the Cross.
It will take us all eternity to pay our debt to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. No subject has ever stirred the heart of man like the subject of the Cross. Nothing has ever produced in the history of the world such nobility of character, such holiness of disposition as the death of Lord Jesus Christ, and yet nothing has ever drawn out so much enmity from the human heart as just the preaching of the Cross and the name of the Cross, and yet in its first instance it is the name of supreme love. It is the claim of Him who loved you so much as to die for you, in order that He might make it possible for you to get back to God, to know God as your Father, and to know how God can give you power to win the victory over the sin that doth so easily beset you and upset you. It is the claim of one who knows you, and one who loves you, and one who has yielded his life up for you.
God, in the supremacy of His love, has taken the first step to come near to you and to me. He has done it through the death of His Son, His own precious lamb on Calvary, and the next step lies with you. And that step you need to take tonight. It is to accept the lamb of God as your Saviour. It is to yield to God’s way of salvation. It is to take what God has for you in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. God never takes a step that you and I cannot take. Upon you tonight lies this responsibility of saying whether you will take this second step that will bring you into touch with God. The word of the Cross to them that are going down to hell is absurdity, but unto them that are being saved, it is the power of God, and it is the message of the supreme love of God.
The message of the Cross is a challenge to you and to me, and we cannot evade it. I just want you to think for a moment of Paul. Whenever he stood before his audience he had two classes, and they never were standing before him in a friendly mood. The Jews hated the man who they asserted had turned from his ancestral faith, and who was trying to substitute for Moses and the law, a man who had been crucified on the tree. The Greeks listened to his talk with lofty disdain, and the Romans simply tolerated him.
Here was the opportunity for a timesaver to tone down his message, to adapt it to his audience, so that he might please them and perhaps win them. Did Paul do that? Not for one single moment. He thrust into their vision the Cross of Calvary, in all its nakedness. The Jew stood for religion, but it was religion without love. The Greek stood for culture, but it was culture without a soul. The Roman stood for national power. He dreamed that the world was made to be conquered.
Here was Paul standing as the herald of Christ crucified, the power of God, and standing there before these races he declared that the preaching of the Cross was to them that were perishing, foolishness; but to them that were being saved, the power of God.
Then he challenged them. What will you do with the message of the Cross? What is to be your verdict on the death of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Paul was ever preaching in the light of the throne of God in view of eternity, with all its tremendous issues. He preached a living Christ, one who was victorious over sin. One who was living to make intercession for sinners. One who had saved himself and met his needs. Paul preached that living Christ, and he knew that in the long run this Christ crucified would win the day. Therefore there was no halting on his part.
What will you do with Christ crucified, my dear friends? That has been God’s continual challenge to men in every age. What will you do with Christ? What will be your answer to the Cross? You may push it away from you tonight. It will meet you tomorrow morning. You may forget all about it. It will face you when you stand in eternity before the throne. The Lord Christ on the Cross is the unavoidable Christ. Is he the inevitable Christ? You must face it. you cannot put it aside.
There is a great artist who painted a picture which he called the last judgment. What was it in the artist’s mind that separated the crowd before God, and put this on the right hand and that on the left? It was the Cross, and he was right. It is by the Cross you can be saved tonight. It is by the Cross you will be judged tomorrow. It is by the Cross that you can be brought to God in time. It is by the Cross that God will deal with you in eternity. I press this in upon you. Men, women, you have got to face the challenge of the Cross, and say what is to be your answer, your verdict!
There was a famous sculptor who made a wonderful image. A friend came in his studio to see it, and he said to the artist, “I have always known that you were a wonderful sculptor, but I cannot understand this figure of yours. It is all out of proportion.”
The artist replied: “If you will look at the foot of this stature you will find a place where you must kneel. It you kneel there and look up you will see something different.” So the friend knelt. The statue came into perfect proportion; the figure and everything else.
I want to say this to you. You will never know what the Lord Jesus Christ can be to you in your own life with all its conflict and struggle and need; you will never know what a Master He can be to you; you will never know the reality and greatness of His friendship and companionship until you kneel before Him and answer the challenge of the Cross and say, “Thou art mine and I am thine.”
In the trial of our Lord, for the third time, Pilate said, “I find in Him no fault. I will therefore chastise him and let him go.” But the rabble demanded that he be crucified, and Pilate gave the sentence that it should be as they required. The voices of the chief priests and the people that day prevailed.
I gave my life for thee.
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might’st ransomed be,
And quickened from the dead;
I gave, I gave my life for thee,
What hast thou giv’n for Me?
I suffered much for thee,
More than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitt’rest agony,
To rescue thee from hell
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee,
What hast thou borne for Me?
Which voice is to prevail tonight, the voice of Christ or the voice of the world? On which side are you to stand tonight? Are you going to stand with Pilate, or are you going to stand with the man, Christ Jesus. That is the challenge of the Cross, and you cannot evade it. You must face it, my brother and sister, tonight. God help you to face it and to answer the argument.
An Immortal Foundation
The message of the Cross is this: That the Cross is the one foundation on which you can build up your life. The question is this: Is life indestructible? Are you quite sure that when you pass out of this sphere you will enter into another sphere where life will continue? Then you had better make sure that you are building an immortal life and an immortal foundation. The foundation is Christ Himself. It is not anything about Christ. It is Christ Himself, for other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid. The foundation is altogether different from the building. You can only build up a Christian life through following in the steps of the Lord, through giving your life to religious work, but if you are careless about the foundation, the best things that you are capable of will totter under the awful tests of eternity.
There is the foundation that gives the strength and the weakness to the building. The message of the Cross is the call to you and to me to see that we have laid a right foundation. It is Christ and Christ alone.
That great man, Samuel Rutherford, when he was dying, was spoken to by a friend concerning the great deeds he had accomplished in his ministry, and he said: “I disdain them all.” It is not what you are doing. It is what Christ has done. We are living in days when the devil is out as a master counterfeiter of everything that belongs to God. He is counterfeiting the foundation of salvation in these days. What is counterfeiting? It is giving to a good thing a value it does not possess. He won’t keep you from church service; he won’t keep you from anything, he will only keep you from Christ. He is out tonight counterfeiting all the things that have a connection with human need and human salvation.
We cannot get on without the Church. We need it for the up-building and developing of Christian character. But if you are making your church membership and your church creed that on which you are going to stand as the ground of your appearance before God, you are giving to a good thing a value it does not possess. If you are going forward to the throne of God on the ground that you have been a moral man, that you have paid your debt, that you have been good to others, then I tell you, it will not stand. No flesh is justified by the deed of the law. Morality is a good thing, but if you are standing on that you are giving to a good thing a value it does not possess.
The foundation is not what you do but what Christ has done. It is not you, but Christ Himself that can bring you to God. Will you notice this, for this is another counterfeit of the devil in these days. It is not the life of Christ that is the foundation. It is the death of Christ. We are not saved by His life. We are not justified by His life. We are justified by His blood. We are saved by His life laid down in sacrifice.
On what foundation do you stand, my brother? It is the death of Christ, and that alone that can give you a strong, firm foundation, and if you do not stand there you suffer eternal loss.
Salvation a Choice
The message of the Cross is this: That your destiny is decided by your choice. Young men and women, don’t go away thinking that salvation is a thing of chance. It is a thing of choice. Don’t imagine there is some trick in salvation. Don’t imagine for a moment that when you come to die something happens in a mysterious manner; something happens to make you right for eternity.
Salvation is a thing of choice. Your destiny is in your own hands. It is in your own hands, and you can settle your destiny tonight by the decision you make in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul never kept back the truth from his audience. When he stood before them he told them in plain terms, “You may be a Jew with religion: you may be a Greek with culture; you may be a Roman with worldly ambition, but you must come to Christ.”
He said this: You may be an outcast, you may be the biggest sinner in the universe, but if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you accept Christ as your Saviour, then the word of the Cross to you is that you are saved, that you are entering into God’s redemptive purpose for you, and you will find that the word of the Cross as it comes to you will bring into that life of yours, forces that will make you strong for righteousness.
He had the two classes before him. Those who looked upon the whole thing as folly, and the other class who recognized their need and who wanted a Saviour.
The responsibility is upon this audience to say what they are going to do with Christ. To say how they are going to accept the challenge of the Cross. Salvation is not a thing of chance. It is a thing of choice.
You will not be judged by another man’s or woman’s life. You are going to be judged by your own life; by your own attitude towards Jesus Christ. You are the maker of your own eternity. To every man there openeth a highway and a low, and every man decides the way his soul shall go, and because of that I urge you to recognize tonight the importance of the situation. I urge you to ask yourself this question, “Do I need a Saviour, and ought I to make that Saviour mine tonight?” The giving to you the assurance of faith that is perfectly safe, and the bringing into your life the power that will enable you to stand tonight, and stand tomorrow, and prove yourselves to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
One of our greatest Scottish preachers, who died not very long ago said, Men may come into contact with Christ at different places. They may approach Him from all points of the compass; but if they are in dead earnest, as He is, they will come sooner or later to the straight gate, and that is this: Are you willing to humble yourself so as to owe to Me and My death for you, the forgiveness of sin and the life which is life indeed? That is the challenge of the Cross. What is to be your answer?
—Sermon delivered at The Moody Church by Rev. Gordon Watt, M.A., Edinburgh, Scotland.