The Wisdom of the Cross – Part 1

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By Ross Gilbert

It has often been said, “that what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” That may be true about some things; however, ignorance is not always bliss. Through the prophet Hosea, God lamented how His “people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6a

Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, beginning in verse 17, and read what the Apostle Paul wrote.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The word, message, wisdom, or teaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are struggling and perishing. This is not just true of those who have outright rejected Jesus Christ as their Saviour, but it includes many Christians who are ignorant to the good news of what the cross has accomplished. One of my favourite authors, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once said it like this,

“Superficial views of the work of Christ

produce superficial human lives.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to experience a superficial, empty existence where I struggle through life needlessly.

Paul wrote in those verses, “to those of us who are being saved.” That’s present tense. He is talking about being saved, in that very moment. This is very significant to me because we typically refer to salvation in the past tense. I WAS saved at age 5 or I WAS saved while I was in high school. But Paul is not referring to the first moment he trusted Jesus; instead, he is talking about presently being saved from the trials and troubles that he was currently facing. Paul tells us that he is currently being saved by the message of the cross because the message of the cross IS THE VERY POWER OF GOD. He’s saying, that to understand and experience the power of God, we must first understand the cross and what happened there. Otherwise, we will be ignorant and struggle with living in this sin-cursed, fallen world.

The cross is more than just the death of Jesus; it includes His burial and resurrection. And it is the last part, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that is so critical. If Jesus had only died, but never rose again, then He would only be another martyr. But death couldn’t hold Him. God, the Father, raised Jesus back to life three days later and this was the message that Paul and the other apostles consistently preached. Jesus lives!

But the cross is more than just a way for God to demonstrate the love that He has for you and me. The cross also pronounces judgment. Judgment in that it tells me that the price of sin is death. And while that may not sound very good to hear, it is in fact glorious. Because it not only speaks of the judgment that sin requires but because Jesus has already been crucified, buried and rose again, the judgment of sin is now past. Meaning, God has already dealt with our sin because the debt has already been paid for on the cross. The cross is the place where you and I HAVE ALREADY received forgiveness. You and I never have to fear God being angry, disappointed, or frustrated with us, because all of the wrath and judgment has been poured out onto Jesus Christ on that cross. He paid the price, so you and I wouldn’t have to. He took the punishment and judgment so you and I could go free.

So, we know we’re forgiven, but what is forgiveness? It is crucial for us to know that God’s forgiveness is absolute. What I mean by that is, the basis of our forgiveness is the cross. It’s not based on me asking for it or dependent upon me confessing it. It’s not based on my repenting or the stopping of my poor choices. It is based on the cross. And because of the cross, Jesus has forgiven us.

Some people call this the atoning work. But the problem with an atoning or covering sacrifice is the problem doesn’t go away, it’s just covered, and that’s not what Jesus did. He didn’t atone or cover a single sin, but instead, He propitiated our sins. Propitiate literally means a wrath averting sacrifice. Simply put, it means to take away.

Jesus didn’t cover up your sin, He ‘took it away.’

God said, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34 (paraphrased)

Paul said that the first thing we need to know about the cross is it was there that Jesus died so you and I could be forgiven. But that is not the last thing about the cross. Because, as wonderful as it is for you and me to be forgiven, wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t sin in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t succumb to the temptation to control another person through our anger or manipulation so we could feel better about ourselves? Wouldn’t it be better if we could find a way to avoid living after the flesh and instead chose to love others? Thank God there is a way.

Thank God the cross accomplished more than just forgiveness.

The glorious truth is that we are 100%, completely and totally forgiven. You have been made clean and pure. And our response is simple; it is to say thank you. To trust that Jesus on the cross was and is enough. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be white as wool.” So the next time our enemy tries to guilt you and shame you by bringing up your past, remember the cross and what Jesus said as He paid for your sin – it is finished!