Text: 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 October 16, 2011
1) Modern controversy of the cross: A case before the Supreme Court focused on whether a religious symbol, specifically the cross, should be allowed on public land. Mark Sherman, writing for the Associated Press, said that although the cross in question was erected in 1934 as a memorial to soldiers who died in WW I, one veteran’s group opposed it called the cross “a powerful Christian symbol” and “not a symbol of any other religion.”
2) Ancient controversy of the cross: The cross was controversial in ancient time as well. In the first century, the Apostle Paul said Christ had sent him “to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians. 1:17-18) As followers of Christ we see the cross as more than a symbol of a religion. The cross is the evidence of the power of God to free men from the bondage of their sin.
REJECTING THE CROSS OF CHRIST: Why they do that?
1) The issue of church and state: Most Constitutional scholars determine the issue of separation of church and state was not to be interpreted as a state without a church, but a state without the control or interference of the church as it was in the medieval Europe. The Bible clearly states that both the church and the state or government were established by God and should work together to advance the will of God in human society. A state without the fear or reverence of God could easily become dictatorial and cruel on God’s people. History proves that states, such as Communist and dictatorial nations have been tyrants to their people. Using this argument to reject the cross or faith in Christ is at best a misconception of the Constitution of our nation.
2) The issue of pluralistic society: Those who reject the cross of Christ argue, as the opposing organization mentioned in the lawsuit, that the cross is a powerful symbol of one religion, not representing other religions. They see that Christian faith as one of many religions in this nation, so, it should not be treated as superior to other religions. All religions should be treated equally. In a democratic nation like ours, we agree that people should have the freedom to choose their religious beliefs and not to be politically discriminated. But to place the cross of Christ on the equal level with other religions or religious symbols is a misconception of Christian faith. The cross is not a religious symbol. It is a symbol of the love of God for all mankind, the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. In terms of salvation of souls, there is no other option for men to choose from. Christ is the only way.
3) The issue of freedom from religion: Please note that this is not about freedom of religion, but freedom from religion. Of course I am talking about the belief of the atheists who do not believe in God, do not accept the belief that there is God, and who oppose all things that may give the idea of God or religion. The U S Constitution guarantees all citizens rights to believe or not to believe. But the atheists want to impose their will by taking away the right of those who believe in God. Prohibiting reading of the Bible and prayer in public schools is the biggest wrong this group imposed on those who do believe in God. But God doesn’t need recognition of anyone. Rejecting the symbol of the cross doesn’t stop God of being God or stop God from saving lost souls.
4) The issue of personal freedom: Some people reject the cross of Christ take it as a way to reject submission to the authority of the Lord in their life. These people are not atheists but are people who don’t want to live their life under the power of Christ. They misconceive the power of the cross as intrusive to their personal freedom. In fact the power of the cross sets them free from the power of sin, the freedom we all need.
EXALTING THE CROSS OF CHRIST: (1 Cor. 1:17-25)
1) It is superior to human wisdom: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not the word of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1:17) Paul was writing to a church existed in a city full of secular scholars and philosophers. These people were good in words of human wisdom. But Paul preached the gospel message not in the power of human wisdom, but in the power of the cross. The gospel message depends not on the wisdom of man, but in the power of the cross.
2) It is salvation in the power of God: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved is the power of God.” (1:18)The cross of Christ is not a religious symbol or some philosophical talks. The cross of Christ is the power of God for saving the souls of sinful men, women and children. No human words of any kind may provide the forgiveness of sin as the cross of Christ did. Anyone who recognizes his sin and is seeking salvation of his soul needs to embrace the cross of Christ. Peter very well articulated this truth in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
3) It is the centerpiece of the gospel: “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ cru-cified.” (1:22-23)The power of the gospel message is not on working miracles, although millions are still awed by many. It is neither by wisdom of human mind nor beautiful oracles. The power of the gospel is in the cross of Christ on which Jesus was crucified, bled and died and buried and rose from the death on the third day. Without the cross of Christ, there is no other way man may be saved.
4) It is for all people of the world: “But to those who God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1:24) In the Bible, Jews and Greeks are representatives of all people, races, culture and faith. The cross of Christ is not only for the Jews, the chosen race, but it is also for the Greeks, all other races and people-groups in the world. The cross of Christ transcends all differences in race, culture, social status or any other segregation among all people. John says it very clearly, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
LIVE ON THE POWER OF THE CROSS: What can the power of the cross do for me?
1) The cross demonstrates God’s love: “God demonstrates his own love in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God doesn’t just say He loves the world in John 3:16, he demonstrates his love by sacrificing his only Son to let us know how much he loves us. In explaining the love of God to those who believe in Christ, Paul said: “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him (Jesus) graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
2) The cross pays the debt of all sin: “God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” (Rom. 3:25) The shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ paid in full the penalties of all of our sins to satisfy the righteousness of God. This is the most important part of Christian faith: God pays the ultimate price for the sins of men. No other religion in history has anything to show man how much God loves his people to die for their sins. In other religions, men have to do so much to pay the price of their sins without any guarantee if it will work. In Christian faith, Jesus has paid it all.
3) The cross brings us close to God: “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)In most other religions, men have to do so much to bribe their gods in hope to get close to them. But in Christian faith, through his death, Jesus opened the path for all who will believe to come close to God. In 2:16, the Bible continues to say: “And in this one body to reconcile both of them (Jews and Gentiles) to God through the cross.”
4) The cross continues to live in us: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20) Writing to the churches in Galatia on Christian living, Paul put his personal experience as a model: crucified his old life with Christ on the cross and allows the new life of the resurrected Christ to live in him. This is a formula millions of Christ’ followers have put into practice and have proven to be effective for a victorious living. No one has the power to conquer the old fresh and win all the time. The only way to guarantee a victorious Christian life is to die with Him on his cross and to let Him live in us each and everyday.
1) The cross of Christ is powerful: The power of the cross of Christ is much more than a religious symbol, it is the proof of the love of God for the fallen world. Whenever and wherever you see the cross, be it on top of a church building or on the neck of a person as an ornamental jewelry, you can’t miss feeling the love of God in the world or on that person.
2) The cross of Christ is sacrificial: It was on the cross Jesus died so we may be forgiven and saved. The cross is also a symbol a ultimate sacrifice God has demonstrated to us. Jesus calls on us to learn from him to love others so they can see Christ through our sacrifices. While the world taught us to be selfish to look only for your own interest, let’s also look for the interest of our family, friends, colleagues and all who need our help.
3) The cross of Christ is eternal: The cross of Christ has the power to give eternal life to those who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. Don’t let this power pass you by without receiving eternal life.