(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New King James Version).
The central message of Christianity and of the gospel is the cross of Jesus Christ. Christianity rises and falls on it. It was the crux of the Apostles’ message, and the one thing they fought and died for. Jesus Christ and him crucified was the only message Paul was determined to transmit to the people he ministered to. Our justification, sanctification and glorification are all tied to this message and how we relate to it. The greatest and most damnable heresies the Apostles combated and contended against had to do with perversions of the message of the cross or its outright repudiation. Because it’s a matter of life and death and has eternal consequences with respect to the soul’s destiny, we need to understand the message of the cross clearly. Only by having a clear revelation of the cross of Christ will we be able to appreciate the sacrifice made for us at Calvary. This article intends to scripturally review the message of the cross and rally Christians back to it.
1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
1 Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
1 Corinthians 2:5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
1 Corinthians 1:18 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 1:19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;
1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,
1 Corinthians 1:24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The preaching of the cross is the gospel message, the good news of salvation from sin and death, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the message that salvation can only be found in one place and in one person- the cross of Jesus Christ! This is the central message of the Bible. All the prophets of old pointed to it, and all the Apostles pointed back to it, as the fulfilment of God’s promise to mankind to provide a way of escape from the curse of sin and death. Christ’s life gave us a wonderful example of God’s love, holy living and righteousness. He was the perfect and sinless man, full of grace and truth. However, without his death on the cross, his life would not have been of eternal benefit to us. Without his propitiatory and substitutionary death on our behalf on the cross of Calvary, no person would have been saved, and all of Adam’s race would have ended up in hell and the lake of fire!
It was not the gracious words of Christ that purchased our salvation. It was not his inspiring and motivational speeches that ransomed our souls from death. His life and and his teachings would have made us live long and good and prosperous lives, for he was a great teacher and a great motivator and inspirer. His healing power definitely cured diseases, cast out demons and raised the dead, even though they still died again, after a full lifespan. However, without his death on the cross, we all would have died and gone to hell, in spite of the good lives his inspiring words would have enabled us to live. So, we see that his death was more important to us than his life. His death and resurrection are the basis of eternal life and Christianity.
1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
1 Corinthians 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
Right from the book of Genesis, we see the pattern of salvation clearly laid out. When Adam and Eve sinned, God shed an innocent lamb’s blood to cover their sins temporarily, while clothing them with the skin. All throughout the Old Testament, sacrificial animals were offered in place of sinful man as atonement for sin. God thus made it abundantly clear that without the shedding of blood, there can’t be any remission for sin. The penalty for sin is death, as God forewarned Adam and Eve, and every soul ever since has deserved to die, for we were all born sinners. Yet, the mercy of God has always triumphed over his judgement, providing a way of escape for sinful man, through the death of innocent substitutes. All these animal substitutes pointed to the perfect Sacrifice God would provide as a remission of sin- his only begotten Son. Those sinless and unblemished animals foreshadowed the perfect Lamb of God who would come to take away the sin of the world by the sacrifice of himself. Christ was the embodiment and fulfilment of all the sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament. Only his voluntary, substitutionary and propitiatory death could satisfy God’s righteous demands and secure mankind’s salvation.
Hebrews 9:19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
Hebrews 9:20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.”
Hebrews 9:21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry.
Hebrews 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
Hebrews 9:23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
Hebrews 9:25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—
Hebrews 9:26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’
John 1:31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
John 1:32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.
John 1:33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
John 1:34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
John 1:35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.
John 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
1 Peter 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
1 Peter 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Matthew 26:27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
Matthew 26:28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
Matthew 20:26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
Matthew 20:27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—
Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Salvation is therefore based on what happened on the cross of Christ at Calvary, and the resurrection that followed three days after. Without Calvary, there would have been no resurrection, and without the resurrection, we all would have been doomed to an eternity in hell! The sacrifice of Calvary justifies and sanctifies us, and is the basis of our glorification. Without the cross, we’re nothing but hell-bound, Satan-enslaved, sin-loving damned souls. It’s the great exchange that took place at Calvary that made the difference between dead men and living souls. On Calvary, the sinless and perfect Lamb of God, the righteous and holy one, took upon himself our sins and gave us his righteousness instead. He died in our stead, so we could have life and have it abundantly. It wasn’t motivational speaking that freed and loosed us from the bondage of sin and made us accepted before God. It wasn’t humanistic psychology that rehabilitated and cured us of the addiction to sin. You may wash and make over a pig and bedeck it with jewelries, but until the nature of a pig is taken out of it, it will remain a pig, though polished and refined. It will go back to wallowing in the mire with time. Only the cross of Christ could reach down to our very soul and transform us into new creatures, by the power of his blood and Spirit. Philosophers may consider it foolishness to think sinful man can be made righteous by just believing and placing faith in the death and resurrection of another. But, that’s the wisdom of God. He chose the foolishness of the message of the cross to save those that believe! Hallelujah!
John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
John 3:15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 12:23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
John 12:24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
John 12:25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
John 12:26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
John 12:27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
John 12:28 Father, glorify Your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
John 12:29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”
John 12:30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.
John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
John 12:32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
John 12:33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
Galatians 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),
Galatians 3:14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Revelation 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
Revelation 1:6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Salvation is not about what we can do on our own to please God, for the best of our righteousness is but filthy rags before him. It’s not how much we can pray, fast, give alms or try to avoid sin. Salvation is a free gift of grace. It’s not by any works we’ve done or we can ever do. The message of salvation starts and ends with the cross of Christ. Salvation is of the Lord! He paid the price for our redemption on Calvary, without a single contribution from any man. He single-handedly ransomed our souls from death and hell on the cross. All we’re required to do is just believe what he’s already done for us, accept him as our Lord and saviour and live eternally! But, will proud man, used to working hard before earning his wages, accept such a humbling free gift? Can those of us used to boasting about our abilities and about what we can do, humbly accept the fact that it’s not about what we can do but what God has already done for us through Christ Jesus? No wonder the idea of the cross was a stumbling block to the Jews who were used to the works of the law for justification, and foolishness to the Greeks used to philosophical jangling as a way of numbing the desires of the thirsty soul. But to everyone who believes, both Jews and Greeks, the cross is the power of God unto salvation. God indeed chose salvation through the cross to humble men and remove boasting far from us. The fact that we contributed nothing to our redemption reduces our pride to zero. The fact that we have no bragging rights in salvation humbles us and shuts up all mouths before God. And when our mouths finally open, only praise and worship to the one who sits upon the throne, and to Lamb, should proceed from hearts full of praise and gratitude.
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Isaiah 64:7 And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Ephesians 2:6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Ephesians 2:7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
Ephesians 2:9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Romans 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?
Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Romans 4:4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
Romans 4:5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Romans 4:6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
Romans 4:7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Romans 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”
Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”
Romans 10:6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above)
Romans 10:7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
Romans 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Revelation 5:5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
Revelation 5:6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Revelation 5:7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
Revelation 5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
Revelation 5:10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,
Revelation 5:12 saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Revelation 5:14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.
The message of the cross does not glorify any man but the Lord Jesus Christ and his finished works at Calvary. Every blessing and favour we will ever get from God comes through the cross of Jesus Christ. Our glory lies in the cross, as our justification and sanctification are dependent on it. The cross crucifies and mortifies flesh, and releases upon us the Holy Spirit with his fruits and gifts. The message of the cross is unattractive to vain-glorious and self-seeking men, as it cuts off the ground from under our pride. It also reminds us of the need to carry our own crosses daily and follow the Master, as we carry on his life and sacrifice for others. The cross is an enemy to the flesh, as well as being its deathbed. Hence, carnal men hate the cross, despise it and persecute it fiercely. However, the redeemed of the Lord glory in the cross, for it’s the symbol of their salvation and glory.
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Luke 9:24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
Luke 9:25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
Luke 9:26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
Any message that glories man or his abilities to motivate or improve himself outside of the cross of Christ is anti-Christ and satanic. Any message in the church that does not place the cross of Christ at front and center of Christianity can only be from the enemies of Christ. Any blessing that doesn’t come through the cross of Christ is devilish, for every good and perfect gift of God comes from above and reaches us through the cross of Jesus Christ. Anyone therefore who’s ashamed of the cross of Christ has neither experienced its total saving power, nor the blessings that come through it. The cross of Christ brings God and man together, and totally undoes all the effects of the fall and the curse of sin and death. Therefore, we should only glory in the cross of Christ by which the world is crucified to us and we to the world. We’re nothing outside of the cross of Christ!
Colossians 1:20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled
Colossians 1:22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—
Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Philippians 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
Philippians 3:18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
Philippians 3:19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.
In conclusion, the message of the cross is the only authentic gospel message, which provides for man’s total redemption and reconciliation with God. Unfortunately, this message has been replaced in many Christian circles by humanistic psychology, motivational speaking and self-reformation programmes, as the methods of human improvement and acceptable behaviour. Only the blood of Christ can loose and free the soul of man from the bondage of sin and make us accepted in God’s sight. Only the blood of Christ can justify, sanctify and glorify the sinner (and we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory!). Any attempt at self-reformation through the works of the flesh will only produce self-righteousness, which is considered as filthy as menstrual rags before God. To be saved, sanctified and glorified, we must embrace the cross of Christ and carry it daily! It’s in the cross of Christ that we’ll ever become all that God wants us to be.
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