Not the death of Christ merely, but “ the cross." “ The preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that perish.” Not so the preaching of the death of Christ, apart from the truths which cluster round “ the cross.” The whole fabric of apostate Christianity is based upon the fact of that death. But the preaching of the cross is “ the axe laid to the root of the tree," the death-blow to human nature on every ground and in every guise.
The death of the cross has measured out the moral distance between God and man, and has left them as far asunder as the throne of heaven and the gate of hell. If God will now give blessing, He must turn back upon Himself, and find in His own heart the motive, just as He finds the righteous ground of it in the work of Christ.
Before the cross, circumcision was the outward sign of covenant blessing; but after the cross, it became the token of apostasy. The cross has shut man up to grace or judgment. It has broken down all “ partition walls," and left a world of naked sinners trembling on the brink of hell.
The cross of Christ is the test and touchstone of all things. Man’s philosophy, man’s power, man’s religion – behold their work, the Christ of God upon a gallows !
Paul might have drawn all Corinth after him had he gone there “ with excellency of speech or of wisdom “ in announcing the testimony of God. But he became a fool among them, a man of one idea, who knew nothing “ save Jesus Christ, even him crucified.” The enthronement of Christ on high and the glories of His return, are inseparable from the Christian’s faith, but in Corinth it was the cross the apostle preached, the cross in all its marvellous attractiveness for hearts enlightened from on high, in all its intolerable repulsiveness for unregenerate men.
The obedience of Christ was infinitely precious to God, apart altogether from any results accruing to the sinner ; and the cross is the expression of that obedience tried to the utmost. In this light, His death was but the crowning act of a life yielded up to God. “ He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross “ – the cross, as expressive beyond all else of agony and contempt to the full ; and because it was this, an expression too, the completest and most blessed, of perfect love to God and man.
In the wildest fables of false religions, there is nothing more utterly incredible than the story of the life and death of the Son of God. For one who knows who Jesus was, and what “ the Christ “ means, to believe that Jesus is the Christ is so entirely beyond the possibilities of human reason that it is proof of a birth from God. Just as in Him the carnal eye could find no beauty, so in His gospel the carnal mind can see no wonders. But it behoves the evangelist so to preach that gospel that the Holy Ghost may own the word to reveal thereby the mighty mysteries and marvels of redemption ; not lowering and humanizing it to bring it within the reach of the natural man apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is the cross that attracts and conquers. The cross, not as an easy way of pardon for the sinner, not as a “ plan of salvation," but as a fact and a revelation to change a heartless worldling into an adoring worshipper. The cross, not as the ruling factor in the equation of man’s redemption, but as a display of the love and righteousness and wrath of God, and the sin of man, to subdue the hardest heart, and change the whole current of the most selfish and ungodly life.
O for power so to preach the cross of Christ that it shall become a reality to all, whether they accept it or despise it!
[Extracts from ‘The Gospel and its Ministry']
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