Jeff Grisham

Bella Vista Church of Christ

04/02/2017 P.M.

The Purpose of The Cross

Sunday evening, April 2, 2017

Text: 1 Corinthians 1.18-25; 2.1-5

 

The text  that will serve as our focus tonight is 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.  Let’s begin by reading that text together.

 

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

 

The cross, Paul says, is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness, or folly, to the Gentiles.  I would like for us to take a little bit of our time this evening and look at this statement.  Sometimes we look at this statement and talk about it in terms of the facts that the Jews didn’t expect a crucified Messiah,and the Greeks / Gentiles couldn’t see following one who died as a criminal. Their gods would have been thought to be far too powerful to end up like that.  There is certainly validity in that.  But, what if we looked at it in terms of misreading the purpose of the cross. Think through this with me by examining the Jewish thoughts surrounding the crucifixion.  That may be a little bit too broad of a category to cover. After all, there could have been many varied views of the cross from the Jewish perspective.  But, what would we find if we looked at the view of the cross from the position of the Jewish leadership during the time of Jesus.

 

All throughout the Gospels, we find this growing tension between the Jewish ruling class and Jesus.  Let’s look at the Gospel of Mark for example.  We find the beginning of the tension in Mark 2.  We have Jesus in this house and people were coming from all around to hear him teach.  These four friends let their paralyzed friend down through the roof so Jesus could heal him. In verses 5-7 we see the trouble begin.

 

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

 

We see the tension continue to build as Jesus is found in Matthew’s house and the Pharisees wonder why he’s eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Then they question him about fasting and why his disciples do what is unlawful on the Sabbath. The tension really grows as Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  We find that in chapter 3 verses 1 through 6.

 

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him,how to destroy him.


We see the progression move from just irritation with this rabbi who is gathering followers to now actively seeking his destruction. 

 

We see them accuse him of being possessed, and that didn’t work. (Mark 3.22-30) Then we see them challenge his interpretation of the cleanliness customs in Mark 7, and that backfired.  They are constantly looking for ways to get rid of him. 

 

I wonder when they thought of the cross.  Was it during the triumphant entry?  Maybe, when he cleaned out the temple, or when he told the parable of the wicked tenants.  It could have been after the discussion on paying taxes, or the Sadducees attempt to trap him with a question about the resurrection, or when Jesus openly taught the people to beware of the scribes (Mark 12:38-40).  Whenever it was, they saw the cross as the solution to their problem.  In Mark 14, they got what they were looking for.  During the trial, after witnesses they had arranged could not get their stories straight, the high priest stood up and asked Jesus if he was the Son of God. His answer…..I am.  They had finally done it!  There was the solution to their problem.

 

On the Gentile side of things we have two groups on which I would like to focus now.  The first is a very powerful Gentile by the name of Pontius Pilate. It is really difficult to feel sorry for Pilate, but I think we can at least admit that his was a tough spot. He was charged with keeping the peace in an area of Rome that was in constant turmoil.  In fact, it still is in that same shape today.  Which one of us would like to have that job?  But here we have Pilate, faced with the decision of executing an innocent man to keep the peace with the Jewish group, or setting him free and dealing with the possibility of releasing an accused rebel. He appears to have attempted to do the right thing, but the Jewish l eadership was not about to see the solution to their problem dismissed.  What is he going to do?  The cross is the solution to his problem.

 

Another Gentile group I want us to notice tonight is the crucifixion team.  Pilate, seeing the cross as his solution, hands Jesus over to a well-trained team of experts.  These men knew how to execute people.  They also knew there would be benefits for them in carrying out this terrible work. They would gain the deceased’s possessions.  All of the gospel writers draw our attention to these men who gamble for the clothes of Jesus.  They see personal gain in his death. 

 

What is our view of the cross?  Well, we have something in common with the Jewish leadership and Pilate. We have a problem.  That problem is the sin that separates us from the God who loves us and has a purpose for our lives.  The solution to that problem is the cross.  God provided the solution of the cross to take care of the problem that we could not. We also have something in common with the crucifixion team.  We just sang about it a few minutes ago.  We gain from his death.  We gain hope and forgiveness and eternal life.  We gain the opportunity to be adopted as sons.  Praise God!!!

 

But, church if we end there, we miss something very, very valuable.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  The solution to our problem of sin, and what we gain from the cross are vital.  But, that’s not all there is to it.  Let’s go back to our text in 1 Corinthians.  And this time let’s look at chapter 2, beginning in verse 1.

 

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

 

Think for a minute about why Paul writes this to the church.  It’s not like they were people that needed to be converted to Jesus.  This was an established church.  Think about what else we know about the church in Corinth. I think if this church was one that was close by us today, we might start the conversation about them with, “Bless their hearts…”  They had some real problems in Corinth.  Bless their hearts, they had people divided up in camps around each one’s favorite preacher.  They had a man sleeping with his stepmother and everyone seemed ok with it, bless their hearts.  They were taking one another to court. They had sexual immorality all around them. They had folks with marriage problems. They had a dispute raging over whether or not they could eat meat sacrificed to idols. They were leaning toward idolatry.  They had some real worship wars happening.  There were disagreements over the value of different spiritual gifts.  They had made a mess of the Lord’s supper.  They were a mess, bless their hearts.  Paul starts the letter withdrawing their attention to the cross. 

 

I believe that Paul is illustrating for the Corinthian church and for us today that the cross is not only the solution to our problem of sin.  It is not just a place where we can gain something at the expense of Christ.  It is the compass that directs us as we move forward.  It is the direction to which we all look when things happen.  It is the direction toward which we all move in our relationships with each other, both with those in the body of Christ and those who are outside. The cross is our compass.

 

Paul directs them to the cross when dealing with division.  Look with me at chapter 3, verses 1 – 4.

 

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

 

Did we see it?  Paul tells them they are still like infants.  Have you ever noticed how self-centered infants are?  They don’t care if they wake us up at 2 in the morning. They don’t care what we are doing when they need to be fed or changed.  It is all about them.  Paul says that in the cases of division over these preferences we need to see the selflessness displayed at the cross and move in that direction.  Are we putting our needs ahead of our brothers and sisters? If so, we need to check the cross and change our direction.

 

When it comes to these disagreements that are going on and escalating to the point that brothers and sisters in Christ are taking each other to court, Paul directs them to the forgiveness displayed by Jesus at the cross.  Listen to him in chapter 6,verses 1 – 11.

 

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 

Church, forgiveness is one of the things that is so vital to our relationship with one another.  It is also, extremely valuable to our relationship with God.  Jesus teaches over and over that if we refuse to forgive we will not be forgiven.   Yet, knowing this it can be very difficult for us to do.  Paul says, “Look at the cross.”  If Jesus can forgive those who put him there, and are standing there, mocking him, we should be able to forgive those who hurt us.  Is there someone we need to forgive?  Are we holding a grudge?  Look at the cross and forgive as we have been forgiven.  Adjust our direction.

 

Sexual immorality that comes from letting our own desires rule our lives. Listen to what Paul says in chapter 6, beginning in verse 12:

 

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 

What about those with whom we differ in matters of opinion?  Paul deals with this in chapters 8 through 10 with food that has been sacrificed to idols and in chapters 12 and 14 with emphasis being given to various spiritual gifts.  In chapter 10, verses 23-32 he says:

 

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

 

How would we treat those with whom we disagree if we placed “for whom Christ died” at the end of their names?  How would we treat the guy who cuts us off in traffic, or the person who thinks we are backwards and unintelligent for following Jesus, or the people in the other church down the road, or the radical Muslim extremist if we consciously thought of them as the one “for whom Christ died”?  How would that change our witness in the world?

 

Invitation.