“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Peter 2:7-8).
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I really you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).
Have you noticed that nearly everyone is offended by something nowadays? “Gays” (whom the Bible calls “Sodomites”) are offended by anyone who will not kowtow to every aspect of their particular perversion. Criminals and insurgents are offended by those whose job it is to uphold the law.
A vast majority of our children and teenagers are offended by parental or any kind of authority. Employees are offended by the rules and regulations of the companies for whom they work. Governments are offended when the people rebel against their tyranny and brutality, and the progressive/liberal/Marxist/socialist, globalist uber elite seem to be offended by everything!
It’s a contentious world we inhabit, and it is getting more so by the day. However, when all of the offenses are reduced down to their lowest common denominators, the one thing that every single offended party has in common is this: What they are really offended by is the preaching of the cross of Christ. You see, the bottom line of all “bottom lines” is sin. And sin is offended by the cross.
This is the essence of what the Bible means when it speaks about the “foolishness of preaching” and the “offense of the cross.” The cross of Christ and what happened there is the fulcrum of history.
The American Heritage Dictionary gives as one of the definitions of the word fulcrum: “an agent through which vital powers are exercised.” And that is exactly what the cross of Christ is to all of history, both history before and after the events that took place at the cross.
So, what “vital powers” were in play at that particular crucifixion, at that particular time in history? And what is so offensive about the particular man who lost His (earthly) life upon that cross? First, we have to come to grips that it is not merely the means of execution which is at issue here.
The fact is, that the coming Messiah would be pierced in just such a manner that was prophesied in the Psalms (among many other places in the Old Testament) centuries before the incredibly cruel and torturous method of execution by crucifixion was invented by the Romans: “… they pierced my hands and feet…” (Psalm 22:16; 13-18; Isaiah 53).
But we must come to grips with the significance of that particular crucifixion which is at issue.
There have been thousands upon thousands of men who have been crucified throughout the centuries (appallingly, some are still being crucified today). But it is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that stands at the center of all of creation’s history. It is that cross upon which is centered the “vital powers” that impact all of human destiny.
On a hill just outside of the Old City of Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago, there were erected three crosses. Upon two of them were two thieves, both guilty, and both justly condemned according to the laws of the empire of Rome. On the third cross in the center was a man who was not guilty of any crime.
Indeed, He was not guilty of any sin either in thought, word, or deed. This particular man was on that cross, not because of some offense he had committed against imperial Rome, nor was He there because of any religious offense He had perpetrated toward the Jewish people or the religious hierarchy of the Jews.
No, the man that was hanging upon the center cross was none other than the Son of God, clothed in human skin. This man was Jesus Christ, the second person of the Triune Godhead—the Lord Jesus Christ. It was He who suffered there, and He did so of HIS OWN volition. For it was to that very place and for that very moment in time that God came to earth in human form.
On that cross was the very One, the Creator of all that is, from the most vast and far-flung galaxies to the most infinitesimal subatomic particle. The Creator of all that is was hanging on that cross—the One who flung great nebulae into the farthest reaches of space and constructed the mysterious black holes that dot our universe. It was He who created and set the particles contained within the very atoms of all matter, dancing.
It was God incarnate who was tortured upon that cross. And the powers that were in play were none other than the omnipotent, omniscient Almighty God, pitted against fallen Lucifer—Satan, the “prince of the power of the air” who, too late, realized the significance of what occurred upon that cross.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
Too late, the adversary realized that what he thought was God’s great defeat was in actuality God’s great deliverance for all mankind. It was there, at the cross, where the justice of God met the mercy of God to pay a debt incurred by fallen Man; a debt he could never himself pay. And therein lies the offense of the cross.
The cross is offensive to Satan, who suffered his defeat there. It was at the cross when Jesus cried aloud, “It is finished!” It was at the cross that Satan’s head was “crushed,” and his doom sealed. It was at the cross (and at the empty tomb three days later) when Jesus was resurrected, glorified and triumphant—that Satan’s doom was assured. That is why he hates the cross.
And what of sinful Man? What is the attitude of everyone still enslaved by sin? These souls are lost, rebellious, and hate the cross. To rebellious and sinful Man, the preaching of the cross is foolishness, and the cross of Christ an offense, because sin is at odds with God’s holiness and righteousness.
Those who are bound up in sin’s great chains are rebels at heart and want no part of being reminded that they are sinners already under condemnation unless and until they repent and call out for salvation.
“He that believeth on Him [Christ Jesus] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
This is the reason why Man, in all his rebellious hubris, rails against the stark reality of the cross. The cross confronts Man’s rebellion. It illuminates his selfishness, his narcissism, and the ugliness of what lies at the heart of every man, woman, boy and girl—hearts blighted and stained by sin. Sin is offended by the cross.
That is why there is such evil in the world. There is a cosmic battle that is being waged between these two “vital powers.”
“Why do the heathen rage?” Why are the wicked militant in their rebellion, rabid in their perversions? Why can those who butcher pre-born babies eat lunch and drink wine nonchalantly while they casually discuss the slaughter and dismemberment of babes as a profitable business venture? Sin.
Why do those who flagrantly rebel against God’s created and ordained institution of marriage (between one man and one woman) behave with such virulent hostility toward God’s ordained sanctity of marriage and the societal foundation of the family unit? Sin.
Or why is there so much bitterness and vitriolic hatred among the races? Why is violence not only embraced but actually glorified? Sin, sin, and SIN! At the root of all of Man’s failings are hearts that have been utterly corrupted by sin. And sin hates the cross. Sin is offended by the cross of Christ and by the preaching of the cross of Christ.
The powers of sin do not want their defeat acknowledged. Satan does not want lost mankind to know that there is forgiveness for sin at the cross. He does not want the sinner to realize that the chains of sin that bind him will be broken at the foot of the cross.
Satan does not want all those who are deceived by the illusion of sin’s allure to know that their eyes will be opened to the lies of Satan and the deceiving mask of sin unveiled at the cross by the One who is Truth.
As long as fallen Man is happy and content in his rebellion, he will be offended by the cross. That is the unmitigated “why” that lies at the bottom of every wicked and sinful act that is done or every rebellious attitude that is held. Sin is offended by the cross.
But we who have “been to the cross” so to speak, we who have heeded the conviction placed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God regarding our sinful nature, we who have cried out for salvation by believing in the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and who have accepted the salvation of Christ by grace through faith — we have come to understand the significance of the cross. We have learned the absolute necessity that a lost and fallen world needs to hear about the hope that lies at the heart of the preaching of the cross.
We know that it was there, at the cross, that Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of the entire world, and that all who are willing to come to Him by faith will be saved. And if it was Man’s sin that put Christ on that cross, what was it then that held Him there? It was not the iron nails that held Christ to that cross. Oh no, beloved, it was something far stronger than mere iron spikes.
After all, it was God in the flesh who suffered upon that rugged cross. At any time, He could have called legions of warrior angels to come and annihilate everyone who stood upon that hill to set Him free. Or He could simply have spoken a word and come down off the cross by His own power. No, it was not mere nails that held Him there. No human tool could have held the Lord of Glory to that cross had He not chosen to be there.
What held Christ to that cross was nothing less than His infinite love and mercy. Both of those intangible things held Jesus there in order that His death, offered in our place, could satisfy the demands of the other aspects of His nature—His justice and holiness.
Love and mercy in the Person of our Lord was upon that cross, satisfying the demand for the payment of our sin-debt that was required by His justice and holiness. Those were the great intangibles that held our Lord to that cross. It was His unmatched, unfathomable love and His unsearchable, unending mercy that kept Him on that cross—until the sin debt for all mankind was “paid in full.”
Oh, beloved, that is why all who want to be right with God must come by way of the cross. It was there that the Son of God Himself died in the place of fallen Man, who on his own and in his fallen and utterly sinful state, could never, ever pay!
In the same way that sin is offended by the cross, sin itself offends a holy God. That is why only the death of the Son of God alone was sufficient to satisfy the justice and holiness demanded by an offended holy and righteous God. All of mankind is born in a fallen and sinful condition and can never pay the infinite debt demanded by a holy God.
Therefore, Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Triune Godhead, clothed Himself in human skin and came as the One who became our Kinsman Redeemer in order to redeem us (pay the debt) of sin and set us free.
Every vile and despicable sin, from our “little white lies” that we think are so innocuous (but are not), to the most vile, wicked, and horrendous evil that can be committed by mortal Man— are all offensive to the holiness and righteousness of God. Yet it was for each and every sin that Jesus Christ died. And it is only through Him that forgiveness for sins can be obtained. Sin is a very grave thing to God. Sin offends God.
And what of us who belong to God? How complacent have we become in a culture that is offended by the cross? Have we become immune to the hardness of those who are so offended by the cross that they go through life railing against the cross of Christ and those who belong to Him?
Do we see them as enemies and adversaries, or do we see them for what they are — people lost and on their way to an eternity in hell? The lost are offended by the cross because they are lost, as were we at one time before we came to the cross of Christ and were broken there.
It is only at the foot of the cross where our offense crumbles into brokenness. It is at the cross where the justice that we deserve runs headlong into the mercy that Christ offers. It is only when we become crushed by the awareness of our sin and the punishment that we deserve that we become broken. And in that moment of utter brokenness, Christ, who is mercy, reaches down and lifts our vile and guilty souls out of the cesspool of our sinful state.
He clothes our reeking souls with the brilliant righteousness of Himself, so that when the Father looks upon a soul redeemed by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God, He sees not a vile and guilty sinner, but rather a sinner redeemed by grace and clothed in the righteousness of His Son.
Only then is the offensiveness of the cross changed into a gratitude and love so deep and overflowing that our sin-cleansed souls cannot contain our joy.
Oh, that the world would see in us a love of the cross so deep, so profound, so life-altering that they would yearn with all their hearts to know for themselves the forgiveness and release that can only be found at that cross that the world so despises.
The forgiveness and cleansing from sin is why Satan and the sinful hearts of lost men are offended by the cross. That is why the lost rebel at what they see as the foolishness of the cross.
Oh, if only the lost could see in us such a difference in how we live our lives because of the cross and draw them inexorably there.
If only the testimony and witness within ourselves would shine like the light of a thousand suns, as a beacon to a lost and dying world, proving unmistakably that we have been to that cross which so offends them—the cross where we have been made whole.
May we live our lives with such a love and gratitude to the Redeemer who suffered on that cross, that when even the most vile of sinners look upon our lives, they will see and know that there is something different about us; that they, too, will long to know the One who loved them so much that He died so that they, too, could “move from death unto life” in Christ.
There are many who are looking for release from the clutches of sin. Many, who even though they are still enemies of the cross of Christ, need to be shown the truth of what Christ did for them at the cross. It is a sad fact that the vast majority of those who are so offended by the cross will never choose to come to that very cross to have their sins forgiven by Christ—who died to save them.
Most of those offended by the cross are on the “broad road that leads to destruction” and will not ever see the need for salvation. They are content in their sin and happy in their rebellion. Tragically, they are the ones who will always remain offended by the cross and who will, of their own volition, perish in their sins.
The greatest tragedy that can befall any person is to reject the fact that God sent His Son to die to procure salvation for “all who will come to Him by faith,” to save them from an eternity in hell. Many willfully look to the very Savior who died for them, yet turn away (like the rich young ruler of Jesus’ day). Tragically—like that young man, those who are offended by the Savior will embrace their sin and follow it all the way into an eternal hell.
However, thank God, there are yet many others, who despite how rebellious they may appear, are miserable, lonely, and oh so tired of the carousel of sin on which they are trapped, and from which they cannot find an exit; those who know that they need something, but who may not realize that what they need is the Savior. We are here to be the light that points them to that Savior. We are here to give to them the message of the cross.
Time is quickly drawing to a close in this dispensation of God’s grace. There are still so many all over the world who are lost and without hope. If we, as believers, will live our lives being the salt and light that we are called to be by our Lord, then we will draw those who are longing and looking for salvation to the Lord. And like a light, we who are “of the light” will draw those stumbling in the darkness of a judgment-bound world to the One who is the Light of the World.
Let us pray that the Lord will so move in our hearts that everything that offends Christ will offend us as well. Let us pray that God will so change our hearts that the things that we are offended by are those things that are an offense to Him. And in so doing, may the difference Christ has made in our lives draw to the cross all those who are willing to come to Him by faith.
Oh Lord, let us shine for You. No matter what occurs in this world before You call us Home, either in death or in the Rapture, let us never cease to share the only gospel that can save lost souls.
Let us never be intimidated or thwarted by those who are offended by the foolishness of the preaching of Your cross. Oh Lord, draw all whom You know will come to You so that Your Bride may be complete. Oh Lord Jesus, come quickly for Your Church, and thank You for dying on the cross to save us and for resurrecting in triumph from the tomb!
Never forget this, my brethren: The cross that so offends the lost is the cross where the sinner is saved.