“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 tell 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, well… everything.
It’s a contentious world we inhabit, and it’s getting more so by the day. However, when all of the offenses are reduced down to their lowest common denominator, the one thing that every single offended party has in common is this: what they are really offended by is the name of the Lord Jesus and by the preaching of the Cross according to the scriptures. 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 one of the definitions of the word fulcrum as: “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 exactly were these “vital powers” in play at this particular crucifixion, at this particular time in history? And what is so offensive about this particular man who lost His (earthly) life upon this cross?
First, we have to come to grips with the fact that it is not merely the means of execution that is at issue here, although the fact that the coming Messiah would be pierced in just such a manner 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 – see also verses 13-18; and Isaiah 53). What we must do now is this: we must come to grips with the significance of this particular crucifixion.
There have been thousands upon thousands of men who have been crucified throughout the centuries. Appallingly, some are still being crucified today.
Rather, it is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that stands at the center of all of creation’s history. It is THIS cross upon which is centered those “vital powers” that impact all of human destiny.
On a hill just outside of the old city of Jerusalem, over 2,000 years ago, three crosses were erected. Upon two of them, two thieves hung. Both men were guilty of their respective crimes, and both justly condemned, according to the laws of the empire of Rome.
On the third cross in the center hung 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 2nd Person of the triune Godhead. It was He who hung there, and He did so of His own volition, for it was to this very place and for this very moment in time that God came to earth in human form as the one and only God/Man being both fully God and fully man.
On this cross hung the very One who was the Creator of all that exists. From the most vast and far-flung galaxies to the most infinitesimal subatomic particles, He created it all. The Creator of all that exists hung crucified, suspended between the heavens and earth that He Himself spoke into existence.
The man hanging on this cross was the One who flung great nebulae into the farthest reaches of space. He constructed the mysterious black holes that dot our universe, and it was He who created and set the particles contained within the very atoms of all matter dancing.
It was God incarnate who hung upon this center cross, and the powers that were in play there were none other than the omnipotent, omniscient Almighty God, pitted against the rebellious pride-filled fallen angel Lucifer – Satan, the Prince of the Powers 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 that all mankind could never 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,” that the long-ago promise made in the Garden of Eden to a broken, fallen, and now sin-cursed Adam and Eve was fulfilled (see Genesis 3:15).
It was at the cross that Satan’s head was “crushed,” and his doom sealed. It was at the cross (and from the empty tomb three days later) when Jesus was resurrected, glorified, and triumphant that Satan’s doom was assured. This is why Satan hates the cross.
And what of sinful man? What is the attitude of everyone who is lost and still enslaved by sin? It is this. Sin-cursed, sin-blighted, pride-filled, lost and rebellious mankind hates the cross as well because of our fallen nature.
To rebellious and sinful men, the preaching of the cross is foolishness, and the cross of Christ is an offense because sin is at odds with holiness and righteousness.
Upon our very conception, we are bound up in sin’s great chains. We are rebels at heart who want no part of being reminded that we are sinners already under condemnation unless and until we repent and cry 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 3:16-18).
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, a heart that is blighted and stained by sin. Sin is offended by the cross.
This 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 not just militant in their rebellion but 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 babies as a profitable business venture? Sin.
Why are those who flagrantly rebel against God’s created and ordained institution of marriage between one man and one woman so virulently hostile toward the God-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 just embraced but actually glorified? – Sin – Sin – and SIN!
At the root of all of man’s failings is a heart that has been utterly corrupted by sin because sin hates the cross. Sin is offended by the cross of Christ and by the preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
The supernatural Powers who target, entrap, deceive, allure, and entice men into an eternal Hell, the servants and lovers of their sin, do not want their defeat acknowledged. Satan does not want lost mankind to know that there is forgiveness for all sin at the cross. He does not want the sinner to realize that the chains of sin that bind him are 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 can 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 and 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 seeking forgiveness and salvation in Him alone apart from anything and everything else, we who have accepted the salvation of Christ by grace through faith according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), 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 that Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of the entire world and that all who are willing that come to Him by faith will be saved.
So, if it was man’s sin that put Christ on that cross, what was it then that held Him there? I will tell you what it was not: It was not the iron nails that held Christ to that cross. It was not the armed guards of imperial Rome who stripped Jesus naked and beat Him within an inch of his life, then drove the spikes into His hands and feet. It was not the Roman guards who stood around gambling for his garments as the Creator of all the universe in human form hung battered, naked, shivering, and bloodied, dying an agonizingly slow and excruciating death. It was not the Jewish religious hierarchy who so hated Jesus, nor was it the official decree of Pontius Pilate either that kept the God of Glory on that cross.
Oh no, beloved, it was something far stronger than mere iron spikes, or legal decrees, or armed guards, for NONE of those things could have either put or held the King of Glory on that cross! It was His own choosing, in perfect obedience to the Father, that kept Jesus there. The Holy King of Glory hung there on our behalf because there was no other way to procure and preserve the redemption of His fallen creation.
It was God in the flesh who hung upon that old rugged cross. At any time, He could have called thousands of 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 – for our sakes.
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 hung on that center cross, satisfying the demand for the payment of a sin debt that was required by God’s own Justice and Holiness. Those were the great intangibles that held our Lord to that cross. It was His unmatched, unfathomable, immeasurable love and mercy that put and held Him there. Love unmatched and His unsearchable, unending Mercy are what 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. It was God incarnate who, in mankind’s fallen and utterly sinful state, paid in full the infinite penalty for sin that no human could ever pay so that He might freely offer to us eternal life.
Now, in the same way, that sin is offended by the cross; sin itself offends a holy God. That is why the death of God the Son alone was sufficient to satisfy the Justice and holiness demanded by an offended holy and righteous God. All of mankind is born into a fallen and sinful condition. We can never pay the infinite debt demanded by a holy God, nor can we erase the stain of sin that contaminates every single human ever conceived. We Cannot do anything to rectify our sin-cursed souls. Because of Adam’s rebellion, we are conceived “condemned already.”
Therefore, Jesus Christ – the 2nd Person of the triune Godhead – clothed Himself in human skin. He came as the One who became our Kinsman Redeemer in order to redeem (pay the penalty) of sin and set us free from the wages (penalty) of sin.
Every vile and despicable sin, from the “little white lies” that we think are so innocuous (but are not) to our petty jealousies, our despicable behaviors, our arrogant pride, even the shameful, wicked, petty thoughts we have and the hidden selfish motivations that we may hide, every single sin from what we may perceive as being innocuous to the most vile, wicked, and horrendous evil that can be committed by mortal man, ALL are sin, and ALL SIN is 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 the finished work of Jesus Christ alone that forgiveness for our sins can be obtained. Sin is a very grave matter 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 (which, in truth, they are just as we once were before we were saved), or do we see them for what they are, people lost and on their way to an eternal 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 the offense of the sinner crumbles into brokenness. It is only 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 how dreadful our sin is 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 “filthy rags” 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 the vile and guilty sinner that we most assuredly are, but rather a sinner who has been saved and justified, 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 the foot of that cross that the world so despises!
The forgiveness and cleansing from sin are why Satan and the sinful hearts of lost men are offended by the cross. That is why those who are lost rebel at what they see as the foolishness of the cross. Oh, would to God that the lost could see in us such a difference in our lives because of the cross that our changed lives would draw them inexorably there!
Oh, that we who wear His name would radiate a living testimony and witness within ourselves that would shine like the light of a thousand suns! Oh, that we would strive to be as a beacon that illuminates and draws all who are willing to come to the saving grace of Almighty God! Would to God our witness would be so powerful that it would be a powerful light drawing men, women, boys and girls, pointing them to Jesus. Oh, that our desire would shine a light on the saving grace of God to a lost and dying world through a testimony so powerful that it would prove to them unequivocally that we have been to that cross that so offends them, and there we have been cleansed, forgiven, eternally changed, and made whole.
Would to God that we would live our lives with such a love and gratitude to that cross that when even the most vile of sinners looks upon our lives, they will see and know that there is something different about us so that they, too, may long to know the One who loved them so much that He died so that they, like us, can “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 and tragic 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 the One who died to save them.
Most of all, those offended by the cross are on the “broad road that leads to destruction,” and most will not ever see the need for their salvation. They are content in their sin and happy in their rebellion. Tragically, these are the ones who will always remain offended by the cross and who will, of their own violation, perish in their sins.
This is the greatest tragedy that can befall any person. God sent His Son to die in mankind’s place in order to procure salvation for “all who are willing to come to Him by faith” in order to save them from an eternity in Hell. Yet they willfully look at the very Savior who died for them and (like the rich young Ruler of Jesus’ Day) turn away from the only One who could have saved them. Tragically, like this young man, those who continue to be 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 lost, miserable, lonely, and oh so tired of the carousel of sin on which they are trapped and from which they cannot find an exit. There are many who know that they need something but who may not realize that what they need is a 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 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 our Lord has called us to be, then we can point 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 change our hearts so 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!
My brethren, never forget this: the cross that so offends the lost is the cross where the sinner is saved.