The Message of the Cross

March 30, 2021

A compilation

Audio length: 16:50
Download Audio (15.4MB)

“In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility, … so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”—Ephesians 2:13–16

Jesus’ death on the cross, the shedding of His blood, is what cleanses us from sin, and what makes it possible for us to become reconciled with God. Reconciliation generally refers to the ending of hostility between two persons who have quarreled. It signifies bringing back together those who were separated or enemies. Sin brings separation of humanity from God, but Jesus’ death has taken away the separation and has thus changed our relationship with God. “In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”1

The act of reconciliation between God and us is God’s doing, not our own. In His great love and mercy, He has reconciled us to Himself. While it is a gift freely given, it was a costly gift for the giver. He gave His Son, who in His torturous death on the cross took on the sins of the world as His own and suffered separation from God in our place.

Jesus’ death was a vicarious sacrifice for us. His blood was shed for our salvation. He paid the price of our ransom so that we could be freed, and through this He reconciled us to God. We have been redeemed by the sacrifice of God in the death of Jesus. He paid the price of our sins on the cross. But what did it cost Jesus to bear our sins and punishment?

Going to the cross cost Christ dearly. He paid the price and suffered the penalty of sin for each of us. His pain and agony brought us forgiveness of sin, freedom from the penalty of sin, and reconciliation with God. It is the greatest gift of all—the free gift of eternal life. And because we are the recipients of this gift—free for us, but costly for Christ—we are asked by God to become ambassadors for Christ, bringing His message of reconciliation to others, imploring them to become reconciled to God.

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.2Peter Amsterdam

Boasting in the cross

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”—Galatians 6:14

Ultimately, Paul says, the heart of your religion is what you boast in. What is the reason that you think you are in a right relationship with God? If [you believe that] the cross is just a help, but you [feel you] have to complete your salvation with good works, then it is really your works which make the difference between your being headed for heaven or not headed for heaven. Therefore, you “boast about your flesh,”3 your own efforts.

But if you understand the gospel, you “boast” exclusively and only in the cross. Our identity, our self-image, is based on what gives us a sense of dignity and significance—what we boast in. The gospel leads us to boast in the cross of Jesus. That means our identity in Jesus is confident and secure—we do “boast”—yet humbly, based on a profound sense of our flaws and neediness.

So the gospel can be well summarized in one remarkable sentence: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”4 I am saved solely and wholly because of Christ’s work, not mine. He has reserved a place in heaven for me, given freely to me by Him. I “never boast”—I take no credit for my standing with God—“except in the cross”; what Christ has done is now something I “boast” in. To boast is to joyously exult, and to have high confidence in something. To know you are saved by Christ’s work alone brings a joyous “boasting” confidence; not a self-confidence, but Christ-confidence.

And if I truly boast in Christ alone, there is a stunning turnaround in my life. The world is dead to me. … Paul is telling the Christian that there is nothing in the world now that has any power over them. Notice he does not say that the world is dead, but that it is dead to him. The gospel destroys its power. Why? As my righteousness or salvation, if there is nothing in the world that I boast in, then there is nothing in the world that controls me—nothing that I must have….

Because of the gospel of Christ crucified, Paul says, I do not feel inferior to or intimidated by anyone—circumcision means nothing. And because of the gospel, I do not feel superior to or scornful of anyone—uncircumcision means nothing. All that matters is that, through Christ crucified, we are made a “new creation.”5 The gospel changes my future, giving me a place in Christ’s perfected re-creation. And the gospel changes my present, giving me a whole new self-image and a whole new way of relating to everyone.—Timothy Keller

The offense of the cross

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”—1 Corinthians 1:176

First, the cross is offensive because of the type of people that were crucified on a cross—the worst of the worst of criminals in Roman society. The fact that the God of the universe would have anything to do with such a type of penalty was an offense. The image of a crucified man represented weakness, shame, and disgrace. Christ being crucified was both a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.7

Second, the cross is offensive because it exposes our own spiritual condition. The cross is humiliating to us as man because it shows that there is absolutely nothing that we can do in order to earn God’s favor. It says that even our good works are like filthy rags8; which also reveals that human nature is not good but rather sinful. This makes the cross, the gospel, offensive because in our best efforts we will always fail and are lost. It took the death of Jesus on the cross in order to have any means of justification before God. So we are helpless and lost in our own sin without the cross.

Third, the cross is offensive because it is exclusive in its message. The cross claims that the only way of justification before God is through the death of Jesus on the cross. There is no other form of forgiveness given, so stop trying to display your own righteousness (filthy rags). It is offensive to mankind … to claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation and the only way to have a restored relationship with God. …

Without the cross we would lose a significant part of the salvation message we proclaim. The offense, as Paul stated in Galatians 5:11, is one that is meant to last forever; because the message of the cross is offensive to all men everywhere throughout history. And until Christ himself returns and all eyes are fully opened, it will only continue to be offensive to those that are perishing.—Matthew Boyd9

The core of the gospel message

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:1810

Ever since the gospel first began to be preached, the message of the cross has been rejected as foolish or unbelievable. We see the offense of the cross referred to several times in this passage: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” and “Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.”11

Paul says that to both the Jews and the Gentiles (or non-Jews), the cross was offensive.

First of all, the idea of a “crucified Messiah” was just foolish to the Jews. Their whole expectation of the Messiah was that He would come and crush the Gentiles. … The Jews rejected the cross because it was not what they expected from the Messiah. But the non-Jews, like the Romans, also thought it was foolish. You can just imagine the response of many of the Romans. Rome worshipped power. Rome was power! They served a god of war. Offering them the gospel of a man whose country they held in bondage and whose supposed leader they had nailed to a cross and killed was indeed foolishness. …

Despite the cross being “foolish” to the world, Paul says that the focus of the Christian message is the cross of Jesus. He says in 1 Corinthians 1:23: “But we preach Christ crucified.” And in verse 18, he calls the gospel “the word of the cross.”

One of the key things we should not miss in this passage is that the cross is so identified with the gospel here that Paul calls the Christian message “the word of the cross.” The cross is central to Christianity. It is the heart of the gospel. Christianity is all about what Jesus did on the cross. It is “the word of the cross.”

It’s not the word of how everyone can be physically healed; it’s not the word of how your business can succeed; it’s not the word of “your best life now”; it’s not the word of how you can speak in tongues; it’s not the word of social change; it’s not the word of the American Dream. It’s “the word of the cross”: Jesus Christ came to die on the cross to pay for our sins. That is the central message of Christianity. “It’s about the cross!”

You can’t omit the message of the cross without totally compromising Christianity. In fact, you don’t really have Christianity any more without the cross. … Because the cross is “foolishness” and a “stumbling block” to many, some have tried to “smooth it over” by taking that part out—but you can’t do that without destroying the message. It is not Christianity any more without the cross. … There is only one thing that can save anyone, and that is the message of the cross of Jesus Christ.—Shawn Thomas12

Published on Anchor March 2021. Read by John Laurence.
Music by Michael Dooley.

1 Colossians 1:19–20.

2 2 Corinthians 5:18–20.

3 Galatians 6:13.

4 Galatians 6:14.

5 Galatians 6:15.

6 ESV.

7 1 Corinthians 1:23

8 Isaiah 64:6.


10 NLT.

11 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23.


Copyright © 2024 The Family International