Back to the Cross

There are many important spiritual issues that demand our attention.  None of the precepts of God should ever be neglected, and preachers and teachers are bound to “declare the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).  There is much to be done – teaching the truth, correcting false doctrine, rebuking those who are in sin, etc.


However, we must be certain that we never take our focus away from the foundational truths that give meaning to all of these issues.  See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  It is Christ and His cross that give every spiritual issue a proper meaning and context.  He is the thread that ties all spiritual truth together, and Christ Himself is fully revealed by the events surrounding His crucifixion on the cross of Calvary.


Therefore, we must be careful not to disconnect discussions of spiritual things from the cross of Christ.  The cross touches every spiritual issue.  Whether we are debating issues with those outside of the church (such as baptism) or with those inside the church (such as marriage, divorce and remarriage), we must keep the cross in sight.  Otherwise, these issues lose their meanings and become simply matters of opinion.


Are these spiritual issues really important?  Denominationalists have argued that the fundamental truth about Jesus (His deity, His crucifixion, His resurrection, etc.) is really all that matters.  By this standard, if we can agree on these fundamentals, then we can have fellowship even though we disagree about the gospel (issues such as baptism, the church, worship, etc.).  This is because those details of the gospel are of minor importance in their opinions.


However, Christ and His gospel are inseparable.  If Christ is important, then His gospel is important.  To compromise the gospel is to desert God (Gal. 1:6-9).  Most people who consider themselves Christians will acknowledge that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, the gospel would be meaningless (see 1 Cor. 15:12-19, esp. 14).  If that is true, then they should also be willing to acknowledge that because He was raised from the dead, every detail of the gospel is meaningful.  Christians can no more compromise the Scriptural truth on baptism, for example, than they can compromise the Scriptural truth on the resurrection of Christ.  The historical truth of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension means that discussions and debates about spiritual things are never trivial.


Therefore, if Christians would teach or practice anything pertaining to the church, worship, salvation, or any other spiritual topic, they must always point back to the cross of Christ.  To put it plainly, if anyone asks why something of a spiritual nature should be believed, taught, or practiced, the correct reason is always that it pleases the Man who was nailed to the cross and raised from the dead.


Therefore, debates and discussions about spiritual things must never be conducted for the purpose of simply winning an argument.  Our focus should never be on who is a better debater or who has sharper wit, but rather it should be to arrive at what pleases the Lord.  If we make our goal to determine what pleases Him, then we cannot lose.  We may lose an argument, but we win our souls because we learn how to please our Lord.


This idea of preaching with the cross always in focus is why Paul described his preaching to the Corinthians by saying, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).  Paul was not saying that all of his preaching was only a continual repetition of the events of the crucifixion.  He was saying that the truth of the crucifixion was the basis for everything that he preached.  Paul offered no reasons or wisdom for his preaching other than that it was the will of the Christ who was crucified.


Of course, we do not seek to please Jesus only because He was crucified.  Many people were crucified by the Romans.  However, even the thief on the cross recognized that Jesus was unique (Luke 23:39-43).  The particular fact that the thief recognized was that Jesus had done nothing wrong.  This is not only to say that Jesus had not broken Roman law, but also that Jesus had never sinned at all.  The death that Jesus suffered on the cross was entirely undeserved by Him.


The reason for Christ’s death was so that we might have life.  He lost His life to give us new spiritual life, so it naturally follows that we should live our lives for Him.  Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all; therefore all died.  And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).  This passage reveals that a Christian’s life is completely oriented around the fact that Jesus died and was raised for him or her.  If we are willing to accept that Jesus died for us, then we must also be willing to live the new lives that He gave us for Him.


Therefore, let us understand the necessity of allowing our thoughts to go back to the cross daily.  To successfully live for Christ, we must be convinced that Christ died for us and was raised.  The very nature of these events – the brutality of the cross, the miracle of the resurrection, the spiritual significance of it all – demands our constant attention so that we will be completely convinced and motivated to live for Christ.  These events really happened, and they have real daily consequences for all of us.


Stacey E. Durham


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