Calling All Contenders - Mike Muzzerall

The Controversy Of The Cross

November 2019

It has been said that everywhere the apostle Paul went, there was either a revival or a riot. The message he preached was the instrument that produced both results. Paul was not shy in declaring the central theme of his sermons. In I Corinthians 1:23 the apostle declares, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” Why did this message cause such strong opposition? What is the controversy of the cross?

Let’s look at the view of those who rejected the gospel Paul preached. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). The logos of the cross—the message of the cross, the preaching of the cross—is to them who are presently in the act of perishing, foolishness. A. T. Robertson said, “Present middle participle is here timeless, ‘those in the path to destruction call it foolishness.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures). In a sense, Paul was telling us that no matter which generation we look at, those who oppose the message of the cross declare it as foolishness. “Greek mōria; folly—old word from mōros: foolish” (RWP). To them the message of the cross is “moronic.”

Why The Controversy?
The controversy lies in the entrenched belief that given enough time, man can solve his own problems. This way of thinking began with Adam and Eve who sewed fig leaves together in an attempt to hide their shame. Today, we see works and religious deeds being knitted together in a futile attempt to cover spiritual nakedness. With every succeeding generation, the resolve to fix the problem of sin without divine intervention seems to become stronger and stronger.

The Twin Brothers Of Humanistic Christianity
One brother believes that salvation is attainable through self-awareness, self-improvement and self-elevation. He believes he could always reach down, pull himself up by the bootstraps, and walk holy. His brother, on the other hand, thinks himself much wiser. He sees the need for the cross in order to pay the initial debt of sin. However, from that moment on, he is convinced that he is able to produce his own type of righteousness. Humanistic Christianity therefore rejects the notion that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

The Double Edge Controversy
The message of the cross declares that Calvary is the power of God manifested to the ones who are saved (literally being saved). It is the realization that only through the blood of the Lamb could sin be washed away. These are fighting words and controversial to those who maintain that man is capable of saving himself. This is a timeless controversy. They cannot see that ongoing sanctification is forever tied to the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

In The Cross
Righteousness attained by faith in the completed work of Calvary (imputed righteousness), is the only means of walking rightly before God. You cannot be saved by grace then sanctified by works. You cannot be saved by the blood of the Lamb then think you can be sanctified by the sweat of the brow. You cannot be saved by God then sanctified by self. This is the controversy of the cross.

To The True Believer
To the true believer, removing the cross from the preaching of the gospel produces the true controversy. It is no longer “good news” if it bypasses the completed work of Calvary. Most Christians would agree with this for “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sin (Heb. 9:22). Yet too many Christians are attempting to then live a victorious life apart from what Christ accomplished for us at the cross. Since we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11) which occurred on the cross, how could we ever hope of living a victorious life? The cross is for the sinner and the saint alike. And so the controversy of the cross continues.

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