What is “the offense of the cross?”
As mentioned yesterday, Paul uses this term in his letter to the believers in Galatia who were being confused by bold judaizers. Judaizers taught that the Jewish regulations, sacrifices and rituals still had to be practiced to be righteous before God.
Paul was preaching the Christian gospel message – the message that salvation was available to all by simple faith in Christ Jesus. The “law” had come not that anyone might successfully keep it, but to demonstrate that no one could keep it! Circumcision was meant to outwardly teach the truth of what must happen inwardly, in a believer’s heart, not merely in a person’s flesh.
This message offended the legalists of his day, as it offends those in any era, those who seek to put confidence in the flesh, in their own self-generated goodness, or righteousness, to “earn” salvation… to be able to “boast” in a sort of personal moral superiority… to “take pride” in it. Thus, Paul writes,
“Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.” (Gal. 5:11).
In the above verse Paul is saying that if he was still preaching a legalistic approach to God, then why would people be offended as they were? The fact that he was not preaching a salvation by works, “circumcision,” was the reason many were offended. As Billy Graham itemizes*. The cross offended
- Herod: who lived an immoral lifestyle
- Caiaphas: who condemned Christ to the cross
- Pilate: who cowardly did not stand up against the crowds
- Judas: who was covetous and ultimately betrayed Christ
- Soldiers: who were unmoved by Christ’s suffering and gambled for his clothing
In short, as I stated in yesterday’s blog, the cross called them – and calls everyone – to repent! To give up thinking we can of ourselves ever be righteous before God. We need the goodness of someone else to cover for us… someone faultless, someone holy!
That Someone is, and ever only will be, Christ.
- Link to these classic messages on the offense if the cross
Billy Graham, Glasgow, Scotland, 1991 Length: 27:32
Billy Graham, San Francisco, CA, 1958 Length: 43:19
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