<%@ Page Language="VB" ContentType="text/html" ResponseEncoding="iso-8859-1" %> Untitled Document THE CROSS IS THE CENTER

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was no accident. He is referred to as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). The cross was in God's plan from the beginning of time. The apostle Paul preached Christ for more than thirty years, through-out the Roman empire, and his message was always the same: "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). That was "good news" which God wanted preached.

"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God Who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly (places) might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:8-11). Please notice that the preaching of the cross was "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The cross is the center of God's eternal purpose to redeem man from sin and to save him eternally.

But the cross is also central in the life of every follower of the Lord. Jesus said, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24). As we present our bodies "a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1), it is the cross of Christ that is the center of it all. Every motive to love and serve Him centers in the cross: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jno. 15:13). And, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 Jno. 4:19). Everything we do centers in and derives its meaning from the cross.

Our Worship -- Is Given Meaning By The Cross: -- In discussing worship with the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus pointed out the requirements for acceptable worship: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jno. 4:24). Because Jesus died on the cross, and arose, He is "declared to be the Son of God with power" (Rom. 1:4). On the basis of His death on the cross, He is preached as "Lord." On the day the church began, the apostle Peter told the people, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts 2:36). There is no other means of access into the presence of God, but by Jesus Christ, His Son. He made that clear in Jno. 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." Our worship of God must be in recognition that "there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, Himself the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). All of our worship is centered in the cross of Christ.

When the apostle Paul, and those with him, came to Troas, the Scripture says, "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them" (Ats 20:7). When Christians gather at the Lord's Table every first day of the week, there is still that same connection with the cross of Christ. When He instituted the Lord's Supper,
Jesus took bread and told the disciples, "This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of Me. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying. This cup is the new covenant in My blood; this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till He come" (1 Cor. 11:24-26). The cross is the center of the Lord's Supper.

Our prayers are "in the name of Jesus" (Jno. 14:13). Our songs that extol His grace and love for us and exhort us to faithful living are in the name of Jesus (Col. 3:16,17). As one of those songs declares, "The way of the cross leads home." Our giving on each first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-4) is based on the fact that Jesus gave Himself for us on the cross (2 Cor. 8:8,9). And all of our teaching and preaching must be centered in the cross. As the Bible says, "For the Word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18). As we worship in song, in prayer, in giving, in teaching and in the Lord's Supper, the cross gives meaning and life to it all.

Salvation Comes By The Preaching Of The Cross: -- After His death on the cross, Jesus met with the disciples and gave them the reason for His death on the cross: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:46,47). And when the apostles "went everywhere preaching the Word" (Mk. 16:20), the message was always "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). That was the message on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-36) when they preached to the Jews. That was their message when they preached to idolatrous Gentiles (Acts 17:24-31).

There were those who considered the cross shameful and degrading (Heb. 12:2; Gal. 3:13). But the apostle Paul shows the power of the "word of the cross" in 1 Cor. 1:18-24. "The Word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God...For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the things preached to save them that believe. Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." That is the reason the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16) to them that believe.

When we were lost in sn, Christ died on the cross, shedding His blood to redeem us. "Knowing that ye were redeemed not with corruptible things, with silver or gold from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18,19). There is the preaching of the cross -- Christ died for you and for me. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace...Through faith in His blood" (Rom. 3:23, 24). Without the cross there is no salvation from sin. And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, (Heb. 9:22).

The Church Was Purchased By The Precious Blood Shed Upon The Cross Of Calvary: -- The Lord promised, "I will build My church" (Matt. 16:18). But it was not built until after His death. Why? God answers: "The church of the Lord, which he purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). While some disparage His church and ridicule those who seek to promote and defend it, the true value of the church is seen in the cross. What did Jesus think of the worth of the church? How muce did He value the church? And what is the church worth, to Him? These questions are all answered in the cross Jesus Christ died upon the cross for the church.

The relationship of Christ and the church is the topic of Eph. 5:23-32: "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the Head of the church, being Himself the Savior of the body...Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself up for it...For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become on flesh. This mystery is great; but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church." One cannot reject the church of Christ without rejecting the blood of Christ, for it was the purchase price of the church. And to reject His church is to reject His bride!

Some contend that we emphasize the church too much in our writing and preaching. But we emphasize the church of Christ because it was bought with the blood of Christ. And to reject that church is to reject the cross. The purpose and value of the church is centered in the cross. And our membership in, and loyalty to, that church is based on the cross of Christ.

Baptism Is The Means Of Access To The Blood Shed Upon The Cross: -- After His death on the cross, Jesus told the apostles, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mk. 16: 15,16). There are some who say, "Baptism has nothing to do with salvation." Such folk show a lack of appreciation for the cross of Christ. No one claims any magical powers for the waters of baptism. It is the cross that gives meaning to the act. If the cross be separated from baptism, then baptism has no value.

As noted earlier, "All have sinned...being justified freely by His grace...through faith in His blood" (Rom. 3:23,24). Do you believe in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus? Just
read on as the inspired apostle Paul continues to explain our salvation in Rom. 5:8-10; 6:3,4 with these words: "But God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more,
being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life...Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him
through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life." Baptism is centered in the cross of Christ, where Jesus died. To reject baptism is to reject the cross, for we are "baptised into His death."

As with one mouth, the apostles and other inspired men preached baptism. When peope on the day of Pentecost asked, "What shall we do?" God's answer by the mouth of Peter was, "Repent ye, and baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). When Philip preached Christ to the people in the city of Samaria, they believed and "they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12). Later, in the same chapter, is recorded his preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch, who asked, "See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" And the Scripture continues, "They both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:38,39).

After the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, He sent a man named Ananias to tell Saul what to do (Acts 9:6,11), and the Lord's command was very simple: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16). Every time the apostles preached "Jesus Christ and Him "crucified," they preached baptism into the death of Christ.

The life of the Christian is centered in the cross of Christ. It is by the preaching of the cross that one believes (1 Cor. 1: 18-24). He is then baptized into the death of Christ, buried in
baptism and raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3,4). When his faith leads him to be baptized, he then is saved from his past sins (Mk. 16:16) and the Lord adds him to His church (Acts 2:47; 20:28). And in his worship, in Christ, one shows His death "till He come again" (1 Cor. 11;26). Truly, the cross is the center of it all.

By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 55, No. 31, Aug. 4, 2006.

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