|Vol. 15 No. 3 March 2013||
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
There are numerous descriptive figures used in Scripture to portray God’s revelation to mankind. For example, “the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16), “the word of this salvation” (Acts 13:26), “the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8), “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23) and “the preaching of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Each of the above phrases refers to the same message, which centers on the death, burial and resurrection of King Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This message is so important that Jesus preached it Himself for over three years (Matthew 4:23). He also gave His disciples special instructions so that they would continue to proclaim this message after He returned to the Father (Matthew 28:18-20). “The preaching of the cross” is so vitally important! It must be sounded forth throughout the land so that everyone will be able to hear it (Romans 10:13ff). Why is this message so essential? Why must everyone hear it?
Firstly, the preaching of the cross has a focus – the Savior. Peter’s sermon, which sounded forth on the first Pentecost after the resurrection, focused on the Savior: (1) what the Jews had done to the Savior (Acts 2:22-23), (2) what the Father had done for the Savior (Acts 2:24-36) and (3) what the people must do to gain favor of the Savior (Acts 2:37-38). Those who preach Christ crucified have the most appealing, drawing power in this world, Jesus the Christ (John 12:32). Sadly, some change the focus and preach a perverted Gospel (Galatians 1:6ff), but the true preaching of the cross has but one focus!
Secondly, the preaching of the cross has a figure – a sword. Several years ago, this author heard a fellow Gospel preacher correctly say, “the Gospel of Christ is not for the faint of heart.” How true! In fact, Paul affirmed that God has not given us a “spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7b). Without fear, true soldiers of the cross wield “the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), realizing that this powerful, active, sharp sword (Hebrews 4:12) is able to pull down strong holds, “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). This sharp sword has the ability to convict (Acts 2:37), to cleanse (John 15:3) and to convert (Psalm 19:7)! Thus, we must unashamedly wield this sword to both the lost and the saved (Mark 16:15-16; Titus 2:1ff).
Thirdly, the preaching of the cross has a function – salvation. Salvation is only found in the truth of God’s Word! Salvation can never be found in denominational doctrines or dogmas. It can never be found in traditions, opinions, creed books and confessions of faith, popes, cardinals or any other thing that originates from man! The Gospel is God’s power to save mankind (Romans 1:16)! The Gospel is so powerful that Paul used the word for “power” from which word we get our English word “dynamite”! God has no other means to save mankind; the message of salvation is found in the preaching of the cross (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13ff). In fact, Jesus affirmed that His words are “spirit and life” (John 6:63). The function of the preaching of the cross is to save those who hear and obey!
The preaching of the cross is so vitally important! Without such preaching, folks wander aimlessly through life enslaved to sin. Without the preaching of the cross, folks have no hope, no purpose and certainly no future! Christians must preach the cross! If we fail in the mission God gave us, who will fulfill it? Is there someone close to you that has never heard the preaching of the cross? Why not tell them about its focus – the Savior, by using its figure – the sword, while sharing its function – salvation?
Luke’s preface to Jesus’ parable in Luke 18 explains its purpose: “that men ought always to pray and not lose heart” (v. 1). The former is the prerequisite of the latter.
Without prayer, losing heart would happen quickly and last long. We inhabit a violence-laden world in which tyrants of different sorts oppress and murder the poor and the helpless. The political arena mirrors the cultural war in combative tones. Denominations corrupt the pure Gospel of salvation. Even congregations of the Lord’s church squabble over everything from the pettiness of finances to the weighty matters of doctrine. Discouragement at mankind’s lack of empowerment to solve these problems can be overwhelming to the contemplative.
Then, there is prayer. The earthly story Jesus chose to illustrate His heavenly meaning (Luke 18:2-8) was, as usual, one of simple import. As usual, it highlighted curious characters. A selfish, godless, judiciary appointee cared not for justice for a poor widow seeking mediation in regard to her oppressive adversary. He did not fear God. Therefore, as is often the case with the godless, he felt no need to give any regard to his fellow man, especially one as lowly in societal ranks as a widow without wealth (Luke 18:2, 4). The woman had no hope in the sight of her adversary or this useless go-between. Well did she fit the Preacher’s pitiful description: “Then I considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: And look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter – On the side of their oppressors is power, But they have no comforter" (Ecclesiastes 4:1).
Her salvation, however, was in her persistence. With full-blown selfishness intact, the unjust judge relented, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (Luke 18:4b-5). The Lord made more than adequate application: “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily” (7-8a).
The last line of the parable propels readers of all ages to application: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (8b). So, what about it? Will He?
A temptation technique the devil surely relishes is the tendency of right-minded people to be overwhelmed and discouraged by the presence of so much evil at so many levels in their surroundings. Will anything ever work out for right? Can there ever be any good that will triumph?
The Christian needs reminded of the reward of persistence. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). This is the command. The precious promise ensues: “[A]nd the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
It is time for prayer. It is time to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).