Saturday, April 4, 2015

Logic of the Cross

Like clockwork every Easter, we see stories from various TV shows and magazines attempting to discredit the Bible account of Jesus’ death and/or resurrection. Never mind that these stories have been debunked over and over by the evidence, the media continues to pull them out, re-warm them over and breathlessly promotes them as new scientific discoveries that supposedly signals the death knell for Christianity.

Since the Cross is a central foundation of Christianity, it is also a prime target of those who attempt to discredit the Faith. There have been many excellent books written over the years greatly detailing the evidence for the resurrection. Indeed, the evidence supporting the Biblical accounts of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is much stronger than many of the other historical events that we take for granted. Therefore, even though we have a historically based article in progress, we decided to examine the Cross from a logical viewpoint based upon 1 Corinthians 1:18.

The preaching of the cross is, I know, nonsense to those who are involved in this dying world, but to us who are being saved from that death, it is nothing less than the power of God (Phillips NT).
The first thing Paul notes is that the message of the Cross, that is Jesus dying for the sins of all who would believe in Him as Lord and Savior so that we might be forgiven and spend eternity with Him in Heaven (Jn 3:16, 17:24) is foolishness to those unbelievers dying in their sins. But even though it is considered foolish or even absurd to this group of people, let’s examine the message to determine if it actually makes sense.

I think we can all agree that most people have a built-in conscience that can tell right from wrong, justice from injustice, and good from evil. Even though postmodern thinking has blurred many of the lines of separation between good and evil, most would agree that evil should be punished while good should be rewarded. Most civilized people would not want an evil person to go unpunished so that he would feel free to continue to steal, murder etc.

The cross is God’s rightful and just punishment for the evil (sin) among mankind. Every person has sinned (lied, stolen, lusted, coveted etc) in attitude, thought or deed, and as a result, is deserving of death (Rm 3:23, 6:23). Furthermore, there is no forgiveness of our sins without the shedding of lifeblood (Heb 9:22). In the OT, the priests made continual animal sacrifices as a temporary covering of sin, but these sacrifices could not remove the stain of sin. But the Christ, being the God-Man, voluntarily sacrificed Himself once for all the sins (past present and future) of all those who would believe in Him (Heb 10:11-14). In fact, Jesus was the only perfect sacrifice that had the infinite value required to satisfy God’s righteous wrath against sin and pay the penalty to restore our relationship and judicial status (we are credited with living a perfect life and fulfilling the law – Rm 8:4) before God the Father. There was no other way for us to be reconciled with a Holy God. Thus, the events of the cross were entirely logical.

Of course, only those who believe (trust in, rely on) the work of Christ will be saved (Jn 3:16, Ac 4:12). Those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior are already condemned (Jn 3:18) and the message of the cross remains illogical. For a more detailed discussion on our topic and subject verse (1Cor 1:18), including its context within Scripture (1Cor 1:18 – 2:5), the historical context of the Jews and Greeks, and Godly vs human wisdom, see The Cross - Foolishness or the Power of God?

Before we end this post, I’d like to address a couple of questions that some may be asking. The first, typical asked by unbelievers and even by some new believers is, “Why couldn’t God just forgive and forget? Why do we have to be perfect to get into heaven? Couldn’t God lower His standard just a bit or grade on the curve?” The thinking here is that, if God is good and He is a God of love, couldn’t He at least ignore the minor stuff.

To answer these questions, we must understand the simplicity of God. By simplicity, we don’t mean that God is a simple God. God is undeniably beyond our comprehensive understanding. By “divine simplicity”, we’re merely referring to His unity of being (or unity of His nature or character), primarily with respect to His attributes. God’s attributes are irreducible in that we can’t separate them or temporarily take one away. We can distinguish between them, but they always work together. Therefore God, whose eyes are too pure to even look upon evil, can’t tolerate sin (Hab 1:13) because His Holiness, Truth and Justice won’t allow it. However, because His Love is also working, He provided a substitute, His own Son. Thus, He is able to punish wrongdoing while still saving those who believe without compromising His Holiness.

The second question that might be asked by anyone is, “Why would God sacrifice His only Son for me?” I must admit that, on the surface, this seems very illogical. I certainly would not allow either of my sons to be sacrificed for anyone. The only rational explanation for God’s actions according to His eternal plan is His great love for each of us (Rm 5:7-8). It has often been said that neither the Roman soldiers nor the nails could have kept Jesus on the cross since He had legions of angels at His disposal (Mt 26:52-54). He voluntarily laid down His life (Jn 10:17-18) and the only thing holding Him to the cross was His great love for us. In light of what He did, shouldn’t we live for Him?