The world can be smugly tolerant of the virtues of Christianity as well as of the vices of Christians, but it cannot tolerate the New Testament message of the Cross. The Cross exposes the blackness of the human heart and the perverseness of man’s will. But at the same time it is the sacrificial act of God for our salvation. The Cross says: God alone saves and in his way only. In the face of Calvary men dare not erect their own righteousness. They must fall prostrate, acknowledging that by the Cross God is both just and the justifier of him who believes in Christ (Rom. 3:26).

But, why the Cross? It seems such an unlikely thing. It is unlovely and apparently irrational and impotent as the means to salvation. The world is not opposed in principle to the conception of the divine, and it willingly concedes the importance of the religious quest. As the Stoics of old, men today find it easy to accommodate new gods to old ideas or to bring old gods up to date. Why the Cross?

The offence of the Cross is its claim to finality. The Cross was no accident of history. Neither was it marginal to the divine purpose. It was not simply an expression of human resentment, nor was it the regrettable climax to a saving life. The Cross was not a divine expedient, nor an afterthought by a deity caught off guard. Calvary was and continues to be central to the divine purpose. Of the Cross the Gospel says, “This and not that is God’s Word; this and not some other is God’s Way.”

Without the Cross we fail to comprehend the meaning of Christ’s life and work. He “must needs” die. He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” In the Cross we join the will of God and unite ourselves to the saving historical events (Mark 8:31; 9:31; ...

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