“Is it true that everyone on earth is drawn to the cross?” Many assume so. They base this on John 12:32 which says, “And I, will draw all men to Myself.” But as I explained in a recent article here, I believe the phrase “all men” in that context refers to all kinds of people – all without distinction rather than all without exception.
So what do the Scriptures specifically tell us concerning the message of the cross?
1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 gives us futher insight when it says, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
The cross is actually foolishness to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews. That’s pretty clear isn’t it?
When Gentiles hear the message that the answer to the problems of this world is a man dieing on a Roman cross thousands of years ago, thousands of miles away – they have a category for that – “nuts”, “crazy” or “foolishness.”
Jews on the other hand, have a different problem. They see the cross as a stumbling block because their own Scriptures (in Deut. 21:23) tell them that anyone hanging on a tree is under the curse of God (and they would understand a cross to be simply a cut down tree).
In all reality though, Christ did indeed become a curse, but not for anything He had done, but FOR US, as our Substitute, bearing the curse we deserved. Galatians 3:13 tells us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
The prophet Isaiah, 700 years before the time of Christ had predicted this when he wrote, “…yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (53:4, 5).
The Jews completely miss the substitutionary element of the Messiah’s death on the cross, even though their own Scriptures predicted this very thing. A veil lies over their eyes and they cannot see the cross as it really is. Their vision of Messiah is the all conquering King of the nations (which is of course true), but they fail to see that their own Scriptures predicted Him to also be the Suffering Servant of Yahweh.
Question: So who views the cross as something other than foolishness or a stumbling block?
The clear answer from the text is “…those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) …” who see Christ and His work on the cross as the ultimate expression of the wisdom and power of God.
What is also clear from this passage in 1 Cor. 1:22-24 is that Paul knew what it was that the Jews and Greeks wanted. He knew that the Jews wanted miraculous signs and the Greeks wanted wisdom. Did he therefore adjust his message accordingly?
Hardly! Knowing what it was that the two ethnic groups wanted, he wrote, “but we preach Christ crucified.”
In all reality, Christ was THE sign of all signs, and Christ is THE personification of all wisdom, but only the elect would ever understand that.
Paul did not go door to door around Corinth to ask what the people most wanted to see or hear about. He didn’t need to. He already knew what the Corinthians wanted all along. However, Paul’s ministry was not founded upon what the latest surveys indicated itching ears wanted to hear. He knew, before he ever opened his mouth, that his message, the message of the cross, would be completely offensive to everyone except “the called.” He went into Corinth preaching the message of the cross to all, but he knew ahead of time, that only the elect would enjoy hearing it! That’s quite a thought isn’t it?
Brothers and sisters, let Paul’s words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, remind us that it is God who determines what it is we preach, not rebel sinners! Let us also trust the ministry of the Spirit to make the word of Christ come alive in the hearts and minds of Christ’s sheep, and not worry so much about those who will be offended at the message we bring. Better that men be offended, than the One who has called us to preach Christ and Him crucified.