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September 24, 2020 7:00 pm
BJU President Steve Pettit preaches to the student body about the significance of the cross from I Corinthians 1:18-31
Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville South Carolina today speaker is Dr. Steve Pettit Alaska take your Bibles and turn with me please to the book of first Corinthians 1st Corinthians chapter 1 will begin reading in verse 18 it will read down to the end of the chapter, Paul says these words for the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness but not to us which are saved it is the power of God for it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise, where is the scribe where's the disputer of this world hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world for after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it please God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
For the Jews require a sign in the and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified under the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but under them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God because the foolishness of God is wiser than men in the weakness of God is stronger than men for see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called but God's chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise in God's chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty and base things of the world, and things which are despised of God chosen J and things which are not to bring to naught things that are that no flash should glory in his presence, but of him are ye in Christ to God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption that it that according as it is written, he that Gloria let him glory in the Lord. May the Lord that is blessing to the reading of his word and all God's people said Amen. The very heart and the core of the New Testament is the preaching of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
You could say this way.
Christianity is a cross centered message. However, there is something that is distinctly missing today when we preach the cross in one way we can help it.
You say, what is that well in 337 A.D. 1700 years ago. Crucifixion became an obsolete form of execution because it was outlawed by the Roman Emperor named Constantine. So in effect, crucifixion was eradicated from human culture.
Think about it. What was the last time you saw a criminal executed in public by being nailed to a tree.
In other words, it's not a part of our culture. It's not a part of our psyche. So today, when we preach the cross.
It's impossible for us to feel or to sense what it would've been like in ancient times because in ancient time screws up crucifixion created a particular atmosphere and that atmosphere was the atmosphere of shame, the famous Roman philosopher Cicero called the cross, the tree of shame. He said the very word cross should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes in his ears.
The Jewish historian Joseph Josephus called crucifixion the most wretched of deaths. Even the writer of Hebrews mentions the word shame twice in his book with regards to the crucifixion of Jesus. Hebrews 66 if they shall fall away to renew them again to repentance thing they crucify to themselves the son of God afresh and they put into an open chain and probably the most famous verse of all Hebrews 12 to which is Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, so in New Testament times.
The atmosphere of shame prevailed the minds of the people with regard to crucifixion and atmosphere. We do not have today. Today people put crosses on a wall around the neck or the church building on top of the steeple but you would've never had that in ancient times. So this morning, I'd like to do the best I can to open up our mind and our emotions to understanding the shame of the cross. What would it have been like back in the first century why is it that when the cross was preached by Paul people so reacted to it and then what is God's intention in having Jesus die on the shameful cross let's begin this morning with seeing the crucifixion from the perspective of history. We go back in antiquity we see the crucifixion was gait was used for particular purposes.
Number one, it was used to gain political control.
Crucifixion was invented six centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, invented by the Persians. It was used by all kinds of different countries for over a thousand years. For example, when countries would wage war against one another. They would wear down the city by sieges and then they would publicly crucify those that they captured in front of the city wall you heard of course, of Alexander the great, he laid siege to the city of Tyre inside on which is in Lebanon today.
It's written of of Alexandria said the wrath of the king presented a sad spectacle to the victors for 2000 people hung fixed the crosses over huge stretch of the shore when they conquered the people they would crucify their leaders and bring them under the control of fear. It was also used to control slave rebellions. I'm sure you've heard of the famous slave named Spartacus.
He led a rebellion of slaves against Rome in 73 BC. Eventually they were defeated and 6000 slaves were nailed to crosses on the stretch of of of a road called the Appian Way, leading to the city of Rome for over 200 miles so crucifixion was gained to to get political control but it was also used as a means to deter crime.
For example, the days of Christ. Rome ruled the Mediterranean world. That time was called the Pax Romana and though the Romans by and large viewed crucifixion is horrifying and disgusting. They still believed in it because they knew it would maintain law and order and protect the people against the violence of criminals and notorious robbers. So because of this, the Romans intentionally make crucifixion as humiliating and as painful as possible.
One Roman orator Quintilian born about the time of Paul's conversion praise the crucifixion of criminals is a good work. He said these words whenever we crucify the guilty, the most crowded roads are chosen were the most people can see and be moved by fear so that the site may deter others. Such crimes what aggravated things further was the fact that its victims were never buried when you hung on the cross you allotted on the cross, Roman philosopher named Seneca rights who lived during the times of Christ. He said I see crosses their not just the one time but made in many different ways punish with limbs outstretched. They see the stake as their fate they are fastened and nailed to it in the most bitter torment evil food for birds of prey and grim pickings for dog so crucifixion was a process that was designed to make death both as humiliating and as painful as possible. So what was the process of crucifixion or first of all, the criminal would be beaten. He would be flogged before hand. Then the victim would have to carry a beam that weighed upwards to hundred pounds to the place of crucifixion on his back.
After been beaten. Then when he arrived he would be nailed with his hands outstretched. He will be raised up.
The two pieces of the cross would be brought together.
There would be a little wooden peg that would allow the man being crucified to literally sit on that so we could care get get air in his lungs and it would extend his life and thus extend his suffering and during the entire process.
The Roman government would allow the executioners to express themselves in the most sadistic ways so let me read to you John chapter 19 beginning in verse one of the crucifixion of Jesus. It's a pilot then took Jesus and scourged him and the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and put up put up purple robe only in the began to come up to him and say hail, King of the Jews. They slapped him in the face. I took Jesus and he went out bearing his own cross to the place called the place of the skull which is called in Hebrew Golgotha and there they crucified him, and with him to other men, one on either side in Jesus in the middle so the end result of crucifixion was the creation of an incredible atmosphere of shame. So think with me, what would it have been like for Paul to go into the Roman world and preach the gospel of a crucified Savior. What do you think people would. How would they think when Paul preached he went to the centers of Roman power like Corinth and Philippi and I chromium all Roman colonies. He went to cities like Ephesus and Thessalonica that had Roman governors who followed Rome. Roman legal practice, especially in capital cases they would crucify people so every body Roman citizens Gentile peasants and slaves. They were all aware of the shame of the cross. So what were the reactions of the people who heard Paul preach, especially when he said that through this crucified man you could get eternal life, what would they do that leads me to the second thing and what we what we see in crucifixion from the perspective of the hearer.
Notice the reactions. Paul tells us in first Corinthians 1 verse 23 will do what it says it says but we preach Christ crucified under the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness Paul saying is when I preach the message to the Greeks, by the way the Greeks is not referring to people living in Greece is referring to Gentiles, so you have Jews and Gentiles. The only two people races in the world.
He said when the message is preached to the Gentiles. They look at is foolishness. When the message is preached to a Jew becomes a stumbling stumbling block.
So what what were those responses. Let's look at the response of the Gentile.
It says he saw the cross is foolishness. The Greek word for foolish means moron. In other words, to believe in the cross, you would be a moron. Justin Martyr who was the earliest Christian apologists who was born in 103 A.D., right after the apostle John said the Christian message was described as madness we would say you're crazy he writes. They say that our madness consist of the fact that we put a crucified man in second place after the unchangeable and eternal God, the creator of the world to the Greeks and to the Romans in their mind they worshiped immortal God's bad a pantheon of gods they had nothing in common with the cross. How could intelligent people believe that a crucified Jew who died as a common criminal be a divine being doesn't make any sense to claim that he is God's son.
The create tour the Redeemer of man. The coming judge of the world. An educated man would think that this is utter madness.
You're a moron, a famous Roman politician and pagan writer who lived during the time of the apostle John.
His name was applying the younger, he described Christianity as a perverse and extravagant superstition. Another Roman orator whose name was conceal you said to say that their ceremonies center on a man put to death for his crime and on the fatal wood of the cross is to assigned to these abandoned wretches sanctuaries which are appropriate to them, and the kind of worship they deserve Lakemont people that believed in the crucifixion there was a well-known illustration back in ancient times of a caricature of a crucified man with a donkey's head with this inscription underneath written Alexi men office worships God. In other words, they view Jesus with the head of a donkey. So for the Romans to honor someone as a God who is nailed to the cross by the Romans as a criminal against the Roman government was insanely crazy. You had to be a moron to believe it. Now think with me a moment imagine the burden that placed on the early Christian missionaries me. Honestly, this is the message you're supposed to preach for people to go to heaven. This is the message and as soon as you start meds preaching it. People start reacting violently against it. You would think that maybe at some point you would want to change the message for 2000 years. The temptation of the church has always been to change the real message because folks the real message is this God's son had to become a man and die on the cross in order for you and I to go to heaven. But shame is not in Jesus on the cross.
The shame is that you putting their that's the real shame. Jesus died on a shameful cross because we live shameful lives, but that message was considered foolish. That's why the temptation of the church is always been to change to modify to weakened the message to make a different emphasis instead of having a cross centered message. Even in the church of Corinth as a young Christian community. They could not get away from the stigma of the crucifixion, they were wanting to leave the congregation into an a more enthusiastic life in the spirit and the enjoyment of heavenly realities, not in the reality of the cross. And that's why Jesus. That's why Paul said that the foundation he laid in his preaching was Jesus and him crucified.
So they saw it. The Greeks, the Gentile solid as foolishness. But what about the Jews. What is the Bible say is this from the standpoint of the religious Jew, the cross was a stumbling block. So what is that mean what works stumbling block is the idea of causing somebody to trip up and fall of your trip and fall.
You know we feel embarrassed maybe tripped over a router or something on the ground with the idea of stumbling block is this message would actually calls people to turn away we would put it in terminologies.
They were what I would say I don't buy that or I can't believe that so the preaching of the cross did not close the Jew to believe it actually calls them to turn away but not only turn away but turn away violently. In other words, they would react if they would oppose what Paul said why, why was that you so reactionary to the message of the cross. What two basic reasons, not number one because of their view of the Messiah using the Jewish people believed in a coming king, a coming profit in a coming priest all wrapped up in one person. He was called the anointed one, the Messiah, or the word Christ because Messiah in Christ are the same word. This Messiah would come and he would restore Israel's former glory. It's what the disciples look for they follow Jesus believing that when Jesus went to Jerusalem he would set up his kingdom and they would be with him.
They didn't expect the crucifixion.
Fact is, Jesus told his disciples over and over. He's going to be crucified, and they didn't get it. They really didn't understand it until after he resurrected from the dead, and so for a Jew to believe in a Messiah that would be crucified. It didn't make any sense to them at all. It's it's the ultimate contradiction. A crucified Messiah Messiah means power crucifixion means weakness.
Messiah means splendor crucifixion means humiliation.
Messiah means triumph crucifixion means defeat.
The two don't go together.
And so they could not imagine that there Messiah would be hung on a tree can be put to death by the Romans.
But then there's another reason why was a stumbling block.
It had to do with an Old Testament text that Texas found in Deuteronomy 21 verse 23 were the law states that if a man is humbled down the cross he comes under the curse of God. And so it says his court shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day, for he who is hanged is accursed of God, so I may think with me. If Jesus hung on a cross.
That means he was being cursed by God. How can he be the Messiah. How is it possible for God to curse his own chosen one, it was inconceivable. So when when Paul preached that Jesus was the Messiah, and he was crucified, they just sit there fold their hands as if they were bored with his sermon, and I didn't sit there and say what ever but in violence and anger and rage. They attacked the preachers and by the way, the very man who wrote this Paul was a Jewish Pharisee and he was the one that led in the stoning of the first martyr of the church Stephen because of his preaching of the crucifixion, Paul was actually a salad against Christianity, and he hated the cross until he met Jesus in his eyes were open to see the true so in ancient times there was this reaction to the cross and he would think that this kind of preaching would sink the churches ship. However, it is the message of the cross that has forever changed the world and the whole reason you're sitting here today. The whole reason Bob Jones University exists is because of the cross of Jesus Christ. That leads me to the last point, and that is this what then is the right perspective on the crucifixion will take it from the perspective of heaven and what Paul does is he clarifies God's intention behind the cross and their two things. The first thing is this that God shows the cross is the way to destroy human wisdom is the way God deals with human pride verse 18 for the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us which are saved is the power of God for it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wives and I will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Paul here is quoting from the book of Isaiah 700 years before Jesus was born.
Isaiah foretold that God would humble man's pride and wisdom by taking something that no mere human being in his right mind would have dreamed up. In other words, nobody is smart enough to figure out salvation through crucifixion so we read in Isaiah 2914 therefore God says, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder for the wisdom of the of their wise men shall perish in the understanding of their prudent men shall be had God sit 700 years before Jesus was even born. I'm going to humble man's arrogance. Do you know what human beings we all here are arrogant by nature were all proud were all puffed up, and in particular, we all believe that we can do it ourselves.
If you were to ask the average person who has no knowledge of the gospel.
What you have to do to go to heaven immediately. Their answer is what there to do because they have the assumption that they can work their way to heaven and you know the cross as the cross says you can't do anything to save yourself.
God intends to the cross to humble our pride and God get the glory and honor.
So he writes in verse 20 where is the wise man. Where is the scribe.
Where is the debater of this age has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world. Wisdom is man's thing.
The cross is God's thing the world thinks the cross is crazy. The cross says God is wise because man no man would've ever been wise enough to dream this dream.
So why the cross because God wants glory you on this campus exist.
This campus exists for God's glory, not for your glory.
It's not about you it's not about me it's not about anybody. It's about him and that's why God said the cross is my way. And then there's a second reason and that is not only to deal with man's pride, but to demonstrate God's power. Look at verse 21 for since in the wisdom of God the world to its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. Think about it. What can you do with the cross we really what value is the cross to us what wisdom is there in the cross to us to put somebody in the cross, and kill them what God is doing is God is demonstrating that he has the power to save anybody who believes in the cross, you know God was there. God wants to save your soul from your sins and the only way you can do that is to the cross.
God doesn't save you through the church. God doesn't save you the baptism God doesn't save you through your good works. God doesn't save you by trying to do better because you're the cross as nobody's done better the cross because it shames us for our own shameful life. What God is saying is on the cross. I am demonstrating to you how much I love you because because when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us at the demonstration of God's love. God must love us to send his own son to die such a horrible death for God to be shamed for your shame is not just about his justice.
But it's about his mercy and when God says I save man I do it for my own glory. And that's why says in verse 22. Look at these words. For indeed, Jews asked for signs and Greeks seek for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jew a stumbling block of the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are would you notice the word called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power God wisdom that was me by calling calling is is what God does in your life to bring you to salvation.
Okay let me put it this way. On the one hand, nobody really decides I'm going to come to Jesus because in your own self, you would never come to Jesus. The word calling. There is actually referring to the way God works in your heart to bring you to salvation, and the word calling has basically and out outside and inside call.
The outside calls the preaching of the gospel. Jesus Christ went across died on the cross to save you from your sins and you need to trust and put your faith in the cross in Jesus to save you. That's the outside call that's calling you to make a decision everywhere. Jesus, when he called people to make decisions today. I'm going to call you to make a decision. What you gonna do. Jesus, are you going to accept him or reject him. You either believe or you don't believe that's the outside call but you know what, that's not sufficient because that's not going to change your heart unless there's inside call and that's the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who's able to make the unwilling, willing, because nobody here is willing to come on yourself. Let me put it this way unless the spirit of God does a work in your heart you would never believe it.
All the Bible says that unless the father in heaven drawled you you would never come to the sun, and so he is telling us that the miracle of the preaching of the cross is that a message that is foolish to the world, and a stumbling block to the Jew you preach that message and what is God do a miracle. He drawls people and he takes the unwilling. And he makes them willing to make and they believe that's the glory of God because I didn't come to Jesus because I just wanted to because you know what I don't want the first time I heard the gospel a 17-year-old teenager here in South Carolina. I didn't want to get saved I wanted to go to heaven but I didn't want to get say because I didn't want my life to change.
So the next two years. God worked in my heart to various messages that I heard and through circumstances and on Easter Sunday 1975 my freshman year of college, listening to crucifixion and the message the spirit of God through me and I came and you know what it's that kind of salvation that God gets glory in because he does it by his grace.
So there. Some of you sitting here today. You're not saved, if you died today you would wake up in hell, Christ died on the cross of shame you would you believe that, would you embrace that not just its backs in the head, but in the complete dependence in your heart, I'm trusting Christ on the cross in his death alone to pay for my salvation so that the shame of the cross becomes the glory of the cross for the believer, would you bow your head with me, please. As we pray. Father, we thank you for the cross. That is our glory and we thank you that you bore our sin on the cross and paid for our sin and for that we could have eternal life award May the cross be always the center of our message here at Bob Jones and made a result of that cross centered preaching producer people that are not only converted but their humble and they are grateful and they hate sin and they love sinners. In Jesus name. Thanks for listening and join us again tomorrow as we study God's word together on The Daily Platform