The Offense of the Cross

by Mike Ratliff

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  (Romans 9:30-33 ESV)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ must always be offensive to the unregenerate. It is that offense that makes it clear to people that they have nothing with which to bargain with God. They are sinners lost with nothing to offer the one condemning them. The Gospel, the real Gospel preached with the Law, makes it clear that there is none righteous, no not one, but the Gospel shows that there is one and only one way to be reconciled to God, to be justified before Him. This is the Good News and that one way is via the Lord Jesus Christ alone. No one can work to earn or deserve salvation. No, this salvation is by God’s grace alone according to His divine election, according to His way alone. This is offensive. Let us look at Galatians 5:7-12 in which Paul makes the argument very clear to believers at Galatia who were being victimized by Judiazers making the claim that true salvation was not by Grace alone, but through Grace plus keeping the Jewish law. 

ετρεχετε καλως τις υμας ενεκοψεν αληθεια μη πειθεσθαι  η πεισμονη ουκ εκ του καλουντος υμας  μικρα ζυμη ολον το φυραμα ζυμοι  εγω πεποιθα εις υμας εν κυριω οτι ουδεν αλλο φρονησετε ο δε ταρασσων υμας βαστασει το κριμα οστις εαν η  εγω δε αδελφοι ει περιτομην ετι κηρυσσω τι ετι διωκομαι αρα κατηργηται το σκανδαλον του σταυρου  οφελον και αποκοψονται οι αναστατουντες υμας (Galatians 5:7-12 WHNU)

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have been persuaded in the Lord that you will hold no other view than mine; but the one who is troubling you will bear the judgment, whoever he is. But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? If so, the offense of the cross has been removed. I desire that those who are upsetting you would also emasculate themsleves. (a personal translation of Galatians 5:7-12 from the Greek text)

In v7 Paul compare the Galatians’ life of faith with a race, which he does elsewhere in other examples such as Romans 9:16 and 1 Corinthians 9:24. They began well because they received the Gospel message by faith and had begun to live their Christian lives by faith. Notice that the genuine way Christians “run this race” is by “obeying the truth.” The Judiazers were hindering them from doing this. This “obeying the truth” is the true believers response to the true gospel in salvation and their consequent response to obey the Word of God in sanctification. The interference from the Judiazers was two-fold. It prevented the unsaved from responding in faith to the Gospel of grace and true believers from living by faith. Their teaching was all about legalism.

The word “persuasion” translates the word πεισμονη or peismone, “a yielding to persuasion.” Notice that Paul makes it clear that this does not come from Christ. Why do you think Paul threw in that saying about a little leaven leavening the whole lump in v9 right after he said that the persuasion to follow the Judaizers did not come from Christ? Perhaps it is as simple to understand as, what these false teachers were teaching did not seem that “far out there” to these people. It looked like simple stuff like circumcision, but Paul’s point is that there can be no compromise with sin. Leaven is used in Sacred Scripture to denote sin because its permeating power is like yeast in a lump of dough. It starts as small influence, but it takes over causing heresy and often apostasy. The focus away from Grace to works in our salvation is sin.

Notice the clarity of Paul’s stance on the Gospel. There is no room for compromise. There is no wiggle room for other “persuasions” when it comes to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says the he πεποιθα, “has been persuaded” in the Lord that the Galatians would return to hold the same pure view of the Gospel that Paul held. Πεποιθα, in this context, would mean that Paul had been “made confident.” The text tells us that this persuasion came from the Lord Himself. Paul also makes it clear that the one teaching works over grace to these people is a false teacher who will bear God’s judgment.

In v11 Paul tells us that the Judaizers had accused him of teaching the same thing they taught, that circumcision was necessary for salvation, which he denied by accusing them of persecuting him. If he taught the same as them then they should not be attacking him. Right? Then he says something vital for the Church to hear, “αρα κατηργηται το σκανδαλον του σταυρου” or “if so, the offense of the cross has been removed.” If Paul taught works righteousness then the offense of the cross had been abolished. The offense of the cross must stay intact for it to have its power. The word “offense” translates σκανδαλον or skandalon,”the trigger in the trap on which the bait is placed and springs the trap when it is touched by the animal, causing the trap to close.” It always denotes the enticement or occasion leading to conduct that brings with it the ruin of the person in question. In the New Testament, the concept of σκανδαλον is concerned mainly with the fact that it incites certain behavior that leads to ruin and rarely denotes merely a hidden, unexpected cause of ruin. In most cases, however, it is something that gives occasion to conduct leading to ruin; the course of sin leading to ruin or to a fall. What does all that mean? What is Paul referring to with the necessity of the σκανδαλον of the Cross being essential to the Gospel?

The Gospel, when preached correctly, as obviously Paul did, uses the Law to show people the dire need of a Saviour and then He gave them the Good News, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which included the Offense of the Cross. Those who wanted their own way, not THE WAY, were scandalized by it, turned from it to their ruin. On the other hand, those broken by it, regenerated, reborn by it, by God’s grace, turned in repentance to Christ as Lord and Saviour and by Grace through Faith were saved. Nothing has changed. This same Gospel saves today. So, why aren’t we preaching it? Paul said at the end of the passage above that those who preached something else, he desired that they go emasculate themselves.

Do you see it my brethren? This σκανδαλον of the Cross must be there or you really have nothing but some religious act or self-help program. When the Gospel is given to the Lost, they must see that the only way is Christ and no other way can dare call itself “Christian.” Oh sure, there are plenty of “alternatives” out there nowadays, but nothing has really changed. They are really nothing but a bunch of σκύβαλον. On the other hand, let us focus on the recovery of this glorious Gospel that is worthy of our suffering.

Soli Deo Gloria!

15 thoughts on “The Offense of the Cross

  1. Mike… the strange thing is… most ‘Christians’ don’t get what your writing about.
    Suffer?… For what? Be offended? By what? Your message is the ‘offence’ to them. They have a ‘good message’, but it isn’t THE Good News you are writing about.
    If you explain being ‘broken’ by the Holy Spirit when you were one second away from being regenerated… most don’t ‘get it’. They simply ‘walked down front’ ‘said the prayer’ and ‘became members’… all of which are not from the New Testament letters. Kinda like going to the door at the local Sam’s Club and being directed to the counter for ‘Membership’ and then all the ‘benefits’ are explained and agreed to and then you can join and receive those promised benefits.
    Thanks for the systematic approach to writing down The (one and only) Gospel of our Lord!
    Many ‘Christians’ really need this as a resource to undo the ‘persuasion’ and the ‘hinderences’ they have been under. The same reason Paul wrote to them..to clearly show the difference between the Truth and a lie.

  2. Wonderful truth filled message Mike, God bless you for posting this. Funny this was the exact same topic of our Sermon at Church this past Sunday. As difficult as things are and sometimes it seems no one is listening, or “gets it” every now and then we get a bit of good news. This past week at Church a young man, former associate Pastor of a Charismatic Church attended our Church service and heard a message on this topic. He’s left his former church and is learning the truth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am going to send him this message also. Praise, honor and Glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His word, and for fine folks like yourself you teach us about it. Blessings to you today!

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Offense of the Cross « Possessing the Treasure -- Topsy.com

  4. Thanks for this post, Mike. I hear so many ‘gospels’ today that don’t mention the Cross and the need for repentance and forgiveness of sin.

    I was reading about a program that will be on Dutch television about famous people searching for God. My heart was sad when I was reading what these people heard. Not the gospel of the Cross. They heard about a God that loved them, no matter what they do. But not a word about the need of Christ as the Saviour, not a word about repentance. The makers of the program even took one man to Paul Young (writer of The Shack) to talk with him…

    One man said he had an experience with God, but he doesn’t want to read the bible and he doesn’t talk about Christ. They haven’t heard the true gospel that Jesus and the apostles preached. They heard ‘another gospel’ (universalism). The program is brought by an Evangelical Broadcasting Organisation, but they are no longer preaching the true gospel… It is so sad.

  5. I believe the increase in false gospels and universalism is an indication that we are indeed rapidly approaching the End of Days…

    “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” 1 Timothy 4:1-2

    Also, that sermon on Jude 20,21 was interesting, until he started talking about America being founded as a “Christian country”… The mingling of the true gospel and paganism is certainly not something that is limited to the United States, and it is not the fault of “religious freedom”… It is because the Enemy has been at war with the truth from the beginning, and because men themselves are offended by the message of the cross…. To point fingers at any particular political system is to miss the point entirely…

  6. I re-listened to the sermon to make sure of what he was saying.
    The concept of “religious freedom” is foreign in Scripture. The flesh desires “religious freedom” in this world. Those of us who have been born anew understand that this world is not our home. When Peter preached the gospel and was told not to preach in the name of Christ, he had to disobey the governing forces in order to be obedient to God.
    2Peter tells us false teachers will come in the future. Jude speaks of false teachers as being here in the world now. For us today they are rampant. What allows them their freedom to teach falsely is because here in America we have religious freedom.
    Those who came over from England in order to get away from religion restrictions came here to set up their own form of christianity to get away from that. In order for America to be established upon the Christian “religion”, God says there is no freedom to worship any way we please. There is only one way that is acceptable to God. That is through Jesus Christ. Everything else is paganism. Do we have the freedom? We can study and worship the Lord whether we have freedom or not! This is a mandate from God. We have to obey Him.
    This freedom we have here in America has opened the door for all the heathen/pagan Gentiles to become “christian” also. This is pseudo-christianity. We who are born anew have linked arms with the world and now as a result we have more apostates and false teachings than any other time in history.
    The speaker on the sermon, Pastor Bill Klein is saying that those who came over from England expected to create a utopian nation where they would be free to worship whatever, whoever, however they wanted to. This is not Christianity of the Scriptures.
    He spoke that here in America, we have brought our Gentile lifestyle into the church and said it is justified as long as we give a Bible study or story, whatever that means.
    So you can have whatever brand of Christianity and Jesus you want to have.
    This is because we have given them freedom and we don’t hold anyone responsible. We are so irresponsible, but it’s all done “in the name of love”. We don’t hold anyone accountable because that is not “love”. That would be tragic to actually say someone is teaching falsely! But that is what true love is.
    False teachers will be there to give people security in what they want to believe. Why are we all different but we are Christians? We are not talking about levels of maturity, which would be normal. The natural division in the body of Christ are between baby immature Christians and those who are mature in the Word. Why are all of us professing Christians, professing Christians but supposedly the Holy Spirit is revealing different spiritual truths to us and the opposite of what He is giving to those down the street? How did He do that? This is because of “freedom”. Not spiritual freedom, but human freedom. We are free to do what is right and free to do what is not right. But there are spiritual consequences. There is a plan by God for us, as to what we are to do, in light of the fact that there are false teachers, apostates, false teachings. These are in the church…

Comments are closed.