The Offense of the Cross

by Mike Ratliff

6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. Galatians 5:6-12 (NASB)

In Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians he delivers a scathing indictment against all  who teach works salvation or any version of the Gospel that has been edited from the original. If these false gospels be true then, as Paul says, the offense of the cross has been removed. However, the Apostle, in fact, is declaring that the offense of the cross never has ceased, and never can cease. Any attempt to soften the offense is folly. While genuine Christianity is peaceful, mild, and benevolent, history shows us that it has been attacked with the bitterest hate from the beginning. Why? It is clearly offensive to the unregenerate mind.

Even though men such as Brian McLaren scoff at the concept of absolute, knowable truth, and sell their message to an eager post-modern generation, the fact is that the genuine Gospel has not been changed any more than the world has changed. They may claim to have some new ‘perspective,” but all they are doing is proclaiming a very old repackaged message of doubt.

Pastor Andy Stanley, the son of pastor Charles Stanley, has come under a lot of fire for some of his sermon content over the past few years in which he has stated things like, “Christians need to unhitch themselves from the Old Testament.” and  “Why he quit saying, ‘the Bible says.'” The following link is from the Christian Post by Michael Gryboski. It is his own opinion based upon an interview with Michael Brown who interviewed Andy Stanley about these things. Here is the link to the article. 

Andy Stanley has built his ministry on attempting to do away with the offense of the cross and also the offense of nearly every doctrine that the natural man sees as God interfering in his life. Stanley’s approach to the Gospel reminds me a great deal of that of Rob Bell. Bell went out of his way to exclude all offense of the cross in his ministry and tried to influence all churches to do the same. I remember very well the day I watched Bell’s video  “Bull Horn Guy” where he attempts to discourage Christians from sharing that part of the Gospel about sin and separation from God without the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. Instead, he proclaimed that his church was full of those who “Love Jesus,” but would have none of that sort of preaching or teaching. In other words, he was stating that repentance and submission to the Lordship of Christ are not necessary for salvation. He has went on record stating that God is not angry about anyone’s sin.

This sort of teaching or preaching or whatever it is no different than that of those who were troubling the Galatians. It is a works based salvation that decries the need to repent of sin. Instead, just do good works and love Jesus. I pray that you noticed the pride evident in the Bell’s comments. They both insist that their “relgion” is on their own terms. They refuse to submit to the narrowness of the Word of God. They attempt to defeat what it tells them by insisting that no one can understand it.

What makes up the offense of the Cross? Its doctrine of atonement offends man’s pride. Its simple teaching offends man’s wisdom, and artificial taste. Its being a remedy for man’s ruin offends his fancied power to save himself. Its addressing all as sinners offends the dignity of Pharisees. Its coming as a revelation offends “post-modern thought.” Its lofty holiness offends man’s love of sin.

How do Christians experience this offense? I wanted to post some of the email and comments I get from those who hate Christians and the Cross, but it would be in bad taste to allow some of that language here. Suffice it to say that I do wonder at these people’s ability to reason and I doubt that critical thinking is part of their thought processes.  We experience this offense by actual persecution. Right now it is verbiage, but I am positive that the physical and legal persecution will arrive here as it has in most other parts of the world. However, the majority of the time, we receive slanderous diatribes cast in a sneering tone that attempt to portray us as old-fashioned, foolish, weak-minded, morose, self-conceited, hypocritical, et cetera. Also, there is an overwhelming number of preachers today who omit the cross from the gospel in their sermons. These are simply sales pitches that are Christless and bloodless. They are not the Gospel. Also, these same people attempt to change the meaning of orthodox terms. These are all examples of how we experience the offense of the Cross my brethren.

That the unregenerate are offended by the Cross is folly. Why? They are offended at what God has ordained. In other words, they are refusing to subject themselves to the decrees of the Most High God. They reject the truth and turn their backs on what God has proclaimed will happen. They refuse to believe that judgment is coming. They reject the only thing that can save them. They also reject the offer of eternal life even though it is full of wisdom and beauty.  This is the folly of being offended at the Cross.

However, those who do believe and repent and are saved have their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life and it is all by God’s grace. All of us whose names are therein were once offended by the cross, however, now we find it ot be the one hope of our hearts, the great delight of our souls, and the joyful boast of our tongues. That being so, we must continually search our hearts to discern if we are secretly offended at the cross. Perhaps we give no offense to haters of the Cross. Many professing Christians never cause offense to the most godless. I fear that our relativistic culture has numbed us to the urgency of the Gospel.

The cross is the strength of a minister. I, for one, would not be without it for the world. I should feel like a soldier without weapons, like an artist without his pencil, like a pilot without his compass, like a laborer without his tools.

Let others, if they will, preach the Law and morality.

Let others hold forth the terrors of hell and the joys of heaven.

Let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church.

Give me the cross of Christ. This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins.

And if this will not do it, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew; but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross. Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminent preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honor those who honor the cross.–J.C. Ryle

Let us examine ourselves my brethren. Are we ashamed of the cross? Are we seeking to not offend the unregenerate all around us? Are we watering down the Gospel?

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “The Offense of the Cross

  1. Pingback: Monthly Reader – March 2022 – Rainbow Trout

  2. Thank you Mike for this article.
    I remember when I came to understand that in reference to the holiness of God, there is NO good in me, no righteousness. I was sin from the hairs on my head down to my toes. My heart was corrupt beyond knowing. However, I was not offended by that. I was grateful that God in His Grace revealed that to me. The next thing He revealed to me was the Lord Jesus Christ, His shed blood for the remission of my sins. The Lamb of God became, and will forever be, MY Passover Lamb.
    The above is a shortened version of what took place for me. I was in torment for a long time regarding my learning that I was a lost sinner with nothing good of my own. However, I was never offended by it. I accepted it as true. It also took some time for me to fully understand what Christ did for me. The Cross of Christ and the shed blood of Christ are paramount, “Simply to Thy Cross I Cling.” Without the Cross, without the Blood, we would have absolutely nothing! I came to these things by way of hearing (sound preaching) reading the Bible, the Word of God, and reading the writings of men from the past that held to sound doctrine. One of my favorites is Horatius Bonar. I don’t believe salvation can take place apart from the Word of God.


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