In preparation for this devotional I encourage you to read Galatians 5:1-13.
You will notice Paul’s reference in verse eleven to the "offence of the cross." Sadly, many of Paul’s countrymen were offended by the message of the cross. But what is the offence of the cross?
Think about this: the offense of the cross occurs when the truth of the gospel confronts loyalty to a false hope. Once confronted those loyal to a false tradition are offended by the idea of giving up what they thought to be true.
In the case of the Jews in Paul’s day, they fell prey to the spiritual deception of self-righteousness. They failed to learn of Christ from the Law. They failed to see the Old Testament sacrifices as pictures of the work of Christ on the cross. Furthermore, they moved away from the Old Testament verity that says, “the just shall live by faith.”
Genuine faith in God’s mercy and grace provided through substitutional sacrifice was lost as the basis by which they were to approach the living God. In the place of faith, outward obedience to the law created a works-based righteousness, a self-righteousness, by which the people hoped to have standing with God. There was no excuse for this misunderstanding. Clearly the Lord gave the blood upon the altar to atone for sin and no amount of self-righteousness can atone for sin.
Consequently, the message of the cross offended the sensibilities of those self-righteous Jews who refused to be corrected. But alas my friends, the offence of the cross has not ceased in our own day. Here are several more thoughts to consider connected to the offence of the cross:
The cross exposes our lost condition as sinners: the natural man is offended at the notion he is not good. My friends, Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and it is through the work of his cross he can do so.
The cross exposes our own brand of self-righteousness: men are offended with the idea personal effort to attain to righteous behavior leaves them no better off than the vilest sinner. Think about that. As the old hymn says so well: Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.
Furthermore, the cross offends the world because it requires men to give up their various forms of idolatry. I ask you: who is it that died upon the cross? The answer, of course, is the Son of the living God. The message of the cross is set forth in John chapter three where Jesus says:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).
The world is offended as we preach the cross because it tears down all false spirituality. There is only one true, living God and he gave His Son to save us. The cross is the only way to the Father. The preaching of the cross tears down the idols of this world. In that regard, the authentic church in the earth today is like Gideon of old.
For my purposes I pick up the narrative of the Lord’s dealings with Gideon in Judges chapter six where we read:
25And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
26And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
27Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.
28And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.
29And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.
30Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.
31And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.
I read that history just to illustrate this point: The Lord still has his people tearing down idols. We do so through the preaching of the gospel!
In as much as Christianity is not compatible with the false belief systems of the world it is an offence to the world. Thus, the message of the cross will remain an offence to a world lying in darkness. Like Paul, we can expect persecution for the sake of the gospel from both the world and apostate elements of the visible church. However, in spite of the world's rejection we will always cherish the old rugged cross. As the old hymn says,
Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary
So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown