What is the Christian good news? Paul tells us in his letter to Christians at Corinth: it is the message of the cross. What is that message? Simply this: Jesus of Nazareth is God’s promised Saviour and King of the world, and he suffered the most cruel and shameful death by crucifixion for us so that we can be reconciled to God. Jesus rose from death to be the first of a new creation, and now calls everyone, poor or rich, good or bad, to put their faith in him and obey him as the Son of God, the Lord of the universe, through whose death and resurrection they receive forgiveness, new life and fellowship with God for ever.
The message of the cross is above all a message of the most amazing grace – the incredibly costly love of God for people who fall short in so many ways and deserve wrath rather than mercy. The cost was the price of our forgiveness: on that cross Jesus was bearing our sins, and paying the price of our disobedience and our mistakes and failures. Without that scandalous death there can be no forgiveness and no reconciliation – and therefore no hope of eternal life with God.
That message is a very difficult one to accept, for a number of reasons. Many people do not accept that they’ve fallen short in any way that needs such costly forgiveness; they feel that they’ve lived such good lives that they deserve God’s love, and are affronted that anyone should think otherwise. Others realize that the message of the cross is an invitation to all to enter God’s kingdom – even people with whom we do not want to associate, people who should be dealt with most severely. Others cannot believe in a God who would stoop so low as to allow himself to receive such humiliation and suffering – they only want to know a God of victories, who could not possibly be affected by pain or death.
The quarrels in the church at Corinth showed how difficult the Christians there still found the message of the cross. Their divisions were not reconcilable with a message of grace. God’s grace was given to unite undeserving sinners to himself; how then could those who accept that union promote divisions among themselves? Yet they attached themselves to different church leaders as if they were rivals with each other .
However, the message of the cross is the power of God for salvation, says Paul, however foolish it might appear. He had tried to use reason and eloquence to get his message across elsewhere, to persuade people by the force of his argument to turn to Christ. (So often we think the sameway!) He had discovered that such human powers could not produce spiritual effects: he had to rely only on the power of that ‘foolish’ message of the cross. But that power was and is the only power that works, then and now.
1) How important is it to be able to win debates about our faith?
2) How should the amazing grace of the Christian message affect our church life, and our personal lives?