Let’s talk about the incredible scandal of the cross.
OCTOBER 11, 2022
Let’s talk about the incredible scandal of the cross, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He’s an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life, a program all about God’s radical grace. We’re committed to bringing you Bible teaching, that’s honest, straightforward, and street-smart. Keep listening to hear truth, that’ll make you free.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible open into the 17th chapter of Acts, and we’re looking at the first 15 chapters. In both cases, Paul gets into trouble by first going to the synagogue. And the first thing you ought to know in those verses, and I’m not going to read them to you, I did that yesterday. The first thing you note about them is that Paul was in the synagogue in both cities. Why did he go there? Because he was Jewish. Why would he want to be at the synagogue? Because he was a part of God’s covenant people. He was not somebody who was outside of the stream of history of God’s people. He was a part of it and he defined himself as a part of it. The church is important by the way. It doesn’t mean the church is perfect. Augustine said, she’s a prostitute, but she’s my mother. But we need to be a part of it because it’s a part of the history of God’s covenant people. And we identify with them by identifying with the church in the same way that Paul identified with God’s people by identifying with the synagogue. And then you will note that there are two kinds of people here and both are called Jews. And people sometimes use these texts for antisemitism, don’t you dare. The people who were involved in these stories and Jesus himself were Jews. And more than anything else in the world, we as Christians ought to be thankful for Jews or to Jews for the gift that they have given us as Goyam, as the Gentiles because they have brought us our Savior, our salvation, our redemption, it all happened through the Jews and it was planned that way from the beginning. Sometime we’ll go into Romans and spend some time talking about what Paul says about his Israel, what he says about the Jews. God’s not finished with them and he’s called us to make them. Paul said, jealous. In fact, that’s what we’re supposed to do to the world. And we don’t do it very often. We make them afraid. We make them feel bad. We demean them. And I’m not just talking about Jews, I’m talking about everybody. We judge them, but rarely do we make them jealous. And that’s what Paul said the Gentile Christians are to do with Israel. They ought to be jealous when they see our freedom and our joy and our forgiveness and our worship of a Jewish Messiah. But when Paul gets to these places, he starts talking about the cross of Christ. And that is what Satan uses to stir up these people. I remember one time when I was a young pastor on Cape God, and I was just learning, I had been a wacko liberal theologically. I thought I was an intellectual and God was beginning to change me. And I was beginning to say with clarity for the first time in my life, my creed is.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
And then I was starting to talk about the blood of Christ. The cross and what it meant, how it changed everything. And I remember an elderly lady in that church and I loved her. She wasn’t being mean when she said it, but she reflected what is thought sometimes by the whole world. What in the world are we talking so much about the cross? There’s got to be more to the Christian faith than this. And I said, yeah, that is, but if you don’t start there, you don’t get anywhere. And so, among other things, this text that I read to you is an illustration of Biblical doctrine. What happened to Paul in Berea and particularly in Thessalonica is an illustration of what some have called the scandal of the cross. You’ll find the doctrinal statement in places like I Corinthians 1: 18 through 25.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.” Where is the wise man? Where’s the scribe? Where’s the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
What was that, the cross.
For Jews, demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God. Is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
And then I Corinthians 2: 1 through 2, Paul references it again.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you that testimony of God in lofty words of wisdom. But I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Now, the question that we’re going to be dealing with the rest of this week and into next week is this, why do people get so upset when you start talking about the cross? Why is it so controversial? Why is it so divisive? Why does even the church fight over the doctrines of the cross? Well, we’re going to see some of that. We have read the verses in Acts 17. There’s some obvious questions like that, and we’re going to spend some time answering them. Okay. Without further chit chat, let me show you the first and list of four or five. First, I would suggest to the mind of the first century Jew and the 20th, 21st century pagan, an believer suffering and sovereignty just don’t go together. When you talk about God, you’re supposed to talk about thunder and lightning and armies and sovereignty and the world changing and God being in control. You don’t talk about a little rabbi hanging spread eagle on cross beams on the town garbage heap, that just doesn’t go together. It didn’t go together for me at the beginning either. You know, I could understand God, a sovereign God who created everything that exists. I could understand a God who is in charge of every molecule. I could understand a sovereign God who was in control of all that is, but when you start looking at Jesus, he doesn’t fit that mold. He walks our dirty roads. He’s hungry. He weeps. He’s lonely. He’s afraid. And then just when you think he’s going to take off his mask, get his sword and straighten things out, he goes as a lamb to the slaughter and hangs spread eagle on cross beams between two thieves. Not too long ago, I was talking to a friend of mine, a rabbi. He’s one of the few rabbis I have known enough to talk seriously with. I ask him what he expected from a Messiah. He said, there are always lots of messiahs. And he mentioned some, a messiah to the Jew is anyone who is strong and powerful and anointed by God and a deliverer. We expect one final Messiah. He will be the same thing, only more so. I get that. I want that too. About everybody wants that kind of thing. And it is so God to reverse it all, to send the Messiah, to hang on a cross. And that’s why it’s scandalous. It just doesn’t go together. But if you don’t get that part, you don’t get the rest. God’s love is so deep, so profound, so amazing that he would spread out his arms and say, how do I love you? I love you this much. You think about that. Amen.
And that was Steve Brown, teaching us about the scandal of the cross from Acts 17, but we also touched on I Corinthians 1:18 through 25 and I Corinthians 2:1 through 2. More from Acts 17 tomorrow, hope you will join us then. What do you do when someone says a word you’re not familiar with? Sometimes I’ll ask what the word means. A lot of times I’ll just smile and nod, like I know what’s going on. Spoiler, I don’t. So, that leads me to this word deconstructing, as in someone is deconstructing their faith. Have you heard that? Do you know what that means exactly? I was confused, but then on Steve Brown Etc we hung out with author Trevin Wax to discuss deconstruction and how to show God’s love to those who are experiencing a crisis of faith. It’s an encouraging and very practical discussion. And if there’s anyone in your life going through this, I know it’s gonna help you a lot. Can we send you that conversation on a CD for free? If so, just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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