Billy Graham - The Offense of the Cross
Now tonight I want you to turn with me to Galatians, the book of Galatians, the fifth chapter and verse 11. The fifth chapter. "And, I, brethren". This is the Apostle Paul writing to the church at Galatia. "And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision or works, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased". I want to answer the question tonight, "What is the meaning both of the cross and the offense of the cross"?
In Isaiah, the 53rd chapter and the third verse it says, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not". Now why is that? The expression, the offense of the cross, sounds rather strange to us today because on every church I suppose in Glasgow, whether it's Protestant or Catholic, we see a cross. We have crosses embossed on our Bibles. We have crosses as ornaments around our necks. It's the emblem of art and poets and it's fine, but it has become sentimental with a certain romantic interest in the cross, but it's far more than that. It really stands for an offense. It's a stumbling block. It's been called the scandal to men.
Isaiah with prophetic vision said, "There is no beauty that we should desire him". What is there in Jesus Christ that we would desire when we see him hanging on a cross and bleeding and dying? And Roman soldiers putting him to death. Paul lifting after Christ found that the cross provoked the scorn and aroused the antagonism of people. Christ is not always attractive to the human heart, but when Paul held up Christ and him crucified, many were offended and turned away in contempt and rage. Why is the cross an offense? Why is it a stumbling block? Why is it a scandal to men? Some translations say scandal instead of offense.
Well, the first, the cross of Christ is the condemnation of the world. The cross of Christ says to every one of us, you're a sinner and you need to repent. We don't like to hear that. We like to hear that we're good, but deep inside we know that we've sinned against God because sin means that we're separated from God and we have broken his laws. We've failed to live up to his standards, his moral standards. And so back in the time of the death of Christ, there was Herod the King and it was an offense to him because the cross pointed to him and said, "Herod, you're living in immorality". He was living with his brother's wife and the cross condemned him and said, "That's wrong".
And then there was Caiaphas. Caiaphas was a religious leader. He was the high priest and he was filled with pride and coldness. He was crafty and shrewd, and the cross condemned him because he was condemning Jesus. And then Pilate, the Roman governor. The cross condemned him because he was filled with fear. He was a coward. He wouldn't stand up for what he knew to be right. He knew Jesus was innocent. His wife sent word to him and said, "Have nothing to do with this just man. He's an innocent man. He's done nothing worthy of death". But Pilate couldn't stand the crowd that were pressing for him that said, "Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him".
And so, the cross condemned Pilate. And then the cross condemns Judas. Judas, who had been with Jesus as one of his disciples and very close to Jesus. And Jesus knew all the time what was in Judas' heart, but he kept him on. And there are many people in the church just like that. "They serve me with their lips, but their heart is far from me", said Jesus. And Judas served Jesus with his lips, with everything he had. He was the treasurer of the little church that Jesus had, but deep inside he had never really committed himself to Christ, because Judas was covetous. He wanted money. He wanted prestige. He thought Jesus was going to come into a great kingdom and he would be one of the top people in that kingdom.
And then the cross condemned the soldiers. They gambled for his garment. But the Centurion, the captain of those soldiers that put Jesus to death exclaimed, "Truly this man was the son of God". And then the thief was condemned also, but the thief repented at the last minute. There were two thieves, two crosses. One of them rejected Christ and the other accepted Christ. And they began to talk back to each other, and they began to condemn each other and one of them condemned Jesus and this one man said, who was dying with him on the cross, they were both guilty. They deserved to die. And this one thief said, "We deserve to die, but this man in the middle, this Jesus does not deserve it".
And then he turned to Jesus and he said, "Lord, when you come to your kingdom, will you remember me"? And Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise". That's all he said, "Remember me". He didn't have time to join a church. He didn't have time to be baptized. He didn't have time to give money. He didn't have time to go out and do good works. But on that cross, Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise". How quickly it happened because he believed. He received Christ into his heart right there at the last minute on that cross.
When Paul came before Governor Felix the burning message of the cross condemned Felix. So much so that he trembled, and he said, "When I have a more convenient season, I'll call for you". How many of us, when we hear the gospel proclaimed and hear about the death of Christ on the cross and hear about our own sins we tremble. When we hear about hell and the possibility of the fact that we may go to judgment and hell, we tremble inside. But he never had a more convenient season. That was his moment with Christ, but he didn't take it. And so as far as we know, he was lost.
And then Festus, who was a governor, he said, "Paul, you're mad when you talk about this Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead". And King Agrippa said, "Almost, Paul, you persuade me to become a Christian". Paul talked about the cross. He talked about the resurrection. He talked about Christ fulfilling the prophecies in the Old Testament. He talked about the need for repentance and faith and following Christ and Agrippa the great King said, "Almost you persuade me".
And many of you tonight are almost persuaded that you need to make a new commitment of your life to Christ. You need to commit yourself. Maybe you did as a child, maybe you've said the catechism and, in some churches, maybe you've been confirmed, but you're not sure how you stand before God and you'd like to make sure. You'd like to know that your sins are forgiven. You'd like to know you're going to heaven. You'd like to have the peace of God in your heart. And so, the cross has come down through all the centuries passing its unfailing judgment upon the vanities, the prides, the hates, the greeds, and the self-indulgent pleasures and lust of men. It condemns them. The cross says to the world, you're a sinner and the world doesn't like to hear that. It becomes a conscience to the world.
The scripture says men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. So much of the evil that's done in the world is done when the sun goes down and the later at night. In our country, it seems that so much of our crime is committed at night. Our deeds are evil. So much of the immorality is committed at night. Our deeds are evil. We don't want the light to shine on them, and the cross throws a great search light on the evil of the world and we don't like that. We don't want the search light of the cross coming into our hearts and saying, "You're guilty. You're guilty. You're guilty before God".
And then secondly, the cross is an offense because blood was shed there. The Bible says, "Without the shedding of blood, there's no forgiveness of sin". Blood has to be shed. First, it is the blood of covering. Romans 3:25 says, "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the forgiveness of sins that are past". That word propitiation, that big word, means covering. God can take the blood of Christ and cover your sins. As he shed the blood, as they shed the blood in Egypt. And they had to take and put it on the lintel or put it on the mantel piece or on the front
door. So when the death angel in judgment came across Egypt that great night centuries ago, that all Jews celebrate in their great feast, God saw the blood, the angel saw the blood, and he'd pass over that home and no one would be killed in that home by the death angel. Does God see the blood that you have sprinkled on the heart, on your heart by faith? And then secondly, it's the blood of redemption. Revelation 5:9, "And they sang a new song saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation". Think of it out of every nation, every kindred, all the peoples of the world, those that have come to Christ have come by the way of the blood.
Then it's the blood of forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22 that we quoted a moment ago. "Without the shedding of blood, there's no forgiveness". If Christ had not shed his blood upon the cross, there would be no forgiveness of our sins. We would die and go to judgment and hell, but because he died, God can forgive us. Because he shed his blood, God can say tonight, "I forgive you and I justify you. I place you in my sight as though you had never committed a sin". You're just as innocent before God, under the blood, as you were when you were born.
And then fourthly, it's the blood of reconciliation. Ephesians 2:13, "But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ". You see, sin separated you and God. You're separated from God and that's what hell is like in this life or the life to come. It's separation from God. Think of being separated forever from God, for all that's good and all that's right and all that's clean and all that's wholesome and all that God is, you're separated. And that's what it means when it talks about hell. But when the blood was shed, God found that possible to be reconciled to us so that those of us that were far off and those of us that were separated from God are brought close to God. You can be close to him because the blood was shed for you by Jesus Christ.
And then it's the blood of justification. Romans 5:9, "Justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through him". We'll be saved from what? Wrath, the wrath of God. Yes, God is angry with the wicked every day, the Bible says. You know, we don't hear much about that anymore. We don't hear much about judgment and hell. So people live as though there is no judgment. They live as though there is no hell. But the Bible said, "It's appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment".
We're all going to stand before God at the judgment and give an account of our lives here and the thing you're going to be judged for is what did you do with Jesus Christ. We're already under condemnation. What we find out at the judgment is just our sentence. What is God going to sentence us to? We're already guilty. That's been established and we're under the condemnation. But when you're justified, as I said a moment ago, you are placed in the sight of God as though you had never sinned. You're just as clean. Everything is gone that you ever committed before God.
And then it's the blood of peace. Colossians 1:20, "We have peace through the blood of his cross". You can find peace and that's the only place in the world that we're going to find peace in our hearts. The only one that's going to bring peace to this planet of ours is Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace. He'll bring peace, but in the meantime, there are wars in your heart, there are wars in your family, there are wars in your community. There are all kinds of wars. He can bring peace. He'll bring peace to your heart that's troubled tonight. Some of you have trouble in your marriage. Some of you have trouble with some of your children. Some of you have trouble with some of your parents. Some of you have trouble at work and you're troubled about it. Your heart and mind are stirred up about it. He can bring you peace and quiet that troubled heart, if you let him. You surrender to him tonight and you will go home a new person.
And then it's the blood of entrance to God's ear in prayer. When you pray, you want to God's ear. You want him to hear you. Hebrews 10:19 says, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus". We can come boldly to God in prayer because the blood was shed on the cross. We can come boldly into the holiest place where only the high priest could go once a year. You can go any time, night or day, because the blood was shed.
Eighthly, it's the blood of cleansing. I John 1:7 "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with God", with one another, "and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son cleanseth us from all sin". That means that from now on, if you sin, the blood will continue to cleanse and without that blood, that sin would be held accountable to you. But thank God that Jesus died on the cross for us. Someone came to Martin Luther one time and once was reminded by the devil of his many sins. And the devil listed all of Martin Luther sins. And Luther said, "Is that all you can think of"? "No", answered the devil, "there are many more". And then he listed some more. He said, "Is that all"? "Yes, and now what"? asks the devil. Now Luther said, "Write beneath them all, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin".
Yes. No matter how many sins you may commit, how terrible they may have been, the hypocrisy in your life, the idol worship in your heart, all the sex sin that you've committed or the unfaithfulness to your wife or to your husband or whatever it may be. God forgives. You may be guilty of murder. You may be guilty of the worst thing you can think of. God forgives. God loves you, and he loves you so much that he gave his son Christ to die on the cross.
They took him out outside the walls of Jerusalem and put nails in his hands, and a spike through his feet, hung him between heaven and earth. They had already pulled his beard and his face was bleeding. They'd beat him with lashes, with long leather whips, with steel pellets, and his back was bleeding. He was a bloody hanging on that cross and he didn't have to die. He voluntarily did it because of you and because of me. He could look down through the centuries of time and see you and he knew all about you. And in spite of all that you are, he loved you.
And then thirdly, the cross of Christ is an offense because it sets forth an ideal of life. The life that you can live here with joy and peace and satisfaction and meaning is brought about because Christ died on the cross. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". Christ demands that we live a life of self-crucifixion. We crucify the selfish desires that are wrong. We crucify the lust and the greed and the hate and the jealousy and all these things that are in all of our lives we crucify and God forgives us.
Many chafe at the restraint of the life like Christ. We refuse to give up what we know his cross condemns. Jesus told us we must bear the cross and when you go back to school, when you go back home, when you go back to your work, you're to take a stand for Christ, even though they may laugh at you and persecute you. That's your cross. Your cross is not some disease that may come. Your cross is not some automobile wreck that you may have. Your cross is not some bad thing that may happen in your life or your family's life. Your cross is identifying yourself with Christ, taking a stand for him, loving people that you normally wouldn't love.
Many of us want the blessings of Christianity without sharing the toil and the sacrifice that is involved. The offense of the cross often reaches a point of opposition. The Scripture says they will offer you up in their churches and councils even. Think of it. They will scourge you in their synagogues, the Scripture says in verse 17. You shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake. All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Notice all, if you come to Christ, you better count on some persecution. If you don't have persecution, you better check and see if there's something wrong in the way you're living. Crucifixion has the feature of loneliness. It means many times to go outside the city wall, outside the camp with Christ, go alone and often die alone. Are you ready for that? Oh, I'm not going to kid you. It's not easy to follow Christ; to follow him the way he demands.
Fourthly, the cross is an offense because it claims to be the power of God unto salvation. It makes this claim without an alternative. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me". It demands from every man or woman as his first duty to get right with God. I can preach on any subject in the world and it will not be an offense to anybody. I can preach on ritualism. I can preach on doing good works, on social improvement. I can preach all of those things and people will applaud me, but the moment I come to the cross and talk about the blood, there's an offense and that's what Paul said.
The offense of the cross arises chiefly from the fact that the cross condemns every other way of salvation. There's only one way said Jesus, one road, one gate to the kingdom, and that's by the way of the cross. I'm asking you tonight to come to that Christ, to let him into your heart and change your life. You say, Billy, what do I have to do? First, you must repent of your sins and that word repent means to change, to change the direction of your life, to change your attitude, to change your mind, to let Christ dominate your life. Will you do that tonight?
If you haven't done that and you're not sure of it, don't leave here till you do that because you may never be back. Do you see how many new people are here tonight? You may never be back. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of this platform and say, by coming, "I give myself without reservation to Christ. I want his blood to cleanse me. I want to know I'm going to heaven. I want my sins forgiven. I want a new life. I want his love and his joy and his peace in my heart. I want the absolute certainty that if I died, I'd go to heaven".
Why do I ask you to come forward? Every person Jesus called in the New Testament, he called publicly. There was a reason for that. He called them publicly. He said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge me publicly before my Father, which is in heaven, I'll not acknowledge you". It's very important that you come and make this public witness, even if it means people will misunderstand and even persecute you. You get up and come. Whole families need to come. Young couples need to come. They need to come together and start their life with Christ. You get up and come. We're going to wait on you right now. Quickly. Hundreds of you.
Here in Glasgow, we have seen a tremendous moving of the Spirit of God and you're seeing people come and make their commitments to Christ. You can make that same commitment where you are. Just say, "Lord, I too am a sinner. I'm sorry for my sin. I receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and my Savior. I want to trust Him and follow Him in the fellowship of his church". He will receive you right now and his peace will come into your heart and you can know the forgiveness that Christ brings and you can have the assurance that if you died, you're going to heaven.