- New Testament
Jul 29, 2013 1960
Paul’s great theme is the great unmentionable, the cross of Jesus.
Throughout history there have been some things that have been unmentionable, but the ultimate unmentionable is the cross of Jesus Christ. Crucifixion was the great unmentionable of Roman society. There are things that are just not mentioned in normal conversation in our society, like filthy things you might see on the street. And that’s exactly what crucifixion was like in ancient times. For that reason, although crucifixion was so very common back then, in all of the Roman literature that has survived, it is only mentioned very, very few times. It is not something proper people talked about.
In a world that was ashamed of the cross, Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18–24.) Paul’s great theme is the great unmentionable, the cross of Jesus. In fact, in 1 Cor 2:2 he writes in 1 Cor 2:2, “I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified.”
The reason why the cross matters is because it is the centre of revelation – the heart of God’s communication with humanity. Without the cross, we can have no access to God (Ephesians 2:12–13.) The only reason why you are able to pray is because of the cross.
The cross is also the centre of meaning, in a society in which meaninglessness is endemic. But because of the cross, you can know that Jesus has redeemed your past, and secured your future.
The cross is also the centre of judgment. In John 12:31, Jesus Himself announced it: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” Jesus points us here to the reality that the victory over evil on which all judgment is based occurred at the cross.
Humanity in its Godless insecurity has, throughout history, turned the Biblical teaching of the judgment into a teaching of fear, attracted fearful people to a religion based on fear. And when we realise that the cross that is at the centre of judgment, we must also realise that the cross is the centre of assurance. For this reason, in 1 John 4:16–17, the apostle John wrote, “We have known and have believed the love that God has for us…” And then immediately John says, “This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day.”
Finally, the cross is the centre of worship. Phil 2:5–11 shows us that the cross is the centre of worship, the very reason why every knee will bow to Jesus, and every tongue will confess His Lordship.
And so, what was once the great unmentionable has become the centre of all. In vision, John sees in Rev. 5:12–14 that at the very heart of the universe is “the Lamb who was slain” – the cross. So that what was once unmentionable is now exalted in heaven, and must be proclaimed on earth. And once you have understood and experienced the power of the cross, nothing else will do!