Hollowing Out the Cross (10-8-17)

In sixteenth century England, history tells the tale of what has come to be known today as the English Reformation; a movement that began due to one king’s fervent desire for a male heir to his throne. Historians tell of how King Henry VIII had made the determination that he needed to attain an approved annulment from the pope for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, in order to achieve this goal. Afraid of the wrath of Catherine’s nephew, Roman Emperor Charles V, Clement VII refused Henry’s petition. Thus, this rejection led the angry king to break England away from the Vatican’s authority and gave birth to the church of England, where Henry was promulgated in 1534 as “the supreme head on earth of the church of England.” Having done so, Henry successfully earned his annulment to Catherine and married Anne Boleyn. Therefore, Henry gave life to another false doctrine as a method to accomplish his personal political agenda. Little did this king, and his followers, realize (or care) how this tragic decision had denigrated the cross of Christ. Unfortunately, this was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that Jesus’ Gospel would be watered down by human opinion misleadingly cataloged as “philosophy.” Wise was the Master as He warned His disciples “false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, emphasis mine). Ever since Eden, Satan’s weapon of choice against mankind has been to reduce man’s fear of the dangerous consequences that result from disobeying God’s command (Genesis 3:4-5). It is how he managed to create the wedge that separates God from His beloved creation that is humanity. Indeed, man has often made the mistake of believing that Jehovah God is “flexible” when it pertains to the adherence of His Word. Yet, Holy Writ vehemently refutes this false ideology since “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good” (Numbers 23:19)? King David undoubtedly knew this very well since he reveals that “the entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160, emphasis mine) and his son, Solomon, also warns “every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6, emphasis mine). It becomes obvious that when man decides to add to God’s inspired Word it is because he does not fully rely upon it. He elects to lean upon his finite understanding rather than to trust in God’s infinite omniscience. Unsurprisingly, it is this foolish action that paved, and stills paves, the path for the several splinters within the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. The moment man gives priority to human opinion over the doctrine of Christ, division becomes inevitable. Our historical example glaringly exhibits this undeniable truth, although it is wise to note that the Roman Catholic church was also created in a similar form, since they too broke away from the body of Christ, due to human interest. This action, of placing man’s beliefs above Christ’s doctrine, is described by the apostle Paul as hollowing out the cross of Christ. As he pleaded with the brethren at Corinth “that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1st Corinthians 1:10b), Paul sternly rebuked them for the bitter cause provoking division amongst them. Sadly, this splinter arose from favoritism towards church leaders. Paul, Apollos, Cephas (also known as Peter), and Christ had been converted by the Corinthians into metaphorical sports teams (1st Corinthians 1:11-12). This divisive spirit had gotten so out of control, that the Corinthians were even boasting about who baptized them (1st Corinthians 1:14-15). It is truly unfortunate to know that this manner of childish thought (1st Corinthians 3:1-4) is still very much alive today among the elect. The inspired apostle immediately put an axe to this calamity transpiring in Corinth by reminding them “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made void” (1st Corinthians 1:17, ASV, emphasis mine). This manner of worship they were practicing had taken away their focus from the Master and put it on His servants. Thus, they were giving more importance to who was speaking and how they spoke, instead of what was being taught. This heinous act is described by Paul as kenoō in Greek Koine. According to Thayer’s lexicon, this action means “1 to empty, make empty. 2 to make void, deprive of force, render vain, useless, of no effect. 3 cause a thing to be seen to be empty, hollow, false.” (Thayer, G2758). Without a doubt, Paul’s accusation is validated when he exposes how easily favoritism toward men made the brethren at Corinth forget Who had died for them on the cross. It is a sad and irrefutable truth that when an unbeliever witnesses a quarreling church, the Master’s sacrifice is made hollow. A congregation engaged in warfare against one another, is a church that has decided to hide the cross of Christ. It is a congregation that has begun a coup d’état of Jesus as King. Every time man makes changes (however slight) to God’s approved form of worship, he is hollowing out the cross from Calvary. If observed carefully, these unsanctioned changes are driven by the same erroneous philosophy found at Corinth. They are built around pleasing man before God. In claiming, “I am of…” whomever they preferred, were they not putting a human preference above Divine command? Certainly, this train of thought denigrates the purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion! Those who make the cross of Christ vain have their minds focused not on speaking the truth of God, but on how to better entertain the crowds so that they can retain them. Needless to say, that these people are guilty of spiritual bribery. That is to say that they deceive the crowds by offering that which is attractive, such as food and entertainment, under the guise of getting the bodies into the buildings, believing that by ambushing the unsuspecting audience with the Gospel, they are effectively serving God. They fail to understand how demeaning this practice is to Him. For this reason, it is imperative to fully understand that the power is found in the Gospel and not human wit (Romans 1:16). To be unashamed of the cross of Christ is to preach His Gospel in simplicity, trusting in its power to save man from the clutches of sin. We must beware not to hollow out His cross with “wisdom of words.” Instead, let us carry the full weight of our cross daily, exactly like the Master did for us on His 2,000 ft. journey to where His mission would finally be accomplished (Luke 9:23-25).

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