Friday, October 19, 2007

Preaching the cross

I've just spent the afternoon with one of my staff. It's such a priviledge to be able to mentor them, hearing what God has been doing them and reading the Bible together. Today we turned to Galatians, chapter 3. Here Paul is turning the Galatians from their folly back to the message of the cross. I was struck by a number of things here:
1. When Paul directs them to recall his preaching of Christ crucified there is a assumption that they know the story of Abraham. The only way this is likely is if he had preached about this. But we know Paul only ever preaches "Christ and him crucified". Thus, when Paul preaches the cross what seems to be meant is a Biblical Theology that tracks back at least as far as the promises to Abraham. Preaching the cross then means preaching redemptive-history not just the event outside the city walls of Jerusalem... the cross casts it's shadow back through all of Scripture.

2. The gospel, which Paul is so keen to contend for can be summarised in terms of God's blessing through Abraham for the peoples of the world. Granted this is Biblically coded language that we can expand to talk about in terms of blessing rather than curse, and about justification and about the Holy Spirit this is notable in it's positivity (blessing) and it's focus upon the peoples (ethos) - his gospel is and always was a global one not just for individuals or some peoples. This is big, and ultimately overcomes human dividing lines to unite peoples in Christ.

3. Being a Christian means being justified by faith in Christ's death and having the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Spirit is what was promised by God - possible because by the cross we are justified. Without justification God's presence with us would be destructive. Without the Spirit what would be the good of being justified? Like Piper says, God is the gospel - justified to come to God.

4. The core of Christian life is hearing with faith. It's the way we begin and the way to continue. This thwarts reliance on the law which can only lead to curse rather than blessing. And it means that gospel-ministry must be about giving people opportunity to hear with faith - and that in turns means teaching the word of the cross to people. Again and again we're to call people to boast in the cross. Obsessively. That warms my cold heart and lights my way.

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