By Evan Pyle


Some bodies of Christian teaching have held the cross of Christ in an almost contemptible light. It is said that the message of the cross is but “milk,” and that if we are to grow up spiritually we need to graduate to “meat.”

1 Corinthians 3:2:
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

This does not reflect the true meaning of this verse in its context. Paul is upbraiding the Corinthian church for their carnality.

vv. 3-4:
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Those that minimize the message of the Cross point to the message of the Resurrection as the focal point of Christian victory. This is true only to a point, that point being the victory over death gained by Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection (1 Cor. 15:54). However, this is not the “meat” being referred to in these verses. The meat is referred to in the preceding verses of chapter 2. These verses reveal the wisdom of God spoken in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom (v. 7). This wisdom, this mystery, is contrasted with man’s wisdom and well-crafted persuasive arguments.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Paul was, in fact, imbued with man’s wisdom and excellency of speech. He had the highest education of his day, spoke and wrote in multiple languages. I imagine Paul to have been both zealous and polished. Yet this same Paul deliberately lacked excellency of speech when ministering among the Corinthians. Conspicuously absent from Paul’s speech with the Corinthians was man’s wisdom and persuasion by clever arguments. Rather, his preaching was with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

vv. 3-5:
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17-18:
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

vv. 23-24:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Does Paul denigrate the preaching of the cross as mere “milk”? Certainly not! He declares that the preaching of the cross is the power of God. In what way, then, is the cross the power of God? First of all, Jesus’ sham trial, cruel torture and crucifixion are the means God used to pay for our sins.

Colossians 1:22:
In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Through his death on the Cross, Christ bought for us a new life.

Romans 6:4:
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

By this means Jesus also did a great work of reconciliation; reconciling man who is separate from God because of sin, and reconciling Jew and Gentile. This work of reconciliation could never be effected in any other way than by Christ’s sacrifice.

Romans 5:10:
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Colossians 1:20:
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Ephesians 2:16:
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

1 Peter 3:18:
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Rather than reviling the cross as the instrument of suffering and shame and death endured by my Lord, I glory and boast in the cross. For it is there, and only there, that I have been reconciled and given victory over the sin and failings that have sidetracked and tormented me. As the hymn says, the cross on which Jesus died “holds a wondrous attraction for me.” “Love so amazing, so Divine, demands my heart, my life, my all.”

Galatians 6:14:
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Through the cross, Jesus fulfilled the law that was against us, and removed the curse of the law for all those who are sanctified by his blood.

Colossians 2:14:
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

The whole of unregenerate humanity shares a common fear and dread that no amount of riches, learning or fame can erase: the fear of death. This dread amounts to the ultimate fear of the unknown. Jesus broke this bondage for the believer by gaining victory over “the last enemy,” death.

Romans 6:5:
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-55:
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

What of the cross that Jesus instructed us as his followers to take up and to bear? Didn’t he bear all on the tree on our behalf? What does it mean for us to bear our cross and what are the implications for our Christian life?

Matthew 10:37-38:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24-25:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Mark 8:34:
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 14:27:
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Clearly, the Bible is teaching that taking up our own cross and following Jesus is to deny ourselves, our comforts, our fleshly certainties (which are so uncertain!) and instead entrust ourselves to Jesus’ good care. We cannot really follow Jesus without denying ourselves, for pleasing the flesh and pleasing the Lord are contrary ways. To deny ourselves is to follow Jesus’ own example:

John 19:17:
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

In this context I think of the verse in Galatians that sums it up for me:

Galatians 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.



From the May 2006 issue of The Vine & Branches