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What Does the Cross Mean to You?

February 28, 2023

-Dr. J. Vernon McGee, from "When the Cross Divides"

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. -1 Corinthians 1:18

For just a moment, think about the cross of Jesus Christ.

Did you know that what you’re thinking of right now tells a lot about you? Dr. McGee will explain more in this excerpt from his booklet, “When the Cross Divides.” 

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing …

Three words tell us a lot in this verse. The first is “message”—“for the message of the cross.” The Greek word Paul used here is logos, and it simply means “word.” In one of our newer translations of the New Testament, logos is translated quite literally: “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.” However, it doesn’t tell us much when we only translate it literally. Paul actually had something else in mind.

Paul had a great deal to say in this epistle of 1 Corinthians about the gospel. He said to the Corinthian believers, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Then, at the fifteenth chapter, he said, “I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2). Then he gave the gospel facts: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. According to Paul, that is the gospel. It is all the gospel, nothing else but the gospel, and anything else is not the gospel. Therefore, I would like to use the word I think Paul had in mind: “The gospel of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”

Now “foolishness” is another interesting word. Although “foolishness” is a good translation, Paul was saying more than that. It’s the Greek word moria, from which we get our English word “moron” or “moronic.” Actually, it means something that is good for nothing, something stupid. For the gospel of the cross is good for nothing to those who are perishing. It means nothing to them.

For most people, the cross probably is good for nothing. It doesn’t fit into their program. If I attempted to tell them about it, they’d say, “That’s stupid.” This is exactly what Paul said: The gospel of the cross is stupid to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

That word “power” is the Greek dunamis, from which we get our English word “dynamite.” Dunamis indicates the nth of power. Right now, according to our present scientific knowledge, the nth of power is fusion. Something else more powerful may be discovered in the future, but whatever the nth of power is, that’s what the gospel is according to Paul.

There are two classes of people who come to the cross of Christ. To one class of folk, the cross of Christ is good for nothing—stupid. Another group of folk come to it and find in it the atomic power of God to salvation.

But to us who are being saved [the cross] is the power of God …

If I were an artist, I would paint on a canvas a scene of a great barren field with not one sprig of green. Down through the center of that field would be coming a plow in the shape of a cross, digging deep into the earth, and throwing soil on one side and on the other.

For nearly two thousand years, the cross has come down through this world, turning mankind, as the dust of the earth, on one side and on the other. Men and women come to that cross, look at it, and say, “It’s foolishness to me; it has no meaning for my life,” and they’ve gone in one direction. Others come to this cross and find in it the power of God. It saves them and they go in a different direction into eternity.

Yes, people have their opinions and that’s fine. But your view on who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross won’t change Him or that cross one whit—but it will change your eternal destiny. What you think of the cross tells who you are; it does not tell who He is or what the cross is. There have been too many down through the centuries who have found in the cross the power of God.

When you come to the cross of Christ, what you think of the cross won’t affect it one whit. It is the dynamite of God that tells who you are, and it will tell your eternal destiny.

Download the "When the Cross Divides" booklet for free.

My Turn

When the Apostle Paul described his message, he said “we preach Christ crucified” (see 1 Corinthians 2:2). We really have nothing else to offer the world except what Jesus Christ accomplished when He died in our place.

Spend some time reading and meditating on the following verses. Consider how to take these truths to heart and be ready to explain to anyone who asks you what you believe.

What does the cross mean to you?

  1. Romans 1:16-17
  2. Galatians 2:20
  3. 1 Corinthians 2, especially vv. 1-5 and 14-16