And so anybody who reads the New Testament, even superficially, unless he is a victim of serious prejudice, is bound to gather the impression that, according to the writers of this book at any rate, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ is of paramount importance. That is why we are bound to consider this, and the real question that confronts us is: What exactly happened there? What was really taking place when our Lord died upon the cross? What is the meaning, the explanation, of that death?
Now I know that many people are not really concerned to know that. They say, ‘No, I am not theological or doctrinal; all I know is that the cross is marvellous and wonderful and that the Lord died there.’ And there are many who seem to think that that is the right attitude. They think that this is too sacred for anybody to examine, that you must never come to the cross with your mind but only with your heart, that the doctrine of the cross is something to be felt, not understood. But nothing is more terribly dangerous than that. If I understand the New Testament aright, there is no place where we should be more careful to go with our minds fully operating as to the cross on Calvary’s hill. And I will tell you why: it is because this is the central thing; there is no truth concerning which the adversary and the enemy of our souls is so anxious to muddle and confuse us as this particular truth.
The history of the Church, as I shall show you briefly, is something that bears endless record to that fact. Let us put it like this: those people who are not interested in doctrine say that all they need is to fall on their knees before the cross; they say that they are not interested in the meaning. But my reply is that that is impossible. Everybody has some view of the cross; and when you say you believe in Christ and look at the cross, you must ask yourself what you believe about it. You have your own interpretation and because of the terrible danger of having the wrong interpretation, we must examine the truth and be certain that we are biblical in our understanding of what happened upon the cross.
I emphasise this because I find that so many people—forgive me for saying it once more, but this is one thing about the evangelical position today that really does alarm me—so many people have this tendency to say that it does not matter very much what people believe, that the doctrinal definitions do not count as long as people talk about the cross. I remember a few years ago a man said to me: ‘I hear that so and so—naming a well-known preacher—has changed recently.’
‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘on what grounds?’
‘Well,’ said the man, ‘he has just produced a book of sermons on the cross.’ And because this preacher had done that, my friend had assumed that he had become evangelical. But when he read the book, he discovered that the man’s view had not changed; it was a view that made the cross of Christ of none effect. He had imposed upon the records his own philosophical ideas and fancies. It is very dangerous to assume that because a man is always talking about the cross—he may even have a cross suspended above the pulpit or somewhere else in his church—that he has the true doctrine of the cross.*
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Co 1:18).
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1996). God the Father, God the Son (308–309). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.