Bible Teachings and The Cross as a Symbol of Christianity
This week's False Witness from the May 5 HOTM program is sure to cause a stir among many Christians. But as we walk through the following ideas carefully, establishing one clear concept at a time, you will see that the Bible does not advocate the "cross" as a tangible symbol of Christianity.
Notice how I said a tangible symbol? This means that the Bible does not explicitly advocate the manufacture of tangible crosses as . . . "graven images." There is much to explain, so let's get to it! Instead of giving you a sloppy paraphrase of what Shawn McCraney says about the "cross," I will quote his words — I will let Shawn represent Shawn's opinion:
False Witness of the Week
Shawn McCraney says: "How does the Bible view the cross? Let me give you a few scriptures . . . "
"1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul writes: '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'."
"In 1 Corinthians 1:18 it says: 'For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.' That's what the Bible says about the cross."
"Galatians 5:11 speaks of 'the offense of the cross'."
"Galatians 6:12 speaks of the suffering . . . of people suffering persecution 'persecution for the cross of Christ'."
"Galatians 6:14 says: 'But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ'."
"Ephesians 2:16 speaks of us reconciling ourselves 'in one body by the cross'."
"Philippians 3:18 finally says 'For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ'."
"Don't continue to be one of those who walk, but are enemies of cross, it's a glorious symbol of his love and the unbelievable gift He has freely offered to us of eternal life."
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It is ironic, that during this same program Shawn spoke these words: "See what happens when you trust the opinions of men." BINGO! When you trust the opinions of men, you build a house on a sandy foundation, and that house will not stand. So let's NOT trust Shawn's words or even MY words . . . instead, let's trust in the words of the Bible.
McCraney needs to heed his own words, for spouting "opinions" about what the Bible says is exactly what he does most every week; instead of quoting the Bible directly.
Why is this a False Witness? Every time Shawn quotes a Bible passage that contains the word "cross" . . . Shawn imports his personally meaning upon the word "cross." Notice his concluding comments: "Don't continue to be one of those who walk, but are enemies of cross, it's a glorious symbol . . ."
I agree, for many Christians the cross is THEIR symbol of Christianity. And inasmuch as they have a heartfelt intent toward this symbol, generally speaking, it's a good thing. But here's the problem: Jesus Christ explicitly established the way in which we might remember His agony in Gethsemane and His suffering upon the Cross.
Never at any time did Jesus admonish his followers to make a "graven image" symbol of his atonement. Which brings me to what the Bible means by the use of the word "cross." It's quite simple: just examine the context of what Paul is saying in every instance:
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
What is foolishness to them that perish? The "cross" . . . or is it "the preaching of the cross?" And what is the difference?
One is a witness, a testimony, a preaching of the good word . . . and the other may be an object, or a metaphor that refers to Christ's atonement.
As spoken of in the New Testament, the "cross" as an object is the specific cross used to crucify the Son of God, and does not necessarily refer to a myriad of "graven image" crosses that would eventually be dangling around people's necks or erected upon and around church buildings — years after Paul recorded his epistles.
The way Shawn interprets it, Biblical mentions of the word "cross" are a seeming validation of today's graven-image symbols. In contrast, the Apostle Paul is speaking of the preaching of Christ's good news, and also uses the word "cross" to refer to the redeeming gift that the Savior has freely given — in the latter case, the "cross" is not a tangible object, but a metaphor.
As a tangible object, Paul's use of the word "cross" refers to the actual cross upon which Christ was crucified. To imagine that "cross" refers to a myriad of graven images worn around necks, and posted upon churches, is a conclusion not explicitly expressed in the Bible.
Ironically, what Shawn McCraney has preached is his opinion of the importance of the "cross" as a graven-image symbol of contemporary Christianity. This is NOT necessarily a bad thing; it is simply NOT how Christ taught that we should remember Him.
As His redeeming "passion" began, Christ met with his apostles and explicitly set forth the way we should remember Him, remembering His atonement and suffering for sins:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26: 26-28).
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22: 19-20).
Thus Jesus established the way we should remember Him; in contrast, manufacturing tangible crosses to be worn about the body or to decorate church buildings . . . is the way some mortal men have decided to remember Him. I repeat, this is not a bad thing generally; it's simply NOT the way that the Savior has set and thus misses His mark.
Consider how Paul reinforced the appropriate symbolism for remembering Christ:
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come." (1 Cor. 11: 23-26).
Partaking of the emblems of His body and blood is not merely a nice thing to do occasionally; instead, it is what we must do in order to be counted among His faithful follower and be recipients of His most precious gift: Eternal Life.
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; . . . This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." (John 6: 53).
by his words and actions, Shawn McCraney implies that his interpretations represent the views of "Biblical Christianity." Clearly, it is far superior approach to let the words of Jesus establish the doctrines of Jesus.
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