Monday, October 31, 2011

The Scandal of the Gospel

Galatians 5:11 "But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block (or scandal) of the cross has been abolished."

Romans 3:21 "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and prophets."

As the Apostle Paul was writing the book of Galatians by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was dealing with a group in the church of Galatia who were teaching salvation through Christ plus law-keeping.  For that group, one could confess Christ if he wanted too, however in order to be made right with God, the ritual of circumcision from the Old Testament had to be performed.

Why mankind prefers performance-based salvation
As it was in Paul's day, we also saw in the last two blogs about the Reformation, wherein Luther had to deal with the performance-based religion of the Roman Catholic Church.  In Luther's day, one was encouraged to have faith in Christ, however they also had to be baptized and purchase extra graces in order to have right standing before God.  In our day, we have religions all over the world that add human performance as a pre-requisite to being made right before God.

Why the cross is scandalous
When I come to the cross, I discover a scandal (quite literally a potential stmbling block) - salvation was achieved by the work of another.  Furthermore,  my performance-based ideas are the source of my own condemnation.  Now this is just the beginning - for in the cross an even deeper scandal is raised - how can The Holy God, a Just Judge, who wants to pardon sinful man, forgive him when sinful man desires to violate and thumb his nose at Holy God?

The Potential Controversy that God alone could resolve
In Romans 3 we find the complete unfolding of the scandal that is concerned with the Character of God Himself: Either God remains just in punishing the treachery of man against Him with no obligation to show mercy; or He needs to ignore His Holy character in order to show love.  God is both infinitely Holy (seperate from sin, pure, in a category by Himself) and infinitely loving.  Mankind on the otherhand is sinful (hateful of God's Holy character) and continuously hateful of God.  This scandal, this controversy cannot be resolved by man - for he is too sinful and too unloving. (The main argument of Romans 3:1-20)  No other religion can successfully solve how Holy God can forgive sinful man without being unjust.

Over the next couple of blogs, we will aim to understand how God resolved this scandal through the cross.  God would have to do five things in order to maintain His infinite Holiness while fulfilling His desire to forgive fallen human beings who by His grace, through faith, believe on Him.  I would invite the reader to read Romans 3:21-31, since it will be central to our study over the next couple of blogs.