Why the Cross?

A few years ago, Marshall Segal wrote a very interesting article entitled, “For God so Loved His Worth” [1]; a nice play on John 3:16. The author’s primary point is that American believers have a tendency to make the gospel primarily about us and our value – when it’s actually about God and his glory.

“Many of us miss the glory of Passion week because deep down we assume we’re the center of (the story) ....We read the Gospels and write ourselves into the lead role — the star who was worth everything Jesus had to suffer in order to have us.”

Here are some examples:

  • Todd White, a popular evangelist, makes the argument that Christ died on behalf of mankind because mankind was worth dying for. “The cross to me isn’t the revelation of my sin, the cross is actually the revealing of my value.”[2]
  • Rick Warren recently wrote an article entitled “How the Cross Proves your Value”.[3] He affirms, “Jesus didn’t die for junk.”
  • Another author writes, “The cross is not meant to shame us into feelings of worthlessness; the cross is meant to show us the fact of our worth.” [4]
  • A contemporary Christian band called “Mikeschair” sings a song with the lyrics “Jesus help me believe, That I am someone worth dying for”.

There will be messages preached all over the country this week using the death of Christ to affirm the value of the listener. Those messages will fundamentally misrepresent the Scripture and miss the point of the cross. Good Friday and Easter did not happen to magnify the worth of fallen man.

Now, let me say several things quickly before I lose you.

1.) The Bible certainly DOES affirm the value of those made in God’s image.  Human life is inestimably valuable because man is God’s image bearer – which is why murder, including the horror of abortion, is such a great evil.  And God clearly affirms the value of his own children!  We actually are precious in his sight.  Jesus affirmed the value of his disciples in Matthew 10:29-31:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father....Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

2.) We need to uphold the true value of human life because we live in a culture that denies it at every turn.  One of the reasons American evangelicals are drawn to a gospel about human worth is because we are assaulted by messages denying that worth. The World, our flesh, and the Devil continually seek to deny the value of human life and our own accusing conscience will often lead us to believe that we have no value. But let God be true and every man a liar.  The Bible itself establishes the fact of the worth given to man as God’s image bearer, and the great concern and care and value God assigns to his own beloved children.   BUT...

3.) Our worth is not innate but derivative.  We are not worthy because of what we are – but because of what God has made us. Let’s remember, we are made of dirt. The only worth we possess is due to the fact that we were created by God, in his image, and redeemed by God to be his children.  There is no inherent value in us.

4.) Consequently, nowhere does Scripture make the cross about the value of man. The cross always points to the glory of God and the miraculous, unfathomable mystery of His love.  John Piper was once asked, “Doesn’t the cross reveal the innate value of a sinner?” He replied,

“No...No...No...Rather, the cross: testifies to the infinite value of the glory of God.  It testifies to the enormity of human sin in belittling that glory. And it testifies to the immeasurable greatness of the grace of God.”

Segal summarizes the point nicely.

“God did not write Holy Week into history because he was desperate to have you (Acts 17:25), but because loving you, contrary to everything you deserved, would display just how loving he is — how glorious he is. He really does love you — genuine affection, fatherly provision, sacrificial devotion, tender care, but not because you’re great. Because he is great.”

Isn’t that good?!  The primary joy of Easter is the way it manifests the titanic greatness and monumental goodness and inestimable glory of God!  And only when we grasp that – do we understand the true glory of the cross and of Easter!

In Christ,

Pastor Dale 

[1] Marshall Segal, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/for-god-so-loved-his-worth

[2] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/cross-revelation-value-response-todd-white/#qSoPvatGmbLz25oZ.99

[3] Rick Warren, http://pastorrick.com/devotional/how-the-cross-proves-your-value

[4] http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/5962/im-not-a-worthless-sinner