Paul understands the cross as the answer to our most practical problems.
As we noted in the previous posts, Paul writes his letter to the Corinthians to correct some of the problems going on in this church. And boy, there are some serious problems in this church.
There are those petty divisions fueled by jealousy. Paul addresses this in the introduction and he revisits it again in chapter 3.
Sexual immorality is so rampant among them that this one guy is having sex with his stepmother (ch5).
Christians are suing one another in court (ch6).
Based on ch7, it appears that divorce was a major issue among these believers.
He talks to them about food sacrificed to idols in ch8; outright idolatry in ch10; how they’re messing up the Lord’s Supper in ch11; how they’re arguing about spiritual gifts in ch12.
It just goes on and on.
There are problems everywhere you look in this church — because it’s made up of PEOPLE. A church has as many problems as it has members — because we’re all kind of a mess, honestly.
But here’s the point I really want to make: before Paul gets into correcting ALL of that, he talks to them about having the mind of Christ:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.1 Corinthians 1:10
But we have the mind of Christ.1 Corinthians 2:16
Paul brackets the first two chapters with an encouragement for the Corinthians to have the same mind — specifically the mind of Christ.
And the mind of Christ is focused on the cross.
Here is the big idea for this part of this series: the cross is not just the way to salvation; it is also a way of life.
Paul’s first response to all of these problems in Corinth is to remind these believers about Jesus. And right there at the heart of His story is the cross. There is this sacrificial act that not only takes away our sin; it is the sacrificial act we are called to emulate. We care called to participate in the cross. You cannot enjoy the benefits of the cross without being enlisted to imitate the cross.
Of course, you and I cannot die for someone else’s sins. But we can live sacrificially for the sake of those around us. You can put the needs of someone else ahead of your own needs. You can love your enemy. You can go the second mile and turn the other cheek. That is what it means to take up your cross and follow Him.
I like the way Eugene Peterson says it: “You cannot separate the truth of the gospel from the way of the gospel.” You can’t just pick and choose from the great truths of the Bible to create your own personal “comfort smoothie.” If that’s what you want, you’d be better off to read Chicken Soup for the Soul rather than the Bible. Because truthfully, we’d just as soon do without all of this cross business. We don’t like thinking about His death — because we know we’re responsible for putting Him there. And we’d rather not take up our cross either, because that’s just as personal. It requires a lot of sacrifice on our part.
But that’s why this word is so important for us. God’s Word calls us to a cruciform life, a cross-shaped life flowing from a cross-centered mind. This is where the Corinthians are deficient — and that’s why Paul goes to the cross first. Paul’s primary corrective to these SERIOUS problems in Corinth is to remind these believers about the primacy of the cross and the mind of Christ.
Because if the cross has a central place in your mind and heart, then you won’t be divisive and jealous.
If the cross has a central place in your mind and heart, you won’t argue about spiritual gifts.
You won’t sue your fellow Christians.
And you surely won’t sleep with your stepmother.
Paul sees the cross as the practical answer to all of these problems in Corinth … and a million more.
A cross-shaped life flowing from a cross-centered mind is the best thing you can do for your marriage, for your children, for your church, and for the world.
Keeping the cross before you will make you a better employee and employer. It will make you a better friend and mentor and colleague. It will transform your relationships, your fears. I just don’t think there’s a problem in your life that wouldn’t be made better by thinking about the cross, that wouldn’t be made better by living sacrificially because of the cross. This cross-shaped life flowing from a cross-centered mind culminates in the cross-based love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13.
The key to living in light of the cross is to think about the cross, to have the mind of Christ.