Firstly, in 1 Cor. 1:17-18, Paul states,
“17 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. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
Notice what verse 18 is telling us. It is making a difference between being saved and taking up your cross and following Christ. These are two completely different things. In other words, you could be saved but not be under “the preaching of the cross”. You could be a believer who panders to his or her carnal lusts. One who is not fulfilling the righteousness of God in their lives. But the Bible declares that to those who have accepted salvation, the cross is “the power of God”!
In other words, when we are allowing the cross to work in us, the power of God is revealed in us! The power to do what? To defeat sin and to work the righteousness of God in our lives.
The Apostle Paul feared lest the cross of Christ should be made of “none effect” in the lives of believers.
Wow! What a mighty revelation!! But Paul goes even further and writes similar words in Philippians 1:29:
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”.
The believer has two mandates. Actually, one – salvation – is not our mandate. The work of salvation has been wrought by God Himself; we were dead in sin, and God resurrected us in Christ Jesus. A dead person cannot resurrect himself, so we were not involved in any way in our salvation. Salvation is all of God’s grace (Eph. 2:5).
The singular mandate that we have been given is to crucify our flesh. God calls us, by the Holy Spirit that He has given to us, to crucify our fleshly lusts and desires. Galatians 5:24 puts it thus:
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
Again, this is of grace. According to His great mercies and love, God has decided to make us co-workers with Him. He makes us co-workers with Him in His fight against His enemies. And, pray, how do we fight God’s enemies?
It is not by screaming at the devil, as most believers have been taught. Nor is the believer’s victory in the thousand and one “steps” that fill most charismatic teachings.
On the contrary, there is only one way to defeat the enemy. It is by crucifying the flesh! God gives us His Holy Spirit for the express purpose of crucifying the flesh. Once we have crucified the flesh, we are done. Done, I said. That is what it says in Ephesians 6:10-20. Here, it is well documented how our spiritual warfare is waged solely on the battleground of the flesh. Just look at our armor (vss 14-18).
Truth. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word of God. Prayer. All these things require a denial of self.
It is all about crucifying the flesh! Once we crucify the flesh, the devil has nothing in us (Jn. 14:30). The devil fears a dead Christian! But when he meets a ‘live’ believer (i.e., one who is living for himself), the devil has a powerful weapon. We do the devil’s work when we fulfill the desires of the flesh.
Hence the cross. This mandate that we have from God – to crucify our flesh – was the reason the Apostle Paul held the cross in such esteem. You can see in his epistles that the singular thing that the Apostle Paul defended was the cross. Unlike many preachers in his time (but more so today), Paul did not boast in the great works that were done through him; nor in visions and heavenly visitations, all of which he had in abundance. On the contrary, Paul boasted
“in mine infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:5)
What does Paul mean by “infirmities”?
We shall see that in the next chapter of this series.