The Word of the Cross

Bible Book: Acts  26
Subject: Cross; Gospel, The; Paul, The Apostle
Series: The Way of the Cross

If you want to know the story of the Cross, go to the Four Gospels. The very word “gospel” means good news. The Gospels portray the brutal truth of the agony of our Savior on the Cross, yet at the same time, they reveal the good news that on the Cross, God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. What a glorious story it is! Is it any wonder that the Holy Spirit moved godly, gifted believers to write those favorite Hymns celebrating the purpose, blessings, and hope we have through The Old Rugged Cross. We sing the old songs: At the Cross, The Way of the Cross Leads Home, and Nothing But the Blood. Christians sing those great hymns with joy unsurpassed. As we look again at the Cross, I would like to stress the importance the Bible places on the Cross. In the Scripture, we have THE WORD on the CROSS. 


A. He Had Been Appointed to Take the Gospel to Gentiles, Kings, and Jews.

1) He was obedient to the One who called him. Paul declared before King Agrippa, “... I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance” (Acts 26:19‑20, HCSB). To preach the Word of God is to preach Christ and Him crucified. Paul understood that. We had better understand that today

Psalms 22, 23, and 24 form a trilogy and it is good to read them together. We often read Psalm 22 in connection with the Passion of Christ, Psalm 23 at a grave side, and Psalm 24 whenever...well, whenever. Each is a blessing as it stands alone, but an even greater blessing when we study them together. Psalm 22 is the cry of despair, the cry of our Savior from the Cross. It is the cry of agony and defeat: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning? My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest” (Psalms 22:1‑2, HCSB).

Psalm 24 is the shout of triumph, the shout of victory

“Lift up your heads, you gates! Rise up, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle

Lift up your heads, you gates! Rise up, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in.

Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah” (Psalms 24:7‑10)

There you have it: The agony of defeat on one side, the shout of victory on the other side. The question is, what bridges the gap between the agony of defeat and the celebration of victory. The answer is simple once you consider it. Psalm 23 bridges the gap, or more to the point the Lord, who is our Shepherd, bridges the gap. Jesus proclaims Himself to be the Good Shepherd (John 10). Do you see what that means? That which bridges the gap between defeat and victory is the Cross on which our Savior died, or to be more specific, the Christ of the Cross, the Christ of the open tomb, the Christ at the right hand of the Father, the Christ who has promised to return.

Is it any wonder that Paul focused so much time on the Cross? He wrote to the church at Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:1‑2). Saul, the bitter enemy of the Cross, came to the Cross, and at the Cross, came under the crimson flow, had his sins covered by the blood of the Lamb of God. The Apostle Paul then took up the Cross and followed Jesus. Is it any wonder that God would inspire Him to provide so much information for us on the Cross?

Some preachers today may be hesitant to preach Christ and Him crucified, but Paul said, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” It is time for the person in the pew to hear about the Cross from the Pulpit today

2) He was never ashamed of the Gospel. Charles Roberts has been pastor of the Denman Avenue Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas for nearly thirty years. We serve together on the Board of Trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources, and we also serve together on the Broadman and Holman Committee. We communicate often, especially concerning our burden for the church in America, and the importance of preaching sound doctrine from the pulpit. In response to a message I sent him about the commitment of a particular board to the Bible, he wrote:

Yesterday I refused to allow a lady to donate Ninety Minutes in Heaven to our Media Center. My director came to me and told me she didn’t want to place it in circulation because she felt there were some problems with it. I told her she was right. I called the lady and explained that either the man who wrote the book was right and the Scripture wrong or he was wrong and the Scripture was right. We had a lengthy discussion about what the Bible teaches about Heaven...

I called my dear friend, Dr. Herman Hendrix to talk out my frustration. Herman is one of the most well read men I know. Several years ago he resigned Calvary in Lufkin to go to First Church, Burleson, TX. After several weeks the deacons told him he was preaching the Bible with too much authority. They told him it was his opinion that the Bible was to be the sole authority and they didn’t agree. He moved back to Lufkin and carried groceries out the door for a grocery store across the street from his former church. Everyone but me laughed at his situation. Our DOM at the time (name withheld)...relished the foolishness of Herman. Herman told me he had always preached the Word and was willing to be humiliated for his stand. A month or so later he was called by MacArthur Blvd. in Irving. They told him they had been looking for a preacher that believed the Bible enough to suffer for it. Don told me, “Well, I guess your buddy landed on his feet after all.” I looked him square in the eye and said, “He never left his feet, you idiot.” (Yes, I really talk like that sometimes.)

All I can say is AMEN! We need more men like Charles Roberts as well as his friend.

3) No one has ever lived the Gospel more powerfully, humbly, or practically than Paul. We will not belabor this point because any reading of the Pauline Epistles proves the point. He believed the Word, he lived the Word, and he preached the Word. He was very careful that his daily life would not detract from the Gospel he preached

4) His ministry is the model for pastors, teachers, and missionaries of all ages. When I was a young man in the ministry, I often heard pastors and educators I respected make statements to the effect that “Charles Haddon Spurgeon is the greatest preacher since Paul.” Whomever someone wanted to single out, the standard by which he was judged, or appraised, was Paul.

I attended a pastor’s conference a Director of Missions set up for pastors so we could hear one of his heros, a liberal retired college president, who at the time was professor of preaching at a seminary. The subject was the great preachers of the Nineteenth Century. I kept waiting for him to mention Spurgeon but he never did. After some time, I asked him to comment on Spurgeon but he ignored me. After a while, I asked again, and the professor waived his hand, a backhanded dismissal, and said, “Of course, there is the conservative, Spurgeon,” and without missing a breath, continued his lecture on other preachers of the day

B. For Paul, Bearing the Cross Meant Preaching the Word.

1) He proclaimed the Word in Jewish synagogues, and Roman streets, courts, and prisons. True to his calling, he adopted a mission strategy that called for him to go to the Jewish Synagogue on the first Sabbath Day after he arrived in a new city. Only after he was opposed and Christ rejected did he turn to the Gentiles. Frequently, his preaching caused him to be dragged before various officials to answer questions. This, for Paul was an opportunity to bear a witness for Christ.

2) He could not have stood before Jewish theologians and Greek philosophers without the Word. Before Jewish theologians, Paul focused on the Old Testament Scripture. Before Greek and Roman philosophers, he began with creation and then preached Jesus, as he did in Athens (Acts 17). I have heard the criticism that Paul always preached from the Hebrew Scripture when he was in a Jewish synagogue, but when he went to Athens he let his ego get the best of him and instead of preaching the Word, he decided to debate philosophy. What kind of ignoramus would second-guess the Apostle Paul? (By the way, that is a philosophical term, not a theological term!) He wisely began with something those philosophers could understand. They would not have been interested in a Jewish religious discussion. Furthermore, I am convinced that Paul was following the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

C. Paul Knew the Word and Believed It.

1) He often began a message with the words, “For what does the Scripture say?” (Rom. 4:3). He probably had a better understanding of the Old Testament Scripture before he was saved that most pastors have after finishing seminary. He had maintained a rigid schedule in the synagogue schools and he knew the Hebrew from early childhood. After his conversion, he withdrew for three years to study, pray, and probably to witness. It is not surprising then that Paul would quote from the Old Testament eleven times in the 10th chapter or Romans; or six times in chapter 11. In writing about Israel in the 9th chapter of Romans, he quoted from the Ole Testament 10 times. If you are reading those chapters in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the quotes from the OT are in bold print. When Jesus quotes from the OT it is in bold red print.

We moved from our Systematic Theology in seminary under a liberal professor to Archaeology under a strong conservative, Dr. Roy Beaman, whom liberal students liked to ridicule. As soon as Dr. Beaman began to lecture, a couple of students began asking questions. Most of us knew they were quoting the liberal theology professor. When they stopped long enough for Dr. Beamon to answer, he said, “Sir, will you take what the Bible says?” He proceeded to quote Scripture to answer their questions. The subject was the Lord’ Supper. He pointed out that the real purpose given for the ordinance is expressed in the words, “This do ye, as often as ye do it, in remembrance of Me.” Thus, our fellowship with one another is secondary.

2) He was inspired to write that all Scripture was inspired. In writing to his son in the ministry, Timothy, he stated it very clearly:

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned, and that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:14‑17).

3) He wrote Timothy to bring the scrolls

Make every effort to come to me soon, for Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak I left in Troas with Carpus, as well as the scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Tim 4:9‑13).

A. T. Robertson explains the request:

The books (ta biblia). Probably papyrus rolls. One can only guess what rolls the old preacher longs to have with him, probably copies of Old Testament books, possibly copies of his own letters, and other books used and loved. The old preacher can be happy with his books. Especially the parchments (malista tas membranas). Latin membrana. The dressed skins were first made at Pergamum and so termed "parchments." These in particular would likely be copies of Old Testament books, parchment being more expensive than papyrus, possibly even copies of Christ's sayings (Luke 1:1‑4). —Word Pictures in the New Testament

Why would Paul want these books? Robertson suggests that he wanted them so that he would not waste his time in prison. Even Festus discerned that he was a man of learning (Acts 26:24).

4) We look to the Pauline Epistles for answers to doctrinal questions. You want to study the basic doctrines of the faith? Turn to the doctrinal section of the Book of Romans (1:18-8:39).

(1) You want to know the Biblical doctrine of sin, see Romans 1:18-3:20.

(2)) You want to know the Biblical doctrine of Justification, see Romans 3:21-5:21.

(3) You want to know the Biblical doctrine of Sanctification, see Romans 6:1-8:39.

(4) Now consider Paul’s contribution in other areas.

(1) You want to know about security of believers, see Romans 5:1 (We receive Justification once for al time, but it is an experience from which we receive continuing benefits).

(2) You want to study Israel in God’s plan, see Romans 9.

(3) You want to understand the church in God’s plan, see Paul.

(4) You want to know about the return of the Lord, see Paul

(5) You want to know about the gifts of the Spirit, see Paul.

(6) You want to understand the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, see Paul.

(7)You want to understand the doctrine of Christ, see Paul

(8) You want to understand the doctrine of God, see Paul

(9) You want to understand the importance of preaching, see Paul.


A. The Bible Instructs Us to Study the Scripture.

Paul wrote from Macedonia to his son in the ministry, Timothy to instruct the church at Ephesus:

“Remind them of these things, charging them before God not to fight about words; this is in no way profitable and leads to the ruin of the hearers”, (2 Tim. 2:14).

Next, Paul address the importance of personal Bible study: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

He went on to tell him things to avoid: “But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness. And their word will spread like gangrene, among whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are overturning the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:16-18)

Now, Paul is inspired to write a verse that has been a source of encouragement for me throughout my life: “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and Everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness” (2 Tim 2:19).

B. The Scripture Is the Inerrant Word of the Inerrant God

1) We have God’s Word on His Word.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to My words that he speaks in My name. 20 But the prophet who dares to speak in My name a message I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods—that prophet must die’ (Deut 18:18‑20).

“I call a bird of prey from the east, a man for My purpose from a far country. Yes, I have spoken; so I will also bring it about. I have planned it; I will also do it” (Is. 46:11).

“So My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do it” (Is. 55:11).

“Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:20‑22).

Great revivals have begun with the Word of God. So it was in the days of Hezekiah, Josiah, and Nehemiah. So it was in the great Welch Revivals, and the Great Awakenings in America. So it will ever be. Any movement within the church that is not Bible centered and Holy Spirit empowered is not of God. Maybe the reason American cannot remember a great revival is that we are trying relying on plans and programs more than on the Word of God. And don’t quote statistics to me about how many people some mega-church has baptized. Praise the Lord for every soul that is saved, but when revival comes, the church will have a dramatic impact on the community. Some of today’s mega-churches not only do not impact the community, they may not even impact the lives of their own members. The proof of revival is found in changed lives. Rather than seeing the community conformed to the Kingdom of God, church members are being conformed to the image of the world, social drinking, questionable entertainment, and gambling just like lost people (except maybe they call it gamming!). Many professing Christians spend so much time on the border line rather than in the heart of the kingdom that they look like the people on the other side, meaning the world. They not only look like them, the sound like them. Some of them even smell like them.

2) You can put it to the test. Mohamed promised to return to Mecca. Jesus promised to return from the dead! Can you imagine the founder of any other religion promising to do that? So far as I have heard, the founders of Hinduism, Buddhism, or Kwanza never made such a promise. What to you think would have happened if they had. Jesus promised that he would be put to death, but that He would arise on the third day. There were plenty of witnesses to the fact that the tomb was empty, the burial clothes had collapsed as though He had simply disappeared from them, and He appeared to many people, alive, but with the scars of the crucifixion in his hands and side.

3) Here is another test. Let me stress, that we are not to put God to the test, but we test our own faith and knowledge. When you consider all the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament and see how many were fulfilled, mathematicians say that the odds against the number fulfilled by Jesus is so astronomical as to eliminate chance. God fulfilled them.

C. If You Know the Word and Believe it You Are Obligated to Obey It.

1) You owe God your obedience. When Saul disobeyed the Lord and made the excuse that he had done it so he could offer an offering to God, Samuel rebuked Him:

“Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22).

Many years ago, the late Dr. J. Hardee Kennedy, a highly respected Hebrew and Old Testament scholar, wrote a commentary on the Book of Jonah in which he made the statement, “Man’s most solemn obligation is obedience to God.” He was right. Jeremiah and other prophets were sent to tell the people that if they obeyed the Lord they would prosper, but if they refused they would suffer the consequences.

2) If you know Jesus you will keep His commandments. John wrote:

“This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:3‑6).

“For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden” (1 John 5:3).

D. The Bible Has the Answer for the World Today.

1) In 1992 both the Democrat and Republican candidates for a seat in the House of Representatives stood before a Jewish congregation and stated that those who do not believe in Jesus will not go to hell. What does God have to say about that?

2) State after state has struck down sodomy laws because they consider them unfair to homosexuals. What does God have to say about that?

3) In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton stood waving to a crowd - under a banner proclaiming gay rights.

Both as governor of Arkansas and president of the United States, reports of immorality seemed endless. Many people put politics above God and declared, “It was just sex.” Several years later, a prosecutor made a statement about the Clinton legacy they are having to deal with now. The way he said it made it obvious that he was talking about oral sex among the very young. Since then, others have affirmed the concern. What does God have to say about one who offends a young child?

4) A university professor proclaimed, “Yes, I am a pornographer.” Deputy Press Secretary for Homeland Defense is arrested for trying to seduce a police officer he believed to be a fourteen year old girl. He apparently sought to impress her with his position. When the police entered his home to arrest him he was sitting in front of his computer waiting for the “fourteen year old” girl to send him a picture of herself in the nude. What does God have to say about that?

5) America is becoming a more profane, obscene, vile, and dangerous society. What does God have to say about that?.

6) We are at war against Islamic terrorists. Radical Muslim terrorists are a threat to the whole world, and they are killing in the name of their god. What does God have to say about that?

7) The immigration issue threatens to change our culture as nothing has in the past. What does God have to say about the political solutions suggested by congress?

E. There Is an Answer If We Are Willing to Try It.

The Bible really does have an answer for all these issues. The Bible has the diagnosis and it has the prescription:

“And My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).

We must repent or prepare to meet God in Judgment. God sent Amos from Tekoa in the Southern Kingdom of Judah to Israel, the Northern Kingdom around 758 B.C. With an ultimatum:

“I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a burning stick snatched from a fire, yet you did not return to Me — the Lord’s declaration. Therefore, Israel, that is what I will do to you, and since I will do that to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God! He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, the One who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name” (Amos 4:11‑13).

Isaiah came to understand the relevance and power of the Scripture:

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way, and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive (Isaiah 55:6‑7).


Yes, there really is an answer to your our problems today in America. First, if you have never received Jesus Christ as Savior, I would plead with you to call on Him right now. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 1 6:31).

If you are a Christian, you must be willing to pay the price if you would bear your cross in this world. And we must do something before it is too late. The Bible teaches, in Geneses 6:3, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.”

First, we must share the simple Gospel with everyone we seek. Dr. Paul Brown sent me a message asking me to pray for Mary Jo Lewis, wife of Dr. Larry Lewis, whom Paul followed as president of Hannibal-LeGrange Baptist College. Dr. Lewis is a former president of the North American Mission Board. I forwarded the request to Dr. Mike Minnix, creator of the PastorLife website, a ministry of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Mike had been their pastor when Larry was president of NAMB. He told me that Mrs. Lewis is a fearless soul winner. He said, “She will witness to anyone. She will witness to a door post!” Like Mrs. Lewis, we must tell our lost friends that Jesus died for them and He offers eternal life to all who place their faith in Him.

The Word of God explains the Cross. In the first place, we must go to the Cross for salvation. Second, we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. Third, we must be sure we clearly understand the message of the Cross. The more time you spend in the Word of God the better understanding you will have of the Cross.

This is critical in this post-Christian era. According to a front page story in the Monroe (LA) News-Star (April 6, 2006), only 36% of adults in a poll state that they believe in the resurrection of the body. The poll found that 54% do not believe it, and 10% had no opinion. Now, get this: 83% of Americans believe they are Christians. What is going on here? Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary understands the problem:

“I am continually confronted by Christians, even active church members of major churches, who have never heard this taught in their local congregations,” Mohler said. “We have a lowest-common-denominator Christianity being taught in so many denominations that has produced a people who simply do not know some of the most basic Christian truths.”

We must follow Paul’s example: go to the Cross, take up our Cross and follow Jesus.

I hear the Savior say,

Thy strength indeed is small,

Child of weakness, watch and pray,

Find in Me thine all in all.

Lord, now indeed I find

Thy pow’r, and thine alone,

Can change the leper’s spots,

And melt the heart of stone.

For nothing good have I

Whereby Thy grace to claim;

I’ll wash my garments white

In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.

And, when before the throne,

I stand in Him complete,

“Jesus died my soul to save,”

My lips shall still repeat.

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

This is a time of decision. Trust Him. Serve Him. Prayerfully trust the Holy Spirit to make the great truth about the Cross come alive in your heart and mind right now.