By Mark W. Swarbrick
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
“God so loved the world that He gave his only son…” (John 3:16)
Jimmy Swaggart coined the phrase, “The Message of the Cross.” It isn’t in the Bible. It is something he made up, as is the entire Swaggart cross revelation. The phrase “preaching of the cross” is in the Bible, so let’s explore the biblical teaching of the cross.
Jesus willingly became a man, suffered and died and shed his blood in order to purchase our salvation. It was something that had to be done to wash away our sins. It is called the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The wages of sin is death, but our Lord died in our stead, saving us from that spiritual death. The following verse says it succinctly:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20.)
Note who the subject is, who the object of our faith is in that passage. It is Jesus who loved us, who gave himself for us. How do we live? By faith in the Son of God.
Not faith in the cross. Faith in Jesus. The Bible never says to put faith in the cross. Swaggart has taken some heat for this lately so he tries to soften it up and walk it back for the television audience by saying, “faith in Jesus Christ and the cross.” That is so close to truth but it still isn’t right.
The Bible never says it like that. Not once does is it ever say to put faith in the cross. And when you read Swaggart’s books, he often drops the Jesus part. He just says to put your faith in the cross. He says it with a capitol C on cross, as though the cross were some sort of deity.
The cross is not a person. The cross does not think, feel, love or care. The cross cannot answer your prayers. The cross is not some sort of extra person in the godhead. God is not a quadrinity, he is a trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The cross is an action. It is what Jesus did. The cross is not God. The cross is a doctrine. Putting your faith in the cross is idolatry. Don’t put your faith in doctrine, put your faith in Jesus.
Jesus has died on the cross, been raised from the dead, and ascended on high and sent the Holy Spirit to us, and he even now intercedes with the Father on our behalf. We can put our faith in Jesus and believe what He and the apostles taught about the wondrous sacred thing that happened at the cross. Christ did what he did at the cross so that we could put our faith in Him, so that he would live in us. He didn’t do it so we could put our faith in a doctrine.
We need to understand the historical context of the apostle’s time to fully understand what they meant when the talked about the preaching of the cross. The Jews concept of salvation was that, first of all, you had to be a Jew. Secondly, you had to keep the law.
Jesus fulfilled the law and died on the cross as the propitiation for our sins. When he died the veil in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was rent in two, from top to bottom, signifying that God has now, through the shed blood of Jesus, made it possible for all people, Jews and Gentiles, to come into the presence of God through faith in Jesus, because of his sacrifice for us.
That great event happened because of what Jesus did at Calvary. But that was all strange news to the Jews and many of them thought that the idea of a suffering messiah was nonsense. They were looking for a conquering king who would come and free them by force from Roman rule. The suggestion that their great messiah was someone who suffered and died the death of a criminal on a cross, where the lowest of the low were crucified, was unfathomable to them. They thought that was just absurd. To them it was foolishness.
That’s why Paul says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness…” Paul said that with the Jews in mind. The Jews would not accept Christ because he died on a cross instead of delivering them from the Romans. And since they didn’t put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Messiah, they perished.
When the apostles spoke of the preaching of the cross, they were talking about the entire New Covenant. They were talking about the gospel message itself. They were talking about repenting and believing in Jesus, they were referring to the Jesus who died on the cross and three days later came back to life, the Jesus who will live in men’s hearts if they repent and put their faith in Him. The preaching of the cross is this:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
The apostles were not talking about what Jimmy Swaggart was talking about – putting faith in a doctrine. Faith belongs in the person of Jesus Christ. Correct doctrine is good and we should study to show ourselves approved, but the kind of faith the Bible talks about belongs to Jesus and to no one else.
When we fail, as we all sometimes do, the Bible tells us that Jesus is alive and is right now interceding for us before the Father. Consider the word of God:
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:3)
Jesus dying for us was a great thing, but the Bible says “more than that,” he came to life and is interceding for us! It is wonderful he died for us, but even more wonderful he came back to life and lives in us! That is the real preaching of the cross.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Have you failed? Have you sinned? Don’t give up because Jesus hasn’t given up on you. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8). The Holy Spirit is within you to help you walk with God in holiness.
Scripture says that it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) It is the reality of Christ in us that saves us, our real living relationship with Him, not some magical way of thinking about a doctrine.
Swaggart’s perversion of the beautiful biblical truth of what Jesus did for us on the cross is a subtle twisting of the truth. The new private revelation promulgated by JSM is designed to draw attention and money to Jimmy Swaggart. It detracts from Jesus Christ and anything that does that is an abomination.