Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God:
~ Ezekiel 28:2
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
~ Philippians 3:7-11
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
~ Philippians 3:8-9
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
~ Ephesians 2:14
The Middle Wall of Partition, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
~ Galatians 6:14
In the Cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time.
– J. Bowring
Thank God that the Christian can sing words like that in a world like this. Let us now try to find some further reasons why we can do so, and why it is possible for all to do so, if they but believe the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. So let us return to Galatians 6:14: ‘But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.’ There is no hope for this world apart from the gospel and the essence of the gospel, as we have seen, is this message about the cross.
Now the author of the hymn which we have just quoted tells us all that he found in the cross. Whatever his mood, or state or condition, the cross sanctified it all: pain or pleasure, whatever was happening to him. The cross always speaks. That is the Apostle’s position. He glories in this because he has discovered that whatever is happening to him, this is the message that is always with him, and that turns everything to his advantage, and so he makes his boast in the cross.
Now we have been examining the various things that the Apostle here, and in other places in his writings, tells us about the cross. But still we have not finished. ‘God forbid that I should glory,’ says the Apostle, ‘save in the cross.’ There is no end to it. It is such a tremendous thing, and so I move forward now to give one further reason which the Apostle has for glorying in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is that it is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that alone can produce true unity and a real peace among men. Now it is to that I want to call your attention, and what a time it is to consider this, because everybody’s mind is engaged on the whole question of how to produce unity in the world. The assassination of the late President Kennedy pinpoints that in a very acute manner for us.
Now I am not going to preach on President Kennedy, but it would be madness not to see what that terrible event, that awful event, should make us all think about. He was a man who was struggling and striving in various ways to bring men and women together. There are those who would say that he met his death because he was trying to solve the problem of integration in the United States. Black and white and coloured—how to bring them together. How to bring an end to segregation, and how to produce integration. It was certainly one of the problems with which he was struggling. He went to Texas because he was concerned about that. Then he faced the problem of the two groupings of the nations of the world, the Iron Curtain between them. He was striving, he was struggling with this problem of how to bring together these two warring factions of human nature and of humankind. Here was a man who gave his life and his activity to that very question, to that very matter. And I have no doubt that it is true to say that in many ways he met his death because of these things. We are concerned, then, with this problem. We are in a world which is full of tension, full of divisions, full of strife, full of the danger of war. We are in a world that is divided up hopelessly, a world of unhappiness and pain.
The Bible has always said that this world is an evil world. Nothing else says that, the newspapers do not say it, the newspapers regard an event such as President Kennedy’s assassination, as exceptional. It is only exceptional in the one sense that it happens to be unusually dramatic. But the world is full of that kind of thing. That is the sort of world we are living in. The world seems shocked because of the unexpected. It is not unexpected. It is not unusual. This is ‘this present evil world’ as the Bible calls it. I am not exaggerating this particular thing. I have my own views with regard to whoever may have committed this dastardly crime, but I do maintain that this is but one of the manifestations of a strife, a warfare, an antagonism, a bitterness and a hatred. It is just a particularly ugly manifestation of it. But the thing itself belongs to a whole category which is, alas, the cause of our greatest troubles in this world today. And that is why I am calling attention to it.
Now I want to look at it, not only in terms of the world situation, but also in terms of our individual lives. One of the greatest fallacies today is that we draw too sharp a distinction between the individual and the mass, between nations and persons or individuals. A nation is nothing after all but a collection of individuals, or you might say that it is nothing but the individual writ large. The world is a sort of macrocosm of which man is a microcosm, and what is true of the nations of the world is true of individuals. There are groupings and divisions within all the nations, and divisions and groupings and antagonisms and tensions in yet smaller units, even in families—divisions, strife, disagreement, misunderstanding. But we can take it even further. How many of you know perfect rest? How many know real peace and quiet? Is there not a warfare going on in you? Is there not a strife and a tension, is there not a conflict? We have to say there is—we are all born like that. We are born creatures of conflict, within and without, in every realm and department of life. And what I want to try to demonstrate is that there is only one thing in the whole world at this moment that can deal with this warfare and tension and strife. It is the cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
If you read the second chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, you will notice what the Apostle had to say there. It was not surprising that he gloried in the cross, because the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ had done what he regarded as the most wonderful and amazing thing that he had ever known—it had produced the Christian church. Why is this so wonderful? It is wonderful for the reason that together, side by side in the Christian church, there were Jews and Gentiles. Now that was the thing that never failed to amaze the Apostle. You remember that the ancient world was divided up into Jews and all the rest, the Gentiles. The Jews despised the Gentiles, and would refer to them as dogs. The Gentiles, too, had their own view of the Jews, and it appeared to be an utter impossibility that they could ever come together. There was, as the Apostle says in that very chapter, a middle wall of partition between them.
The wall in Berlin, you see, is not the first wall that has been built in this world to separate people from one another. The world has always had its iron curtains. We change the terminology but the fact has always been there: the middle wall of partition, Jews one side, Gentiles the other side, and, between them, a bitter hatred and animosity, which we can scarcely even imagine. The apostle Paul, before his conversion, was one of the most bitter Jews the world has ever known. He was a Jew who revelled in it and prided himself in it, and he despised the Gentiles. But the extraordinary thing he finds is that in the Christian church Jews and Gentiles are found together and the middle wall of partition, as he says, has been broken down. He keeps on repeating that in the epistle to the Ephesians. He says in Ephesians 1:11, 13: ‘In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will …. In whom ye also trusted’—we, being the Jews, you also, the Gentiles —‘after that ye heard the word of truth ….’
And then, as we saw in the second chapter, let me remind you, he said in effect, ‘Wherefore, remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes [at one time] were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace’ (2:11–15).
Now this to the Apostle was the most amazing and astounding thing conceivable. The impossible had happened: Jew and Gentile had been brought together, and there was one new man in the Christian church worshipping the same God and glorying in the same Saviour.
That is therefore one of the chief reasons why he gloried in the cross of Christ. And it is that which I want to expound to you. Let me do it like this. What is the cause of the divisions and the enmities that characterize the life of this world? Is that not the big question that comes up at this time? I am not going to talk politics to you or even pay tribute to the late President Kennedy, that is not what I am called upon to do. Others do that kind of thing. The Christian preacher must deal with causes and, thank God, in the light of this book we can do so in a manner which is something that the statesman cannot do, because (and I say this to the glory of God) here is the only explanation.
What is the cause of the division? What is the cause of the unhappiness that is in the world today? Why is the world as it is? Why have we had these wars? Why are the nations preparing for a further war? Why is there tragedy and trouble and discord? And there is only one answer to all the questions. It is the pride of the natural, unregenerate human heart. Pride, nothing else. Let me show you how it works. The Bible is full of this teaching. Away back at the very beginning it gives us the story of how one brother murdered another brother. Cain murdered Abel. Why did he do it? He did it because of jealousy, and jealousy is the child of pride. There it is right away back at the very beginning, and it has gone on ever since. This old book is full of accounts of that kind of thing. There are foolish people today who say that you should not give the Old Testament to a child to read because of the terrible things you find there, the sins of David and stories like that. That is just the point. The Bible is an honest book, a realistic one which tells you the truth. It shows human nature as it is and it conceals nothing. Pride shows itself in all kinds of ways. Take the prophet Jeremiah. He has a great statement about all this. He was given clear insight by God to see the cause of trouble, and he puts it like this. ‘Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches’:—glory means boast, remember—‘But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord’ (Jer 9:23–24).
Then you come over to the New Testament, and you get exactly the same thing. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, shows how the world in his time was divided up not only into Jew and Gentile, but it was divided up into Greeks and barbarians, wise and unwise, too. The world has always been like this. You will find it again in Ephesians 2, and then you have an extraordinary statement of the same thing by the Apostle in Philippians 3. Read this little bit of autobiography that he gives us. He says, ‘For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though,’ he says, ‘I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless’ (3:4–6). There he was, proud of it all.
Now these are but some of the texts which we have in the Scriptures, and there are many more, which show us that the essential cause of all the strife and the unhappiness and the tension in the w orld, and ultimately, all the tragedy, both in individuals and in the life of nations and groups within the nations, all these are the result of pride. How does it work? Well let me take you through the sorry catalogue, and if we do not use a time such as this to do that, then I say we have failed, and failed completely. What do men and women take pride in and what is it that causes this pride of theirs to lead to divisions?
Well, as we are told, they take pride in their birth, and in their race. You remember how Kipling spoke about ‘the lesser breeds without the law’. Pride of birth, pride of race, pride of nationality, pride of colour—black and white. This is the tension in the world today, this is a part of the trouble. It may not be the only cause of the tragedy that has taken place, but men are standing apart because of these things. Human beings, souls in the sight of God, but divided by colour, black and white; and remember, there are these elements on both sides. But you get this trouble with respect to nationality, with respect to race, with respect to the accident of birth, and all these things. All those matters that the Apostle enumerates there, in Ephesians 2 and in Philippians 3. Now the Apostle himself, before he became an Apostle and before he became a Christian, delighted in these things. He was proud of them, and of the fact that he was an Hebrew of the Hebrews. He looked down upon everybody who was not. He was born into a particular tribe, the tribe of Benjamin, and he was filled with pride in all this.
Another cause of strife is power pride in one’s power. How much tension is there in the world today between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’? Those who have want to hold on to what they have got. Those who have not, want it. And each one is consumed with an equal passion, and inevitably you get strife and tension, with people wanting something, and wanting to hold on to something. Now this is true of nations. It has been one of the most prolific causes of wars, particularly in the present century, but it has been a cause of wars long before that. Greed, the desire to have, to have power, to be great, to be wonderful. Wealth, and the power of wealth. It is the cause of so much industrial strife. Employer and employed—the employed want a greater share of that which has hitherto been the possession of the employers, and each side becomes rigid. So you get tension and strife, you get division, and ultimately you get war. But it is all the result of pride. Power is a wonderful thing. Nations get drunk on power. Individuals get drunk on it too, and once they have it, they want to hold it. ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ Lust for power, and for domination. The whole of human history is redolent of this kind of thing, and pride of power does it.
And then pride of intellect does exactly the same thing. We have seen how the ancient world was divided up into Greeks and barbarians, the wise and the unwise. The Greeks were a very intellectual people, as well as a people of great military prowess. They had produced that succession of mighty philosophers, the greatest philosophers the world has ever known, and they were proud of it. So they looked round at all the other nations of the world, and they said What do they know? What do they understand? What philosophy have they got? Some of them are good at fighting, some of them are good at business, some of them are good at navigation, but they do not understand. So they divided up the whole world into Greeks and barbarians, and the wise and the unwise.
But again, here was rivalry and tension, stress and strain, and it is as common in the world today as it was then. These subtle divisions and distinctions permeate through the whole of life. I have come across many cases in this world where this very thing has caused grave agony, even within families. It happens that one member of the family, being a bit brighter than the rest, goes on with his education. He goes to a university, and the others do not. I have known that lead to heartache, and almost heartbreak, in certain families. Intellect, the pride of the man who has got it and is given an opportunity, and the others, feeling a certain amount of jealousy and envy. ‘Who is he?’ they say, ‘Because he has got a little knowledge, does he think he is different?’ And so on. You must be aware of all this, it is one of the many social problems that are worrying the minds of the authorities in this country at the present time.
Those, then, are the three main ways in which this pride that is in man, because he is a sinner, has manifested itself throughout the running centuries. The next step in the argument is that there is nothing known to the world today that can deal with that situation. Now that is a very strong statement to make, is it not? But I make it. The state of the world at this moment is an absolute proof of that, in and of itself. The world can never make peace. All the world can do is to put an end, or at least put a stop for the time being, to actual war. The world at its best has never produced anything beyond a temporary cessation of hostilities. It can produce nothing but a kind of armed interval, in which we are not actually fighting.
But you see the whole fallacy behind what the world is doing is that it does not realize that merely not to fight is not peace. Peace is positive, not negative. Peace means love, sympathy, understanding, a true unity, and the world knows nothing about it, and it cannot produce it. Now this is to me a most vital and important thing for it shows how it is that the world must inevitably fail. But the world fools itself, because it regards the cessation of hostilities as positive peace. Let me give you an illustration of this. In the first world war they used poison gas in fighting one another. But did you realize that in the second world war, they did not use it? Some of us remember receiving instructions in 1938 about what to do if mustard gas, etc, were used, but it was never used. Why not? Was it because the world has advanced? Was it because man at last has got love in his heart towards his fellow man? No. There was only one answer. Both sides had mustard gas, and each side knew that if they used it, the other would retaliate. Therefore, neither side used it. That was not peace, that was just the avoidance of doing something that was going to do you harm. There is no advance, there is no development, and I think there is a real case for saying that what has given us what we call peace since the end of the last war in 1945, is not that the nations of the world are any more intelligent than they were, or any more loving than they were, or that they have come any nearer to one another than they were. There is only one thing that has done it, and that is the possession of the atom bombs on the two sides. Was that not what solved the Cuban missile crisis? The two sides knew that if one used it the other would retaliate and they would both suffer, so they did not use it.
But that is not peace, that is fear. That is not what we really mean by peace. Peace, I say, is something positive. Peace means a new attitude, a new understanding. Peace means a love. But the world, even at its best, is incapable of producing it. Or take another argument. There are certain people in this country who say ‘better be red than dead’. Let this country go in for unilateral disarmament, anything is better than war, they say. And they are prepared to do that. But you see that again is no solution, because if you did that, what would happen is that one section of the world would be dominated by another. That is not peace. When a bullet keeps everybody else down, there is no fighting, but it is not peace. The weakling is just dominated by the bully, and if you go in for unilateral disarmament that is the inevitable result. You will be governed by the reds, or, if the red gives in, he will be governed by the rest. That is not peace, that is domination. That is the peace that comes from the death of everything that is most glorious in human nature, that is serfdom. You do not get wars in places where there is serfdom, you do not even get strikes. But that is not peace, because it is entirely negative.
Not only that, take all the efforts that are being made in the world, and as you look at them and as you examine them, you see behind them a spirit of hatred, and enmity, a spirit of strife. Let us be realistic and face the facts. The late President Kennedy was hated and reviled by many of his own fellow countrymen — not only by the man who performed this murderous act, but by many others, by good and respectable people who hated him because of his very policies—and there is animosity and hatred on both sides.
So when you look at the world, even at its best and at its highest, you see at once that it does not produce any peace. I have to say, in order to be honest and to be plain, that some of the most bitter men I have ever met in my life, have been pacifists. I have never seen such bitter hatred in the hearts of men as in some pacifists I have known. They have been impossible to get on with, impossible to work with. They have been animated by a spirit of hatred against militarism. But that is not peace. While there is bitterness in your heart you have not got peace. No, the world cannot produce peace. The world can never bring down the middle walls of partition. It can produce a kind of gentlemanly appearance of peace, it can succeed in having a cessation of hostilities, only because it is wise and politic and utilitarian to do so. But it is always waiting for the opportunity, and one only has to produce some invention before anyone else for the antagonism to appear. Can you believe the words of nations, can you believe the solemn pledges and vows? The history of the world gives the lie direct to any such assumption.
Oh no, if this century has done nothing else, it has done this. It has proved, absolutely and beyond any controversy, that man cannot be taught by education to live in a peaceable manner, and to love his friends and his enemies. Now there was a great argument that that could be done. The late Mr H. G. Wells was the outstanding proponent of this theory. War, he and others taught, can be banished, if only you educate people. It is ignorant people who fight, they said, and the more ignorant they are, the more they fight. It is ignorance that causes people to fight. Educate them, show them the folly of war, show them the monstrosity, and the evil of it, show them that nothing ever comes of war but harm and suffering, maiming and bitterness, and all the rest. Show them that, and they will burn all their arms, and they will all embrace one another, and there will never be another war. Poor man! The last war convinced him, so he wrote his last book, and called it Mind at the End of its Tether. It was the end of the tether and beyond it. This, the most educated of all the centuries, has been the most bloody, and never has the world been so full of war and tension and strife and dispute as it is at this very time. Man cannot produce peace. Man cannot bring the opposites together, because, as I have been trying to show you, the trouble is in the heart of man, not in his mind, but in his heart. It is his passion, it is lust, it is desire, it is pride. Man’s pride is greater than his understanding, and in order to please his own pride and to pamper it, he will do things that in his inner man he knows to be wrong. Pride is the biggest power in the world, and nothing that is known to man can deal with the problem of pride. That is why I assert again that there is only one thing in the world at this moment that can give peace and unity, that can bring men and women together and give us any hope of real true peace, and that is the cross of Christ. That is why the Apostle gloried in it.
How does the cross do this? It is really perfectly simple, and the gospel is simple because it always gets to the root of the problem, and, having got to the root of the problem, it does not waste its time in trying various expedients. It knows there is only one way of peace and it comes straight to it. The first thing the cross does is to show us to ourselves. Of course, we always defend ourselves, do we not? It isn’t my fault, we say, it is his. If only he understood. Or take husbands and wives, when they separate from one another. You listen to the story of the husband: ‘This woman is impossible!’ Then you listen to the woman: ‘That man of mine, I could not live with him, he is an impossible man!’ It is always somebody else, is it not? We are never wrong, we are very wonderful, if only we could be understood. The trouble is people do not understand us. We are all people of peace. None of us wants to quarrel with anybody, we are not jealous, or envious, we are not quarrelsome. It is always somebody else, always that other person. Do you know what the gospel does? What the cross does? It shows you to yourself. And nothing else in the whole world does that but the cross. There is nothing that will ever humble a man or a nation but the cross of Christ. I have tried to show you that everything else inevitably fails. But the cross tells us the simple plain truth about ourselves.
Think of it like this. Why did the Son of God ever come into this world? Why did he leave the courts of glory? Why was he born as a little babe? Why did he take unto him human nature? There is only one answer. He came because man could not save himself. He said that. ‘The Son of man,’ he says, ‘is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Lk 19:10). And when I look at that cross and see him dying there, what he tells me is this: you have nothing whereof to boast. The cross tells me that I am a complete failure, and that I am such a failure that he had to come from heaven, not merely to teach and preach in this world, but to die on that cross. Nothing else could save us. I could not keep his teaching. How could I obey the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, I who cannot live up to my own code, who cannot please other people? It is impossible. We cannot keep ordinary rules, we cannot keep the law of England, leave alone imitate Christ in his perfection. He condemns us completely and absolutely.
Look at this man, the apostle Paul, look at him as Saul of Tarsus. There he was, proud and boastful, yes, ‘circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless’, the perfect man, absolutely moral, absolutely religious, a most learned man, chief of the Pharisees. And then he met this Christ. One glimpse of that blessed face humbled him to the dust, and the light that Christ by the Spirit cast upon the very law which he thought he knew so well, convinced him immediately that he had not kept it. He had missed one little word in the law, the word ‘covet’. ‘Thou shalt not covet’—he had never seen it.
Here was the great expert on the law, who had studied it all his life, was top in the examinations always, in every test which was given in knowledge of the law, and he had never seen it. He says, ‘I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet’ (Rom 7:7). But the moment he saw that he was finished. ‘For I was alive without the law once:’—I thought I was perfect. I thought I was satisfactory before God—‘but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died’ (v.9). And the man who had thought he was perfect is heard crying out, ‘Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (v.29). He is in a muddle, in utter confusion. ‘The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (vv. 19–24). That is what the cross of Christ showed him. It showed him that he was a complete, utter, absolute failure, in word, thought and deed. He had nothing to be proud of. He was a wretched abominable failure. The cross had humbled him and crushed him to the ground. Once you see yourself like that, you forget other people.
But there is more. The cross also reveals to us the truth about others. It makes of twain one new man, it deals with both of us, which is why it is so wonderful. I myself have got to be put down first. It is no use until I am humbled, until I stop saying, ‘I am all right, it is the other man.’ I am put down, but then it helps me to see the other man also. The cross shows me that these other people also are souls, that it does not matter what the colour of their skin is, or whether they are wealthy or poor, whether they are very learned or very ignorant. It does not matter whether they are very powerful or very weak, they are souls. They are men and women, like me, made originally in the image of God, and standing before God in all the dignity of human nature. But why do they behave as they do? That is the question, and, before I myself was humbled, I never went beyond that. I said, ‘It is because they are wrong. I am right and they are wrong.’ I have now seen that I am wrong, altogether wrong, but what of them? Ah, now I am enabled to see them in a new way. They are the victims of the devil even as I was. It is that the devil is controlling them, and as I see this I begin to pity them. In other words, what the cross does is to make us both see ourselves exactly as we are and the moment that happens we see that there is no difference at all between us and other people.
You remember how we used to hear, during the last war, of the wonderful things that were happening here in London, how the Duchess and the Mrs Mops were talking together in a very friendly manner, in the same air raid shelter? That is quite right, for when you are within half a centimetre of death, it does not matter very much who you are, does it? Nor what you are by birth. You may both be dead the next moment. So differences were forgotten. Now the cross does that, it shows us that we are all exactly the same. We are one in sin. We are one in failure. We are one in misery. We are one in helplessness and hopelessness. What is the point of boasting that you are a Jew when you are as much a failure as the Gentile? What is the point of boasting that you have got the law, if you cannot keep it? What is the point of boasting about your great brain, if you do not know how to live? What is the point of boasting about your money and your wealth, if you are miserable in your own heart and soul, and filled with jealousy and envy and malice and spite? What is the use of anything? What is the value of anything? What is the point of everything? The cross humbles us.
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
It is the cross of Christ that brings us all down to the same place. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The differences between nations, and groups within them, and individuals, are nothing, when you look at the cross of Christ. We are all miserable, helpless, hopeless sinners. There is nothing in which we can boast, as the Apostle puts it in Philippians 3:7–9, ‘But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom,’ he says, ‘I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.’
Once you really see this message of the cross, you see yourself grovelling on the dust and the floor, a miserable failure, a hopeless sinner. You can do nothing, neither can your neighbour, you are together in your complete helplessness and hopelessness. But thank God it does not leave you there. You both look up together into the face of the one and only Saviour, the Saviour of the world, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He is not only the Saviour of the western world, he is also the Saviour of the people the other side of the Iron Curtain, which is why I never preach against Communism, or against anything else. I am not called to preach against, I am called to hold a Saviour forth. He can save Communists as well as he can save capitalists. He can save black as well as white. He has come to save souls, the Saviour of the world, ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world’. ‘For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Here is the only one who can encompass the whole world, the whole universe, and all in utter helplessness can look to him. And this is what is so wonderful about it —it is he who saves. It is not we, but he who saves. It is not even our believing in him that saves us, it is he who saves us. It is his going to that cross, and submitting himself as the Lamb of God, and having our sins put upon him by his Father, and bearing the stroke, the punishment, for us, that is what saves us. He does it all.
There is nothing for anybody to boast in. ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph 2:8–9). We are all paupers, and as ‘he is our peace’ we are given exactly the same gift. Nobody has got anything to boast about. We have done nothing, we could do nothing. He has done it all. So that Paul in writing to the Romans asks, ‘Where is the boasting then? It is excluded’ (Rom 3:27). ‘He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord’ (1 Cor 1:31). ‘What hast thou,’ says the scripture, ‘that thou didst not receive?’ (1 Cor 4:7). You see the cross makes us one in every respect. We are one in sin, we are one in failure, we are one in helplessness, and in hopelessness. We believe in the one and only Saviour together. We receive the same forgiveness, we are equally the children of God. By grace, we share the same divine life, we have the same hope of glory, and we all look with admiration and praise and rejoicing and glory into the face of the same Saviour.
That is the only way that you will ever get peace in this world. That is how ‘the middle wall of partition’ was broken down between the Jew and the Gentile. What is the point of being a Jew if you cannot keep the law about which you talk so much? None at all. There is no difference. ‘All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ Here is the hope in this world today and there is none other. While men and nations stand up in their arrogance and self-confidence there will be nothing but spite and malice and hatred and war and bitterness and horror. But the moment any man, any woman, sees the truth as it is in Jesus Christ and him crucified, all that is banished, it becomes dung and loss.
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
What fools we all are. What have you to boast in? Who are you? How do you live? You tell me you are a great intellectual, and I ask you, how do you live? What if everybody knew the things you do? What if everybody knew the things you think, or the things you play with in your imagination? Where do you stand? You, who are self-satisfied, are you ready to come up and to be cross-examined, and to be honest and admit how you live, and all the jealous, envious, rapacious thoughts, and how you commit murder in your mind? You have not done what that wretched assassin did in Dallas, Texas, the other day, but you have done it in your spirit. You have murdered people. You hate them with a bitter hatred, and that is the thing that is damnable, and which causes the division, and builds the middle walls of partition. But it is only the cross that tells us that. There is nothing that will humble the pride of men, and of nations, except to see the truth as it is revealed by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But once you have seen it, it will grind you to the dust. You will have nothing to pride yourself in, nothing to boast of, but you will lose your jealousy and your envy. You are one with all sinners, but thank God the cross will show you the way out, and it will lift you up. And lift the others with you. It will make peace, and it will make of twain one new man, so making peace. Together you will be able to go to God with your petitions and with your praise and with your thanksgiving. All the divisions will have gone and you will be one with all who believe the same message, rejoicing in him, and enjoying this new life that he has purchased for you at the cost and the price of his own precious blood.
I wish in many ways that I could believe that the assassination of John F. Kennedy is going to bring the nations of the world together. I know it will not. It cannot. It will probably produce more strife and bitter hatred. But there is a death, there is a murder that once took place, that can reconcile because it reconciles men to God. It reconciles them to one another. Stop thinking in terms of nations, think of yourself first. Is that old pride there, is this the thing that governs you? I pray that God may show us to ourselves in the light of the cross of Christ, that all our ugly pride may go, and that we may see our utter hopelessness and helplessness. I pray that we may look up unto him who loved us so dearly, that he even gave his life voluntarily in order that we might be rescued and saved, reconciled to God, and reconciled to our fellow men and women. God forbid that I should glory in anything save in the death on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.