For millennia man has sought God, and in seeking him has tried to figure out the best way to to restore that relationship with him. Genesis tells us God would commune with Adam, and that communion ended because of sin.
The sin of mankind created a barrier between us and God, and since the beginning of that separation we have tried to mend that relationship through various ways. There is a part of man which yearns for a relationship with his creator. Shortly after the expulsion from the Garden, we find Cain and Abel offering sacrifice to God.
Then mankind as a whole, as recorded in Genesis 4:46
“Then people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
But there was a problem. How could a corrupted man commune with and incorruptible God?
God knew mankind was incapable of overcoming the barrier of separation between Himself and those who sought him, so He himself would have to provide the solution. A costly solution, but one expressing the love of the creator for his creation. By offering his own son as a sacrifice, a payment for those sins, God would provide a way for man to return to him.
But this salvation would not come at once, it would be centuries later (this hints our concept of time is different than God’s). God instructed man, through the law and the prophets, that the savior of mankind was coming to provide salvation, and that savior would be his Son.
But the salvation offered would be a choice. Just as man was given free will to obey God in the garden, man would have to freely chose to accept the sacrifice of His only son. Just as the scriptures foretold of the coming savior, they also foretold of his rejection, as we see in Psalms 118:21-22:
“And you have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected, has become the chief corner stone.”
To raise a stone structure, the starting point is always the first corner stone put down, it’s called the ‘chief’ corner stone. The stone selected was the best of all of the stones, perfect as it were, and God’s corner stone is his Son, the Lord Jesus. God’s Son would be crucified at the hands of the very creatures for whom His sacrifice was made.
The cornerstone, the foundation of the restoration of a relationship with God was rejected. As he walked among men, while dying on the cross, even after Jesus was rose from the dead, He was rejected. The way of salvation, the way of returning to a relationship with the creator, was rejected. Man chose not to believe.
The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross is just as valid today as then.
Why was the sacrifice of God’s son, the Lord Jesus, rejected by so many, even those who had sought his appearance for centuries, and while he walked among us?
The Apostle Paul tells us why this rejection takes place in I Corinthians 1:23:
“but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.”
The stumbling block can be something you trip over while looking for something else. It can alter your your path, it gets your attention, even if it does so momentarily. It can also be the obvious answer. But too often, we ignore the obvious, and continue to look for the complicated, in unbelief that a choice so profound could be so simple.
The stumbling block of the cross to the Jews was because their disobedience to God blinded them to the truth. The more they became entangled in ritual, observing so many rules and regulations, God’s solution was overlooked, ignored, or explained away.
It was too simple, it couldn’t be that simple, but it was.
The Jews were so immersed in the keeping rules, laws, regulations, and rituals, they convinced themselves they would recognize their savior the minute he appeared to restore the nation of Israel to it’s former glory.
They were convinced the savior would be another Moses. A savior that would come and save them by displaying the power of God, overthrowing their Roman captors, restoring their freedom, just as Moses did with the Egyptians. How the Jews believed the savior would appear is revealed while the savior himself listened to two men, after His resurrection, on the road to Emmaus.
“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21)
They were so convinced their efforts and expertise of God’s word was right, they completely ignored the basic rule of salvation. Even while walking and talking with him!
Sacrifice first, then salvation. That was their stumbling block, they tripped over the sacrifice and went right to salvation, and missed them both. Jesus was rejected by the Jews because he came, as foretold, as the sacrifice, to pay the price first, to take away the sins of the world. They rejected the sacrifice of God’s son.
The tabernacle, and later the temple, was a working model of how salvation was to come. Before the priest could enter into the tabernacle and make an offering, a sacrifice had to be made on the alter outside of the place of communion. No sacrifice- no entry into the tabernacle. First sacrifice, then restoration of a relationship with God.
The Jews not only rejected the sacrifice, they even mocked Jesus while He was on the cross:
“If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Mathew 27:40)
“If He is the king of Israel, let Him now, come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” (Mathew 27:42)
What was the result? Henceforth God would remove the means of the daily sacrifice for sin, since it would no longer be possible to commune with God through the daily animal sacrifice. Jesus became the permanent sacrifice. As foretold, the Jews would lose the Temple, yet instead of embracing the only sacrifice that would save them, they rejected it.
Today orthodox Jews still participate in their elaborate rituals and rules, wandering in the wilderness, looking for something that has already happened. Their rabbi’s continue to argue over the correct interpretation of the scriptures, trying to figure out when their savior will come.
The savior has already come. The way of salvation is permanently established. The cornerstone is set, God is constructing his church. When the construction is complete, the savior will return, not as a lamb, but as a ruler, and vengeance will be exacted on those who reject His sacrifice.
The sacrifice made by God’s son, paved the way for mankind to be saved, to restore man’s relationship with God. A way that removes the separation of sin. That fills the void left by the separation from God. By how many ways has man sought to fill this void, but never found it.
The cross has become a stumbling block to the Gentiles as well.
“I am the way, the truth, and the light.”(John 14:6)
To Gentiles, the sacrifice doesn’t make sense. It’s too simple, too easy. For a God who created such a complex creation as the universe, who loved mankind so much he would sacrifice his own Son, is ridiculous. Knowledge is our stumbling block.
What do you mean God created the world in six days? The earth is millions, if not billions of years old, not thousands. The geological record proves that. Does it? Are we talking about cosmology or geology?
To ‘smart people,’ or should I say overly educated people, Genesis is allegory. God didn’t create the world and man – science proves the universe was the result of a big bang and man evolved. ‘Smart people’ can’t accept the fact there is a God. They think figuring all of this out, scientifically explaining it, will somehow replace God. That it will fill that void in their lives they can’t explain.
To them, finding God through the cross is foolishness, and faith is not proof. Yet science is often theory, conjecture, best guess, which is not proof either. I don’t reject science, I’m excited by the advancement of so many of the sciences, and how they’ve improved life on earth. God has given dominion over all the things in the earth.
But those improvements cannot fill that inner void, which can only be filled by a relationship with God. God never intended knowledge to replace Him, but to work along side Him. You can be a great scientist and be a great at the same time. Thinking that it has to be either or is a stumbling block, and a lie.
Christians wrestle with the simplicity of the cross. We see in the Apostolic writings there was a continual temptation to walk away from the simplicity of the cross, and create a more elaborate system of worship. What days to worship, how to worship, or how long to worship. What outfits the leaders of the church are to wear. How many candles to burn, how to act, how to talk, what doctrine to follow, and on and on.
With each one of these new rules, doctrines, and forms of worship, came divisions and arguments. The Apostles fought this kind of nonsense, and warned the early Christians to avoid such entanglements. When early Christians pressed the Apostle Paul to chose sides, he said this:
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2)
No matter what rituals and doctrines you construct for yourself in your worship, be aware there are two truths you cannot avoid. One, you cannot save yourself. Every ritual you perform is an effort to help save yourself. Every doctrine you cling to is a feeble effort to convince yourself what you believe is the right way. The only way. But in fact, it’s the wrong way. You have partaken of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and have ignored the tree of life.
You can’t earn your salvation. Don’t you realize by engaging in ever more complicated rituals, and expanding doctrine (rules) causes divisions among you. The Apostle Paul evidenced this when he said:
My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.
Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? (I Corinthians 1:11-13)
Cease these vain pursuits, and focus on the new life bestowed because of the sacrifice on the cross. Sacrifice yourselves on the cross to the world and enter into the holy place through the door of Jesus.
The second truth you cannot avoid, is faith. Lack of faith, in itself, can be a stumbling block. There are some things we must accept, even though they cannot be explained. Some profess to believe in Jesus, and His sacrifice, yet when it comes to other matters, their faith fades away to doubt.
There is no need for me to make an exhaustive list of these other matters. But be warned, many will try to destroy your faith, and justify their own unbelief, by questioning things you cannot explain. Genesis says God created the world in 6 days. I believe that. Can I explain how He did it? No. I have gleaned some spiritual insight into how I think some of the events happened, but I cannot explain them.
The bible says 6 days. It doesn’t matter if those days were 24 hrs long, or a billion hours long, I refuse to allow my lack of understanding of the how of creation, make any difference in my relationship with God.
Exodus says God divided the waters and the Israelite’s crossed through on dry land. If this miracle came about by wind, some kind of cosmic event, or one of a dozen other explanations, it makes no difference in my relationship with my savior. Just because I can’t explain it, doesn’t make it untrue.
Fossil excavations prove there were dinosaurs (or creatures we call dinosaurs) on the earth at a previous dispensation of time. Whether they were part of the current creation and destroyed during the flood, or they were part of a previous creation and destroyed, it doesn’t alter my faith in God.
The same people that mock the belief in God creating man, believe man evolved from a monkey primate. They’ve spent untold time and resources looking for a ‘missing link’ trying to prove their theory. Their faith is in their theory, mine is in God.
I believe in evolution, to a degree. Genesis even details the order of creation as science proposes, but Genesis also says man is a unique creation, and my faith is sound; I have no fear of any new discovery that will change that. Every time science attempts to prove the scripture wrong, they fail. Knowledge has become their stumbling block.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (Romans 1:22)
There are spiritual things I am privy to, and some I am not. I use what I am privy to to strengthen my obedience to the Lord, and I accept, by faith, what I am not privy to. I do not allow the spiritual things I don’t understand to become a stumbling block to my faith.
The older I get, and the more I hear about others ranting on about the validity of their doctrine, the more I’m drawn to the verse;
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2)
How many quotes from scripture instruct in the simplicity of salvation by the sacrifice on the cross? Too many to list here, but yes it really is that simple. So will you continue to trip over the stumbling block of faith, or will you pick it up and use it as the chief cornerstone of your life.
“What must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:30)
To simple? Time and time again, God tested his people, to see if they would obey, by issuing a single commandment, and every time they failed. God today has not only issued a single requirement of obedience, but has given us the power, through the Holy Spirit, to keep it.
Whether you are an unbeliever, a Jew, or a Christian, don’t allow your knowledge, pride, or anything else to be or become a stumbling block, deterring you from a relationship with God.