The Message of the Cross

Grace abounds only where human need is most keenly felt.

by Derrel Emmerson

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs that he did they all paid close attention to what he said.” Acts 8:1, 4-6

With the stoning of Stephen the open persecution of the church in Jerusalem began on a wider scale. As a result, the disciples of Christ scattered in all direction while the apostles remained in place to face their persecutors. No doubt, this act of courage of the apostles fired the believers who had been scattered. Those believers continued in proclaiming Christ to the regions to which they had been scattered. Thus the persecution resulted in diffusing the message as the believers were scattered.

It takes time to build such courage in a community. A courageous leadership certainly helps to inspire such courage. However, counting the cost comes only as we see the resistance. It took hard times for the early church to rise to the occasion. It takes time for the church today even as it becomes unpopular in societies. Yet, through it all, there are always those who find their feet on that solid foundation of Christ. When they do, they carry the church and the message of Christ forward more powerfully than it is proclaimed in times of general acceptance.

Throughout the centuries the church that has the grace of God upon it is the church that suffers. It was so with the church behind the Iron Curtain. It has been so with the church in China. It has been so almost everywhere. Why? It is because the gospel is a message of the cross and not of ease. When that is seen and believed it really empowers the Christian because grace abounds only where human need is most keenly felt. In hard times we can take comfort in this.

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