Persuasion, the Cross, and the Resurrection
Once people have been convicted of their sins, the door is opened up for them to be persuaded concerning God’s solution to the problem of sin. This solution culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Whatever else Christians seek to persuade others about, the cross is front and center. Paul wrote to a troubled church in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Not that Paul never dealt with other issues, as the epistle itself shows, but that every issue still needs to find the cross at its center. Without the cross of Christ and the subsequent resurrection, there is no Christianity.
Persuading people to accept the cross is unique in terms of challenges. Recall again that to the Jews the message of the cross of Christ was a stumbling block and to the Greeks it was foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). To the believer, however, the word of the cross is the power of God, and this is why the believer knows that others need that same message. This is why they want to share the good news. They know that herein lies true salvation and grace.
The message of the cross is not about a political system; it is about a fundamental relationship between God and human beings. The kingdom of God is not of this world, but it is a about being transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom, the rule, and the reign of God’s dear Son, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). Trying to persuade people to understand and accept the cross is an effort to get people to see sin for what it is, to see themselves in need of the Savior, and to submit themselves to the rule of the King.
The cross needs to be seen within the total view of God’s plans and purposes. Many people died on Roman crosses in the first century, but the message of the cross of Christ transcends the first century into all eternity, for through His blood “He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). The persuasive power of the message of the cross is not found just in a death, but in what that death accomplished.
Perhaps this is why Jesus would say in John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” The drawing power of the death of Jesus is in a mission accomplished for the sake of all humanity. It is a message of love, of grace and mercy, and of a commitment from God to provide life for all eternity to those who submit themselves to Him in faith.
The death of Jesus Christ was not the end of the matter. If all that occurred was death, then death would never have been fully defeated. The resurrection of Jesus, then, is the signal event that demonstrates the truth of all the claims. This is also the claim that is the most difficult of which to persuade people. Many will accept that Jesus lived and died. They see that the same as they would see anyone from the past. However, to convince them that Jesus rose from the dead is another story. Christians understand that this is difficult. After all, when it’s all said and done, Christians are asking people to believe that a dead man came alive again. That’s not something anyone expects to see.
Since God does not want anyone to be gullible, He has provided for the repository of evidence to be documented. Luke starts his Gospel by indicating how his investigation included eyewitnesses. Paul, writing about twenty years after the events in question, says that the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus Christ are “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:1-4). He then lists a number of witnesses, including himself. One of the important factors in this Corinthians epistle is that there were those in Corinth who were denying the resurrection, yet were apparently failing to see the implications of what those denials meant. If there is no resurrection, then Christ was not raised, and if Christ was not raised, then everyone is still in their sins and faith is vain. Even in Corinth, those who were supposed to be Christians already needed further convincing of the truth of the resurrection.
Acts 4:33 describes the preaching of the apostles: “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.” The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, and so they were among the first to persecute the disciples. Yet opposition never stopped the disciples from preaching what they knew to be true. They were on a mission to persuade the world that Christ died for their sins and rose again to defeat death and be the King sitting on His throne. This same message is what Christians continue to teach. It is what the world needs. It will take persuading. It will take reason, explanation, and proof. It will take commitment and love. Yet it remains the most critical message the world has ever known or needed.