The whole of the New Testament message and of the Old Testament promise finds its center in the Atonement for sin by the death of our Saviour. “In the Cross of Christ I glory…” But who can preach such a Gospel, such a word of the cross unless they themselves have made the encounter and surrender at Calvary. “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Those who preach the word of the cross must themselves be crucified with Christ. “Peace be unto you. And when he had so said he showed them his hands and his side …As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:19b-21). The cross is not only truly and primarily and supremely expiatory but it is also exemplary. It whispers peace within but calls for struggle without. It has motive as well as message. Those who have once seen the scars of Jesus can never live the old life again. He never hid His scars to win disciples. He showed them. They proved His victory, and are the badge of His eternal authority.
Christ the Son of God hath sent me
To the midnight lands,
Mine the mighty ordination
Of the pierced hands.
No wonder that Paul uses a strange word when he speaks of his own apostolic ministry and of Christ’s suffering. It is used only once again in the New Testament. In Luke’s gospel Jesus tells us of the poor widow who cast into the treasury all she had out of her penury. Paul grasps that same Greek word and exclaims: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and fill up on my part the penury of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
To Job and his friends, suffering was a problem to be solved. To Paul it became a joyful privilege to be shared. When Christ met him on the Damascus road He must have showed him the scars also for He spoke of suffering, His own and Paul’s. “Why persecutest thou me? …I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:4b, 16).
Far more significant than the stigmata on the hands of St. Francis were the print of the nails and the mark of the spear in his daily life. He obeyed Christ literally, sold all that he had, gave to the poor, and lived in a deserted lazar-house, preached everywhere in humility and with passionate love even for heretics and Moslems. The life stories of David Livingstone, Henry Martyn, James Gilmour, Mary Slessor and all the great missionary pioneers bear the print of the nails.
He who ne’er broke his bread with blinding tears,
Nor crushed upon his pillow in the night,
Wrung out his soul and fought his bitter fight,
He knows not truly joy that conquers fear.
The call for missionary volunteers is as urgent today as it was in the days of Robert P. Wilder. But the demand of the hour and for every mission field is quality rather than quantity. Only those who have suffered, who have iron in their blood, can serve a generation that has seen so much “blood and sweat and tears.” Neither Japan nor China today will hearken to any easy-going Gospel spoken by those who have never borne a cross after Jesus. We are living in an age of new martyrdoms.
The present world situation reflects that of the Roman Empire in the days of the apostles. Will the Church ever experience a real revival without a return to a life of self-denial?
Soldiers of Christ, arise! There is no armistice for Christians until after Armageddon. In the Book of Revelation we read that there was war in heaven. It was a war of light against darkness, and the victor was won by testimony.
Only those who love truth more than life are really soldiers of the Cross. The New Testament is a book of heroism. We are told to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and everyone is drafted into the army of our Captain who is not ashamed of His cross.
Christ’s shortest of all parables is also the sharpest. It pierces through all our callous selfishness and self-indulgence. “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). And then the dreadful alternatives: “under a bushel,” a life for gain; “under a bed,” (Luke 8:16) a life of lazy ease, “on a candlestick,” a life of sacrificial service. Which is yours?
Japanese and Chinese art have plenty of rotund Buddhas gazing in fat complacency at vacuity. The saints of Hinduism are grotesque and ghastly; they do not present their bodies a living sacrifice for others, only for self-torture. The Christian ideal is expressed by Paul: “Endure hardness (with me) as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 2:3). One of His disciples, a medical missionary in Kashmir wrote this prayer.
“Master, here for Thy service we render to Thee flesh, bone, and sinew, the physical frame Thou hast given. Teach us to use it aright for Thy glory; teach us to treat it for Thee as a good machine which we hold in trust to be tended and kept for Thy purpose. Teach us to use it remorselessly, sternly, yet never misuse; and as it slowly or swiftly wears out, grant us the joy of the knowledge that it wears out for Thee. Amen.”
In such sense our bodies are to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20a). And not only our bodies but our minds. The true herald of the Gospel must bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5b).
We are to discipline our minds by fearless thinking and dauntless pursuit of the truth without compromise. After solitude with Christ for three years in Arabia, Paul never indulged in superficial philosophies or vain deceits—what he calls “the cunning craftiness” of men (Ephesians 4:14). His philosophy of life was on fire with an irrevocable decision. He was blind to all but his Master. “I could not see for the glory of that light” (Acts 22:11). “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19b).