A. W. Tozer on the Radical Cross

The following is excerpted from A. W. Tozer’s essay, “The Cross is a Radical Thing,” found in his book, The Root of the Righteous. I trust you will find it a meaningful meditation on the cross for this Good Friday.

“The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men.

“The cross of the Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took him down six hours later …

“After Christ was risen from the dead the apostles went out to preach His message, and what they preached was the cross … The radical message of the cross transformed Saul of Tarsus and changed him from a persecutor of Christians to a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. Its power changed bad men into good ones. It shook off the long bondage of paganism and altered completely the whole moral and mental outlook of the Western world.

“All this it did and continued to do as long as it was permitted to remain what it had been originally, a cross. Its power departed when it was changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty. When men made of it a symbol, hung it around their necks as an ornament … then it became at best a weak emblem … As such it is revered today by millions who know absolutely nothing about its power …

“Christ said: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23) So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern … in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins. This, and nothing less, is true Christianity …

“We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do – flee it or die upon it. And if we should be so foolhardy as to flee we shall by that act put away the faith of our fathers and make of Christianity something other than it is …

“If we are wise we will do what Jesus did: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us … The cross will cut into our lives where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputations. It will defeat us and bring our selfish lives to an end. Only then can we rise in fullness of life to establish a pattern of living wholly new and free and full of good works.

“The changed attitude toward the cross that we see … proves not that God has changed, nor that Christ has eased up on His demand that we carry the cross; it means rather that current Christianity has moved away from the standards of the New Testament. So far have we moved indeed that it may take nothing short of a new reformation to restore the cross to its right place in the theology and life of the Church.”


  1. David Wilson says:

    Great, great quote. Helps me put it all into perspective today. Thanks.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Hi David – You’re welcome. Tozer nails it on the head with this one. I find it a great meditation on the cross, especially for Good Friday.

  3. Rocco Rausch says:

    Thanks Ray!

    For posting Tozer’s words on a day like today. I’ve reposted it on Twitter and hope the call to authentic faith will find it’s way through the churches of today again.

    All the blesses,
    Rocco Rausch
    C&MA minister in the Netherlands

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Rocco – Thanks for spreading the good word, and all the best with your ministry. My wife and I were married in a C&MA church.

  5. Victor Khiz says:

    It’s amazing how Jesus sets such a high standard on the Christian life and yet doesn’t leave us hanging on to our own strength to pick up our cross and follow him. He lovingly provides the needed grace to fulfill this command.

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