Is the Ground Level at the Foot of the Cross?

As I have spent the past few weeks meditating on the death of Christ in the Scriptures, I happened to read a quote this week attributed to Billy Graham, “The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.”

At first, I thought about Calvary’s hill and how hilly Jerusalem is in general. I realized Graham was probably not making a topographical assertion, so I broadened the scope of my inquiry to test the validity of his claim. What I found were various interpretations of what Graham actually meant when he communicated these words.

Besides the topographical interpretation, I noted that at the time of Billy Graham’s death, one South African pastor quoted Graham and applied these words to racial equality. Revelation 5:9 clearly reveals that God’s elect people will be drawn to Christ, by God the Father (Jn 6:44), from every nation, tribe, and tongue. So, although our topographical application failed the test, this level, racial ground seems to be one tenable interpretation, if that is indeed what Graham meant.

Next, I read, the application of Graham’s quote, from yet another, to mean that all people have the same opportunity to be saved by Christ’s death on the cross.

Before I address this option, let us learn how dangerous isolated Bible verses, isolated quotes from people, and memes purporting wisdom (ie. There is only one race…the human race!”) can be in communicating the wrong message.

Here is one example, “Christ died for us…” might be read by one interpreter as, “Christ died for all people without exception,” which means “us” is the whole human race. Another might interpret “us” to mean, “the church,” which has open doors for anyone to come in on the condition of profession of faith. A third person might interpret “Christ died for us…” to mean “the elect of God before creation, born of God in time.” Thus, one short sentence may produce three very different interpretations. What is needed is context for the quote, and also, correlation to see if it is even true.

Billy Graham had an original, authorial intent with this quote. In other words, when he first spoke or wrote these words, he meant one thing. We have already seen two interpreted meanings for, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Without context, we see how men take his quote and do with it whatever they wish for it to mean.

Is it true that the ground is level in Christ’s death on the cross? Do all people have the same opportunity to be saved by Christ’s death? Christians who read their Bibles would have to say, “No, it is not true that the ground is level at the cross.” Let us consider a few reasons.

First, God had an intent in causing His only begotten Son to die on a tree. The saving love of God had to satisfy the justice of God. God’s beloved, chosen people were loved before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5). Christ demonstrated His love toward these very people, by dying in their place and on their behalf (Rom 5:6–8). In other words, “He came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21).” Obviously, the reverse is true, too. He did not come to save people who were not His people from their sins. Election and reprobation are two doctrines evidencing that the ground is not level at the cross.

Second, Jesus taught, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:44).” It is like Costco or Sam’s Club. With these grocery stores, you must have a membership to get in. Election is God’s membership. The Holy Spirit is one’s membership card. If you have been given the Holy Spirit, He will draw you to Christ. The reverse is true, too. If you have not been given the Holy Spirit, you will not come to Christ (Jn 6:37).

There is nothing perverse in this economy. The Bible teaches that there is absolutely no one who seeks membership, meaning no one seeks for God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit (Rom 3:11). Effectual calling is another doctrine evidencing that the ground is not level at the cross.

Third, throughout the history of the world, some have heard of Christ and others have not. Still, the Bible assures us that not one of Christ’s sheep will be lost, that is, nothing can separate God’s elect people from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:35–39). God has chosen Spirit-filled preachers, preaching the Word of Christ, to be the means for gathering His church. Those men and that message have never fully reached all of humanity, even today. So, we can conclude some have never heard, some have heard and never believed, and some have heard and believed the Gospel message. Thus, the scope of preaching (not everyone has had the opportunity to hear) and actualized faith (not everyone has received the grace from God to believe) are two more practical doctrines evidencing that the ground is not level at the cross.

In conclusion, we have considered various meanings to Billy Graham’s quote. We have addressed the problem with isolated quotes. We have demonstrated that Graham’s quote is true, if it pertains to racial equality (no partiality), in who is actually saved (Rev 5:9). We have also demonstrated that Graham’s quote is false when it pertains to topography and the extent of the atonement.

With regard to the atonement, we have seen, first, how the doctrine of election and reprobation deny the ground is level at the cross. Christ died for the elect, His church, but His church is not everyone in the world. Second, we saw how not everyone is effectually called. We used the analogy of a membership-only grocery store to illustrate how all do not wish to enter, but we learned what is required when some are drawn in by the grace of effectual calling. Finally, we saw how not all people throughout history have been privy to Gospel preaching. No one can deny, this was almost entirely exclusive to ethnic Israel in the Old Testament. This exclusivity remains, today, in the remnant of God’s elect, effectually called out from all nations.

Thus, we can be sure God the Father is sovereign to love whom He has chosen. We can be sure Christ death was 100% effectual for paying for the sins of those He has loved and chosen. We can be sure the Holy Spirit has found 100% of Christ’s lost sheep from around the world and across history. This is the sure salvation at the foot of the cross.

Although the ground is not level at the foot of the cross, we can rejoice that none of His has ever fallen down the slippery slope into destruction. This is blessed assurance, indeed.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

August 27, 2021

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher