I Cor. 1: 23-24 “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
There is that strong desire today to change the traditional forms of worship to God. Nor is change as such wrong. However, attempts are made to change the very means which God has given to strengthen and comfort His saints. Many would enliven the preaching of the Word by adding variety to it. Others would replace it by that which is more entertaining: movies, drama, or something similar. Much of this drive for innovations strikes a responsive chord in the heart of the young. Therefore, it is proper that we consider what the Word of God teaches in this respect – for this must be our infallible guide.
The apostle Paul addressed the church of Corinth – a church which had many and serious problems. He points out to them that he himself (and this is true for every faithful minister of God’s Word) preached only Christ crucified to them. Such preaching was not popular with men, but it was required by God. Let us never forget that demand today as well: preaching must be preaching of the cross.
What is involved in preaching Christ crucified? First of all, such preaching emphasizes the total depravity of man. If man is not a dead sinner, there is no need of a cross; no need of atonement. But because man is dead in sin, unable to deliver himself, therefore the cross is necessary unto the salvation of sinners.
Secondly, this preaching emphasizes what seems to be an awful way of deliverance. One, the Son of God Himself, must bear the vials of the wrath of God in order to deliver His people from their sins. The cross represents atonement. It suggests that the righteous God requires perfect and complete payment – and that payment He required was offered up on the cross.
Thirdly, preaching Christ crucified necessarily emphasizes that salvation is wholly of God. One cannot in honesty preach Christ crucified and emphasize the “free will” of man. He cannot preach Christ crucified, and yet insist that it is up to man first to “accept Christ” in order that he might be born again. He who preaches Christ crucified insists thereby that salvation is wholly of the Lord.
That must be the content of the preaching. That preaching is necessary as a means of grace is evident from Romans 10 and other passages. But also the content of such preaching is clearly spelled out in this Word of God. This must be the whole of the preaching – the cross is always the center. Young people: do not be swayed by any of the “modern” innovations; always insist on hearing preaching of Christ crucified.
That such preaching is unpopular is understandable. The apostle points out that this is for the Jews a stumbling block and for the Greeks it is foolishness. A “stumbling block” is more literally a “scandal” or a trigger to a trap. Evan as the mouse bites at the trigger which contains the cheese – to his own destruction, so too did the Jews with Christ. In seeking to destroy Him, they destroy themselves. For them, Christ represented weakness – when they wanted strength. The Jews sought a king who would lead their armies against Rome. They wanted one who would establish them as a mighty nation on earth again. But Christ was not such in their estimation. Christ hung on the cross. Such a One cannot lead armies. He did not even take Himself down from the cross – He did not prove His strength to the Jews as they wanted this proved.
The Greeks considered the crucified Christ as foolishness. The Greeks insisted on their own brand of logic; on their own philosophies. These wanted to draw conclusions, to find answers to the problems of the age. But the cross appeared in no wise as the source of any answer. A crucified One could not, apparently, solve the philosophical problems of man. He cannot lead this world, apparently, to peace and prosperity. To the Greek, the cross was nothing but foolishness.
This two-fold reaction to the cross is evident today as well. Basically, all men regard the cross either to be weakness or foolishness – or both. No other response could be expected of the dead sinner. He hates God – and hates any way which God devises to deliver His people from sin and death.
But to the called ones, the cross is both wisdom and power. Those who are called are the elect of God – chosen from before the foundation of the earth. They have been regenerated by the Spirit of the Son – a regeneration in which the life of Christ is planted within their hearts. And under the preaching of the Word, these have been called to a conscious spiritual life. These can see and know what natural man refuses to confess. These, because they are born again, can see the kingdom of God indeed (John 3:3).
What do these see in the cross? They see there first of all: power of God. It is, of course, power of God, and must be judged according to God’s standards. That cross represents God’s power whereby He lifts dead sinners into newness of life. It represents that power of God whereby He will now direct all things unto the salvation of His elect. It is the power which preserves His people through all their weary way on this earth, till finally He powerfully brings them to heaven. No earthly power can compare to that Power. That power of the cross overcomes the power of the evil men, of the devil, nay, even directs these “powers” to serve His sovereign purpose. That is power indeed!
But also in that cross is seen true wisdom. This too is the wisdom of God, not a wisdom of man’s devising. Wisdom is seen in that through this cross God has revealed in the highest possible degree the love which is within Himself. The cross represents the amazing love which gives God’s own Son to deliver a corrupt and undeserving people from sin and death. In no other conceivable way could the love of God be revealed to such a degree. The same can be said concerning the manifestation of God’s mercy, of His grace, of His righteousness and justice. The cross represents the highest possible revelation of these within creation. Whenever one beholds the cross, he cannot help but be amazed at that which God has done. The cross does not satisfy man’s wisdom, but the child of God knows differently.
Such preaching gives comfort and assurance to the saints of God. Such preaching is used as the means of bringing sinners to the foot of the cross. True, it does not “entertain” in ways which please man. True, it will not attract the “hippies” nor does it come down to their level. The preaching does not become a “doing one’s own thing.” It is rather the proclamation of the pure Word of God given to us infallibly in Scripture. We want nothing else; we need nothing more. For such emphasizes properly that the glory for our salvation is God’s both now and forevermore.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 3 May 1970