18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before Him. 30 It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
As I’m sure most of you know, John Macarthur is one of my favourite Bible teachers and commentators. He is not afraid of upsetting people in his single-minded mission to be Biblical in all he says and teaches.
In one of his articles he wrote, “When I first told my father (who was also a pastor) years ago that I felt God had called me to a life of ministry, he gave me a Bible in which he had inscribed these words of encouragement: ‘Preach the Word!’ That simple statement became the compelling stimulus in my heart. It is all I have endeavoured to do in my ministry - preach the Word.”
Preachers all over the world these days tremendous pressure to do everything but preach the Word, but those whose passion is to be Biblical have only one option: 2 Timothy 4:2 says “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.”
When Paul wrote those words to Timothy, he added this prophetic warning: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Clearly there was no room in Paul's philosophy of ministry for the give-people-what-they-want theory that is so prevalent today. His instructions to the young Timothy were clear, and to the point: Preach the Word.
Now this might sound like the obvious thing to say, but preaching Biblical truth is not always easy. The message of God’s truth offends many people.
But we cannot back down. And when I say ‘we’, I’m not just talking about ordained ministers – I’m talking about the Church, and the people within the Church. That includes every one of us here today.
I have always loved the simplicity of Paul’s words in our reading from 1 Corinthians today. Twice he says ‘We preach Christ crucified.”
If Paul were alive today in our modern Churches with all the fancy electronic gizmos, he would be no different. He would preach Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
Just as he did 2000 years ago, he would see his number one task as leading the secular minds of modern people into places where they would encounter the spiritual reality of what God did in the person of Jesus Christ as He died on the cross.
It is very interesting to see that each time the words of Paul about Jesus were recorded in the New Testament, we see the same theme.
He could have preached about the birth of Christ, His baptism, His childhood, or His life. However, he concentrated on proclaiming the significance of His death and resurrection.
The Cross of Christ is the central event in the history of not just the Church, but of all of human history. Why is that? Why is it so important for the Christian Church to consistently and persistently, to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified?
1. The first reason is that Jesus Christ and Him crucified reveals the depravity of sin and our desperate need for salvation.
Why should the sinless, spotless Son of God die on the cross?
Was His death some awful accident in the overall plan of God?
Was His death the mere martyrdom of an idealistic man?
No. The Bible tells us that his death on the cross was substitutionary. He died for the sins of the world.
And what every person needs to realise is that it was his or her sin that put Jesus Christ on the cross. Until we see our deepest need – God’s forgiveness, we will never be able to make sense of Jesus’ death. But once we do – once we understand the awful truth of what sin has done to us, then the Cross of Christ makes perfect sense.
And the difference is amazing. Before we come to Christ, the cross is confusing. It is foolishness, and it makes no sense whatsoever. But the instant the scales fall from our eyes, everything becomes crystal clear, and the reason for the substitutionary death of Jesus is so simple.
In Acts 2 we find Peter’s sermon which he preached at Pentecost, and the reaction of the people is clearly spelt out for us: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter went on to tell them to repent and receive God’s forgiveness, but until they understood their need, it made no sense to them. And the main reason that they did finally get it that day was very simple: Peter preached Christ crucified.
2. A second reason for the Church’s message to be focussed on the Cross of Calvary is that it gives us a clear picture of God’s inflexible justice.
Somehow in contemplating the love of God many of us have forgotten that God is just and righteous.
In 1 John 4:16 we’re told “God is love.”
The Bible is a love story. God’s love is the thread which flows throughout His Word. So yes – absolutely, we need to hear this message over and over again: “For God so loved the world…”
But we cannot forget the rest of John 3:16. “…that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We all like the idea that God loves us, but when this becomes the focal point of our preaching, we ignore some fundamental qualities of His perfect character. We ignore the holiness of God and the wrath of God. God’s wrath is the other side of His love.
It is His eternal anger and fury with everything which is sinful and destructive which makes the cross so necessary.
The law of God will bring punishment on sin, because God is determined to eradicate sin from the world, and in a manner which defies complete comprehension, Jesus Christ was both the expression of God’s love and mercy and the victim of God’s justice.
2 Corinthians 5:21 will help us to understand this mystery:
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
There are two opposite extremes which are equally dangerous when it comes to preaching. We can either concentrate solely on the love of God and tell people not to worry, because God just loves us so much, and isn’t that wonderful. When we do this, we ignore our need of mercy and forgiveness because of our sin.
On the other end of the scale, we can tell people over and over again that they are just a bunch of miserable sinners, doomed to destruction and that God is constantly angry with them. We can strike terror into peoples’ hearts if we don’t tell them about God’s love and mercy too.
So how do we guard against these two extremes? It’s really quite simple: Preach Christ crucified. Remember, Jesus Christ is both the expression of God’s love and mercy and the victim of God’s justice.
The Cross of Calvary gives us a perfect picture of God’s character. It shows His love and mercy, while at the same time we see His perfect and righteous wrath and justice vividly portrayed.
3. The third reason to preach Christ crucified is that it shows us very clearly the terrible penalty of sin.
Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death.”
The law of sin and death was revealed to us in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were warned about the penalty of sin, but they chose to ignore that advice, and so as a result, we all have the penalty of sin hanging over us.
Because of sin, physical death and spiritual death came upon the human race. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.
What we need to remember is that God created us for eternal fellowship with Him. The one thing which sets us apart from every other creature is that we were made in His image. Adam’s very first breath was when God breathed life into him. We carry God’s DNA, and whether we believe it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, our deepest, innermost desire is to be right with Him.
Even the worst of sinners have that need, despite the fact that they might deny it.
And the dreadful penalty of our sin is that unless we repent and turn to Christ, we will spend all of eternity apart from God. That is what hell is really all about. It is a place where God is not. That’s the price we will pay for our sin, and that should be enough to strike terror into any human heart.
But I have good news for you today, because we preach Christ crucified.
Jesus took on Himself my sin and your sin, and He bore it to the cross. On the cross He felt the utter desolation of being completely alone. While He was on the cross, He experienced hell – a place where God was not. And He did it for you, so that you won’t have to experience that awful loneliness. If you have turned to Jesus in faith, you will never have to cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Hell is full of people crying those exact words right now.
We need to choose to either let Christ bear the penalty of our sin or we must bear it ourselves. He has paid the penalty of our sin so that we might be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God.
4. The fourth reason to preach Christ crucified is that it reveals our value in God’s eyes.
People need desperately to realise that in the eyes of God they are of infinite worth. In a day when life seems so cheap, and in a world where virtually everything is disposable, we need to recognise that God looks on each of us as being of infinite value.
And He revealed that value so graphically on the Cross of Calvary. It is here where He proved beyond any doubt that He would do what it takes and would pay whatever price was necessary in order to rescue us.
In 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 Paul says “You were bought at a price.”
Would you allow your own child to be put to death, so that someone who hates you, who hates your child, and everything that you stand for could walk away scot-free?
Of course you wouldn’t! But that is precisely what God has done for you. That is how much you are worth to Him. You were bought at a price.
5. The final reason to preach Christ crucified which we’ll look at this morning is that it reveals the love of God for each of us.
Nothing but love could have led Jesus Christ to the cross.
Nothing but the love of God could have kept Jesus on the cross when He was challenged to come down and prove that He was God.
“Those who passed by hurled insults at Him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:39-40)
Had He done that, our salvation would be incomplete, so out of love for us, He endured it to the very end.
It’s been said before that it was the nails which put Him there, but it was His love for us that kept Jesus on the cross.
Jesus Christ on the cross speaks with a voice that goes around the world telling people that God is for us and not against us. God loves us and does not hate us. God wants to bless us and not curse us. God wants to enrich us and not impoverish us.
How have you responded to Jesus Christ and Him crucified? Have you ignored Him, have you evaded Him, or have you yielded the throne of your heart to His love?
The good news is that you can trust completely the one who loves you to the degree that Jesus Christ loves you. Not only did Jesus die, but He also conquered death and the grave.
And He still lives on in the hearts of believers today.
And this is why any Christian Church worth its salt will continue to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
As long as the Church is faithful to the Cross, as long as it holds up to a dying world Christ and Him crucified, it will have power and glory, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.