The Apostle Paul wanted his readers and hearers of his message to the Church at Corinth to know the content of the message! Content is always important. Consequently, the apostle disclosed to the Christians at Corinth the "content" of his message." We preach Christ crucified!” That's what Paul purposed to preach and that is indeed what he did preach. He gloried in the Cross of Christ. Look at the results of preaching Christ crucified. First, we see that Paul discloses that Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews. Christ crucified was foolishness to the Greeks. The whole world at that time, in essence, was divided into Jew and Greek. It is essentially the same today. Of course, there is a third category. The third category is “those who are called, both Jews and Greeks.” To them who were called by God Himself, the message of Christ crucified is not a stumbling block nor is it foolishness, but Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God to bring people to salvation.
Earlier in the first Chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle had disclosed that he had not been sent to baptize, but to preach the Gospel of Christ. He also disclosed the manner in which he was to preach: “not with wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” The manner of “wisdom of words” could refer to philosophy, it could also refer to the promotion of the speaker rather than the promotion of the message; it could have been as simple as using big words – intellectual words – when simple straightforward words would have been better. Mostly it would appear that the message should be preached by a humble messenger, who is being careful to make the message the important matter and not the messenger!
The question must be asked whether the Apostle knew that the message that he was preaching of Christ crucified caused the Jews to stumble and caused the Greeks to react with foolishness; the answer, of course, is that it is certain that he did, for he is disclosing it in this passage of scripture. Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul did not alter the message. We must not alter the message either. We must preach Christ crucified, for it is the power of God and the wisdom of God to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks.
We will take a brief look at the message and the reasons for the message in what follows.
I. THE MESSAGE: CHRIST CRUCIFIED
The question might well be asked, why preach Christ crucified, if it is a stumbling block to the Jews and if it is foolishness to the Greeks. The first indication of the reason for the preaching of the message of Christ crucified is found in the passage of scripture itself in the 24th verse. First, we see that salvation is a calling. The Lord God sends salvation to those to whom He calls. While everyone receives a general call to come to Jesus, not everyone receives an “effectual call". Obviously, Paul is well aware of the fact (for so he states) that the preaching of the message of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek, however, it is the message that he has been given to preach. It is also the message which we have been given to preach. It can't be watered down; it can't be avoided; and, we dare not preach any other message – any other gospel – than that which has been given. For Paul says, that “Christ has sent him to preach the Gospel of Christ” (verse 17) because salvation is a sheer gift of God, He, and He alone, has chosen the message that brings about salvation. Christ crucified!
Second, it is an exclusive message. In Acts Chapter Four, the Apostle Peter and the Apostle John had healed a lame man in the name of Jesus and were called into question for doing so, when they were interrogated regarding by what power or by what name they had done this, they responded that “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4: 10 – 12) There is no other name by which mankind can be saved. There is no other name that is the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation other than Jesus, therefore, the message is Christ crucified.
Jesus Himself emphasized the fact of this exclusivity. In Matthew 19, Jesus instructed His disciples that salvation is impossible with man! He also instructed them that all things are possible with God. In John Chapter 14 verse 6, Jesus emphasizes and explains how it is that God does the impossible. "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man can come unto the Father but by me."(John 14:6) Jesus is the exclusive way of salvation. There is no other way for one to be saved. “By the works of the law shall no flesh be saved. For by the law is the knowledge of sin”. (Romans 3:20) Therefore, while salvation of anyone is impossible with man, God gives salvation as a sheer gift by His grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, Paul preaches the only message that changes a heart, the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and states “we preach Christ crucified to the Jew a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness but to those who are being called the wisdom of God and the power of God”.
Third, the only thing that can deliver us from the wrath to come – it is already revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) - is the Savior Himself! Salvation is entirely of Christ Jesus came to save His people from their sins. He came into the world not to teach us some philosophy, but to secure it for us!! Jesus did not come to make bad men good, but Jesus came to give His life a ransom for many and to make dead men live! It is all and entirely of Christ! Therefore, Paul preached Christ crucified and so must we!
Finally, the preaching of the message of Christ crucified, the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. All that the Father has given to the Son shall come, both Jew and Gentile. There shall none be left out. In Romans Chapter one verse 16, we see Paul saying “for I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. To the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Thus, as Jesus said in the Gospel of John “all that the Father has given [Him] shall come and there shall none be left out and there shall be none who shall be lost. His sheep hear His voice and they come”. The message is “come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light". He came to give His life a ransom for many – Christ crucified! Therefore the message is we preach Christ crucified, said Paul.
II. THE OBJECTION
Why then is the message of Christ crucified a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek? First, perhaps the Jew found it a stumbling block because they thought that the Messiah (God's anointed) was coming to set up an earthly kingdom, and the very thought that the Messiah had been crucified was essentially intolerable to them. Perhaps the Greeks who were always interested in some new philosophy thought that Christ crucified – not being a philosophy – too simple and therefore foolish. Nevertheless, it seems to be relatively certain that at least at the heart of the problem was both the Jew and the Greek's failure to understand the nature and depth of their problem. They, like all who are not in Christ, were dead! They weren’t just sick, but they were dead. A dead person cannot receive the message. A dead person must first be quickened, or made alive, before that person can receive the message. Additionally, it's likely that the Jew and the Greek and those who are not Christians today do not understand and comprehend the Lord God Himself. Men tend to think that God is like themselves. There is a tendency that is fairly widespread that God is love and therefore He would never punish anyone. There are many who believe that God is going to save everyone. In John 17, Jesus states plainly that “the world doesn't know the Father” (John 17:24-26) Additionally, in First Corinthians 2 verse 8 Paul states plainly that “none of the rulers of this age knew godly wisdom which is hidden from mankind unless God reveals it to them, for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8)
Second, It is also reasonably certain that man does not know himself. Man is self-confident. Everything about our society and modern man says to “stand on your own two feet". Many modern men have denied God and they do not understand that they are guilty, vile, polluted and dead in their trespasses and sins. Indeed, Christ Himself says in the Third Chapter of the Gospel of John that the condemnation is that “light has come into the world and men loved darkness more than they love light for their deeds were evil". Thus, man needs salvation. He needs for God to make him into a new creation. He does not need advice, nor instruction, nor a little health, he needs salvation! How can a man be just with God? He needs a new nature. It is impossible for man to get a new nature. Ah, but with God all things are possible. Jesus, both man and God, is our Mediator between God and man. He is the only Mediator between God and man. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He is the blessed Son of God set forth by God to be the propitiation through His blood of our sin and also for the sin of the whole world. He Himself bore my sin (our sin) in His own body on the Cross. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He gives me a new nature and I am a new creation Hallelujah, born again, I am able to start over.
He is the “Lord our Righteousness.” In Jeremiah 23: 6 we see that that is His name “the Lord our Righteousness!” And we are told that “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”(2 Corinthians 5:20) Why wouldn't the crowd be large and the line long to receive such a Savior. He has made us the righteousness of God in Him! The message is Christ crucified to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to us who are being called, the wisdom of God and the power of God! When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a voice came from heaven saying “this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Here ye Him. That is the message to each and every one of us. Please pass it on.
Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we even ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all generations, both now and ever more. Amen!
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