1 Corinthians 1:17-25
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words…
I. THE CROSS IS TO BE PREACHED. The gospel cannot be preached unless the cross is. The cross is the central fact. The con, verging point of the Scriptures is found in "Christ crucified." Without the cross Christianity becomes meaningless and powerless. Salvation and the cross are indissolubly linked: the cross speaks of the shedding of blood, "and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22).
II. THE CROSS IS TO BE PLAINLY PREACHED. As "not many wise" are called, it is but reasonable that the unwise and simple minded should be specially borne in mind. The offence of the cross is not to be lessened by "wisdom of words." Knowledge of the meaning of the cross is the deepest need of the world; all things should be subordinated to conveying that knowledge with utmost clearness and fulness. Men cannot be saved by eloquence, or philosophy, or learning; they can by the cross. "The great preachers have been natural orators, not rhetoricians or actors." The greatest care is necessary lest, by the character of our preaching, the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. Some preaching seems designed for the very purpose, and succeeds deplorably.
III. THE CROSS IS TO BE PREACHED, NOTWITHSTANDING ITS UNFAVOURABLE RECEPTION Some, indeed, receive it with all gladness, but our obligation to preach it is not dependent upon its reception. We may always remember that the cross is what men want, though it may not be what they wish.
1. To the Jew the cross was a stumbling block, He looked rather for a military than for a martyr Messiah - one who would deliver by sound of trumpet and sword, not by ignominy and death. If he is to believe, he must have signs from heaven (ver. 22), miraculous interventions, and not a reiteration of the event which was the greatest scandal to his mind, and most grievously shocked his prejudices and anticipations. The Jew put the cross very low down. We can make anything into a stumbling block if we will only put it low enough.
2. To the Greek the cross seemed foolishness. That the great revelation for which he and the world had been looking so long should come through a crucified Jew, and be most closely associated with that crucifixion itself, appeared to him too absurd, he would have welcomed a philosopher with a new philosophy, he sought after wisdom - that is, his wisdom. In the cross there was too profound a wisdom for even his keen eye to discern, and so he called it folly. He thought the cross was shallow, because he was shallow himself, though he little suspected it. Further, he desired philosophic demonstration about matters of religion, and had a great horror of "faith." And his pride was wounded (and that which wounds our pride is always folly). That all must come to God by the same way, making a similar confession of sin and impotence, was in conflict with his most cherished ideas. The approach of barbarians to the cross made it a way of foolishness to the Greek. There are many "Greeks" now.
IV. THE CROSS IS TO BE PREACHED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT IT OPERATES AS A GREAT TEST OF CONDITION. The character of its reception indicates the condition of those who hear. To some it is foolishness - but only to those that are perishing. Only to them! They are so utterly blind that the brightness of the cross is blackness. To others it is the power of God and the wisdom of God - and they are the saved. They are "both Jews and Greeks" (ver. 24). The new nature has conquered the old. All is changed when the heart is. These Jews sought for power; these Greeks sought for wisdom; and here both were found when Jew and Greek responded to the Divine call.
1. We may well ask ourselves - What is the cross to us? The answer will indicate whether we are perishing or being saved. The preaching of the cross to us is a personal test.
2. In preaching the cross, we should strive and pray that it may not be foolishness to our hearers, knowing what this would indicate.
3. In preaching the cross, we must not be too disconcerted if men receive our message as one of foolishness. This will not indicate faultiness in the cross, but in those who hear its story, though of course there may be faultiness in our mode of telling that story.
V. THE CROSS IS TO BE PREACHED WITH THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE FAILURE OF EARTHLY WISDOM. Ancient schemes of philosophers having some external indication of wisdom, what has become of them? "Where is the wise?" etc. Where are the scribes and their improvements upon the Divine Law? God has made in the course of the ages all such "wisdom" to become folly - recognized folly. "The world by wisdom knew not God." Human wisdom gave the world no more piety, but much more pride. Human wisdom has failed most egregiously all along the line to redeem and regenerate men. Calvin bluntly says, "We must here carefully notice these two things - that the knowledge of all the sciences is mere smoke where the heavenly science is wanting, and man with all his acuteness is as stupid for obtaining of himself a knowledge of the mysteries of God as an ass is unqualified for understanding musical harmonies." If the cross fails, failure is universal. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.