1 Corinthians 1:17-31
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words…
I. THE GREATEST BLESSING IN THE WORLD — "the Cross of Christ." By "the Cross of Christ" the apostle did not mean of course the timber on which Christ was crucified, or any imitation of that in wood, &c. He uses the word as a symbol, as we use the words Crown, Court, Bench, &c. He meant the eternal principles of which the Cross of Christ was at once the effect, the evidence, and the expression — i.e., all that we mean by the gospel. And this is the greatest blessing in the world to-day. Look at it —
1. As a revealer. All true theological doctrine and ethical science come to us through the Cross. It is the moral light of the world.
2. As an educator. The Cross is to the human soul what the vernal sunbeam is to the seed; it penetrates, warms, quickens, and brings all its latent powers out to perfection.
3. As a deliverer. The Cross bears a pen to cancel the sentence, a balm to heal the wound, a weapon to break the fettering chain. Such, and infinitely more, is the Cross. What would human life be without it? A voyage without a compass, chart, or star.
II. THE GREATEST EVIL IN THE WORLD. Making this Cross of "none effect," i.e., so far as its grand mission is concerned. Some effect it must have; it will deepen the damnation where it does not save. "We are unto God a sweet savour," &c. This tremendous evil is —
1. Painfully manifest. Intellectually, socially, politically, it has confessedly done wonders for mankind; but morally, how little! How little genuine holiness, disinterested philanthropy, self-sacrificing devotion to truth and God, Christliness of life!
2. Easily explained. The apostle indicates one way, viz., by "wisdom of words," i.e., gorgeous rhetoric. The Church has done it by(1) Its theologies. In its name it has propounded dogmas that have clashed with reason and outraged conscience.
(2) Its polity. It has sanctioned wars, established hierarchies, which have fattened on the ignorance and poverty of the people.
(3) Its spirit. The spirit of the Cross is self-sacrificing love, the spirit of the Church has been to a great extent that of selfishness, greed, ambition, and oppression. Malrepresentation of Christ by the Church is the instrument that has made the Cross of "none effect."
3. Terribly criminal. It is wonderful that man has the power thus to pervert Divine institutions and blessings; but such power he has. He forges metals into weapons for murder, he turns breadcorn into liquids to damn the reason and the souls of men. A greater crime you cannot conceive. Were you to turf, all bread into poison, make the flowing rivers pestiferous, quench the light of the sun, mantle the stars in sackcloth, you would not penetrate an evil half so enormous as that of making the Cross of Christ of "none effect." Conclusion:
1. What is the spiritual influence of the Cross on us? Has it crucified unto us the world?
2. What are we doing with the Cross? Are we abusing it or rightly employing it?
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
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.