Proclaiming Christ Crucified

by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NASB)

We preach to men as if they were conscious of being dying sinners; they are not; they are having a good time, and our talk about being born again is from a domain of which they know nothing. The natural man does not want to be born again. – Oswald Chambers from The Psychology of Redemption, 1062 R.

We live in a time in which the evangelical church appears to have been taken over by men who have rejected the Apostle Paul’s method of preaching the Gospel in favor of man-centered, man-pleasing methodology that is grounded in cultural relevance. You can tell very quickly if a local church has succumbed to this by observing whether the focus of what goes on there is on Christ Crucified or on the personalities of the leadership therein. If it is the latter then observe carefully how the Gospel is presented, that is, if it really is. If the preaching in the church is man-centered and geared to pleasing men then it will contain threads of entertainment intertwined with psychological methodology all based upon the concept that these things can actually persuade people to become Christians.

Let us look at a New Testament example of this very thing happening to a church that the Apostle Paul planted.

10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 (NASB) 

The Corinthians had lost their focus. They were consumed with following certain teachers or personalities while excluding others. Notice the pride they showed by saying, “I follow so-and-so.” Do we see this today? Sure we do. I have seen a church thrive under a pastor then observed how it lost a large portion of its members when that pastor left. Then a new pastor will come on board. Some of the stalwart members leave when things change. Then the new pastor’s dynamics will cause the church to grow again. This cycle is obviously rooted in the people following men rather than Christ.

13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:13 (NASB) 

Paul’s point is that we err if we base our worship and service on personalities. Instead, we should be focused on Christ, follow Him, and serve the local church in which He has placed us until He moves us somewhere else. If we are all wrapped up in following men rather than Christ then often the culprit is the way these man minister. How should a minister preach the Gospel?

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 1 Corinthians 1:17 (NASB)

Paul tells us here that the preaching of the Gospel should NOT be done in such a way that draws attention away from the cross and places it on the preacher instead. If it is done correctly then the cross is powerful and the preaching of the Gospel is inhabited by the Holy Spirit moving through those hearing the truth to bring them to repentance and salvation. However, if it is done according to the man-focused way, the man-pleasing way, the way that draws attention to the speaker then it empties the cross of its power.

Another danger is to imagine that it is my particular presentation of things that will attract people. It may attract them, but never to God. The line of attraction is always an indication of the goal of the the attracted; if you attract by personal impressiveness, the attracted will get no further than you. Our Lord said–”I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.” – Oswald Chambers from Not Knowing Whither, 868 R.

It seems that we have forgotten that God Himself has chosen to save His elect by destroying the wisdom of the wise, and by thwarting the discernment of the discerning. The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18-19). What we must recover and never forget is that no one has ever come to know God through wisdom. Instead, it has pleased God to save people through the folly of preaching Christ crucified. This Gospel is good news to those who believe, but to those who are perishing it is the ultimate foolishness. I received the following comment some time ago on one of my posts about how Christians are to live their lives as Spirit-led believers.

“What a load of old bollocks you so-called christians write – get your thoughts clear in your heads and ask yourself what you mean by all this crap and then get on with living your lives like normal people.”

Sorry about the language. That is a direct quote. Does this person believe he needs to come to Jesus? Do you think he sees a need to become part of someone’s church in order to “go to heaven when he dies?” No, this person views the genuine Gospel as folly. Now, If I had dedicated this blog to preaching a so-called gospel of good works and radical environmentalism or perhaps world peace then he would not have seen fit to write that offensive comment would he? No, he was responding to my article of Christians serving the Lord as His bond-servants. However, God did not choose to save people via any way other than through the preaching of Christ and Him crucified.

18 For the word 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,
AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater 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 come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NASB) 

Did you see that God did not choose many wise or powerful or many of noble birth. Instead, God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world to accomplish the saving of His elect. In fact, when we receive from the world comments like the one above then we must examine ourselves. Why did that happen? If we are acting foolish and offensive that is one thing, but if all we are doing is giving God’s truth to the world and we receive that sort response then we should rejoice my brethren. Why? It means that we are doing it right. If we had been operating as man-pleasers, seeking to be relevant then the world doesn’t have much problem with us does it? No, so, what is it to be?

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NASB) 

Do you see that this is how God works through us to save His people? If we make our ministries about ourselves and our abilities then we get it wrong my brethren. Let us close with one more quote from Oswald Chambers.

We have a way of saying–”What a wonderful power that man or woman would be in God’s service.” Reasoning on man’s broken virtues makes us fix on the wrong thing. The only way any man or woman can ever be of service to God is when he or she is willing to renounce all their natural excellencies and determine to be weak in Him–”I am here for one thing only, for Jesus Christ to manifest Himself in me.” That is to be the steadfast habit of a Christian’s life. Oswald Chambers from The Moral Foundations of Life, 725 R.

Soli Deo Gloria

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