“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.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)
As we who are Christians go about our day to day activities, we must remember that the society around us, the culture, is rapidly becoming increasingly pagan. Please do not be amazed, or incredulous, nor bewildered, nor dismayed. It is not a surprise to our great God. God has told us in His Word that “… In the last days perilous times will come." (2 Timothy 3:1) In second Timothy Chapter 3, God's Word describes the coming pagan society and the characteristics of the men who will inhabit the coming pagan society in the “last days". In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are informed that “God… has in these last days spoken to us by His Son." (Hebrews 1:1 – 2) The Apostle Peter also affirms that we are in the “last days" in his second epistle (2 Peter 3). .
The Apostle Paul also informs Timothy and us in his second epistle to Timothy that Timothy (and all Christians) “must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of,… and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14 – 15). Therefore, what we see all around us, with the culture increasingly pagan and the fact that the majority of the culture does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, means that we must not crumble, but we must stand firm and must tell all that we can of “Jesus who is mighty to save". Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25). A brief look at how the Apostle Paul obeyed God and set an example for us in doing this should help each one of us to fulfill God's call on us.
We see here and throughout scripture that the message is always the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul says here, “for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel…." (1 Corinthians 1:17a), “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23 – 24). In Chapter 2 of this same Epistle, Paul says, “for I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul wrote to the Church of Rome, “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” (Romans 1:16). It is this glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and its preaching and teaching to pagans, Jews and Greeks, that is the power of God unto salvation. It is not eloquence, excellency of speech, or wisdom of the speaker. Only the Lord God can create! Only the Word of God,who was with God in the beginning and made all things and is the glorious second person in the Holy Trinity of God who can make one anew, or, as he puts it in the third Chapter of the Gospel of John, can cause one to “be born-again". The message is without equivocation the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ!
II. CONTENT MATTERS
Every Christian is called to be a disciple and to preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that “no one can come to the Father except by Him” (John 14:6). Because only God can create, and the Word of God has created all things that have been created, we are told in scripture that a Christian is a NEW creation. Therefore, if anyone is “in Christ", it is solely because you have been created anew. You have been born-again by God! One can only be born-again by hearing and receiving the glorious Gospel of Christ. In this first Epistle to the Church at Corinth, Paul sets forth the content of the glorious Gospel of Christ in Chapter 15, where he writes:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He arose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all of the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:1 – 9).
This was Paul's message; this was Peter's message; this is the message of God to all those that He has given to the Son. This is why the Apostle Paul tells the Church at Corinth that he is glad that he did not “baptize anyone"… and concludes that “we preach Christ crucified”……!
The preaching of the Gospel of Christ was so important that Paul wanted all to know that this was to be the content of every message. In fact, Paul even states, “woe unto me if I do not preach the Gospel of Christ" (1 Corinthians 9:16). Content definitely matters! We see in this very first Chapter of Paul's first Epistle for the Church at Corinth that not every one responds by being “born-again". That must not deter us from preaching the Gospel of Christ to all around us. We must be zealous to tell others of Jesus who is mighty to save. The Apostle Paul states in this very first chapter of first Corinthians that the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others but to those to whom God sends it “it is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1).
In Paul's letter to the church at Rome,he states that all who fail to come unto Christ are without excuse (Romans 1:18 -32). For “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Psalm 19). Though many will not come, OUR message must contain the content of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
III. THE MANNER OF PREACHING.
In this first chapter of first Corinthians, indeed, in the same 17th verse of the first chapter, we are told that we must preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ “not with wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect" (1 Corinthians 1:17). Indeed, in the 2nd chapter of this first epistle to the Church at Corinth Paul says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God…and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God"(2 Corinthians 1, 4, and 5). In other words, we must preach humbly! We are all sinners. We have no basis for pride. We have been saved by the grace of God alone; by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, which is a sheer gift. In fact, the Word of God says, “ God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble" (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5 – 6).
Therefore, we must ask ourselves what does this phrase mean, “not with wisdom of words lest the Cross of Christ be made of none effect”. On Lord's day morning, July 31, 1881, Charles H. Spurgeon, who has been called the Prince of Preachers, said in part regarding this passage of scripture the following: “It is very clear, therefore, that there is an excellence, elegance, and eloquence of language which would deprive the gospel of its due effect.… oh, dreadful wisdom of words! God grant that we may be delivered from making attempts at it, for we ought earnestly to shun anything and everything which can be so mischievous in its influence as to make the cross of Christ of none effect." Spurgeon continued, “too often the “wisdom of words" explains the Gospel away.… The “wisdom of words"… is more frequently used with the intent of adorning the gospel, and making it to appear somewhat more beautiful than it would be in its natural form. They would paint the rose and enamel the lily, add whiteness to snow and brightness to the sun. With their wretched candles they would help us to see the stars. O superfluity of naughtiness! The cross of Christ is sublimely simple; to adorn it is to dishonour it. There is no statement under heaven more musical than this: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them’”. (2 Corinthians 5:19) God grant us the wisdom, discretion, and trust to preach the Gospel of Christ, not with wisdom of words lest the Cross of Christ be made of none effect!
IV. TRUTH MATTERS
We must speak the truth as it is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. Jesus, in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John, prayed to the Father and stated, “sanctify them in thy truth, thy Word is truth”(John 17:17). Jesus calls Himself Truth. In the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way the truth and the life and no man comes unto the Father except by me" (John 14:6). God is truth itself and therefore, we must speak the truth always. In Isaiah 59, verse 14, the Word of God states, “And judgment is turned away backward and justice standeth afar off, for truth has fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter in". We must speak truth! This seems so obvious. However, we are living in perilous times. We are commanded to redeem the time for the days are evil. Have you noticed that in this nation today some media are incapable of telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? We who claim the name of Christ ought never to let untruth come out of our mouth or even manifest itself in our hearts. It is important for us to remember that Proverbs says, “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he" (Proverbs 23:7)! We claim the name of Christ who is truth itself. Therefore, let us all strive to think and speak the truth and tell others of Jesus who is mighty to save. Our message must be, “we preach Christ crucified, and not with wisdom of words lest the cross of Christ be made of none effect". I would ask you to pray for all Saints everywhere that we all grow in these graces of telling others of Jesus who is mighty to save and resist the temptation to adorn the Gospel of Christ with “wisdom of words”.
In 1881, the Prince of Preachers concluded his sermon by saying, “there is power in the word of the Cross to make a man grow into something nobler than he ever dreamed of”. He went on to say, “.....the power with which God created the world was no greater than the power with which he made us new men in Christ Jesus. The power with which he sustains the world is not greater than the power by which he sustains his people under trial and temptation; and even the raising of the dead at the end of the world will be no greater display of divine power than the raising of dead souls out of their spiritual graves. These wonders of power are being performed in our own experience every day of the week, entirely through the cross. I appeal to you who are truly converted, were you converted through the wisdom of man? I appeal to you that are kept from sinning, are you led towards holiness by the power of elocution, of rhetoric, or of logic? I appeal to you who are despairing, are you ever revived by musical words and rhythmical sentences? Or do you owe all to Jesus crucified? What is your life, my brethren, but the cross?… Cling to the cross, then. Put both arms around it! Hold to the Crucified, and never let Him go. Come afresh to the cross at this moment, and rest there now and forever! Then, with the power of God resting upon you, go forth and preach the Cross! Tell out the story of the bleeding Lamb. Repeat the wondrous tale, and nothing else. Never mind how you do it, only proclaim that Jesus died for sinners. The cross held up by a babe's hand is just as powerful as if a giant held it up. The power lies in the word itself, or rather in the Holy Spirit who works by it and with it."… “Let no man's heart fail him! Christ hath died! Atonement is complete! God is satisfied! Peace is proclaimed! Heaven glitters with proofs of mercy already bestowed upon ten thousand times ten thousand! Hell is trembling, heaven adoring, earth waiting. Advance, ye saints,to certain victory! You shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb.”
May we all preach the Gospel humbly, without wisdom of words. Please urge all to include the content of the Gospel in their message and to preach the Gospel without wisdom of words! Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen
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