John C. Whitehead
The Jews require a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, unto 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 Cor. 1:22-23).
Often times we are asked, “What do you preach?” The answer is simple. “We preach Christ crucified.” This lofty theme has ever been the only hope of the world. In the days of the early church it produced a moral revolution. Thrones have vanished and empires have fallen, but the kingdom of Christ endures and is still able to bless those who will believe in Christ crucified, the power and the wisdom of God.
The apostle states, “We preach Christ.” The economic or military condition of the Roman Empire was not a concern of Paul’s preaching. He preached Christ. His preaching was the doctrine of a person. Nothing else in its true sense is preaching.
Christ crucified has never been a popular theme. From the days of the apostles to the present, men have been stoned, beaten, persecuted, and killed for preaching a crucified Savior. In Paul’s day the Jews required a sign and the Greeks were seeking after wisdom. This same attitude expresses itself in many ways today. There is a greediness for physical cures, people are contenting their souls with creeds, rituals, seances, magnificent buildings, candles, and crucifixes. The supreme tragedy of the whole thing is that people depend on these things for salvation, and there is no saving power in them. Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” Paul could have satisfied the Greeks who were seeking after wisdom, for he was a scholar. He was unwilling, however, to leave his high task of preaching the gospel for a mere display of man’s wisdom. Neither miracles nor wisdom will conquer sin or make us holy. The gospel is God’s power to save from sin (Rom. 1:16). With great multitudes, however, the simple gospel is still an unpopular theme; and the “learned scholars,” of course, call it foolishness.
God’s Hatred of Sin
Through the preaching of Christ crucified we come to better understand God’s hatred for sin. There are those who care little or nothing for the authority of God’s word in matters of religion, still others who regard sin as a light or frivolous matter. They carelessly remark, “What’s the difference a hundred years from now?” or, “It will all come out in the wash.” We all need to get a better understanding of Him whose agony over sin brought forth that bloody sweat in Gethsemane. To Him it was no light or easy matter; it was not something to be dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders or an airy gesture. We need to see His thorn-crowned brow, and to hear that anguished cry from Golgotha’s hill, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Christ is God’s eternal heartache for your sins and mine. If any other way could have been found for sin to be removed, we may be sure God would have found it. There was no other. The blood of the sinless Son of God was the only answer—the only solution.
God’s Estimate of Man
Through the death of His son, we come to realize not only God’s hatred for sin, but also His estimate of man and his possibilities. Of course, none are worthy; all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Man was so eternally lost in God’s sight that nothing short of the blood of Christ could redeem him. But so sure was God of man’s worth that His Son was freely given. “Behold, what manner of love God hath bestowed upon us!” There is no way to explain the cross except in terms of man’s eternal ruined and lost condition, and God’s estimate of man’s ultimate worth. Being aware of man’s lost condition, God was also aware of the possibilities of salvation. He sees in the worst of us the possibility of a noble saint. No wonder Paul cried out, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus.”
What are you going to do with the great salvation that is offered you? The multitudes are still seeking after signs and worshiping at the shrine of wisdom. But throughout the ages there have been countless thousands who have turned their backs on the wisdom of this world, who have refused to follow the popular path. They have obeyed in humble submission that “form of doctrine” delivered unto them; they have been crucified with Christ and raised up from the watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-5). They have come to realize that the gospel is God’s power to save from sin (Rom. 1:16-17). There is no other power. Christ and him crucified is the only hope for a sinful soul. What is your response to this love of God; how do you react to so noble a truth? Are you willing to turn from sin to the Savior? From selfishness to service? From the wisdom of this world to worship the living and true God? You alone can give the answer. God has made salvation possible; the responsibility of turning that possibility into a reality is yours and yours alone. No one can obey the Lord for you. We may indeed preach “Christ crucified, the power and wisdom of God,” but obedience to that Gospel must come from the sinner’s own heart.