“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Corinthians 1:18)
1. Because It is Not Popular (v. 18)
Not only is it not popular, it is moronic (moria in Greek). Consider the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we say to sinners that a poor and humble Jewish man was God, and that he was nailed to a cross to die a criminals death despite his perfect innocence. We proclaim that this Man was not only a man, but that he is God in the flesh. That he is perfect and sinless and that he was born of a virgin. Furthermore, we proclaim that all of humanity is lost and that each individual man, woman and child is a wretched sinner. We proclaim that Christ is the only hope for humanity and that all other claims are lies from the pit of hell and all who seek salvation in any other name are doomed to eternal damnation. We proclaim that Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary for our salvation, and that he rejects all attempts to earn salvation on our own. He, being the King demands our allegiance and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord.
Brothers, when we proclaim this, the world will overwhelmingly reject us as fools of the worst kind. We will be called bigots, intolerant, and uneducated religious zealots. And that is why so many bow to the pressures and soften their message. Paul was keenly aware of the propensity of men to soften the blow of the gospel by using soothing words that made the hearer feel at ease. He said in 1Cor 2:1-5 that he purposely made it his aim to proclaim the unvarnished gospel of Jesus Christ crucified. Today, preachers everywhere are trying to make Jesus look cool. They are trying to make Christianity attractive. They are doing just what Paul avoided.
The cross was not cool. It was brutal and bloody.
The call of Christ is not popular. True Christianity will never court the world. But pastors will continue to attempt to make our precious faith more palatable in order to gain the popularity of the world. This is nothing but pride. Nobody should enter the ministry or the pulpit in order to make his own name great. Isaac Watts wrote, “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died; My riches gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” PREACH CHRIST BECAUSE IT IS NOT POPULAR!
2. Because They Are Perishing (v. 18)
When we preach the message of the cross, the world sees it as folly because they do not see the danger to their souls. Sometimes they fail to see the danger because they do not see it in our eyes and do not hear it in our voices as we proclaim cold truth from our pulpits. Brothers, do you feel the truth of Hell? Do you remember the days when you were among the brood of vipers? Do you recall that you were once a vessel prepared for destruction? Have you forgotten that you were on the precipice of the bottomless pit and you were ready in due time to slip into eternal fire separate from God to be tormented for all eternity? HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN?
When we remember our own dying state we will be quick to point people to the only remedy for their souls—the cross of Christ. When we remember that they are perishing, we will not care about their mocking and their cries for ear-tickling sermons—we will give them what we know they need. Wrote Thomas Brooks, “The damned shall live as long in hell as God himself shall live in heaven.” That fact alone should drive us to preach Christ crucified.
Check your hearts, brothers. Do you feel the terror of hell and do you cry out with Paul on Sunday mornings: (2Cor. 2:15-16) “For we (!) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” PREACH CHRIST BECAUSE THEY ARE PERISHING!
3. Because It is the Power of God (v. 18)
Power in the pulpit. Power evangelism. Power encounters. Pastors want power. But the power of God is not found in the usual places. It is not found in business models or worldly philosophy (v. 22). It is not found in charismatic dramatics or signs and wonders (v. 22). It isn’t found in confrontation with demons and the occult. The power of God was displayed on the cross, where God sent His Son to be crushed for our iniquities. Jesus became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God! That is power!!!
Concerning the justification of God, John Calvin said, “Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown.” This is the power of the cross. Why is the Church so weak and utterly incapable of making an impact in our nation? It has left this message behind and taken up the banners of politics, pop psychology, health and wealth, and so many other empty promises.
The Roman Catholic system, the Emerging movement, the Seeker Sensitive movement and the Liberal mainline denominations have all shown us what becomes of those who lay aside the cross of Christ. But it hasn’t stopped many men from flirting with those compromising philosophies. Richard Baxter, “If a hardened heart is to be broken, it is not stroking but striking that must do it.” The only thing that can cut another stone is a diamond, the hardest gem on earth. In order to cut the hardest heart, we must use the sharpest tool. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ!
In Heb. 4:12 we are reminded, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Brothers, in our churches the temptation can be overwhelming to give up expository preaching in favor of sugar coated sermons that aim to please the itching ears of people. We reason in our hearts that once we have them in our churches we can preach the gospel to them, we just need to ease them into it. Don’t fall for this pragmatic lie! You are merely a tool in God’s hand. He uses you as His minister to wield His weapon of choice. You cannot change the soul of a man in any way. It is the Word of God preached—the Gospel alone that brings a sinner to his knees.
PREACH CHRIST BECAUSE THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS IS YOUR ONLY POWER!
2 thoughts on “Three Reasons to Preach Christ Crucified”
I have enjoyed your posts and am going to use the checklist for my homily prep classes. I am a Roman Catholic deacon and I do take exception to your contention that the Roman Catholic ‘system’ has laid aside the cross. Not sure what you actually mean but if it is that we seek mercy and forgiveness ONCE WE HAVE RECOGNIZED our sinfulness, you may be concentrating on our perceived shying away from preaching about sin, and perhaps that the Bible alone is the remedy.
I do not disagree with many tenets of your sect and others of Christian origin; in fact I admire what you wrote about the preparation for the homily and the other considerations before and while preaching. I do ask that you consider that the cross is the central focus of the Roman Catholic faith, in word, and action and inspiration. That we take our leadership in theology and interpretation from a central authority who represents Peter the first leader should not matter. Understanding what the cross is and what it means in our lives and how embracing it as a life style can change things is in fact what our Mass revolves around.
True that we Catholics do not always make that clear connection for people and leave them feeling empty. That is our collective fault and needs remedying in our preaching, the time when we connect most intimately with Christ’s words as we connect intimately with his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the gift of Christ.
Blessings always, brother in Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord!
Deacon Ernest Angiolillo
Archdiocese of Philadelphia, PA
I understand that you take exception to the statement that Roman Catholicism has laid aside the cross and that I referred to it as a “system.” I also take exception to your reference to my “sect” since this term could imply that Protestants are a cult, or perhaps more charitably a break off from a greater movement. I assume you meant the latter or perhaps a mixture of both. I would however disagree with both uses.
I appreciate the graciousness of your response and your willingness to clarify my meaning. I am also happy that the blogposts have been helpful to you, and I pray they point you more to the Word of God and deeper study there. I truly rejoice in this!
In stating that Roman Catholicism does not preach the cross of Jesus Christ, I did not mean that there is no reference to the crucifixion, nor that there is a dearth of homilies that speak about the account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This cannot be denied and I do not argue this. What I did mean was that the doctrine that Vatican officially upholds does not promote the justification of Christ by salvation by grace alone and faith alone through Christ alone, but attaches to the doctrine of salvation additional elements that must be met in order for salvation to be secured by the individual.
Going further, those that oppose this official teaching have been anathematized forever. The Council of Trent Canon I says: “If any one denies, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but says that He is only there as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.”
I cannot agree with this statement, nor any of the statements that have been made by this official council regarding those anathematized (over 100!), and so I am not considered a brother in Christ by the Vatican, nor is my Church. Although official statements have been made that would seek to cover over our differences, these anathemas are official dogma and have not been rescinded. According to Trent, we are not brothers, but I am under the curse of God.
My view is different. I understand that there is only one authority in the Bible. I reject the Roman Mass and the eucharist as blasphemously re-sacrificing Christ when his Word says, “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this
once for all
when he offered up himself.” (Heb. 7:27). I know that this is a major difference and I do not mean to be offensive, but truthful.
When men are encouraged to worship through veneration Mary and the saints, I am offended and say that this diminishes the worship of Christ my God when the Bible says, ““Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deut 4:23-24).
By placing the power of ablution of sin in the hands of priests, Christ’s power is shifted from Christ to men. Additionally, there is no co-redemption in the Virgin Mary because the Bible says, “For there is one God, and there is
between God and men, the man
, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1Tim 2:5-6). Do these critical issues not take the cross of Jesus Christ and lay it aside as less, diminishing his precious and unique acts? I say, Yes!
As a Protestant, I understand ecclesiastical authority, but it is not above Christ and his Word. When the authority of man is raised up above the Word of God, then the Word of God is diminished and distorted so that it is undercut, ignored and even obstructed. For this and much more, I and my brothers in Christ are anathematized by the Vatican. This movement away from what the Bible says is why I referred to Roman Catholicism as a system. It is not a biblical church.Many of its doctrines clearly contradict the Scriptures and point men away from God to find as much hope as can be found in their own actions and good works in spite of the Bible saying “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works
, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8)
I hope that my candor has not been seen as argumentative or graceless. I do hope that you would consider the Scripture that I have referred to. My words have no authority, but the Word of God has authority over all men. Please consider my reference to them. I have no fear of you searching the Scriptures to see whether these things are true. I truly pray that your journey into the Word takes you deep into the heart of God.