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. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
~1 Corinthians 2:1-2
The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that his preaching to them when he had been with them was not with fanciful words nor persuasive language. He did not try to manipulate them with the way he communicated. There were no special effects or cleaver gimmicks in his presentation. Instead, his focus centered on the message itself. He preached the word of the cross (1:18), the truth of Christ dying on the cross to suffer the punishment of those who would place their faith in Him so that they would be saved. He describes this message as being foolish to unbelievers but the power of God to those who are saved (1:18, 23). Recognizing the transforming power of the message of Christ and His crucifixion, he centered his preaching on Christ and Him crucified.
Notice that Paul’s message was very exclusive. He resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. He did not focus on the contemporary debates of the day, the popular entertainment from the theater, or how one can have their “best life now.” All of Paul’s teaching and preaching revolved around Christ and His work on the cross. This doesn’t mean that the cross was all that he talked about. He discusses marriage later on in this letter as well as spiritual gifts. However, everything he preached and taught were done so in light of the cross. He realized that to have a godly marriage, you have to first understand Christ’s work on the cross that would enable you to have such a marriage because you cannot have that kind of marriage without Him and the work that He accomplished on the cross. In fact, you will notice that in many of Paul’s letters he begins with doctrinal teaching of Jesus’ salvation accomplished on the cross and then moves to the practical way that His work should factor into and influence a Christian’s work. (Compare Romans 1-11 and 12-16; and Ephesians 1-3 and 4-6.) Paul didn’t provide the Corinthian church with a “twelve step plan to recovery” for anything they were going through. Instead, he just points to Christ and His work as the ultimate remedy for whatever the problem may be and shows how that should affect their life. Of course, our ultimate problem is a spiritual one and unless we come to Christ for the forgiveness that He provides though His sacrificial death, and the life changing power of His Holy Spirit, other issues can never be solved. Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross even serves as the centerpiece of the Bible. The authors of the Old Testament pointed forward to it and the writers of the New Testament looked back to the event.
Too often today the cross becomes just a meaningless symbol. We wear it around our neck or have it pasted to our shirt without any passing thought of the very One who hung on that cross to save wretched sinners who cry out to Him. Have we lost the focus on the cross that the apostle had? Have we grown too preoccupied with the world that we no longer cherish the “old rugged cross” that we sing about?
For the Christian, the event of the crucifixion of Christ can never be viewed as something meaningless and irrelevant. In fact, nothing can be described as more meaningful or relevant. It is because of Christ and His crucifixion that we are saved, that we can be viewed as righteous by God, and that we can have a relationship with God.
This Lenten and Easter season, let us not forget about the cross. May we not lose sight of the salvation secured on that cross. Take some time this month to study and reflect upon Christ’s work on the cross: Paul’s central message, the centerpiece of the Bible, and the foundation of our salvation. May we determine to focus on Christ and Him crucified.
The church can only live and breathe at the cross; without it, there is no life and reason to exist.
Love in Christ,