The Word of the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-24)
A friend once held a gospel meeting where I was preaching, and I was so disappointed in him. He would stand in front of the church for 45 minutes and tell story after story after story. Near the end of his presentation, he might mention a verse or two as an afterthought. His “sermons” had no biblical truth in them, but they were after-dinner speeches.
And the church loved it! They considered this brother the greatest orator of our generation and couldn’t wait to book him again. By the end of the week, I was at my wit’s end. My friend told me that he didn’t see a need to use much Bible in his sermons; he preferred to use stories to connect with people. Whatever my friend was doing it was not preaching.
You might know a preacher who uses just enough Scripture to get by with calling his talk a “sermon.” Maybe you’ve watched a TV preacher who likes to tell some good stories but who doesn’t know Bible truth. Maybe you had a coworker who liked to talk about God or spirituality or religion but didn’t use the Bible as his or her guide.
This morning’s passage discusses why preaching the word is important: The word of the cross is God’s power to save. Stories don’t save. Pop psychology doesn’t save. Good advice doesn’t save. The word of the cross is God’s power to save.
Scripture (1 Corinthians 1:18-24)
The word of the cross didn’t make sense in the Greco-Roman world. The cross was a shameful way to die; normally only the worst of the worst died by crucifixion, and the word “cross” wasn’t mentioned in polite company. Those who died by crucifixion were weaklings who couldn’t save themselves or anybody else; thus, to the Greeks the idea that a Man who died on the cross could save them was preposterous.
But Christians understood they were weak and that Jesus’s sacrifice at Golgotha saved them from an eternal hell.
The ancients considered the Greeks cultured and wise. What God did at the cross turned human wisdom and human reasoning on its head. Humanly speaking, does it really make sense that the way God saves the world is through the death of his Son on the cross? But it’s not about human wisdom and human reasoning; it’s about divine wisdom and divine power.
In God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom. God cannot be dissected and understood through human wisdom; he did not make himself known to the scholars of this world. Instead, God saves the world through the “folly of what we preach.” The message may make no sense to the “sophisticated” among us, but The word of the cross is God’s power to save.
“Jews demand signs.” Crowds often demanded signs throughout Jesus’s earthly ministry.
“Greeks seek wisdom.” The Greeks were known as lovers of wisdom.
The preaching of Jesus crucified was a stumbling block to the Jews. The Jews regarded anyone who hung on a tree as cursed, and they expected the Messiah to conquer the Romans, not die on a cross.
The preaching of Jesus crucified was folly to the Gentiles. It just didn’t fit into their sophisticated worldview.
But for the Christian—whether he be Jew or Gentile—the preaching of Christ crucified is the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” In the cross of Jesus, the Christian sees both God’s power and wisdom.
The word of the cross is God’s power to save. You obviously understand that the message of the cross is God’s power and his wisdom. Therefore, how should you live?
One: You Must Devour the Word
Since the word of the cross is God’s power to save, commit to hearing that word often so you can Devour the word.
You must hear that word to be saved. As the Lord explained the good soil in the Parable of the Sower, he said, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Lk 8:15). You cannot be saved unless you hear, for faith—indispensable to salvation—comes through hearing the word: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Hearing that word allows you to be born again: “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Pet 1:23, 25).
Since the word of the cross is God’s power to save, Devour that word. Make attending Bible study a priority. Listen attentively when the word is preached. Spend time in the Bible at home. Devour the word!
Two: You Must Distinguish the Word
Since the word of the cross is God’s power to save, you must Distinguish the truth from error.
Since time immemorial, error has been propagated in God’s name. Satan lied to Eve about God’s word in the Garden. False prophets often arose in the Old Testament to lead God’s people astray. When Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, some men came down from Judea and taught that unless one were circumcised he could not be saved.
And Jesus’s apostles warned that error would always be a problem:
- “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1).
- “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet 2:1).
Because the word of the cross is God’s power to save, separate the word of the cross from error. You must double check everything you hear against the truth of Scripture. Investigate what you hear, and Distinguish the truth from error.
Three: You Must Disclose the Word
Since the word of the cross is power to save, you must Disclose the word to others. Shall we really have the answer to loneliness, depression, despair, and hell and say nothing? Shall we stand before the Great Throne and see friends and loved one damned to hell because we never shared the word of the cross?
There is no greater calling than sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. “Make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col 1:28-29). Are you toiling to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ and the message of the cross? Disclose the word to someone today.
The word of the cross is God’s power to save. Has the word of the cross saved you?