We preach Christ who was crucified and risen from the grave. We preach Christ, the only One who has the strength to save. The message we proclaim is the power of His name. We preach Christ!
How many times in evangelistic crusades have I heard Baptist church choirs sing those wonderful words, “We preach Christ.” That was certainly Paul’s heart as he penned the words to 1 Corinthians 1:23, “But we preach Christ crucified.”
Christ-centered preaching ought to be the passion of every God-called preacher. Jesus Christ is central in the Bible. The Old Testament says Christ is coming. The gospels say Christ is come. The epistles say Christ came. And the Book of Revelation says Jesus Christ is coming again. Genesis opens with Christ creating, and Revelation closes with Christ coming. Charles Spurgeon said, “Take a text and head for Jesus.”
In 1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul speaks of the call of Christ; in 1:2 the church of Christ; in 1:7 the coming of Christ and in 1:9 the communion (fellowship) of Christ. However, most of the chapter deals with the cross of Christ. Christ-centered preaching is cross-centered preaching.
To the world, the cross is ridiculous. Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). A stumbling block was anything in the way over which someone could fall. To the Jews the cross was offensive and irritating, and they treated it with scorn. Their law had declared, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). And to the Greeks, a man dying on a cross to save them from their sins was absolute foolishness. These educated Greeks said the cross was just a fable, and that it was both absurd and stupid. Men through the centuries have rejected and ridiculed Jesus and His death on the cross. On a wall near the Palatine Hill in Rome, an inscription was carved by a skeptical, unbelieving Roman. The picture is of a man bowing before the cross, and on that cross is the body of a man and the head of a donkey. Beneath the cross, a blasphemous inscription is etched in Greek: “Alexander worships his god.”
Havelock Ellis, a British physician and psychologist who co-authored the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality, who died in 1939, said, “If there had been an insane asylum in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ should have been locked up in it. He was a lunatic.”
Yes, the lost see Christ and His cross as pitiful, but we believers see it as powerful and unifying! When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he pleaded for their personality-centered contentions to end and their Christ-centered cooperation to begin. In every topic we address, every plea to our congregations, our strongest argument is always in the person of Jesus and His finished work. The message of the cross has power that cannot be overcome.
In East Berlin, where the Berlin Wall used to stand, in the central square of the city, the godless Communists erected a transmission tower years ago. It had a spherical dome on top of a high building on which they put that transmitter to propagate their communistic propaganda. On the first day that it was unveiled, as the setting sun shone on it, what should appear, reflected on that spherical silver ball, as if perfectly shaped by the finger of God, but a cross. The West Germans called it God’s revenge. The Communists took down those tiles and put up some other ones which had been painted with a dull enamel paint, but still when the sun shone on a clear day you could see the shape of the cross on that dome. The cross of Jesus Christ will have the last word on this spherical sin cursed earth too.
In Our Place
When I speak of the cross of Christ, I mean the full work of Christ in redemption. Paul preached the finished work of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 declaring, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” His crucifixion was first a vicarious death. The word vicarious means to serve in place of someone else. Jesus Christ took the place and penalty for every sinner. He substituted for us. The Just died for the unjust. Paul writes again in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
The news media reported recently some terrible tornados, one of which leveled a little town in Indiana. A mother took her two children to the basement of their home, covered them with a blanket and laid her body across them. Her body took the impact of the falling debris from the house. The mother’s leg was broken, but the children were saved and unharmed. Twenty centuries ago, our Saviour had His body broken on the cross taking the full impact of our sin so we could escape the devastation and damnation of sin.
‘A Most Cruel and Disgusting Punishment’
His crucifixion was not only vicarious but it was vicious. Paul said, “Christ must needs have suffered” (Acts 17:3). The word suffered means “intense pain, vexed” and carries the idea of passion. Crucifixion was the most savage and vicious form of execution in the first century. Cicero described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.” When we preach the cross of Christ, we declare that Jesus took the full impact of our sin on Himself and suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The prophet Isaiah wrote seven hundred years before Christ’s crucifixion, “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:3–5). Note the words despised, rejected, sorrows, grief, stricken, smitten, wounded, and bruised. Though many men died from crucifixion, none died like Jesus. He alone was the God-man who experienced the wrath of both man and God.
It Is Finished
thanks be to God that the crucifixion of Christ was not only vicarious and vicious, but also victorious. Jesus cried from the cross, “It is finished.” He did not say “I am finished,” but “It is finished.” These were the words stamped on the Roman document when someone’s taxes were paid in full. They were the words of the tailor when the garment was perfected. The wonderful words were those of the artist when the portrait was complete. Yes, the cross of Christ was victorious, for it was there that the vastness of His love was graphically portrayed, the debt of our sin was fully paid, and the garment of His righteousness was totally provided.
It was not His death only, but also His resurrection that was victorious. The resurrection validates the truth that Jesus is the Christ! I am writing these words on Easter Sunday and have heard many times today, “He is risen!” As I preached a Christ-centered and cross-centered message this morning, our risen Lord saved many sinners in that service.
Off the coast of South China there was once built a massive cathedral. On the top of it was a huge cross that towered many feet into the air and could be seen from that South China Bay for several miles. A typhoon came and destroyed the cathedral leaving only that mighty cross towering in the air.
Sir John Bowring was once marooned in the South China Sea having been in a shipwreck. While he was being pickled in that water off the coast, he could look up and see that mighty cross as it towered in the air. The sight of the cross encouraged him because he knew he was near land. To him that cross stood for his deliverance, his safety, and his salvation.
Sometime later he wrote the words to the great hymn: “In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time.” Towering over all the faults and the failures of mankind, above all the hurt, sin and evil things that are taking place in our world today, towering high above us all is the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a privilege to preach Christ and His cross!