The Preaching of the Cross
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
If you were to look at Rembrandt’s painting of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you’d be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross.
Is Christ still the central message in the pulpit? Probably not. Many churches claim to be Christian but they are preaching mostly about health, wealth and prosperity. Others concentrate on miracles and healings. One group exalts Mary, some promotes their founder. What does preaching of the cross means, and what are the reactions of people about it?
I. Preaching of the cross. 1 Cor. 1:18
1. The cross has become the universal symbol of Christianity. There are many things that we can connect to Jesus. The manger could symbolize His lowly birth, the towel he used to wipe the disciples’ feet could picture humility and service to others the crown of thorns, the scarlet robe, the cup, but why the cross? The suffering implied in crucifixion naturally made the cross a symbol of pain, shame, distress and burden-bearing. In Paul’s preaching the cross became synonymous to the preaching of the death of Christ upon the cross, as a sacrifice for our sin. In theological term we call it the doctrine of atonement.
2. Crucifixion is considered the most painful, the most humiliating death and the most horrible form of death. The most degrading capital punishment, reserved for the worst crimes and for the lowest class of people. For a Jew there is also curse attached to it and it adds more horror to them. (Deut. 21:23).
Crucifixion began by subjecting the sufferer to scourging. In the case of our Lord, however, his scourging was rather before the sentence was passed upon him, and was inflicted by Pilate for the purpose, probably, of exciting pity and procuring his escape from further punishment (Lk. 23:22; Jn. 19:1).
The condemned one carried his own cross to the place of execution, which was outside the city, in some conspicuous place set apart for the purpose. Before the nailing to the cross took place, a medicated cup of vinegar mixed with gall and myrrh (the sopor) was given, for the purpose of deadening the pangs of the sufferer. Our Lord refused this cup, that his senses might be clear (Mt. 27:34). The spongeful of vinegar, sour wine, posca, the common drink of the Roman soldiers, which
was put on a hyssop stalk and offered to our Lord in contemptuous pity (Mt. 27:48; Lu 23:36), he tasted to allay the agonies of his thirst (Jn. 19:29). The accounts given of the crucifixion of our Lord are in entire agreement with the customs and practices of the Roman in such cases. He was crucified between two “malefactors” (Isa. 53:12; Lu 23:32), and was watched by a party of four soldiers (Jn. 19:23; Mt. 27:36, 54), with their centurion. The “breaking of the legs” of the malefactors was intended to hasten death, and put them out of misery (Jn. 19:31); but the unusual rapidity of our Lord’s death (Jn. 19:33) was due to his previous sufferings and his great mental anguish. The omission of the breaking of his legs was the fulfilment of a type (Ex. 12:46). He literally died of a broken heart, a ruptured heart, and hence the flowing of blood and water from the wound made by the soldier’s spear (Jn. 19:34). (Easton’s Bible Dictionary)
II. To them that perish foolishness. 1 Cor. 1:18b
1. God’s method of salvation is foolishness to the unsaved. God’s Words are often misunderstood. For the unsaved they want to “do” something to get saved. They cannot understand and accept the fact that Christ has “done” everything, and that all they have to do is to put their trust in Him.
2. To the Jews, Christ’s death on the cross is a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23). They cannot understand why their Messiah should be crucified.
3. To the Greeks, it is foolishness because for them God’s are powerful, stronger than men. A god cannot be killed and shamed by man. There is just no way can a god be crucified. Worldly wisdom, carnal minds, can never understand spiritual things (Rom. 8:7).
III. But unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor.1:18c. How can preaching of the cross be the power of God? What can it do to us?
1. It has saving power. (Rom. 1:16). It points us directly to Christ (Jn. 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Thess. 5:9, Heb. 5:9), who died for us.
2. It shows God’s great love for us all (Rom. 5:8, Jn. 3:16). Because of God’s love for us, the punishment that is due for us was placed on His son Jesus Christ. This is what the term “substitution” mean. The innocent taking the punishment of the guilty. Do you doubt or question God’s love for you? Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Does love got power? Absolutely yes. God is love. (1 Jn. 4:7)
3. We have reconciliation with God (Eph. 2:16). Reconciliation means to change from being enemies to friends. An unbelieving wife who wants to divorce her husband was reconciled to him when they both received Christ as their saviour.
4. Old Testament ordinances were abolished (Col. 2:14). When Christ died on the cross, He abolished the ordinance in the OT. We need not do burnt offerings, no more ceremonial washings, etc. This can only be done by His power. Only He can change the Law.
Illustration: Power of God unto Salvation
A Bible-believing Christian was assailed by an atheist who said, “I don’t understand how the blood of Jesus Christ can wash away my sin, nor do I believe it.” “You and Saint Paul agree on that,” answered the Bible student. “How so?” “Turn to the first chapter of 1 Corinthians and read verse 18: ‘For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power
of God.’ ” The atheist looked startled and began to study the Bible, where he soon found the cross to be the power of God unto salvation. ( Illustrations of Bible Truths.)
Your response to the preaching of the cross will determine your final destiny. Only Christ has the power to save us but people just reject His way of salvation. Salvation now is offered as a free gift to everybody, the problem is people just don’t want to take it. How about you, will you reject Him also? Repent from your sins and receive Him as your personal saviour, tomorrow may be too late.