When Paul arrived in Corinth, he faced the city “in weakness with great fear and trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). His feelings were understandable. Since leaving Troas and crossing into Macedonia (Acts 16:8–12), he had experienced numerous setbacks in his attempts to preach the gospel to the Greeks.
He had been thrown into jail and beaten in Philippi (Acts 16:22–40), had been persecuted by the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5–9) and Berea (Acts 17:13-14), and had seen very little success in trying to convince the Athenians that God had raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31–34). Then he entered Corinth, a prosperous, influential city with a reputation for wickedness – perhaps the equivalent of New York City in our day. No wonder Paul felt afraid!
Under those circumstances, what did he do? 1 Corinthians 2:1-2: “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” NIV
Everywhere Paul went, he preached the same message: Acts 9:20 – “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” NIV
He preached this in the synagogue in Antioch – Acts 13:28-30: “Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead…” NIV
When he preached in Thessalonica, he went around “…explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah…” (Acts 17:3).
When he preached to the Greek philosophers on Mars’ Hill, he preached Jesus Christ as the One whom God had raised from the dead: Acts 17:30-31: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” NIV
So, when he traveled to Corinth and faced the difficulties involved in reaching the people of that great city, he made up his mind to preach what he had always preached – “Christ crucified.” What exactly does that include?
The story of His life
Jesus’ story includes how He was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18–21). At the age of twelve, He went to Jerusalem with His parents and amazed the rabbis there with His understanding (Luke 2:41–52). Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee with His brothers and sisters as the Son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter, and became a carpenter Himself (Mark 6:3).
At the age of thirty, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by His cousin John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13–17). Immediately afterwards, He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness for forty days but refused to give in to temptation (Matthew 4:1–11; Hebrews 4:15).
He chose twelve men to be His apostles, to accompany Him on His travels, to learn from Him, and then to go and teach His word to others (Matthew 4:18–22; Mark 3:13–19).
His earthly ministry lasted over three years, during which He spent His time healing the sick, casting out demons, and teaching people: Matthew 9:35 – “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” NIV
At the end of His ministry, Jesus died by the hands of the Romans at the insistence of the Jews, who were enraged at His claims. His death was followed by His burial, resurrection, ascension, and His glorification:
Acts 2:32–36: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” NIV
Before He ascended into heaven, He gave marching orders to His apostles: Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV
Mark 16:15-16: “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” NIV
What does this mean? Preach “Christ crucified!”
Who He is
Preaching Christ begins by teaching that He is the Son of God and the one and only Savior of mankind. His miracles were signs that pointed to the fact that He was the Son of God:
John 20:30-31: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” NIV
God Himself identified Jesus as His Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Peter confessed Him to be “the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16), as did many others (John 1:49). Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of God and claimed to be divine (John 10:33–36; 8:24, 58).
In preaching Christ, we must also present Him as the Savior and only hope of mankind: Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” NIV
We must, and we can never waver on this point, absolutely insist that He is the only way to God: John 14:6 – “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” NIV
In addition to proclaiming Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior, we must present Him as “Lord.” Peter declared that God had made Jesus “both Lord and Messiah (Christ)” (Acts 2:36). To be saved, people must acknowledge Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9).
The word “Lord” indicates Jesus’ divinity, majesty, authority, and kingship. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and the absolute head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).
Since Jesus is our Lord, we must acknowledge His authority and accept His instructions and on all points we must do what He says! Luke 6:46 – “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” NIV
- The Message of the Cross
Preaching Christ also includes the story of what He did for us in His death, burial and resurrection. From the beginning, many have failed to grasp the significance and importance of the death of Christ. Without His death for our sins, there could be no salvation for our souls.
The message of the cross seemed ridiculous to first century listeners: 1 Corinthians 1:23 – “…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” NIV
The Jews stumbled over the idea that a crucified man – one who was under a curse, according to the Law – was the Christ. The Gentiles thought the idea of a crucified Savior was foolishness. The preaching of the cross does not make much more sense to people today. Many wonder, “What could the death of a man almost two thousand years ago have to do with me?”
Even though it seems foolish to the human mind, we must believe and teach that the message of the cross is God’s power to save:
1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” NIV
Jesus died as the sinless sacrifice for sins, so that – through His death – He might redeem us from our sins. He took upon Himself our sins so that we would not have to bear them and be condemned by them. He suffered what we should have suffered.
1 John 4:10 – “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” NIV
Isaiah 53:4-5: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” NIV
John 1:29 – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” NIV
Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” NIV
1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” NIV
Revelation 1:5 – “…and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…” NIV
The “heart” of the gospel which saves us is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ: 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” NIV
The Coming Judge
The story of Jesus does not end with His ascension and glorification in heaven. We must also teach that Christ is coming again and that, when He comes, He will judge the world: Acts 17:31 – “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” NIV
At that time, Jesus will deal once and for all with those who have rejected Him and refused to obey Him, and take back to heaven those who did: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: “…and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” NIV
Acts 24:25 – “As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” NIV
As Paul spoke, Felix “became frightened.” Sinners should be frightened at the prospect of standing before Christ in judgment. However, faithful Christians don’t have to fear the Lord’s coming; for them it will be a great day of salvation.
Apply the Message of the Cross
To preach “Christ crucified” is to preach the gospel, the “good news.”
The message of the cross is good news for all, because as accountable individuals, we are all sinners: Romans 3:23 – “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” NIV
Because of our sins, we are condemned to death: Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NIV
Simply defined, the word “death” means “separation.” Physical death is the separation of body and spirit (James 2:26), but spiritual death is far worse than physical death – it is the separation of a human being from God. Isaiah 59:2 – “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” NIV
Romans 8:2 – “…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” NIV
What is this law of sin and death? “Sin leads to death!” James 1:15 – “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” NIV
Sin violates God’s law and brings about the penalty of death – with absolutely no exceptions. His law applies to every sinner, regardless of the sin. That really puts us in a bind with God, because if there is one thing the Bible makes perfectly clear – from Adam to Moses to David to Peter to Paul to every one of us, all have sinned: Psalm 143:2 – “…for no one living is righteous before you.” NIV
Friends, the fact, reality, and enormity of sin must be dealt with. Since we can’t deal with it ourselves, God dealt with it for us on the cross. On the cross, Christ responded to the problem of universal sin with a universal sacrifice.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” NIV
On the cross, Jesus took on all of the sins that had ever been committed or would ever be committed by every person who ever lived. For a few hours, Jesus “became guilty” of our sins, and suffered the same separation from God that sin will cause many people to suffer in hell. His death was equal to every person who ever lived spending an eternity in hell. Hebrews 9:26 – “…But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” NIV
If Christ had not died for us, we would have no hope. Since He did die for us, we can have hope. What we could not do – save ourselves – Christ has done for us. We owed a debt we could not pay; Christ paid that debt, a debt He did not owe, by dying for us on the cross, suffering the punishment we should have suffered.
Because He did, we can be saved. No matter what our sins have been, they can be washed away in the blood of Christ!
No matter who you are or what you’ve done or how empty you may feel in your heart – know that to God you are not a throwaway person – you can begin all over again right now and experience the love, joy and peace that will make you whole again!
Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” NIV
You can laugh and scoff at the message if you want to, but as long as you find it foolish, you will remain unsaved. On the other hand, those who accept that message will find in it God’s power to save. Will you find the message of the cross foolish and remain lost, or will you accept it as fact and be saved?
Any day, Christ may return. Each day brings us closer to the grave and the judgment. Today is the day of salvation, tomorrow may be too late for you!