A Determination about the Cross
A Determination About the Cross (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
What is the one thing that makes Christ's church unique in this city? Is it buildings, budgets, programs, activities, or striking personalities? No. The city has all of those without the church. The one unique treasure of the church is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, most especially His cross.
When Paul came to Corinth, he was one small man traveling on foot, living with another poor man. No heralds sounded Paul's coming, no sympathy appeared for his message, and no human resources were at his disposal. Yet his visit was the most significant in the history of the city. Paul's secret? He really did limit all he said to the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
We Make a Determination of Limitation
Limitation gives power. "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (v. 2). This is a significant determination. We must be people of some steadfast refusals as well as affirmations. This means a renunciation. "I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom" (v. 1). Paul did not rely upon his ability to speak or to reason in order to impress the Corinthians. Nothing about his bearing indicated that he was a rhetorician or a philosopher, the two things the Corinthians most admired. Paul was a learned man who knew the Greek poets, Greek statuary, and was able to reason like Aristotle. And yet there was a renunciation of all human cleverness as he presented Jesus Christ. He relied upon the bare presentation of the Person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
That limitation has to do with the personal nature of our message; it is a message about a person. At the center of our testimony is Jesus Christ—not the church, the denomination, or any theological system. But we emphasize a particular aspect of Jesus Christ, His cross. We point to the one thing about Him which is the most scandalous and has the greatest stigma—His blood, sacrifice, and criminal's death. From the world's point of view this is a foolish message brought by a foolish messenger. Yet God has chosen to attach His saving power to that message.
This determination of limitation must be pervasive. Paul was limited to Jesus Christ in all his quiet, private conversations and in all of his public preaching.
A Declaration of Personal Limitation
Should Christian messengers always present themselves as people of mastery, control, and self-possession? Paul emphasized the exact opposite about himself.
We can preach the Christ of the cross when physically weak (v. 3). When Paul came to Corinth he was in poor physical condition (2 Cor. 10:1, 10; 12:7; 13:3). He did not come with strength, self-confidence or self-reliance. He had an extreme consciousness of his own weakness and insufficiency for the task. Yet in his very weakness the light of the message shone more brightly. We do not have to "have it all together" to preach the Person and work of Christ on the cross.
We can preach the Christ of the cross when psychologically fearful. Paul came to Corinth full of anxiety. He had a "phobia," not for his own safety but because of his responsibility for the gospel message. He knew that he was not up to the task. God honored that humility on Paul's part. When we admit that we personally cannot change the city, God can.
We can preach the Christ of the cross when visibly shaken. Paul's inward weakness and fear manifested itself in a literal outward shaking of his person. Yet the power of God poured through the shaken men. Just because of that people saw it for what it was—the very power of God.
A Declaration of Personal Motivation
There is a motivation we refuse. In all of our private and public work for the Lord Jesus we refuse mere human persuasion. Paul did not come with subtle arguments, clever manipulations, or overpowering logic to manipulate people into Christianity. When we rely on psychological tricks of the trade we have only human power at our disposal.
But when we rely on the gospel message alone, there is an intervention we realize: "a demonstration of the Spirit's power" (v. 4). When Paul—weak, fearful, shaking as he was—preached something beyond Paul happened. The Spirit put on a rigorous demonstration of the truth about Christ crucified. People were shaken to the center of their secret selves (1 Cor. 14:24-25). When Paul preached a divine power intervened in spite of Paul's weakness.
All of this is because of the foundation we require: "so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom but on God's power" (v. 5). When we place at the center of our witness anything other than the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, we put faith's foundation on that which will not last. If we persuade people by cleverness, someone more clever can lead them away. If we dazzle people by reason, someone more logical can sway them away from Christ. But when we anchor people to the cross of Christ, faith's foundation lasts. The messenger can leave, but the results of the message remain.
May we commit ourselves in this city to the solemn determination that we be committed to Christ and Him crucified as our message.