March 28, 2017 – The True Picture

I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2

Jesus Christ evokes many images in the minds of people. Some picture Him as a baby in a manger—the Christ of Christmas. Others picture Him as a child, perhaps living in the home of a carpenter or confounding the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Many picture Him as a compassionate and powerful healer who restored the sick and raised the dead. Still others picture a bold and fiery preacher speaking the Word of God to great crowds. And there are those who see Him as the consummate man—a model of goodness, kindness, sympathy, concern, care, tenderness, forgiveness, wisdom, and understanding.

Yet the one image of Christ that surpasses all the rest is Jesus Christ on the cross. To know Christ crucified is to know Him as the author and finisher of your faith—the truest picture of His Person and work.

Christ’s suffering on the cross is the focal point of the Christian faith. That’s where His deity, humanity, work, and suffering are most clearly seen.[1]

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (2:1–2)

As we have noted, the gospel of God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption cannot be obtained through human wisdom. Here Paul demonstrates that it also is not to be presented through human wisdom. Paul did not come to Corinth as a philosopher but as a witness. He came proclaiming … the testimony of God. Testimony (marturion) means just that—a testimony or witness. A person can only testify to what he himself has seen or heard or experienced. A witness in a courtroom is to report only what he knows objectively, factually, and personally. He is not to speculate, guess, or deduce. Paul was a witness only to God’s revelation, not to his own human understanding or reason or inclinations. God’s revelation was everything; human wisdom was nothing.

We should not come to church to hear the pastor’s opinions about politics, psychology, economics, or even religion. We should come to hear a word from the Lord through the pastor. God’s Word edifies and unifies; human opinions confuse and divide.

Paul assured the Corinthians that he had not come to them with a lot of human verbiage and opinion. He presented them with the testimony of God and nothing else. Some years later he assured them again: “We have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (Cor. 4:2). The primary task, the only task, of the ministry is to manifest the truth of God.

Paul warned Timothy, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:1–2). Timothy was to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (v. 13). That was his job. That is every preacher’s job. Any other approach prostitutes the pulpit.

In his second letter to that young minister, Paul solemnly charged him “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus” to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1–2). I cannot comprehend how any man who calls himself a minister of God can do anything but preach the Word of God and be ready to do it “in season and out of season” (v. 2). Many congregations, however, do not want their pastors to preach only the Word. They “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (v. 3). As one commentator has observed, “In periods of unsettled faith, skepticism, and mere curious speculation in matters of religion, teachers of all kinds swarm like the flies in Egypt. The demand creates the supply. The hearers invite and shape their own preachers. If the people desire a calf to worship, a ministerial calf–maker is readily found.” Some people, including some immature believers, will go from church to church looking for the right preacher. Unfortunately their idea of “right” preaching is not sound biblical exposition but interesting observations and suggestions based on the preacher’s personal philosophy. They are not looking for a word from God to believe but for a word from man to consider.

When Paul had preached to the Corinthians, as when he had preached anywhere, he was determined to know nothing among his hearers except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. He was not interested in discussing men’s ideas or insights, his own or those of anyone else. He would proclaim nothing but Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, and redeeming Jesus Christ. He did not preach Jesus simply as the perfect teacher or the perfect example or the perfect Man—though He was all of these. The foundation of all of his preaching was Jesus as the divine Savior.

Obviously the apostle was not saying that he preached or taught nothing but messages, or that he expounded only those parts of Scripture that deal directly with Christ’s atonement. He taught the full counsel of God, as his writings make clear (Acts 20:27). He ministered in Corinth for a year and a half, “teaching the word of God among [them]” (Acts 18:11). But it was, and still is, the cross of Jesus Christ that is the stumbling block or the foolishness to unbelievers (1 Cor. 1:23), and until a person accepts God’s revelation in the cross, no other revelation matters. The preaching of the cross was so dominant in the early church that many Jews and Gentiles accused the Christians of worshiping a dead man. To help a person understand the gospel Paul would go to any length to explain and clarify the cross, but he would not say one word to modify or contradict it.[2]

2 The focal point of Paul’s message was “Jesus Christ and him crucified”—the same message that in ch. 1 he wrote was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1:23; see comments). Note that Paul uses the perfect tense here for “crucified” (cf. also 1:23; Gal 3:1), which suggests that his focus was not as much on the historical event of the cross but on its ongoing effect for those who believe in Jesus, namely, that in this event they can find personal justification, redemption, and sanctification (cf. 1 Co. 1:30).[3]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 100). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 54–56). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 274). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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