In 1 Corinthians 2:2, the apostle Paul says to the Christians in Corinth, Greece, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
What does he mean when he says that he decided to “know nothing” among them except the Lord and his death? Evidently, Paul was referring to his “speech” or “message” (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the apostle was with the Corinthians, he didn’t rely on extravagant oratory or human wisdom. (The Greeks had already heard a lot of these things from their philosophers.) The main theme of Paul’s message was not based on boasts of rhetoric or the intelligence of man, but on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The story is told of a certain church whose motto was inscribed on the pulpit. Each time the preacher presented a message, the words “We Preach Jesus Christ Crucified” could be clearly read. At the base of the pulpit was a pot in which someone had planted ivy for ornamental purposes. Eventually, the ivy climbed the front of the pulpit and covered the word “Crucified.” Now only the words “We Preach Jesus Christ” were visible.
Two Avoided Subjects
This describes the preaching that is heard in many churches today. Not much is said about the death of Jesus or the reason why the Lord had to go to the cross: our sins. Many prefer to remember Jesus as a babe in the manger because this specific event doesn’t directly address the problem of sin. At this stage of his earthly life, Jesus censured no one, nor did he tell anyone what they must do in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 9:6; 22:16).
Many are inclined to believe that all people are essentially good and that the world is actually getting better. They claim that they strive to live “with a clear conscience” but never come to grips with the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As we noticed in an earlier devotional, sin is the most empirically-verifiable fact, but also the most intellectually-resisted.
Did Jesus’ Plan Fail?
Some even believe that Jesus’ plan was not successful because, instead of helping him establish an alleged earthly kingdom, his fellow Jews crucified him. This cannot be farther from the truth! God’s plan was a complete success! The kingdom of Christ was established on the day of Pentecost (Mark 9:1, Acts 2, Colossians 1:13) and by means of the death of Jesus we have reconciliation (Ephesians 2:16) and peace with God (Colossians 1:20).
What makes true Christianity stand out among all the world’s religions is the sublime message of the cross. May we preach Jesus Christ, but may we also proclaim to this lost world that the forgiveness of sins is possible only through his redeeming death on the cross. It’s no wonder that the apostle Paul said, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
A Secular Message
But the ivy continued to climb the pulpit and covered the words “Jesus Christ.” Now only the words “We Preach” were visible. In the same way, pulpits of many churches today are used to preach about politics, “self-help” strategies for personal satisfaction and happiness, economic prosperity, and just about everything except the person of Jesus and the reason for which he died.
Tear Off the Ivy!
What is the solution, then? We must tear “the ivy” off pulpits and preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), whether it is welcome or not (2 Timothy 4:2).
Many today prefer to keep Jesus in the manger, where he doesn’t speak against sin or about the need to repent. However, God calls us to proclaim the message of the cross. The Lord will be glorified and souls saved from eternal loss only when “we preach Jesus Christ crucified!”