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 Jesus and His death? Evidently, Paul was referring to his “speech” or “message” (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the apostle was with the Corinthians, he made the firm decision to speak to them about Jesus and not try to impress them with extravagant oratory or human wisdom. (The Greeks had already heard a lot of these things from their philosophers.) The main theme of the message preached by Paul 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. The five words appeared vertically. At the base of the pulpit was a pot in which someone had planted ivy for ornamental purposes. Eventually, the ivy climbed the sides of the pulpit and covered the word “Crucified.” Now only the words “We Preach Jesus Christ” were visible.
Two Avoided Subjects: The Death of Jesus and Sin
Unfortunately, this describes the preaching that is heard today in many churches. Not much is said about the death of Jesus or the reason why the Lord had to go to the cross: our sins.
Instead of this, people prefer to think about the birth of Jesus because this part of His life does not directly address the problem of sin. Many try to live their lives “with a clear conscience” without ever coming to grips with the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
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 glorious and beautiful 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).
The Message Proclaimed in Many Churches
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 have to 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 does not 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!”