Christ crucified: a stumbling block, foolishness, or the power of God?

A sermon by Abuoma Boanerges

 

Text:  1 Corinthians 1: 17-24 & Romans 1:16.

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1: 17-24).

 

Introduction

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has been so much misunderstood and misrepresented in such a way that millions of people who hear preaching every day think what they are hearing is the gospel. That a man walks up to the pulpit, opens his Bible and begin to say some things from the passages doesn’t necessary mean he is preaching the gospel. The center (or heart) of the gospel is our Lord Jesus Christ – nobody else and nothing else.

It is wrong to focus on the Father and minimize the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Jehovah’s witnesses do this when they erroneously deny the deity of the Son, and reduce the Holy Spirit to being not a Person by merely the activity of God.

And it is wrong to focus on the Holy Spirit and make him all-important in your life, pushing the Father and the Son into the background and forgetting them. This is what the Pentecostals and Charismatics do. Listen: if they were interested in the REAL Holy Spirit, then their eyes and hearts would be upon the Lord Jesus, and their talk would be always full of Christ and not full of the Holy Spirit. As he himself said, “The Spirit of truth … shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14).

Let us always focus our attention on the Lord Jesus Christ, and we will that way have a proper understanding – a proper appreciation – a proper love – for God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. That which has its eyes on the Son has both Father, and Son and Holy Spirit.

Listen to what the apostle Paul says: “In him (Christ) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). The only true gospel has Christ as its center has both the Father and the Holy Ghost as well, for as we say: Christ is the embodiment of all that is of God. In other words, to have a correct understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ is to have the correct understanding of the gospel, and the correct way to interpret all of Holy Scripture.

 

Understanding the Gospel

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul begins to tell the Corinthians of the charge he had received from the Lord. He says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize.” He first defines what the focus, or essence, of his ministry WAS NOT before defining what it WAS. He first tells the Corinthians what the Lord had not sent him to do.

Likewise, we too must first know what the Lord has not asked of us before we can clearly know what it is that he does demand from us. For example, how can I know the exact size of my land if I don’t first inspect the four boundaries so that I know where they are?

The apostle Paul clearly understood the charge and vision that he had received from the Lord. Hear him say it boldly to Agrippa, “Whereupon O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19)! Ah, only a man who clearly understands the charge he has received from the Lord can say so with such boldness.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul sets before the Corinthians what he was not sent to do. He tries as much as possible to make them understand that there were certain boundaries to the gospel he preached; certain things that gospel but is not – even though some people say that these things are the gospel, or a necessary part of it.

He mentions four of them which we do well to heed to.

 

What the Gospel is not

1. The gospel is not baptism

Paul tells them that Christ did not command him to primarily to baptize, but to preach the gospel. What a wonderful word! There are many who think and believe that baptism is the gospel – they think that to be baptised is to be born again! This is a fatal error of the Roman Catholics. But here we see that baptism is not the gospel at all. “For Christ sent me NOT to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” So, the gospel is one thing, and baptism another. No further word is needed to prove that, is there?

A “Reverend Father” of the Roman Catholic Church may sprinkle his holy water upon your head and tell you that your baptismal name is now James Paul Barnabas – but no true conversion has taken place in your life because the gospel has been substituted for a baptism. Baptism of any kind is not the gospel, so says the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul.

And this is true for all kinds of baptism. The so-called Holy Ghost baptism of the Pentecostals and Charismatics is not the Gospel, nor a part of the Gospel. People are so deceived by the craftiness of Satan.

You say, hands were laid on you and now you have a wonderful experience of “speaking in tongues,” and the artificial joy that it produces now fills your heart – yet in all that, you have not heard the gospel at all. You have not heard the gospel, the pure word of God that can save your soul. The Bible says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Having any artificial experience cannot work the desired conversion in our souls. We must keep these things aside and receive with meekness the engrafted word of God, which is able to save our souls (James 1:21).

In the Pentecostal/Charismatic religion we use to say some things like, “I am not a teacher, but a prophet.” Another would say “God has not called me as an Evangelist but as a special deliverance minister to cast out devils and free the oppressed.” Or another would say, “I had a vision of God warning me not to be a local church pastor because he has special anointed me to travel round the world and set the captives free.” But when I came across the Calvinists in the USA through the internet, they never mentioned any such thing as that! When I was a Pentecostal, our religion was – to sit down, think big of ourselves and say what God has not said and so on; but those Calvinists’ religion was – to preach the gospel and get souls grounded in sound doctrine.

Now all those Pentecostal / Charismatic folks who say their own ministry – their own personal commission from God – is to get people baptized in the Holy Ghost, do not really understand that this has nothing to do with the gospel, and it adds nothing to a person’s salvation, and it does nothing to prove whether or not that person was ever saved. No, the true Great Commission from the Lord Jesus Christ tells us to “preach the gospel to every creature” first and foremost (Mark 16:15). It should never be baptism first, or baptism instead of the gospel – not any kind of baptism or so-called baptism.

 

2. The Gospel is not the wisdom of words

Most of us, who are not so learned, must take heed and understand that using big grammar, deep or high sounding intonation, technical words or Latin words doesn’t show any evidence of gospel preaching at all. This is very important for us to bear in mind.

Some of our [African, black] brothers are now going to learn how to speak like the white men. They learn what they call phonetics so they can speak with the intonation of the white men. Some may learn how to rap in the pulpit like T.D. Jakes, who turns his pulpit to a hip-hop stage, and many ignorant people fall prey to them. Big grammar, correct phonetics, or rap – none of this can transform what is not the gospel into the gospel.

Paul said God sent him to preach the gospel, not with “wisdom of words” (1 Corinthians 1:17). And you can be sure that Paul was no rapper.

We must study and seek to advance in knowledge. We must take hold of every opportunity provided us to read. We must not allow our background to limit us at all. But we must also be very careful not to add things to the gospel that are not the gospel. Listen: even an ‘illiterate’ or ‘uneducated’ man can interpret the written mind of God to us, if he sticks to the truth. This what we really need to hear: the truth from pulpits. We have no need for a scholar who gives us “yea men, yea men.” We need the gospel, not the wisdom of words!

 

3. The gospel is not signs and wonders

Paul said “For the Jews require a sign … but we preach Christ crucified … Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). Signs and wonders are one thing, and the gospel another thing. This means that that signs and wonders and performing of miracles not part of the preaching of the Gospel. That was true in Paul’s day when the apostles worked real signs and wonders by the real Holy Spirit. How much more true is it in our day, when people work counterfeit signs and wonders, which are not by the Holy Spirit.

We don’t need signs and wonders, from God or not, real or counterfeit, for the salvation of our souls. This is enough for true saints to tremble at the word of God, recognising its power when the Holy Spirit applies it to the mind, opens the understanding, a d gives saving faith.

This ought to shock most of you who travel from place to place, seeking one “powerful” ministry or the other, and from one “anointed man of God” to the other, seeking for who will break the “yoke of curses in your family” or whatever your need is. What you need to know is, such men are not preaching the gospel but they are indeed enemies of the true gospel. What they perform is not miracles but magic! No different from the animist witch-doctors, except that they claim that the Holy Ghost gave them the power. They promise you freedom from your problems but they themselves are in chains of bondage and under the curse of God! God has given them over to a reprobate mind and that is why we also see most of them practicing homosexuality, divorcing their wives and getting married to other women as much as three or four times, or more.

Paul exceeded every other apostle in the performing of signs, yet he clearly told the Corinthians that Christ did not send him to the perform signs and miracles at all. Paul was genuinely highly anointed by God. His handkerchief healed the sick. His aprons delivered people from the torments of devils. And on one occasion he picked up a guy that fell from an upper room dead and that guy was brought back to life! Yet Paul did not encourage the Corinthians to seek these things. Paul was bitten by a venomous serpent and while the men were waiting for him to fall dead, God healed him (Acts 23:3-6). And what did Paul do? Yes he healed some people. But his purpose, his heart’s desire was to continue his gospel ministry, opening the Scriptures even in Rome, to preach the gospel to them.

These experiences that people are having in our day, of rolling on the floor and barking likes dogs, have no connection with the gospel. The Reformers and the Puritans saw the Roman Catholic Church as a great threat to the gospel of Christ because the Papists added to the gospel. But today, the greatest threat to the gospel around us, and around the world, appears not to be the Roman Catholics nor the Mormons, or any other religious group, but the Pentecostals and Charismatics! They have added something to the gospel, and mostly pushed out the gospel and replaced it with falling into trances, barking like dogs, mad laughing, and pretending to speak in unlearned and unreal tongues.

Yes, what they have added to the gospel is the most stupid, wicked nonsense you can imagine! And so, we must not call them brothers in Christ – for the gospel is what makes brothers in Christ and they are suppressing it, and casting the worst reputation upon it in the eyes of a watching world.

We must boldly tell them the truth. Martin Luther was ready to part with his friend Erasmus rather than betray the gospel and his conscience.

 

4. The gospel is not ‘wisdom’

Again, Paul says, “The Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:22). This Greek ‘wisdom’ (philosophy) is one thing, and the gospel another thing. Here too, Paul tells us that the gospel is different from worldly wisdom, which entices men away from the true gospel.

And let me here make a small diversion and speak of a so-called ‘wisdom’ that is rampant in the church. There are many who have made it their duty to make ‘research’ about which Government is the Anti-Christ and what is the country from which the Anti-Christ will come. Each year in their research they come up with new ‘eschatological discoveries’ about the Anti-Christ – but in this, again and again they disgrace themselves. These are as modern ‘Greeks’ within the church, which seek after a wisdom from buries within the Scriptures which nobody else has seen before. This year they tell us it is the Government of Britain, next year they will say it is Barrack Obama. A few years ago they said it was Bill Clinton. And take note: they come up with these their discoveries to distract true Christians from their true worship to God.

We don’t need these their 21st Century lies. The Reformers and Puritans were able to easily see who the Anti-Christ is, because they were strong students of the Bible and they had the evidence all around them. They pointed to the Roman Catholic Church and its Papacy and said, “Behold, this is the Anti-Christ.” So we know without a shadow of doubt that the Man of Sin is the pope, and the Roman Catholic Church is the Great Whore of Babylon, and her daughters are those false churches and cults around the world who are so like her. We must not allow these ‘modern eschatological discoveries’ to distract us. Nor should we think they are any part of the gospel. We don’t need them.

 

So, what is the Gospel?

With all these said about what the gospel is NOT, we are then faced with the question, “What IS the gospel?”

First, I must take you through few passages of the Bible to show you that the world does not love the true gospel; and it does not love us if we love the gospel; and those that are of the world do not receive the gospel.

1. The true gospel stirs up strife among men (Matthew 10:16-36).

2. Only those that are of God can receive the true gospel (John 8:47).

3. Only those that are of God can receive the true gospel (John 8:47).

4. Only Jesus’s sheep will hear his voice and follow him (John 10:26-28).

5. Unregenerate men will not endure the sound doctrine of the gospel but they will turn their ears from it (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

After Paul showed what the gospel is not, he then tells us what the gospel is. “But we preached Christ crucified … Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” That alone is the gospel, nothing more and nothing less. And 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 throws more light on it.

The gospel is that the Lord Jesus Christ has been crucified for our sins. He has taken our place and has borne the wrath of God in our place so that we don’t bear the wrath of God anymore.

The Gospel is that God has made him to be sins for us that we might be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

Christ made full payment for the sins of those the Father gave him to save out of all mankind. Mark the word for certain sinners chosen not because of any good in them but out of the mere mercy of God (Ephesians 1:3-7).

The question then is, did the death of the Lord Jesus Christ accomplish its purpose or did it fail? Did his blood atone for sins or not?

In answer to these questions, we boldly and gladly say that:

1. The death of Christ actually saved his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

2. His death is limited only to those whom the Father gave him to save (John 17:1-2). And so he saves none beyond that number.

3. The Father, from the foundation of the world, chose them and made every necessary preparation for their salvation. This is as God declares in Isaiah: “my counsel shall stand and I will fulfil all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10).

4. The Bible gives us assurance that as many as are ordained to eternal life shall believe (Acts 13:48). And therefore, all those who actually believe in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).

5. Christ shall lose none of those whom he saves, but he shall raise them up on the last day (John 6:37-40).

 

The results of the gospel

As in the time of the apostles, so also now the gospel creates two effects on them that hear it preached. To some it is the savour of life unto life, and to others it is the savour of death unto death (1 Corinthians 2:16).

In the children of God, the gospel produces faith, comfort, assurance, humility, and it also provokes them to holy living, and stirs them up unto good works towards their God who had shown them such mercy by delivering them from the wrath to come.

But to those who never become the children of God, the gospel produces unbelief, and rebellion to God and even makes them accuse God of being unjust and wicked as though there was anything in fallen man to demand God loving him.

Paul said the gospel was a stumbling block to the sign-seeking Jews. This is worth taking note of as we see these sign-seeking Christians today trying to modernize the gospel by adding stuff and nonsense to it. In our own recent experience we have discovered that there is no other religious group that opposes the doctrines of grace (also known as Calvinism) more than the present Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. The minds of these sign-seekers cannot accept at all this doctrine that humbles man to the dust. And once the Lord has opened the eyes of anyone, he immediately sees the folly of this movement.

And to another group that seeks after wisdom, the gospel seems to them as foolishness. These ones are those that want to know the secret things of God. They want to know who is fulfilling the prophecy of the Anti-Christ and so forth. These count the gospel as foolishness – they are not so interested in the gospel as they are in their “eschatological research.” This failure to be interested in the gospel above all is evidence enough that their  studies are leading them astray.

Then there is another group. The Bible designates them as “them that are called” or more better said, “the called-out ones” which make up the true church, the body of Christ. Let us see those who make up this group.

1 Corinthians 1:24 says, “But unto them which are called, both JEWS and GREEKS.” The called-out ones who believe the gospel came out from among the sign-seeking Jews and from among the ‘wisdom’-seeking Greeks and other Gentiles. And they are still coming! They come, being effectually called, or effectually drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are regenerated (born again). These are the ones who come to believe the gospel. They were once among that bunch of gospel-ignoring-sign-seekers and that bunch of gospel-ignoring-wisdom-seekers, but now they seek Christ alone for their salvation.

May God the Father, who is the fountain head of our salvation, draw us all to the praise of his glory in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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