Why We Preach Christ Crucified

 By Jonathan Landry Cruse - Posted at The Heidelblog:

On the subject of preaching, the apostle Paul says the proof of true preaching is that it centers on Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23; 2:2). Interestingly, Paul is not merely content to say we must preach Christ, but that we must preach a Christ who is crucified. Many preachers do the former; doing the latter is more difficult. Indeed, it is possible to preach about Jesus—even to say many wonderfully true things about Jesus—but preaching the fullness of his person and work requires talking about his cross. True preaching offers a Jesus who did not just live for us, but who died for us too. It deals honestly with the consequences of sin, including the wrath and curse of God which was laid on our Savior at the cross.

Therefore, according to the biblical principle and pattern, real Christ-centered preaching is cross-centered preaching. And why is this kind of preaching so critical? We could give at least three answers to that question: it humbles, it comforts, and it sanctifies sinners. Let us take a look at each of those in turn.

Preaching the Cross Humbles Sinners

Paul says the concept of the cross is offensive to both the Jewish and Gentile audiences of his day: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:22–23). It is still offensive to us today because, left to our sinful nature, we are offended at the thought of a salvation we do not earn. Preaching the cross offends our prideful sensibilities because it shines a light on Jesus, not us. But until our pride is killed we cannot live. God delights in cross-centered preaching because it lays us low just as it lifts him high.

Another humbling aspect of preaching the cross is that it, by definition, requires that we address our sin. There would be no need for a crucified savior were it not for the fact that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). There is no denying our weaknesses, transgressions, or infractions of God’s holy law when the reality of the cross is presented. Preaching the cross will mean confronting sin head-on, and no one likes that. This is why some churches have thrown out the concept of sin altogether. Decades ago, Richard Niebuhr recognized with this pithy aphorism the message of the liberal church as being: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” But, if we are being honest, it is not just theological liberals who diminish the seriousness of sin. None of us likes hearing sin preached against when it is our sin in the crosshairs. Revealing sin, however, is a mercy from God; for until I see my sin for what it truly is, I will never see my Savior for who he truly is.


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