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Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2010

Character Of The Christian Message

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Paul explains the true character of the Christian message in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 to help us see its inherent power and also the vanity of relying on “the wisdom of words” in preaching the Gospel. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, 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. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The Christian message is centred on Christ and His cross

Paul referred to the Christian message as "the preaching of the cross" (verse 18). We are always to preach the word of the cross. There are no two Gospels any more than there are two Gods. There are no two atonements any more than there are two Saviours. There is one Gospel as there is one God, and there is one atonement as there is one Saviour. Other gospels are not tolerated among earnest Christians.

Did the Apostle say that “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be candidly heard and quietly fraternized with?” Nothing of the sort. Let me quote what the Apostle wrote, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). There can be no tolerance of any other gospel. If the content of the message varies, it cannot be accepted. There is no gospel under heaven, but the one gospel of Jesus Christ.

We cannot agree that there are other means of salvation. For none has paid the price of redemption. Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” “Other foundation can no man lay  than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Generations of men come and go like the grass of the field, but the word of the Lord abideth forevermore (cf. 1 Peter 1:24-25). The Gospel is the same in all places, the same to all nationalities, the same to minds of all temperaments and constitutions. There is no need for us to be so concerned about cross-cultural presentation of the Gospel. Wherever we may go to evangelise, all that we need to do is to simply preach Christ crucified, and then echo the voice of the Crucified, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved is the message of the cross. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

If Christ is preached according to the Scriptures, then we have presented the Gospel correctly. He will then attract all men unto Himself.

The power of the Christian message is not in making people feel good and wonderful in the church. It is not people’s religiosity that saves them because religiosity does not cleanse them of their sins. Let us remember that salvation by works is not the word of the cross. The call to salvation by works is a strange voice within the fold of the church, and the sheep of Christ do not follow it, for they know not the voice of strangers.

Today, we need no new Gospel. It is the same old Gospel of Jesus Christ that the apostles and the reformers preached, that we also need to preach for the salvation of sinners. If the atonement were in progress, if the great sacrifice were not complete, then I could understand that there should be progress in the preaching of it. But inasmuch as Jesus has pronounced, while He was upon the tree, that "It is finished" (John 19:30), there can be no other way of salvation. Only after He had completed the work of redemption that He bowed His head and gave up the spirit. So there can be no further development in this doctrine that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer and none else.

The Christian message evokes contrasting responses (vv. 18-21)

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (verse 18).

We should never think that good preaching would always bring positive responses from people. It is not the case. The preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a charming thing to many in the world. They consider it as foolishness. In their minds, it does not possess the attractions of human philosophy and knowledge. Simple faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is too simple for their intellectual minds.

This doctrine of the cross is not the offspring of reason, but the gift of God’s revelation. All the thinkers of the ages continued to think but they never invented a plan of salvation in which divine justice and mercy equally and so wondrously unite. The cross was not in all their thoughts. How could it be?

The thought of redemption is the design of the infinite mind of God and could not have been designed by any other. The doctrine of the cross is not a human speculation, but a revelation from God and for this reason the learned ones cannot accept it. Profound thinkers, the philosophers of this world, cannot bear to be told anything. The wisdom of God that He tells them does not fit their proud minds. To them, everything must derive from the depths of their vast minds. So, when they are told of God's absolute and perfect plan of salvation, their carnal minds think it is foolishness because it makes them out to be fools. They do not like to be told that they must take God's Word for it.

The wise man of this world does not like the Gospel; it, first of all, preaches to him the foolishness of his sinful mind. Anything that proves to the one who is wise in his own eyes, that he is a fool, will be dealt with great vehemence. He will revenge those who tell him that unpleasant truth. His response would be "Why, am I a nobody after all? So respectable, so studious, so profound, so intelligent, am I to be nobody?"

If you dare to say to the wise man of this world that "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven", he would sneer at you. He will reply, “Why, I am a professor, a philosopher, a doctor of divinity, and therefore, you cannot really mean that I am to receive truth as a little child! Such talk is foolishness.”

The Bible said that carnal men could not receive spiritual things; how truthful is its statement! It is written, “There shall come in the last days scoffers” (2 Peter 3:3). To them, preachers of the Word seem to be babblers and the doctrines foolishness. So let us not be troubled by people's unhappy responses to the truth of God's Word that we preach faithfully. We must be faithful to God and not to foolish men.

 

Pastoral Exhortation