1 Corinthians 1:17-31
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words…
I. "THE CROSS OF CHRIST" IS AN INSTRUMENT INTENDED AND ADAPTED TO PRODUCE A CERTAIN "EFFECT." So far as man had to do with it it was intended to abase a prophet whom many honoured, to kill as a malefactor a Man whose great fault was that He had no fault at all. So far as God had to do with it, it was intended to be a Divine force. The Cross of Christ is to be a Divine force with an "effect" retrospective, aspective, and prospective.
1. The Cross fulfilled the first promise; it was the "good thing" of which the sacrifices were a shadow; it was the event toward which the course of all events had tended.
2. The Cross cast a long, deep shadow upon the Holy Land; its peculiar people; its priesthood, temple, and ritual; a night-of-death shadow to cover a time of change in which old things would pass away and all things become new.
3. The Cross shed light into the darkness of the world, and indicated those stirrings of the Divine mercy which terminated in the proclamation of salvation to the world. As matter of history, since the Cross of Christ has begun to take effect, it has caused religious systems hoary with age, and rooted by ten thousand fibres in the hearts of the people to be laid aside as worn-out garments. It has spread civilisation over many nations; it has been a key to unlock the treasures of all useful knowledge; it has elevated art, widened commerce, removed the fetters from the slave; it has founded hospitals and schools, checked the harsh government of rulers, quelled the anarchy of subjects, restored woman to her primitive position, imparted peace and joy to the home, exalted nations, and is now both the light and leaven of the world. The Cross of Christ alone saves.
II. PAUL SPEAKS OF THE CROSS BEING "MADE OF NONE EFFECT."
1. To make the sun of none effect would send our world back to chaos, but this ruin would be —
2. Small compared with negativing the Cross of Christ. And Paul tells us that if he had exhibited the Cross with "wisdom of words," it would have been powerless in his hands. He cannot mean intelligible and acceptable words; for without such the Cross could not be manifested at all. By "wisdom of words" is meant the artifices of rhetoric, &c. If the Cross were a jewel to be hoarded and hid I would make its bed in wool; but as it is a gem to be used let me see it as it is. If the Cross were an inferior gem I might add to its worth and beauty by the setting; but as its value is beyond price, let its surroundings be as simple as possible. The question is not, however, one of taste, but of utility. Shall we mingle with our daily bread that which will deprive us of its nutritive effect?
3. The Cross is made of none effect when —
(1) It is made identical with the crucifix, as though the Cross were nothing more than His crucifixion. The crucifix to the vulgar eye puts exclusively forward the bodily sufferings of Christ, and its effect is to bring us into sympathy with them. This is the effect of painting, poetry, and music, when employed upon the same subject. But the Cross of Christ is not an example of suffering merely, but the "Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world."(2) False doctrine and speculation concerning it are taught. The effect of the Atonement is in itself, not in its philosophy. And if the attempt at explanation fail, and the philosophy be false, I exhibit a cross framed by my own vain imagination. Then, what have I done? I have led men from living waters to the appearance of a fountain in shining sand.
(3) It is exhibited without a personal recognition of its claims. That which you say about it will not be believed unless it appears important. and true, and it cannot appear real and momentous except as exhibited in faith. Faith begets faith.
(4) Its requirements are multiplied and complicated. It saith, "Come to Me"; "Look to Me"; "Believe in Me." If we surround it with a long and difficult creed; if we clothe it with an elaborate ritual; if we plant it in the shrine of a particular ecclesiastical polity, and require men to come to it, by these we make it of none effect.
(5) There is lack of faith in its power. It is impotent in the hand of an unbeliever. Our faith does not affect the value and efficacy of the Cross in the eye of God; but it does in the eye of man.
(6) When it is used for objects foreign to itself. Ecclesiastics have used it to satisfy their ungodly ambition; political rulers as an engine of government; private individuals as a, spy in a camp uses the password, and prejudice has been raised against it.Conclusion:
1. What is the effect of the Cross of Christ upon yourselves?
(1) Child of Christian parents, you have been directed to it ever since your eyes opened to see. Other things have had effect. The scenes of your early life; the books you have read; the companions with whom you associated, &c. And what has been the effect of the Cross of Christ? It has repelled you or attracted you. Repelled you! The magnet of the eternal mercy repelled you!
(2) Pupil of a Christian school!
(3) Hearer of Christian preaching and possessor of Holy Scripture, unless you are saved by it you will be damned by it. Christian brethren, what is its daily effect upon your hearts and lives? Are you crucified with Christ? Is its effect to captivate your heart; to command your energies; to sanctify your life?
2. What is the effect of the Cross in your hands? We more than fear that Christians and Churches of Christ have done much to make the Cross of Christ of none effect.
Parallel VersesKJV: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.