1 Corinthians 1:17-31
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words…
1. Observe, Paul does not say "we preach Christ" as if the declaration of the personal dignity of the God-man were all. Neither does he emphasise the "crucified" as if the setting off of the death of Jesus as that of a martyr and for an example were enough. But he combines the two. The dignity of the Christ was needed to give efficacy to the sacrifice on the Cross, and the sacrifice on the Cross was required to complete the work of the Christ.
2. In the prosecution of his work Paul met with three classes, each of which treated his message in a peculiar fashion. The Jew and the Greek, without trying the gospel on themselves, rejected it — the one for its lack of power and the other for its lack of wisdom; but the third class, acting on the only true philosophical principle of proving the matter by personal experiment, found in it both the power of God and the wisdom of God. Nowadays it is sturdily insisted on that nothing shall be received save that which rests on the basis of observation and experiment, but that is all the gospel asks; and here we see that those who reject it are those who refuse to put it to the test. Which of the two classes is the more scientific? The Baconian philosophers should not hesitate as to the reply. Christ crucified is —
I. "THE POWER OF GOD."
1. Yes, but this power is not physical like the might of an army; nor material, like that which is connected with a development of matter; nor mechanical, as derived from any sort of mechanism, but dynamical, as exerted by spirit upon spirit. It is "power unto salvation." It is not therefore to be tested by material gauges, as one measures the pressure on a steam-boiler, or estimates the horse-power of an engine. We are to look for its operation in the human heart. Its trophics are in character, and its results are in life.
(1) Take it in the case of an individual, and the transformation wrought on such men as Paul, and , and John Newton, may well illustrate its reality and efficacy.
(2) Take it in the case of communities, and Christianity has either implanted or stimulated regard for the personality of the weakest and the poorest; respect for women; the absolute duty of each member of the fortunate classes to raise the unfortunate; humanity to the child, the prisoner, the stranger, the needy, and even the brute; unceasing opposition to all forms of cruelty; the duty of personal purity; the sacredness of marriage; the necessity of temperance.
2. But are we quite sure that it is "the power of God"? Yes, for there are only two spiritual powers in the world — that of evil and that of good. Very evidently, therefore, a result like that of the conversion of a man, and the revolution of society, from evil to good, must be traced up to God. Man cannot do it for himself, for as water cannot rise above its level, so the soul cannot change its nature by its own efforts. And what one man cannot do for himself, the aggregate of men cannot do for the race. They had four thousand years given to them in which to make the experiment, and here (ver. 21) is the result.
II. "THE WISDOM OF GOD."
1. Wisdom is manifested in the choice of such means as are best adapted to the production of the end. The problem to be solved in the salvation of men is, "How shall a sinner be forgiven without weakening the sanctions of morality and giving encouragement to evil?" Now the race vainly wrestled with that for four millenniums; but the despair of humanity is the opportunity of God, for in "Christ crucified" we are shown "a just God and a Saviour."
2. Wisdom is seen in the securing of different ends by one and the same means. So salvation is not merely forgiveness; it is also regeneration and growth in holiness. Its highest result is character, and the renovation of that is produced by the Holy Ghost. Now the dispensation of the Holy Spirit would have been impossible save for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; while, again, the love of Christ, as manifested in His sacrifice on the Cross, is the great means used by the Spirit for the regeneration and sanctification of the believer. Conclusion: From all this four inferences follow. If Christ crucified is the power of God unto salvation, then —
1. Any sinner may be saved through faith in Him.
2. There is no other way of salvation.
3. When men are saved through this means the whole glory of their salvation is due to God.
4. If we would see such results from our preaching as those which followed Paul's, we must preach the same gospel, "Christ crucified." This is the gospel for our age, because it is the gospel for all the ages.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
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.