Text: chapter 2 verse 2 “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Some say that the gospel is a boring subject! After all what more can we say than Jesus died on the cross for sinners? All have sinned therefore Jesus died for you and so you must repent and be saved. To some people this is what they understand of what Paul was saying ion this passage; they can then justify taking some random verse of scripture, find a rapid route to some link however weak it might be to Christ and then go directly to the cross. If that is what the gospel is then I might even agree that it becomes ordinary and even boring after just a few weeks. We often “tell me the old, old story” which in some ways can be misleading. 'Old' usually means in today’s understanding something that is out of date, unfashionable and quaint. Is this what the Apostle Paul and the hymn writer are relegating the gospel to? Is the gospel really like driving an old Morris Minor around on our modern motorways, a novelty to all that see it but not really relevant for today?
Sometimes we give people the impression that Paul’s statement in our text is that all we need to do is merely go into a town; seek out a suitable place, gather a congregation and hit them with “Jesus died for sinners, we are all sinners, therefore you need to repent and be saved.” That is the truth of the gospel but is it the complete essence of the gospel that Paul preached? Is this what Paul is prescribing for evangelism? On the surface that may seem to be the case
Let us consider the statement that he is making. Firstly Paul has made a decision: by his own will he has decided to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. So to Paul this is the most important thing that he could do for the Corinthian church. He had previously laid down the same foundation in chapter 1:23 that he only trusted in the preaching of Christ crucified thus telling them of the importance of the preached word. Also in our text he tells us of the person of whom is crucified: Jesus Christ. Jesus a real person who is Christ, the sent or anointed one who is the promised Messiah. It is God’s own Son who is crucified.
On the surface this is just a simple story but was it so simple to the Apostle Paul? Is this really only a story for simpletons? The amazing thing is that simpletons can understand it but the truth of the gospel is so theologically taxing that it would take many weeks of 30 minute sermons to even begin to explore the depths.
So what is Paul’s gospel?
Paul’s message was clearly simple in presentation but it was crammed full of theology and apologetic s. He was always willing to go to great lengths to reason with people as to the person of Christ. Therefore for Paul to say that he wanted “to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is a massive subject. In verse 30 he has already hinted at just how big the subject is, let us unpack what he says there of the gospel.
“He (God) is the source of your life in Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30
1. Jesus Christ is the source of life.
Remember that Paul was a devout Jew who was an expert in the scriptures (our old testament). In the light of that Paul could only mean one thing here by claiming that the man Jesus was the source of life and that has major implications! The statement was worthy of death to the devout Jew because there is only One who is life giver (Genesis 2:7) God Himself. To the Jews Paul’s statement in this verse is blasphemy the penalty for which under the law was death. It is so easy for us in the 21st century have lost sight of the significance of the claim that Paul is making in this statement.
There were not only the implications of blasphemy involved but also the paradox of the source of life Himself being crucified. Implicit in Paul’s statement is the death of God the Son, this opens the theological argument up into a great debate. “How can this be” would be the question that Paul would have to address. More than this was the problem that it was a man who was known to the people who Paul was claiming to be God, or the source of life.
Paul was saying that the Messiah was a man named Jesus, it is He who is the giver and taker of life and that He was crucified. These are no simple concepts for the faint hearted. But it is gospel truth. Try debating some of these issues in our modern debating chambers and see how much time it takes. Paul was no gospel “hit and run merchant”; he was always ready to give an answer to the questions of faith and theology that the people had.
Paul’s audiences were also well versed in their own particular belief system. Some would have been Jews, steeped in the Old Testament. They knew what they believed to be the truth and Paul’s teaching was just as difficult for them as it had been for Paul himself. Therefore he would have to reason with them and from the scriptures prove that Messiah to come would be a man born in Bethlehem, from the house of David. He would have to suffer and die and that he is a sinless man who would die as an innocent victim in the place of the guilty. All of this is implied in the apparently simple gospel statement found in our text. The Jews would find it hard to believe and would therefore disagree strongly.
Also within Paul’s audience would be Gentiles made up from a multitude of nations but probably Greeks and Romans mainly. The Greeks would probably have been a bit blasé due to their belief in a multitude of gods. So what is another god between friends? Paul’s problem here would be to prove to them that there is only One True God. The Romans would have been against the very thought because to them Caesar was the only human personification of deity.
As we can imagine Paul had his work cut out to debate and reason and prove his theology. Knowing Christ and Him crucified was no simple task he needed all of his knowledge and theology in place in order to proclaim as he did.
Sometimes we modern Christians have so many other interests that Christ and Him crucified is relegated to a secondary subject. We also live in a pluralistic and religious world which needs us to determine to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. To be able to answer the questions of the JW’s, Mormons, the “new ager”, the pseudo Christian the doubter and the scoffer we first need the gospel to be our passion; theology to be our very lifeblood just as it was for the Apostle Paul. Theology and doctrine have been given a bad press for the last part of the 20th century. But to know our God and how He works in this world of ours is not dull and boring it should be a delight and our constant desire.
The bible study should be full and vibrant; the place where we are equipped for acts of service to our God!
Here are some examples of what this would look like to Paul and his hearers:
2. Jesus Christ is our:
Proverbs 9:10 tells us that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Paul here is attributing both the Lord (Yahweh) and the Holy One to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is verses like Prov.9:10 that would immediately come to mind of Paul’s Jewish hearers.
Jeremiah 33:16 tells us that Judah will be called “the LORD is our righteousness” Paul is relating this verse to the church (at Corinth) Again a highly controversial statement, Paul is transferring a concept that was the privilege of the Jews onto another people; the church.
Made holy by Jesus again previously the Jews believed that as God’s chosen people they were the only ones who had such favour bestowed upon them. The problem is that Paul is now teaching this truth to a “mongrel” people. People who are not necessarily of the nation of Israel; a bitter truth for them to take in. This was a real challenge for Paul and is equally our responsibility today.
The people who were redeemed by God were those who had been brought out of slavery. Paul here is reminding them of the Exodus where the people were redeemed at a price: the death of the firstborn sons. He is applying this same concept to the church and saying that they are the redeemed people; redeemed by the crucified Lord Jesus Christ.
You see Paul’s knowledge and theology are all Old Testament concepts that are the gospel truth and all of which apply to The Lord Jesus Christ who is the Perfect fulfillment of all that the Old Testament teaches. When he said that he had decided to know nothing among the Corinthian believers other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified Paul was saying that the bible always only speaks of salvation through Jesus Christ and that is the most important thing that he can bring to a needy people. He never sucked his New Testament theology from his thumb or from Greek or Roman thinking but directly from the scriptures; the inspired word of God! It may have been completely new to the Gentiles but it was the final progression of revealed truth for the church.
Paul really had no choice he was steeped in the scriptures and everything he knew spoke of God’s plan for man which found its perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Our faith also is all of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, are we like the Apostle Paul who trusted fully in the full gospel for the salvation of his hearers. It was never boring when he proclaimed, preached and exhorted the gospel as we shall see in the weeks to come. The Old Testament is the foundation of all gospel preaching do you preach the whole counsel of God and see Christ crucified as the outcome of all that scripture teaches?