“We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (I Corinthians 1:23). Let there be no mistake: Preaching “Christ crucified” is gospel preaching. The “word of the cross” is the power of God to save the lost (I Corinthians 1:18, 21; Romans 1:16). It reveals how God forgives sinners and what sinners must do to receive God’s forgiveness (Romans 1:17; 3:21-26; Acts 2:37). It must be preached.
The apostle Paul observed that when he preached at Corinth he“ determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). Some hastily conclude that to preach Jesus is to preach only the life and death of Jesus and not the doctrine recorded in the inspired epistles by Christ’s apostles and prophets. We are told, in effect, that Jesus is more important than His doctrine. Yet, He is “the Truth,” which indisputably involves His doctrine (John 14:6; 7:16-17). Such minimizing of doctrine allows for the subjective interpretation of Scripture (“choose the doctrine of your choice”). Such a view affirms that Jesus approves of each person deciding what doctrine is important and what is unimportant. We are scolded when we teach there is one body of doctrine (teaching) that is truth for all (John 17:17). “Just preach Christ and leave others alone,” we are told.
In order to preach the “message of the cross” we must know what that preaching includes (I Corinthians 1:18, 21). Does it include the plan of salvation? Does it include principles of divine authority? Does it include the work and organization of the church? Does it include teaching about sin? Does it include instruction on human obedience? Does it include preaching the fulfillment of prophecy? The Scriptures answer“yes” to each of these questions. Let us see what it means to “preach Christ crucified.”
In Acts 8:5, Philip “preached Christ” to the city of Samaria. What did that entail? In Acts 8:12 we learn that he preached the “things concerning the kingdom of God.” Without question, preaching Christ is preaching about His kingdom, the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19). After all, the church is His body and fullness (Ephesians 1:22-23). How can one preach Christ and not preach about His body, the church? How can one preach Christ and not preach that He is the savior of His body, the church (Ephesians 5:23)?
When Philip “preached Christ” he preached concerning “the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). He proclaimed Christ’s authority; His right to rule our lives (Matthew 28:18-19; Ephesians 1:20-23). To fully preach Christ we must preach His authority. Preaching how the authority of Christ is established and applied in Scripture should not be denounced as not preaching Jesus. Just the opposite is true; we will preach about Bible authority when we preach Christ. Whatever we say and do must be supported by His authority (Colossians 3:17). And, by the way, His authority is revealed to us in “the word of His power,” His New Testament – “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5; Hebrews 1:1-3; John 16:13; II Timothy 3:16-17).
When Philip “preached Christ” he preached baptism, since “both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). This means he preached about sin and how sinners are saved (Acts 2:37-38, 40). This means he taught the plan of salvation when he preached Christ to the Samaritans (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8; 8:1, 4). Those who believed the gospel obeyed it and were saved (Acts 8:12-13). We conclude that Philip preached the continuing responsibilities of faithful, obedient discipleship (Acts 8:13). None should object to preaching the responsibilities of discipleship (such as moral purity, Romans 12:1-2) as not preaching Christ. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7).
When Philip “preached Christ” he preached fulfilled prophecy. In Acts 8:35, Philip “preached Jesus” from Isaiah 53:7-8, instructing the Ethiopian that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. The Jesus whom we preach is the suffering Christ of Old Testament prophecy (Acts 17:2-3).
The New Testament of Christ is the apostles’ doctrine that was preached in the first century (Romans 16:25). It is what lost souls heard, believed and obeyed in order to be saved from their sins (Acts 2:40-41). The gospel they preached was not their own; it was revealed to them by the Spirit of God (John 16:12-15; Galatians 1:11-12; I Thessalonians 2:13). It was the “word of the cross” then, and it continues to be the “word of the cross” today (I Corinthians 1:18; I Peter 1:22-25).
We will not make distinctions in God’s word where there are none. To “preach Christ crucified” includes preaching that Jesus fulfilled God’s prophetic plan to save sinners. It includes His life, death, resurrection and exaltation; it includes man’s faith and obedience; it includes the church of Christ and the authority of Christ over our lives. We must preach the “whole counsel of God,” the inspired Scriptures (II Timothy 3:16-4:2; Acts 20:27). To do less is not preaching Christ crucified to the world.
By Joe Price