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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.


    1. We live in an age of seeker-sensitive churches where both the method and the message are suited to the target audience.

      1. This, we are told, gets results: identify your target audience, find out what they want, repackage the Gospel to suit them, and then, you will have success.

      2. And it seems to work: the mega churches are not called “mega” for nothing!

    2. This was, however, not the method or the message of the Apostle Paul, and it ought not be the method of the message of any faithful church today, which claims to be apostolic.

      1. Paul’s target audience was divided into two groups, Jew and Gentile, or Greek, and each had their own preferences: signs for the Jews and wisdom for the Greeks (v. 22).

      2. But Christ sent Paul to preach the Gospel, and it was not up to Paul to change either the message or the method which Christ commanded.

      3. We, writes Paul, preach Christ crucified, a message and a method despised by Jew and Gentile alike, but it is God’s way, and God has a purpose in it too. Consider …



I. The Meaning

II. The Effect

III. The Purpose


  1. The Meaning

    1. Paul affirms here that the very heart of his preaching, and that of his apostolic colleagues, in distinction from all other messages, was Christ crucified.

      1. Apostolic preaching is Christ-centered preaching. It proclaims the truth that Jesus is the Christ.

        1. The name “Christ” means “Anointed” and refers to Christ in His official office as the one ordained, appointed, approved and equipped by God to establish God’s eternal kingdom.

          1. In eternity the Triune God purposed to establish a Kingdom in which He would rule His people by His grace and Holy Spirit by His Son Jesus Christ.

          2. Throughout OT history God promised to send His Son; He would be the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Servant of Jehovah, the Messiah, and God’s people longed for His Coming.

          3. When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

        2. Christ is the Officebearer in the Kingdom of God: only He has the authority to establish God’s Kingdom of everlasting righteousness.

          1. The one who establishes God’s Kingdom must be personally righteous; brute force (the Romans) and worldly wisdom (the Greeks) cannot be the foundation of God’s Kingdom.

          2. Since all men are sinners and live in rebellion against God, they cannot establish God’s Kingdom, and they cannot merit citizenship in God’s Kingdom.

          3. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ: He is the Eternal Son of God, made flesh. He is personally righteous and God has sealed Him with His approval, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

      2. Apostolic preaching is cross-centered preaching. It proclaims the truth of the crucified Christ.

        1. To the world of the apostles the word crucified was never mentioned in polite conversation.

          1. Today the cross has been sanitized: it has become a romantic symbol; church buildings are decorated with ornate crosses; even unbelieving fashion models are known to wear a cross (usually gold or encrusted with gems) around their necks.

          2. Crosses were not worn as jewelry in Paul’s day any more than miniature gallows, gas chambers or electric chairs are worn by people as fashion today.

          3. The very thought of crucifixion filled the Greco-Roman world with revulsion and horror. It was the death of the lowest of the low, the worst of criminals and the basest of slaves. No Roman citizen could be crucified.

          4. Crucifixion was a gory, horrific, painful, shameful death, but this death of Christ was the very heart of the Gospel which Paul preached, and, as we saw last week, he was not ashamed of it.

        2. Apostolic preaching proclaims Christ, and it proclaims the cross; and significantly, it puts them together: Christ crucified. [There is no more incongruous juxtaposition than this].

          1. How can one appointed, anointed and approved by God end up on a Roman cross, dying in agony and shame?

          2. Remember that by Christ crucified the Scriptures mean the doctrine of the Atonement. Without the doctrine of the Atonement the cross is a meaningless tragedy: then the death of Jesus of Nazareth has no more significance than the deaths of the two thieves who died beside Him.

          3. The cross was the God-appointed way in which the unrighteousness of the sinful citizens of God’s Kingdom (you and me, God’s people) could be blotted out, and we could be granted citizenship rights in God’s righteous kingdom.

    2. This crucified Christ must be preached. That is the God-appointed, apostolic method. We preach Christ crucified.

      1. This was in opposition to what the two main groups in Paul’s audience wanted.

        1. The Jews required a sign and the Greeks sought wisdom (that is, worldly wisdom).

          1. The Jews wanted a spectacular show: call down fire out of heaven, give us razzmatazz, do something impressive, but don’t expect us to believe preaching.

          2. The Greeks appreciated good oratory, cleverly arranged and rhetorically-delightful speeches, but the plain speaking and simple setting forth of the Gospel did not impress them.

          3. But Paul describes his method in I Cor. 2:1-5.

        2. Preaching is not what today’s society wants either: the modern world is the same as the Jewish and Gentile audiences of Paul’s day.

          1. We live in a visual age, and men want signs: they want visible religion, they crave the miraculous, strange inexplicable phenomena such as the face of Jesus appearing in a pancake; or the ravings of the Charismatics.

          2. To cater to such people churches show movies such as The Jesus Film or The Passion of the Christ, or they play emotional music in a Christian rock band.

          3. Other unbelievers are more sophisticated: they need carefully reasoned arguments to persuade them, so churches are tempted to prove Christianity rationalistically, with an appeal to the darkened reason of man.

          4. But what is missing in both approaches is the simple, unadorned preaching which has as its content, Christ crucified.

      2. In distinction from the signs and wisdom popular among the Jews and Greeks Paul came preaching. Notice, he does not write, “We perform a play about Christ crucified,” or “We sing Christ crucified,” but we preach Christ crucified.

        1. A preacher is a herald, sent by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to proclaim the official message of the King; as such, what the preacher says is the Word of Christ. Christ chooses to speak through weak men (not women) lest He terrify us by His Majesty.

          1. The Lord Jesus made Paul a herald on the Damascus Road. Christ announced to Ananias who baptized Paul that Paul was “a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

          2. A herald is chosen by the Lord – he does not send himself - and it is the calling of the herald to proclaim only the message of the king who sends him.

          3. A herald may not change the message of the king to suit himself or his audience; he may not add to or take away from what the king has commanded him to preach.

        2. A preacher is a herald who preaches Christ crucified; Christ must be the subject (the topic) of his preaching, not the herald’s own opinions, not social commentary, not moral harangues, but Christ’s message.

          1. Christ sends His herald with a commission, “Herald, tell the people that I am the crucified Lord of glory. Tell every creature that I am the Son of God, made flesh, who suffered and died, and rose again to secure salvation for my people.”

          2. This is the message, and it is such an important and precious message that the preacher has no time for anything else. Every sermon must have at its center this truth, and every text must be explained in the light of this truth of Christ crucified.

          3. If the herald preaches a text of God’s Word, whether from the history books, the Psalms, the prophets or the epistles, and does not preach Christ crucified, he has missed the point of the text; if I do not, I have missed it.

          4. As a result of such preaching Christ is clearly depicted as crucified among us (Gal. 3:1) so that the people can see Him in His glory, in His beauty and in the efficacy of His saving work.

        3. But preaching Christ crucified is more than simply mentioning Jesus and His death on the cross in the sermon.

          1. Modernists who preach that Jesus of Nazareth died as a martyr for his cause, or that his death was simply the supreme example of the love of God, but that it did not satisfy the justice of God, are not preaching Christ crucified.

          2. Men like Charles Finney, the Pelagian heretic, who said that Jesus died to display the justice of God, what God could do to sinners if they do not repent, but died in the place and room of no-one, did not preach Christ crucified.

          3. Arminians, such as John Wesley, who taught a Christ who died for all, but who does not save all, because the death of Christ secured salvation for no-one in particular, did not preach Christ crucified.

          4. Those today who seek to stir up the emotions (usually the pity) of the audience towards Jesus so that they will feel sorry for him and accept him as Savior, are not preaching Christ crucified (“How can you say no to this man?”).

          5. Only the clear setting forth of the glory of the effectual atonement is the preaching of Christ crucified.

  2. The Effect

    1. The preaching of Christ crucified is a powerful message which has an effect upon everyone who hears it, either negative or positive. The message was rejected by the two main groups of Paul’s day, the Jews and the Greeks.

      1. To the unbelieving Jews Christ crucified was a stumbling block.

        1. A stumbling block is a trap; specifically, it was a crooked stick on which bait was fastened so that when an animal stepped on it, it would spring the trap and be caught.

          1. From that basic meaning the word stumbling block has come to mean something which stands in the pathway of someone and over which he stumbles into spiritual ruin.

          2. Christ crucified stands in the way of the Jews: they see Him, they stumble at Him, they trip over Him, and they fall, breaking their necks in perdition.

        2. The unbelieving Jews stumbled at Christ crucified because this was not the Christ they were expecting, nor the Christ they desired.

          1. The Jewish nation had become carnal and through unbelief in the OT Scriptures had begun to look for a Messiah such as God had never promised: they expected a Mighty King who would bring them earthly peace, prosperity and freedom, especially freedom from Roman oppression.

          2. When Jesus of Nazareth appeared they were initially excited: here was a miracle-worker, here was one called Himself the Christ and the Son of God, and He seemed to fit the bill.

          3. But soon Christ disillusioned them: He had come to establish a spiritual kingdom of righteousness in which the citizens would be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, persecuted, etc; and the freedom He proclaimed was freedom from the bondage of sin.

          4. Such a kingdom the unbelieving Jews rejected with scorn and contempt.

        3. Then when Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, this was proof to the unbelieving Jews that He could not be the promised Christ.

          1. Christ crucified, a crucified Messiah, was inconceivable to the Jewish mind. Every Jew knew that a crucified man was cursed by God: “for he that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13).

          2. The very idea that the Messiah, the Holy One, the Son of God, could be crucified, was horrible blasphemy to the Jew, and they could not get over it.

          3. That is because the Jews did not believe that Jesus was cursed not for His own sins, but for the sins of His people.

      2. To the Greeks – the non-Jews, the Gentiles –Christ crucified was foolishness.

        1. The word translated foolishness is a word from which we derive our word “moron” and could be translated here as moronic stupidity.

          1. The idea is something that insults the intelligence and appears to be beneath contempt, so that nobody in his right mind would believe it.

          2. The Greeks considered themselves to be a sophisticated people: they had the flower of learning with their famous philosophers; through reason they knew the secrets of the universe, of God, of man’s soul.

          3. And when Christianity came to the Greeks, with its teaching of Christ crucified, they thought it was the stupidest thing they had ever heard.

        2. The Greeks rejected Christ crucified as moronic stupidity, because their foolish hearts were darkened, and they would not submit to such a message.

          1. The preaching of Christ crucified announced to the Greeks that all their vaunted learning, their culture and their sophistication is nothing in the sight of God.

          2. The preaching of Christ crucified confronted the Greeks with their sin – their rebellion against God, their ungodliness, their idolatry - and told them that the only way of a salvation was in a crucified Redeemer.

          3. That’s the same offence today: the cross leaves a man nowhere to hide; he stands naked and condemned before God, who rather than overlook sin punished it in His Son Jesus Christ, and who commands all men everywhere to repent and believe in this Crucified Savior.

          4. But everyone who perishes, v. 18, views this message as foolishness, moronic stupidity, and offensive to boot.

    2. The effect of the preaching of Christ crucified on some is positive: by this message they are called and saved.

      1. Not all Jews stumble at the cross and not all Greeks laugh it to scorn; the text speaks of another class (“them which are called, both Jews and Greeks …”).

        1. The called are not simply those who hear the outward call through which Christ is clearly presented to them in the preaching of the Gospel as the all sufficient, crucified Savior.

          1. That cannot be the case b/c many Jews and Gentiles are called in that sense but perish.

          2. To many of the called in that sense Christ is and remains a stumbling block and foolishness.

        2. The called are rather the elect Jews and Gentiles in the audience whom the Spirit of Christ effectually draws to Christ.

          1. In the inward call God addresses the heart of the elect, regenerated sinner, removes the darkness of his mind and the stubbornness of his heart, so that he actually believes.

          2. It is not the case that some in the audience are naturally more receptive to the Gospel than others: all sinners find Christ crucified foolishness and a stumbling block except God delivers them from the darkness of unbelief.

          3. In this way, no one can boast, and all glory in salvation goes to God alone.

      2. To the called Christ crucified is not a stumbling block or foolishness but the power and wisdom of God.

        1. God’s power is His ability to do whatsoever He has purposed to do, so that no-one can thwart Him or turn back His almighty arm.

          1. What seems to the unbelieving world to be abject weakness is actually the power of God unto salvation, the spiritual dynamite which destroys the power of sin, death and the devil.

          2. The Jews and Greeks despise it: a crucified Messiah, but God stamped Christ with His seal of approval in raising Him from the dead, the mighty victor over His foes.

          3. Christ crucified is the power to deliver Jews and Gentiles from the bondage of sin, to conquer the grave, to shake the foundations of hell, and to establish God’s everlasting righteous kingdom.

        2. God’s wisdom is His ability to use all of His infinite knowledge to achieve the highest end, which is the display of His glory in all His blessed virtues.

          1. God displayed His wisdom in creation as every creature was made to fit the purpose God has ordained for it.

          2. But the highest display of God’s wisdom is seen in Christ crucified: here we see the wise way in which God displays to the fullest His just wrath on the one hand and His love, mercy and grace on the other.

          3. All the wise men of the world could never have devised a plan of salvation as glorious as this.

        3. God determined that His power and His wisdom would be seen in Christ crucified so that all glory would go to Him alone.

          1. Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God; literally, of God power and of God wisdom.

          2. Christ is the power of God and He is the wisdom of God, that is, He is God Himself, for only God can save men; and yet He is also man, for only man can be punished for man’s sins: Christ crucified!

          3. And by the power of the HS we, who have been called, we can see it, for He is these things to us, and for us!

  3. The Purpose

    1. God has a purpose in the preaching of Christ crucified. His purpose is that Christ be a stumbling block in the path of unbelieving Jews and foolishness to unbelieving Greeks.

      1. We said earlier that a stumbling block is a snare placed in the path of someone over which they stumble and fall into sin and ultimately into perdition.

        1. God Himself placed the stumbling block on the pathway of unbelieving Israel and true to form they stumbled over it and perished.

          1. God’s plan of salvation in Christ crucified was so designed to be an offense to a carnal, self-righteous people who despise the spiritual blessings of salvation and covenant fellowship with God.

          2. In fact, God could not have designed a more appropriate message for His purpose to destroy the reprobate.

          3. Isaiah prophesies concerning this stumbling block in 28:16 and 8:14 and the Psalmist in 118:22-23. And Peter interprets this figure in I Peter 2:8, that Christ is to some men a stumbling stone and that they were appointed to stumble over Him.

        2. God foreordained both the offense of the Gospel and the stumbling of the reprobate over it, but this does not make God responsible for their sin.

          1. You might ask, “How can God punish the unbelieving Jews for stumbling over Christ crucified in unbelief, if God was the one who put Him there?”

          2. But the unbelieving Jews have no excuse: God gave them the Scriptures; He revealed to them in texts such as Gen. 3:15 (the bruising of Messiah’s heel) and in Psalms 22, 69, and in Isaiah 53, that the Christ would be crucified.

          3. And besides Christ is a beautiful stone, a precious jewel, the chief cornerstone of God’s temple. That the Jews refused to see that is to be accounted only to their own wicked unbelief, not to any fault in Christ.

          4. God placed Christ on their path so that they would be confronted by Him, and it was their calling to believe in Him but they refused, and perished under God’s just judgment.

      2. The same is true for the unbelieving Greeks.

        1. Through the preaching of the Gospel God confronts the unbelieving pagan word with His Son.

          1. Again, God designed the Gospel so that it would confound man’s wisdom, so that Christ crucified would expose their godless pride.

          2. It was no accident that the Greeks found the Gospel to be moronic stupidity: it was God’s purpose to bring to nothing the pride of the pagan world.

          3. And so it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, both the foolishness of the message and the foolishness of the method, to save them that believe (v. 21).

        2. No-one can hide from the demands of the Gospel; God will not allow it, and God will not change His message of Christ crucified to please the taste of carnal man.

          1. The Gospel confronts you and me, and all men who hear it: as it were Christ stands on our pathway and will not let us pass. What will you do with Christ crucified?

          2. The reaction of unbelief is to kick the stone, trip over it, and fall into hell.

          3. What will your reaction be: will you stumble at Christ crucified, will you treat the whole thing as a great joke, or will you fall on your knees before this Christ and worship Him?

    2. God’s purpose in the preaching of Christ crucified is not only to confront the reprobate and to destroy them in their unbelief, but to present Christ to the elect and to call them thru the preaching. That is His primary purpose.

      1. God will not call His people any other way because this is the way which He has ordained to glorify Himself in the highest possible way.

        1. The elect must hear the Gospel of Christ crucified, and how shall they hear, writes Paul elsewhere, without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?

        2. The elect must hear that their sins have been atoned for in the blood of Jesus Christ, that Christ has redeemed them from the bondage and corruption of sin, and to them this is good news.

        3. God loves His people and He wills that they hear these glad tidings to their salvation and their comfort.

      2. By means of the preaching of Christ crucified, God calls us.

        1. We see in the preaching how lovely Christ is in His grace toward us, we see that He has completely blotted out our sins, and we come to Him in humble thanksgiving.

        2. We no longer see the message of Christ crucified as foolishness but as the highest display of the power and wisdom of God.

        3. And we determine that we will spend our life hearing about Christ crucified in preparation to praise Him forever, Amen.