And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 CORINTHIANS 2:1-5
What does it mean to know nothing but Christ and him crucified? The “bare-bones” of all of Scripture is summed up in Christ’s person and work, which rescues us from sin and death. To preach Christ and him crucified is to keep the message simple and accessible.
We need to keep our focus on the most basic and essential elements of the message to take the “bare-bones” of the Gospel to the world, and even to the struggling Christian, who’s been weighed down by confusing jargon or bad dogma. Like the apostle Paul, we need to avoid language that may feel inclusive of only a few select groups of people and speak in a way that all may able to grasp what’s being said and allow the Holy Spirit a place for faith to be planted by that word spoken. We know, like Paul, that it’s not merely an intellectual persuasion, but a Holy Spirit work as the Gospel is proclaimed.
We know that Paul was not above being all things to all people (1 Cor. 9:22), but at the end of whatever he was, it was done to proclaim the Gospel, to preach Christ and him crucified to all. He wasn’t interested in being known as a great speaker or philosopher, and he wasn’t concerned with having a demeanor that was necessarily impressive or attractive. He wanted to present the truth in the best way possible to glorify Christ. He wanted the words to grab hold of the hearts and consciousness’ of as many as possible. This is what we want as well. We don’t want to raise the message up to the level of scholar where only a few might hear it and be transformed. We want the message lowered so everyone can hear it. This benefits both the scholar and the regular person.
I’ve been amazed to see Christ preached to one person, only to have others in the crowd return later to ask more questions. This reminds me that we don’t determine the growth of that seed planted. We have no idea where it takes root. The best thing we can do, is to plant it. Plant it simply, and allow God to build upon it. This is not reserved only for the pastor or teacher. We all have a part to play in this. No one is asking you to be the most eloquent and make the most reasoned argument. What is being asked of us is to speak. To be honest to others about who you are, who God is, and what he’s done for you through his Son. What is being asked of you, is the same that is being asked of every broken vessel:
“Don’t hide your cracks.”
We are these broken, chipped, and cracked earthen vessels. Don’t hide it behind a veneer of tired old expressions that attempt to present a false picture of how great things are. Be honest about your struggles with sin, your doubts, and your fears. Enough of us know, whether we share it with anyone, that we struggle to be “good”, so let’s be honest about it. People aren’t going to gravitate to an idol of self that you’ve set up. What they’ll move towards is, “me too”, and that’s because we all have some “me too” in us. We all have enough struggles as Christians to be honest like the apostle Paul, who labels himself a chief of sinners. He was also someone who did not hide his ongoing struggles with sin as laid out in Romans. Paul shared Christ with fear and trembling, not at the message being relayed by him, but the persecution that was always imminent as a result. Paul could and has said, “me too”, and that affects me deeply. To be able to say, “me too” and yet still be loved and forgiven is an awesome and gracious gift to the person who needs to hear that they haven’t done the unpardonable thing.
Paul knows these things as he shares Christ with the world. He knows his weaknesses and he knows the weakness of a cross. A cross where people go to die. He knows that God uses both weaknesses to confound the mighty. He takes a cross and calls it a victory. He takes a sinful man and calls him a saint and righteous, even as he continues on in his struggles. Paul continued on in the faith not because all his sins and struggles were removed, but because Christ died for every one of them and reminded him of that continued rescue at the cross. The heart of the Gospel is Christ’s atoning sacrifice at the cross. For this reason, the Gospel is not something to leave behind, but a lens through which we view all of scripture. The ground work for Christ and him crucified has been laid out through all the Old Testament and is continually reaffirmed throughout the New Testament. Jesus himself reasoned on the road to Emmaus about all that the Scriptures taught about him. The Gospel as laid out in all of Scripture is summed up in “Christ and him crucified.”
So here is the charge for you. Preach Christ and him crucified. Speak of it from the backdrop of your life as you love those around you. Speak of it with a straightforward understanding of sin, struggle, and continual rescue. Speak of it so they know the love of the Father as you tell them of your own rescue. Then, pray for them as they go on their way and let God’s Spirit work with the flawed words we used and the humble active care we give to those around us. Trust God’s will to be done.
Let’s keep it simple.