Preaching the Cross
What does it mean to preach the cross? Some have the idea that just mentioning the word “cross” in a sermon is preaching the cross. Others feel that telling the story of the crucifixion is all that is involved in preaching the cross. When one studies history he learns that Christ was not the first man to die on a cross. Literally thousands died on crosses before and after Christ died on His cross. We are told in I Corinthians 1:18 that “the preaching of the cross” is “the power of God.” Paul declared in Ephesians 2:12-16 that reconciliation takes place through the cross. Are people saved today just because they hear a story about a man dying on a cross? Let us consider some things that are involved in preaching the cross.
Preaching the cross of Christ is preaching the message of salvation that is offered as a result of the cross. In I Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul said that the Gospel when preached and received would save men. He stated that the Gospel contained the facts of Christ dying for our sins, and that he was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. Redemption from sin is through the preaching of the cross. When one preaches the message of salvation, he is preaching the Gospel of Christ. Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel is God's power to save. Jesus died on the cross for all, but not everyone will be saved. Why? Because not everyone will heed the saving message of the cross or the Gospel. In Romans 10:16 Paul declared that not all would be saved because not all would obey the Gospel.
The preaching of the cross could also be referred to as preaching Jesus. In Acts 8:35 Philip was instructed to go down to Gaza and there he would meet a man from Ethiopia. Philip was told to preach Jesus unto this man. Preaching Jesus is preaching the Gospel of Christ or the cross of Christ. Acts 8:35 informs us explicitly that Philip preached Jesus unto this man. This man heard the Gospel, believed, repented of his sins, confessed the name of Jesus as Lord and was baptized into Christ for the remission of sins. Philip was preaching the blessings offered as a result of the cross of Christ. In Acts 2:36 on the Day of Pentecost Peter preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Peter then preached Jesus or the benefits offered by Jesus as a result of the cross.
The preaching of the cross also involves preaching baptism. When one talks about the benefits of the cross of Christ, he is talking about the blood of Christ. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In who we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. . .” In Colossians 1:20 we learn, “And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself. . .” We must understand that baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Mark 16:16). In Romans 6 Paul taught that those who “were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death.” Christ shed his blood in his death and we are saved by the blood which was shed on the cross. Therefore, when one is scripturally baptized he contacts the blood and his sins are forgiven. This is what Paul taught in Romans 6 and Romans 5:9 teaches we are “justified by his blood.” The design of preaching the cross is to save men. If all one knew was that Jesus died on a cross for our sins he would not know what was required of him to take advantage of the blood that was shed on the cross. As a lost individual, one is a servant of sin (Romans 6:16). However, when that person obeys the Gospel of Christ, part of which is being baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, he then comes in contact with the blood of the cross. There is “a form of doctrine to be obeyed from the heart” (Romans 6:17). When a penitent believer confesses Jesus as Lord and is baptized into Christ, he is reaping the benefits of the cross of Christ. One therefore cannot preach the cross of Christ without telling people how to reach the blood that was shed on the cross for the sins of all mankind.
Preaching the cross of Christ also involves preaching the church which was purchased by the blood of Christ. Paul declared in Ephesians 2:16, “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Both Jews and Gentiles can be reconciled unto God in one body by the cross. When people heed the preaching of the cross, they are added to the one body, the church (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 4:4). Therefore, all those who have taken advantage of the blessings offered by the cross are in the church. The church was God’s eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:10-11). The church was purchased by the blood that was shed on the cross. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). One cannot separate preaching the cross and the church where all those who have taken advantage of the cross are placed by God.
Why do we today preach the cross of Christ? I Corinthians 1:21 tells us that it is God’s plan for saving man. If our preaching is to follow the Bible, we do not have a choice as to what we will preach. Paul’s aim in I Corinthians 2:2 was “not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, and Luke 24:46-47 tell us to preach the Gospel to all mankind. When we preach the Gospel, we are preaching the message of salvation, the cross of Christ. When we preach Jesus we must tell people that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and there is something for them to do in order to be saved (Acts 2:40). Preaching the cross of Christ involves preaching baptism for the remission of sins. This is how one appropriates the benefits of the cross. Preaching the cross also involves preaching about the church of Christ, which was purchased by the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
Paul declared in I Corinthians 1:18, “for the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The greatest need in the world today is preaching the cross of Christ. Certainly there is a lot more involved in preaching the cross of Christ than just mentioning the word “cross” in a sermon or just telling the story of the crucifixion. Let us study diligently and try to understand what it means to preach the cross of Christ.