THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, April 29, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).


I have been in the ministry for over forty-nine years. If you were to ask me what is the most difficult thing a pastor has to do I would answer, without any hesitation, that it is deciding what to preach on Sunday morning.

“Why is that so hard?” you may ask. I’ll tell you why. I know that there will be many people in our church on Sunday morning who are not real Christians. Some will be from a Buddhist background. Others will be from a Catholic or new-evangelical background, nominal Christians, Christians in name only. Some will have no real religious background at all. Others will be unsaved people in our own church, who know a great deal about the Bible, but have never experienced the new birth. All of them will have one thing in common. They will not be truly converted to Jesus Christ.

Now, on Sunday morning I must speak to you. I am given only about one hour or less. In that short hour, I must say something that changes everything you thought about religion, and make real Christianity seem true, not just a truth, but the truth – the only truth. I must get you to agree with that and change your entire way of thinking, and try to persuade you to give up your false ideas, come under conviction of sin, and turn your whole life over to Jesus Christ. That’s a big assignment! And I’m only given about one hour to do it! What I am about to preach, may seem like nothing more than a simple Gospel sermon, but a great deal of thought and prayer has gone into it.

That is the reason I say, without hesitation, that selecting the text and the sermon subject for Sunday morning is the most difficult thing I do each week.

For instance, take this sermon. I started thinking about it last Sunday night. I thought about it all day Monday and Tuesday, and most of Wednesday and Thursday. By Thursday night I still had no idea of what to speak on this morning. I became somewhat frantic by midnight last Thursday. I knew I had to write out a full sermon and get it to our deacon, Dr. Cagan, so it could be typed out for Mr. Olivacce to format it for our website, and then for it to be passed on to six translators, to be put out in six other languages on the Internet. And yet it was midnight, and I did not know what text to use, or what to say on Sunday morning that would help you become a real Christian.

At last, after considering many texts, I prayed to God to help me, and He seemed to turn my attention to this very familiar text of Scripture. I am now praying that the few words I say from it will help you; at least I pray that you will remember a little of what I said when you go home today, that, at the very least, the thoughts I bring out will cause you to think about our Lord Jesus Christ, and what He has done for the salvation of your eternal soul. Here, then, is the text I selected, in I Corinthians 1:18. Let us stand and read it aloud.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”
      (I Corinthians 1:18).

The text breaks down into three main points: (1) the preaching of the cross itself; (2) the foolishness of the preaching of the cross to those who perish; and (3) the power of it to those who are saved.

I. First, the preaching of the cross itself.

What does the Apostle Paul mean by those words, “the preaching of the cross”? The term, “the preaching of the cross,” has one main theme. It means that there is only one truth set forth in those words. They refer to the one and only true Gospel. There is one Gospel, just as there is only one God. And there is only one Saviour – Jesus Christ. We do not ascribe to the post-modern notion that “the preaching of the cross” may be true for me but not for you. The post-modernist may say, “That is your truth. It is true for you. But it is not my truth.” I say that is post-modern double talk. When the Bible speaks of the cross, it speaks of an objective truth – a truth that must be dealt with by every one of you. A truth which remains true whether you believe it or not. Because God spoke of it in the Bible, it is true whether you think it is true or not. It is an objective truth, which means it is true even if your mind does not grasp its importance.

Next, “the preaching of the cross” is founded, not only on what the Bible says, but also on the historical facts – the fact that Jesus Christ suffered deeply for your sin, that He went through great anguish and pain in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was crucified, when your sins were placed in His own body. He went through horrible torture when they beat Him half to death in Pilate’s court. Then He was dragged off to Mount Calvary, where they drove nails through His hands and feet, where they raised the cross, and left Him hanging there, bleeding and dying to pay the penalty for your sin, so that you could be saved, not only forgiven of your sin, but justified by His death, that is, counted sinless through one simple act of faith in Him.

“The preaching of the cross” is preaching that shows you that you are

“dead in your sins” (Colossians 2:13),

and that only the substitutionary death of Christ in your place, could pay vicariously for your sins, cancelling your sins, and giving you new life by Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

The “preaching of the cross” shows that you do not earn salvation by good deeds or by occasionally coming to church. No! No! The preaching of the cross shows forth the truth that nothing good you do has anything whatever to do with your salvation. “The preaching of the cross” strips away all the so-called “good” things you do – and says that the only thing that can save you is what Jesus did on that cross to make full atonement for your sin vicariously – one man, Christ (the God-man) dying to pay for your sins, without any additions of good things you have done, or “decisions” you have made.

I don’t doubt for a minute that you have done some good things. I am simply saying that these good things will not save you! Salvation comes through the death of Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who took your sins upon Himself and paid for them when He was nailed on the cross. The Apostle Paul made all that clear when he said,

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:8-9).

God loved you while you were yet a sinner. Christ died to pay the penalty for your sins while you were yet a sinner. And you can be justified by His Blood, even though you are a sinner.  As an old hymn puts it, 

Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat,
   I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet;
By faith, for my cleansing, I see Thy blood flow,
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow;
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(“Whiter Than Snow” by James Nicholson, 1828-1896).

I hear Thy welcome voice,
   That calls me, Lord, to Thee
For cleansing in Thy precious Blood
   That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
   Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
That flowed on Calvary.
   (“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).

That is the preaching of the cross!

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” 
      (I Corinthians 1:18).

But there is another thought in our text.

II. Second, the foolishness of the preaching of the cross to those that perish.

Please read those words out loud,

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.”

Read those words loud and clear.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness…” (I Corinthians 1:18).

The word “foolishness” means “foolish talk,” “nonsense.” Hearing preaching that says you must be saved from sin by the death of Christ is only “foolish talk” to the unconverted mind.

Those who are perishing see no value in the preaching of Christ’s substitutionary death to pay for their sin. The reason they think it is foolish is because they see no value in it. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Jesus said,

“When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin…”
      (John 16:8).

The Holy Spirit must reprove a person, convince him of sin, or he will not see the value of Christ’s death on the cross. Before a person is convinced by the Holy Spirit of his sin, he will only think of preaching on the cross as foolishness. The Greek word translated “foolishness” comes from the root word “moros,” from which comes our English word “moron.” The preaching of the cross seems like the talk of a moron, a stupid person, until you are convinced in your heart, by the Spirit of God, that you are a lost sinner.  Only then does Christ's crucifixion seem important.  

That is why you cannot “learn” to be a real Christian. Salvation does not come by learning human wisdom. The Apostle Paul made that clear in verse twenty-one, when he said,

“The world by wisdom knew not God” (I Corinthians 1:21).

Salvation does not come by learning human wisdom of any kind. There must be an illumination in the heart, showing you that you are a hopeless sinner. Until that happens, preaching that tells you that the only solution to your problem is the crucifixion of Christ seems like the idle talk of a moron. Unless you feel inwardly that your problem is sin, you will never see the importance of Christ’s death on the cross. The Bible says,

“Christ died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:3).

He died in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins. The Bible says,

“The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”
      (I John 1:7).

But that will only seem to you like an interesting theory at best, and a fool’s talk to the rest, until your eyes are opened by God’s Spirit to see that there is no other way to be saved from the curse of sin. Only when you are convinced of your helplessly sinful condition will you be able to sing from your heart,

For nothing good have I
   Whereby Thy grace to claim –
I’ll wash my garments white
   In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe;
   Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
   (“Jesus Paid It All” by Elvina M. Hall, 1820-1899).

Which takes us to the last point.

III. Third, the power of the preaching of the cross to those who are saved.

Please stand and read the text aloud, one more time, paying close attention to the last clause.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God
      (I Corinthians 1:18).

You may be seated.

My, how people in the world dislike that word “saved”! “You Christians think you are saved,” they say mockingly. Well, the word “saved” is perfectly Biblical. It is right there in our text,

“…but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”
      (I Corinthians 1:18).

Yes, we are “saved”! Yet we are not saved by any goodness of our own. Oh, no! We are saved by what Jesus did for us on the cross! Spurgeon said,

We [were] ready to die in despair until we…looked to the cross, and then the clouds have yielded to clear shining. A sight of the bleeding Saviour…made us men again, and we have lifted up our heads from among the dead…there is power in the word of the cross to make a man…into something nobler than he ever dreamed of…the power with which he made us new men in Christ Jesus…the raising of dead souls out of their spiritual graves (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Word of the Cross,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1973 reprint, volume XXVII, pp. 435-436).

When you come to Jesus by faith you are saved by His death in your place – for your sins! You are saved by His bodily resurrection from the dead – which gives you eternal life! When you surrender to Jesus by faith  He saves you! Then you can sing,

Saved! Saved! My sins are all pardoned,
   My guilt is all gone!
Saved! Saved! I am saved by the blood
   of the crucified One!
(“Saved by the Blood of the Crucified One” by S. J. Henderson, 19th century).

When you are saved, you will see that Christ is more important than anything else in the world.  Millions of people in China and Southeast Asia have seen that great truth.  They are pouring by the thousands into the churches in spite of heavy persecution.  For instance, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand told the following, paraphrased from a book in Vietnamese: 

    Tens of thousands of Christians...have passed through so-called reeducation camps in [Communist] Vietnam.  Many are still there.  In one of these camps the specialist in beating [was] Tu Cao.  He boasted of having whipped 2,000 prisoners, 500 of whom died.  
    Some fifty prisoners assembled in the prison yard.  One of them, Tran Tien Tai, has been sentenced to thirty lashes [for being a Christian].  Brought naked from his cell, he must stretch out on the earth, his face to the ground.  
    Tu Cao plays with his whip.  He touches the hips of his victim to appreciate the resistance of the flesh and measure his strokes accordingly.  He is not allowed to kill [only to torture]. 
    The prisoners are ordered to look straight at what is happening.  It is forbidden to avert one's face.  After the fifth stroke, Tai, unable to bear it any longer, shouts (Woe, woe, my God).  
    The beating is interrupted.  The prison director says, "It is not permitted to shout during physical punishment.  The first five strokes do not count.  Begin again."  
    The counting starts over.  One, two, three...twenty, twenty-five...Tai does not cry out anymore...He has passed away.  
    ...(thirty).  "Up!" orders the officer.  The prisoner does not move [he is dead] (Richard Wurmbrand, Where Christ is Still Tortured, Marshalls Paperbacks, Introduction).  

Why do so many people in Southeast Asia and China allow themselves to be tortured and killed for Christ today?  It is because they have seen that Christ is more important than anything else in the world.  May you also come to Christ, and experience the forgiveness and eternal life that He offers.  These are priceless gifts from Jesus Christ.  They are worth more than life itself!  

Let us stand and sing the last song on your song sheet. Sing it thoughtfully, and with feeling.

I hear Thy welcome voice,
   That calls me, Lord, to Thee
For cleansing in Thy precious blood
   That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord! Coming now to Thee!
   Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
That flowed on Calvary.
   (“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I Corinthians 1:18-25.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Saved by the Blood of the Crucified One” (by S. J. Henderson, 19th century).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).

I.    First, the preaching of the cross itself, I Corinthians 1:18a;
Colossians 2:13; Romans 5:8-9.

II.  Second, the foolishness of the preaching of the cross to
those that perish, I Corinthians 1:18b; John 16:8;
I Corinthians 1:21; 15:3; I John 1:7.

III.  Third, the power of the preaching of the cross to those
who are saved, I Corinthians 1:18c.