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THE MAIN SUBJECT! THE INEXHAUSTIBLE SUBJECT!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 7, 2010

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).


I graduated from a very liberal seminary. I only went there because I didn’t have enough money to go to a conservative school. I determined that I would stick closely to the Bible, and would not deviate from it no matter what they taught – and I did that as well as I could. But there was one liberal author that confused me. Karl Barth said, “Preach with the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other.” That seemed like a good idea at the time. His thought was this – for your preaching to be relevant, you need to relate it to the news. But today I am very sorry that I listened to his bad advice. I gave it up long ago. This sermon will tell you why I changed my mind.

It surprises me to hear many conservative preachers trying to tie nearly every news item to Bible prophecy. It seems to me that they have unwittingly adopted the view of that liberal – without realizing it! The only “news” item I preach on now is a sermon or two against abortion each January, on the occasion of the Supreme Court’s evil decision to allow the slaughter of 51 million helpless children in America. But, even when speaking against this wickedness, I do so to show that America is not now a Christian nation, and to show the total depravity of man – and that man’s only hope for salvation from the bondage of sin lies in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified!

One reason I stopped preaching “with the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other” is because so few people read the newspaper anymore! Politics and social change seldom have any effect on their everyday lives. Recessions, bad presidents, wars, climate conditions, and other things that “grab the headlines” today, will be forgotten tomorrow. They may seem important now, but they will soon pass from human memory. Who remembers what Napoleon did? Who is concerned about what happened in the Boer War, or even World War I? One of the secular events happening tonight, that seems important enough for some Americans to miss the Sunday evening service, is something called “the Super Bowl.” It is such a vacuous “non-event” that foreign readers of this sermon, and readers fifty years from now, will have to be told what it was! But a thousand ages from now the destiny of eternal souls will depend on the subject of our text this morning – and therefore,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

That bloody scoundrel Nero was on the throne of the Roman Empire when the Apostle Paul wrote those words, yet Paul only made a veiled reference to him, not even mentioning his name, but only telling God’s people to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority” (I Timothy 2:2). Therefore it seems to me that a preacher should leave political subjects to the radio and Fox News. It seems to me that we should follow the Apostle Paul’s example and determine to stick to those great subjects that people cannot hear anywhere else. Therefore we are “determined not to know any thing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Three phrases stand out in that text.

I. First, the words “I determined.”

I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

“Determined” is the English translation of the Greek word “krinō.” It means “to decide” (Strong). Paul decided that his preaching would be Christocentric – Christ-centered. It was not a matter of accident. It was a deliberate decision that he made, a decision to make Christ and His crucifixion the central subjects of his preaching. Albert Barnes put it very well when he said,

      This should be the resolution of every minister of the gospel. This is his business. It is not to be a politician; not to engage in the strifes and controversies of men…not to be a man of taste and philosophy…not to be a profound philosopher or metaphysician, but to make Christ crucified the grand object of his attention, and seek always and everywhere to make him known. He is not to be ashamed anywhere of the humbling doctrine that Christ was crucified. In this he is to glory. Though the world may ridicule, though philosophers may sneer; though the rich and gay may deride it, this is to be the grand object of interest to him, and at no time, and in no society is he to be ashamed of it… That [preaching] which has in it much [concerning] the divine mission, the dignity, the works, the doctrines, the person, and the atonement of Christ, will be successful. So it was in the times of the apostles; so it was in the Reformation; so it was in the Moravian missions; so it has been in all revivals of religion. There is a power about [Christ-centered] preaching which philosophy and human reason have not. ‘Christ is God’s great ordinance’ for the salvation of the world; and we meet the crimes and alleviate the woes of the world, just in proportion as we hold the cross up as appointed to overcome the one, and to pour the balm of consolation into the other (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, note on I Corinthians 2:2).

Paul sometimes spoke on prophecy, but it was not his main subject. He sometimes spoke on marriage and the family, but it was not his main subject. And it is clear that he did not speak on how to be prosperous, or how to feel good, or the other subjects that have become so popular in “modern” man-centered preaching. Dr. Michael Horton, in his book Christless Christianity, said that most preaching in America, including evangelical preaching, is based on what he calls “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” He says that in moralistic, therapeutic deism, “the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself” (Michael Horton, Ph.D., Christless Christianity, Baker Books, 2008, p. 41). He said this goal comes out in American preaching, leading pastors to speak on such subjects as, "How to Feel Good About Yourself," "How to Overcome Depression," "How to Have a Full and Successful Life," "Learning to Handle Your Money without it Handling You," "The Secrets of Successful Family Living," "How to Overcome Stress," etc. (ibid., p. 49). These are actual sermon topics that he quoted from the promotional material of a Baptist church. Does it not seem strange that the Apostles never preached on these subjects? Yet modern evangelicals preach on them constantly! Doesn't it ever enter anyone's mind that this is not apostolic preaching, that this is not Biblical preaching? These modern subjects are man-centered, not Christ-centered. They are meant to be helpful psychologically, not theologically. I remember reading a statement by Dr. A. W. Tozer, who said, "All problems are spiritual problems at bottom. All problems are spiritual and if you get God, everything else will iron itself out for you finally" (A. W. Tozer, D.D., "Men Who Met God"). I agree with him. That is why the Apostle Paul never preached a sermon on those modern subjects, according to the records of his preaching in the Bible. Paul was constantly preaching on "Jesus Christ, and him crucified," because man can only come to God through Christ, and him crucified!

Ever and always Paul “determined” to keep “Christ, and him crucified” at the very heart and center of what he preached. It was so from the first. Right after Paul was converted and baptized,

“Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues”
       (Acts 9:20).

And soon after,

“He spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians” (Acts 9:29).

To the Corinthians, Paul said,

“We preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23).

To the Romans, he said,

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16).

Indeed, as Spurgeon put it, Paul was “The Man of One Subject”! In that sermon, Spurgeon said,

      Paul was a very determined man, and whatever he undertook he carried out with all his heart. Once let him say, “I determined,” and you [could] be sure of a vigorous course of action…it was not so very much to be wondered at that when he became a disciple of this same Jesus, whom he had persecuted, he should…bring all his faculties to bear upon the preaching of Christ crucified. His conversion was so marked, so complete, that you expect to see him…so won over to the faith of Jesus [that he entered] into his cause with all his heart and soul and might [determined] to know nothing else but his crucified Lord (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Man of One Subject,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1971 reprint, volume XXI, p. 637).

When I first began preaching, the Second Coming of Christ was my main subject – because I was converted during a message on that theme. But the older I get, and the more I read the Scriptures, the more I myself have become,

“…determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

II. Second, the words “Jesus Christ.”

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

I love to read Dr. John Gill. He wrote a nine-volume commentary on the whole Bible – from Genesis to Revelation. But you can open any one of those commentaries and, on nearly every page, you will find the words “Christ,” or “Jesus Christ,” or “the Lord Jesus Christ,” or “the gospel.” Whatever criticisms people may make against Dr. Gill, calling him a “hyper-Calvinist,” this much is certain – he extolled the Lord Jesus Christ, and saw Christ on every page of Scripture. That is the way every Christian should look at the Biblefor the great central theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ! The main theme of the Bible is not how to be prosperous. Absurd! It is not the fine points of prophecy, nor is it how to feel good about yourself, nor how to have a happy home, nor how to raise children – nor any of those subjects that seem so important to many pastors today. Jesus Christ is the central theme of the entire Bible, from one end to the other! It was Christ himself who said,

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Revelation 22:13).

How can we exhaust the subject of Jesus Christ? How can we tire of hearing about Him? How can we ever find enough time to preach on all the subjects that relate to Him? Indeed, how can we even think, much less speak, of much other than Jesus Christ? Or why should we, since Jesus Christ

“…is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”
       (I Corinthians 1:30-31)?

Since it is Jesus Christ who gives Christians all these graces,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Dr. Gill said the Apostle Paul made Jesus Christ the center of his preaching,

…in which he took great delight and pleasure; he made known the things respecting the person of Christ, as that he was God, the Son of God, and truly man, God and man in one person; the things respecting his office, as that he was the Messiah, the mediator, prophet, priest, and King, the head, husband, Saviour, and Redeemer of his church and people; and the things respecting his work as such, and the blessings of grace procured by him; as that of justification is by his righteousness, pardon by his blood, peace, reconciliation and atonement by his sacrifice, and salvation alone and entirely by him. His determination was to preach none but Christ (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint of the 1809 edition, volume II, p. 607; note on II Corinthians 2:2).

Dr. Gill gave enough subjects there concerning Jesus Christ to fill up a year of Sunday preaching – no, more likely, a lifetime! A few years ago I preached seven sermons in a row on Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet I feel that I hardly touched the subject! In 2007 I preached fourteen sermons in a row on Jesus, God’s suffering Servant, from Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53:12. Yet I am sure there are several more sermons on Jesus Christ that could be gleaned from that passage of Scripture! There is nothing more wonderful, or meaningful, or helpful to us than to hear preaching about Jesus, to read about Jesus, and to think about Jesus! I agree completely with Samuel Medley, who wrote the words of that hymn Mr. Griffith sang a moment ago,

Jesus! engrave it on my heart,
   That Thou the one thing needful art:
I could from all things parted be,
   But never, never, Lord from Thee!
(“Jesus! Engrave It On My Heart” by Samuel Medley, 1738-1799;
   to the tune of “Just As I Am”).

I have given you that text, I Corinthians 2:2. If it doesn’t describe some preacher you admire, I cannot help it. There is the text. I have only given what the Apostle said. There it is, on the page of Scripture! Do what you like – but there it is!

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

But there is one last part of the text for us to think about this morning.

III. Third, the words “and him crucified.”

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

It was not a phantom “spirit-Christ” of whom the Apostle preached. It was the real flesh and bone Jesus Christ that was nailed to a cross! It was not the Holy Spirit, not the example of Christ, nor was it even the Second Coming of Christ, that occupied Paul’s central message. Please hear me thoughtfully – it wasn’t even the Christ we read about on the pages of the Bible – for the Christ Paul preached was a real person, not just a character described in mere words. Jesus Himself said,

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

Paul preached on the real Jesus Christ, who really suffered your sins to be placed on Him in the Garden of Gethsemane – who really – in the darkness of that Garden,

“sweat…as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

It was the real Jesus who was scourged by Pilate, and nailed to a cross between two thieves, of whom the Apostle spoke!

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

The crucifixion of Jesus is not something we should think about only when we take the Lord’s Supper. It is not a subject to be relegated to Easter alone. No! The crucifixion of Jesus is the very center of real Christianity! That is why Christ’s crucifixion is described in detail in all four of the Gospels. That is why Christ’s crucifixion was spoken of repeatedly by the Apostles in the Book of Acts, and in the Epistles! The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the first point of the Gospel, given by the Apostle Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost:

“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).

And the Apostle Paul said,

“We preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23).

Dr. John MacArthur, who has been strangely wrong on the subject of Christ, for years denying His eternal Sonship and the eternal reality and efficacy of His Blood, was correct when he said, “The preaching of the cross was so dominant in the early church that believers were accused of worshiping a dead man” (The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles, 1997; note on I Corinthians 2:2). I doubt that could be said of people in most of our churches today, even in his.

Brothers and sisters, let us pray that it may be said of us – as it was said of those great saints and martyrs then! Pray that those in our church will always be thinking of Jesus, the God-man, who died on the Cross for our sins!

Unconverted men don’t want to think about Christ crucified! Carnal men think their own feelings and thoughts are all-important. They think of Christ’s crucifixion only as a morbid curiosity! But they are wrong! It is a matter of life and death! It is the central topic of the Bible – and the most vitally important subject that any man or woman will ever be confronted with – in this life or in the next! Hear this, because the salvation of your soul depends on it,

“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).

Jesus Christ died in your place, to pay for your sins on the Cross. Grasp that truth, and turn from your own thoughts to Jesus, and your sins will be pardoned, and you will be saved! Grasp that truth, and hold onto Him, and Jesus Christ will take you through the storms and sorrows of life – and land you safe in the Kingdom of God! That is why,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Then needful still my [Christ]! my King!
   Thy name eternally I’ll sing;
Glory and praise be ever His,
   The one thing needful, Jesus is!
(“Jesus! Engrave It On My Heart” by Samuel Medley, 1738-1799;
     altered by Dr. Hymers; to the tune of “Just As I Am”).

(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: Luke 23:32-36.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus! Engrave It on My Heart” (by Samuel Medley, 1738-1799).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE MAIN SUBJECT! THE INEXHAUSTIBLE SUBJECT!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

(I Timothy 2:2)

I.   First, the words “I determined,” I Corinthians 2:2a; Acts 9:20, 29;
I Corinthians 1:23; Romans 1:16.

II.  Second, the words “Jesus Christ,” I Corinthians 2:2b;
Revelation 22:13; I Corinthians 1:30-31.

III. Third, the words “and him crucified,” I Corinthians 2:2c; John 5:39;
Luke 22:44; Acts 2:23; I Corinthians 1:23; Romans 5:8-9.