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THE CHRIST OF THE CROSS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, October 20, 2013
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1-3).


This is the Apostle Paul’s clear and concise statement of the Christian Gospel. The word “gospel” simply means “good news.” Paul told the church at Corinth that he had preached to them the good news of the Gospel. He said they were saved by the Gospel, unless they had a false conversion, “unless ye have believed in vain” (I Corinthians 15:2). Then he repeated the good news he had delivered to them. The Gospel had three simple points: (1) “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures.” (2) “And that he was buried.” (3) “And that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.” That is the Gospel. That is the good news that true preachers have proclaimed across the centuries of time. When I was ordained, my ordination certificate said that I was ordained to “the Gospel Ministry.” That means I was appointed or set apart primarily to preach the Gospel. The main thing I am to do in “the Gospel Ministry” is to proclaim the good news of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. That is what every pastor was called, ordained, and set apart to do. And Paul said, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you” (I Corinthians 15:1). But I must say several things about the call to preach the Gospel.

I. First, many pastors today make something other than the Gospel the center of their preaching.

There are those that preach on politics. Their sermons are based on whatever is going on in the political realm. Preachers like this seldom emphasize salvation because they don’t think it is necessary. They are merely political men. Years ago, in the Chinese church where I was a member, there was a young man who thought Dr. Lin should preach against the Vietnam War. Finally he left and took several young people with him. They joined All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, a suburb of Los Angeles. That church was considered very up to date. The pastor, Dr. George Regas, preached nearly every Sunday against the war in Vietnam and other political subjects. But after a while those young people from our church grew tired of nothing but political talk. Finally, all of them left that church and went back to the world. To my knowledge none of them go to church now. That has been the case in all the so-called “mainline” denominations. Left wing political preaching does not hold the people. Every one of the mainline churches has lost tens of thousands, and even millions, of members in the past few decades, largely because their sermons are based on politics and social concerns.

Then there are those who focus their preaching on psychology. Their self-help sermons are like those of Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen. They throw in a Bible verse sometimes, but most of their sermons are not centered on the Bible. Like Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Drew on TV, the topic of their preaching is how to feel good and be successful. Last Tuesday I spoke with a Roman Catholic nurse who attends Mass every Sunday and also watches Joel Osteen on TV. She is a Philipina nurse who works in a hospital where I had a minor procedure done. She had a gloomy scowl on her face every time I looked at her. I told a few jokes, but I couldn’t get her to smile. When I finally asked her about her religion, she told me she goes to Mass, and also watches Joel Osteen every Sunday, because he teaches her how to be happy! Preachers like that make people feel good, but have little impact on their personal lives, and certainly little or none on the salvation of their eternal souls!

Thirdly, there are those who teach the Bible verse by verse. Since the Bible has many subjects, these men are always jumping around, from one idea to the other, in their sermons. Most conservative pastors do this kind of preaching today. But it is largely futile. It is nearly always full of so many thoughts and ideas that it doesn’t change people’s lives. My associate, Dr. Cagan, attended Dr. John MacArthur’s church for several months, before his conversion. Dr. MacArthur gave interesting expositions, but Dr. Cagan was not motivated to seek salvation. He came and went from that church unsaved, although he had a fairly strong interest in becoming a Christian. The general theme that runs through the verse-by-verse churches is the idea that Bible study in and of itself is the purpose of preaching. The Bible itself is central, rather than the Christ of the Bible. This is called Sandemanianism. Many of the people in these kind of churches grow cold, but smart, like the Pharisees of old.

Finally, there are those who focus on so-called “worship.” This takes many strange twists and turns. A pastor friend and I were eye-witnesses to one outrageous “worship” service where people roared like lions, clawing each other, while others screamed and rolled on the floor like uncaged demoniacs. In another “worship” service my wife and boys and I watched people literally worshipping idols while they laughed and prostrated themselves on the floor. We felt as out of place as if we had been in an insane asylum! In another place, at a Christian college, I saw girls dancing like harlots while red smoke poured out of a machine, and the music was deafening. Other, less flamboyant “worship” services are made up of hour-long singing of one chorus over and over until the people seem to be almost hypnotized. In those services there is little time left for any real preaching. Needless to say, Christ does not have the preeminence in the sermons at these churches!

And the “Christ” that is too often spoken of in these services is not the real Christ at all. The objective Christ of the Gospel is transformed into one’s own subjective feelings. In his penetrating book, Christless Christianity, Dr. Michael Horton said,

      As much as we might talk about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, there doesn’t actually seem to be much of a relationship at all, except with the self…Jesus really becomes my alter ego (Michael Horton, Ph.D., Baker Books, 2008, p. 43).

One young man I met recently told me, “I don’t need the Bible or the church. I have a personal relationship with Christ, and that’s all I need.” Much of today’s preaching produces people like that, who believe that their own thoughts and feelings are Christ. That is another Jesus! That is a false Christ! That is not the Gospel that Paul spoke of in our text! That kind of thinking, and other false ideas, come from too many pastors making something other than the Gospel the center of their preaching. The Apostle Paul spoke of “another gospel, which ye have not accepted” (II Corinthians 11:4). All that I have spoken of in this point is centered in “another gospel.” Paul said in our text,

“I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3).

That is the Gospel!

II. Second, the center of the Gospel is the cross of Christ.

In all the types of preaching I have mentioned so far, the cross of Christ is not at the center – not the main thing – not the foundation of Christianity. Dr. W. A. Criswell said,

      Take the death of Christ from the…message and there is nothing left. The preacher no longer possesses the “good news,” the evangel of the forgiveness of our sins…Which of these…kinds of Christianity is the Christianity of the New Testament? Undoubtedly it is the Christianity of the cross. (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., In Defense of the Faith, Zondervan Publishing House, 1967, p. 67).

The Apostle Paul said,

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).

“Christ died for our sins.” That was the main subject of Paul’s preaching. In fact, he said to the church at Corinth, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). If it is the Christianity of the Bible, it is the Christianity of the cross. Great Spurgeon, “the prince of preachers,” said, “The heart of the Gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”

Today many churches use the symbol of a dove to represent their faith. To me that is a mistake. The dove represents the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is not the central person of the Trinity in the message of the Gospel. In the sixteenth chapter of John Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “shall not speak of himself” (John 16:13). Again, Jesus said, “He shall glorify me” (John 16:14). The work of the Holy Spirit is not to draw attention to Himself, but rather to bring glory to Christ. Therefore a church whose central message is focused on the Holy Spirit is not a truly Biblical church. The Apostle Paul said that Christ must have the preeminence in all of our ministry and all of our preaching. He said that Christ

“...is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence [that in everything he might have the supremacy]. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell...having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:18-20).

We have pardon for sin, and peace with God, “through the blood of his cross” – and only through the Blood of Christ’s cross!

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
   Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
   Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you washed in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
   Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
   (“Are You Washed in the Blood?” by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

Oh! precious is the flow
   That makes me white as snow:
No other fount I know,
   Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
(“Nothing But the Blood” by Robert Lowry, 1826-1899).

“I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins...” (I Corinthians 15:3).

Dr. Criswell said,

      What does he mean by the words “first of all”? His reference has not so much to do with time as with the importance... The doctrine of the vicarious expiation of our sins by the death of Christ [in the place of the sinner] is the very keystone of grace, the very heart of the Gospel. No other truth stands so high...All the great doctrines of the Holy Scriptures lead to the cross.
      A critic one time said to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “All your sermons sound alike,” to which the world-famed London preacher replied, “Yes, I take my text anywhere in the Bible and make a beeline [going straight] to the cross.” There is no pardon without atonement; there is no remission without shedding of blood; there is no reconciliation without the payment of debt...
      The preaching of the atoning death of Christ is the distinctive, determining doctrine of the New Testament. It differentiates our faith from all other religions. The Christian message is distinctively one of redemption. Its fundamental purpose is to recover man from the bondage and judgment of sin...It is first and above all a Gospel of redemption, an announcement of the good news that God has for Christ’s sake forgiven us (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., In Defense of the Faith, ibid,. pp. 68-70).

III. Third, the Christ of the cross saves us from our sins.

The Muslims believe in Jesus – in a sense. They call Him “Isa.” The Koran even says He was born of a virgin. It even says He ascended back to Heaven. Some foolish people think that is enough. But hundreds of young people in the Muslim world are turning away from the “Isa” Jesus of the Koran. More of them are turning to the Jesus of the Bible today than at any other time in the past. They almost always go through persecution and suffering to trust the Jesus of Christianity. Why do they suffer, even going through tortures, to trust our Jesus? I’ll tell you why! The Jesus of the Koran did not die on a cross to pay for our sins – that’s why! The Koran says He did not die on the cross to save us! But the Koran does not tell them how to be forgiven of their sins. It tells them to do good, and to obey the rules, but it does not tell them how to be forgiven and be accepted as a child of God. The Koran cannot tell them that, because the Koran denies that Jesus died on the cross! They suffer great persecution to believe in our Jesus because He alone gives them peace with God, “Having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Would you go through persecution to trust the Christ of the cross? Would you risk your very life to find peace with God “through the blood of [the] cross”? They do. They do every day. Would you go through the fire of Muslim hatred to find pardon for your sin through the Blood Christ shed to save you on the cross? They do. They do every day.

In Pastor Wurmbrand’s magazine some time ago I saw the face of a young Muslim girl in Indonesia. They threw acid in her face when she trusted Jesus. Her face was now hideous, almost beyond description. But she was smiling. They said she smiled all the time. She felt that it was worth losing her face to gain the cross of Christ! Why? Because,

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures”
      (I Corinthians 15:3).

My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought,
   My sin, not in part, but the whole –
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
   Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(“It Is Well With My Soul” by H. G. Spafford, 1828-1888).

Yes, Christ ascended back to Heaven. But the Koran says that! If you have the ascension of Jesus back to Heaven without the cross – you do not have salvation. You must have the cross! For it is on the cross that Jesus paid the price for your sin. Without the cross there is no payment for sin, and no peace with God. Only the Christ of the cross can save you from sin! Only the Christ of the cross shed His holy Blood to cleanse you from all sin. Yes,

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures”
      (I Corinthians 15:3).

Millions of martyrs and saints have said, “I will give myself for the Christ of the cross! I will give my hands and my feet for the Christ of the cross! I will give my body to the wild beasts for the Christ of the cross! I will give my whole life for the Christ of the cross!”

They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,
   The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
   Who follows in their train?
(“The Son of God Goes Forth to War” by Reginald Heber, 1783-1826).

They said it was worth all that and more to have their sins pardoned and cleansed by the Christ of the cross.

Will you receive Christ? Will you trust Him now, this very morning? Will you say with Dr. Watts, “Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do”? You say, “I am ready to give myself away to the Christ of the cross, who died to save me from my sin.” Then leave your chair and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to another room where you may consecrate your life to Him who died to save you from your sin. Go now to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust the Christ of the cross this morning. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: I Corinthians 15:1-4.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Old Rugged Cross” (by George Bennard, 1873-1958).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE CHRIST OF THE CROSS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1-3).

I.   First, many pastors today make something other than the Gospel
the center of their preaching, II Corinthians 11:4.

II.  Second, the center of the Gospel is the cross of Christ,
Galatians 6:14; I Corinthians 2:2; John 16:13,14; Colossians 1:18-20.

III. Third, the Christ of the cross saves us from our sins, Colossians 1:20.