Sermon for Sunday, January 26th, 2020, the Third Sunday after Epiphany

 

The Lessons: Psalm 27:1, 4-11; Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23

 

The Text: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

 

The Topic: The preaching of the Cross of Christ is the power of God

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The cross is what separates the Christ of Christianity from every other Jesus. In Judaism there is no precedent for a Messiah who dies, much less as a criminal, as Jesus did. In Islam the story of Jesus’ death is rejected as an affront to Allah himself. Hindus can accept only a Jesus who passes into peaceful samadhi, a yogi who escapes the degradation of death.

 

There is, in short, no room in other religions for a Christ who experiences the full burden of mortal existence — and hence there is no reason to believe in him as the divine Son whom the Father resurrects from the dead.

 

That the image of a benign Jesus has universal appeal should come as no surprise. That most of the world cannot accept the Jesus of the cross should not surprise us either. Thus the idea that Jesus can serve as a bridge uniting the world’s religions is inviting but may be ultimately impossible.

 

 — Kenneth L. Woodward,

“The Other Jesus,”

Newsweek (March 27, 2000)[1]

 

1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-18: THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE

 

St. Paul’s complaint about the Corinthian Christians was that they had chosen division over unity, and the division was based on their ideas of the importance of various apostles and missionaries, such as Paul, Cephas (Peter), Apollos, and others were claiming that they alone were Christians. This disunity, St Paul counters with three questions: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor.1:13, KJV). These questions reject division firstly on the basis that Christ, in whom are all Christians, has not been divided; secondly, on the basis that it was Christ and not any Christian leader that was crucified for the salvation of the world; thirdly, on the basis that no-one is, or ever was, baptized in the name of any Apostle or Christian leader, but only in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Blessed Trinity.

 

St. Paul acknowledged that he baptized a few people at Corinth, but that this should not cause division, since he did not baptize in his own name, but in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He then insists that the purpose for which Christ sent him was not baptize, but to preach the Gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, in case the cross of Christ should be made ineffective. St. Paul sums up his position by saying that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those outside the Church, but to us who are saved it is the power of God (1 Cor.1:18). This conforms to what he writes in Romans 1:16 (KJV):

 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

 

This message of Jesus Christ crucified and then raised to life is a stumbling block to the Jews, St. Paul explains a little later, but foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor.1:23), but to all who are called to believe, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, as is his Gospel, the Gospel of the Cross (1 Cor.1:24).

 

THE SOURCE OF UNITY AND POWER IS CHRIST AND THE CROSS

 

Though, as the centuries passed, the Church in this world has seen so much division, we all need to look continually to Christ and the preaching of the cross as the power of God. For it is by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all our sins, that we have been saved by God from the dominion of the Devil and brought into God’s eternal kingdom. There is no other power greater than this that could cause such a transformation to our souls, rescue us from eternal death, and plant us in the kingdom of God. By following the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall grow closer to God and closer to all who seek unity with Him in Christ.

 

But to the Greeks, whose search was for wisdom, and to many intellectuals today, whose search might not be for wisdom, but for prosperity, the preaching of the cross is foolish and illogical. Christians maintain the folly of the cross, because the foolishness of God is wiser than all the wisdom of men, and the weakness of God stronger than man’s strength (1 Cor.1:25). The preaching of the cross, in making it clear that all people without exception are sinners, makes it equally clear that all people without exception are justified freely by God’s grace, that is, restored to a right relationship with him through the redemption that is in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23).

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

 

Since the Gospel of the Cross is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe in Christ, what should our attitude to this Gospel be? It is not that believing the Gospel makes for the same opinions about all moral and ethical issues among Christians, but it does mean that we who have believed in Christ are all on a journey to discover and obey the will of God in all things. It does mean, that though we may have diverse opinions on many things, the essentials of Christian faith as defined in the Bible and in the Creeds of the Church are held in common. It is this common nucleus of our faith in Christ that after all these centuries of doctrinal division we must cling to and know. Since the Gospel and the preaching of the cross is the power of God leading to salvation, we must be willing and able to share it, so that it does not sound like a personal opinion we hold, but an urgent message calling for a decision to be made by the hearer, a decision that will change his life for his eternal good. Will you so share the Gospel?

 

 


 

[1] p.121,Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

 

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