The expression "the preaching of the cross" is found in 1 Corinthians 1:18.
There is a real misconception about this phrase. Most believers think that it has reference to the evangelical cross of Christ and His dying for our sins. This is not the case however. It does not refer to the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary's cross as the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." This instead speaks of a reality upon which the believer is to count as being so. Notice the wording in 1 Corinthians 1:18.
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it (i.e. the preaching of the cross) is the power of God. "
The "power of God" is not the preaching about the cross, but the PREACHING OF THE CROSS. There is much preaching today about the cross. Perhaps ever since New Testament times there has been a lot of preaching about it. In fact, there is much singing about it and much talk about it, but little understanding of it.
We propose to lend some understanding to what turns out to be the principle of the "preaching of the cross." When Paul used this expression he had in mind a principle which was to work in the life of the believer. He was not making reference to the cross in an effort to win the lost to Christ.
Remember that the Corinthian Epistles were written to believers, not to those who were lost. In 1
Cor. 1:2 Paul states, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints . . ." In 2
Cor. 1:1 Paul states, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God . . . unto the church of God which is at Corinth. . ."
When Paul said in 1 Cor. 2:2, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" he had reference to the
cross of Christ in the sense of the "preaching of the cross." Many suppose Paul meant that since the Corinthians were-such a carnal group that he determined not to preach anything but Jesus Christ crucified in the sense that He died for their sins. This does not make sense. Paul would not keep preaching a so-called evangelical message to those who were already saved. He must have meant something else. What did he actually have in mind?
There was a basic truth which was definitely Pauline. This basic truth given to the Apostle Paul was the idea that when Christ died on Calvary's cross God reckoned the believer as having died with Him. Therefore he says in Romans 6:6:
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him (Christ), that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. "
Here Paul asserts that the believer knows this truth. The truth is that "our old man" (i.e. our old Adamic nature) is crucified with Christ. The purpose was that "the body of sin" (i.e. the old nature) might be dealt with in such a manner as to render it inoperative, thereby enabling the believer to serve God "in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).
In Romans 6 Paul brings forth the doctrine of the believer's identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized unto His death?" (v. 3.)
Baptism into His death speaks of identification. Verse 4 speaks concerning being "buried with Him" and "as Christ was raised up from the dead . . ., even so we also should walk in newness of life."
The point Paul is making is "he that is dead is freed from sin (i.e. the old sin nature)" (v. 7). There was a spiritual transaction that took place as far as God was concerned. It was this: the believer's old nature was dealt with on the cross. God sees it as having been crucified with Christ. Paul's desire was for others to see this also as a Divine reality.
Galatians 2:20 beautifully expresses the Apostle's appreciation of this truth.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless l live; yet not 1, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which 1 now live in the flesh 1 live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. "
In PW he is saying, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. No, it's not really me that's living, for I am dead, but in reality the life that I am living in the flesh is really Christ living in me." Paul counts himself as having been crucified with Christ that the body of sin might be destroyed, thereby enabling Christ to live in him. He further amplifies this by saying, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me. and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
This truth of identification with the death. burial and resurrection of Christ is carried over into the present dispensation of the grace of God (Col.
2:11-13). Colossians 3:3 states "Ye are dead . . .'
Briefly stated. believers are to know something about the cross of Christ which is more than Christ dying "for our sins according to the Scriptures."
The believer is to know:
"Our old man is crucified" (Rom. 6:6).
"I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20).
"By whom the world is crucified unto me. and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
"Ye are dead" (Col. 3:3).
These are divine facts. The Bible says these things are so. Even if our experiences tell us differently, the believer must face up to the Divine fact that his "old man" was crucified with Christ. Once this fact is known the believer is to move on. The next step is that of counting the Divine fact as being so.
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, (i.e. old nature) but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:11).
The doctrinal fact is that the believer died with Christ. In His death we all died. This is as sure as the fact that Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 says, "Christ died for us." That is an absolute fact. The Bible says it, we believe it, that settles it. Is this next statement any less clear than the other? "Our old man is crucified with Him" (Rom. 6:6). We acted upon the first statement, that is; we believed it. Likewise the believer should act upon the second statement- believe it.
Believing that we died with Christ is to be appropriated as we appropriated His death for us. The latter produced our salvation, the former produces our practical sanctification. The believer is to reckon upon a Divinely revealed fact, for otherwise faith has no foundation on which to rest. God says, "Reckon yourselves dead." The reason He says this is because of the Divine fact that we are dead. This is not fancy or make believe. We are to account that we are really dead because God says we are.
"Likewise reckon . . . yourselves dead indeed unto sin." This is not to be reckoned upon so we may become dead unto sin, but because we are dead. He doesn't tell us to reckon what is not a fact. He would have us know that "We have died" and then abide by it. Why? Because it is a fact. Through this pathway the believer is freed of the task master, the old nature. "For he that is dead is freed from sin" (Romans 6:7).
The believer is dead with Christ; whether he feels it or not, because Christ died; and since "if one died for all, then were all dead" (2
Cor. 5:14). This is the Divine fact whether experience proves it or not. The fact remains unchanged. The believer is to "walk by faith and not by sight" (2
Two basic principles have been set forth thus far, (1) The believer died with Christ, and (2) the believer is to account it as being so. Much has been written on this subject by men who have achieved a high level of personal devotedness to their Lord. They have been very spiritual men of high character. We will not attempt to pursue the study along those lines but rather to show the place the "preaching of the cross" had in the Pentecostal dispensation as well as the present dispensation.
Under the law of Moses provisions were made for "strangers" (i.e. Gentiles). Strangers who chose to embrace Judaism were to become Jews. They were to be circumcised and they were to live under the law of Moses. From Moses to Paul this was the accepted standard. Gentiles who embraced the Jew's religion and worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob became Jews, not by birth of course, but by faith in OT truths. These proselytes submitted to circumcision and lived under the Mosaic Law. This was as it should be. This was Israel's instruction through the Scriptures.
However, there was a radical change which took place under the New Covenant. This change was revealed to the Apostle Paul and he was sent out as the Apostle to Gentiles. For he was "an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father,. . .") (Gal. 1:1).
"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts
Paul's message was clear, "all that believe are justified from all things." The New Covenant was superimposed over the Old. Those who believed the New did not have to live with the Old. The Gentiles who embraced New Testament truth neither had to be circumcised nor keep the law of Moses.
The Apostle Paul's headquarters were in Antioch in Syria. Between Acts 9 and Acts 15 he operated independently of the Twelve who were in Jerusalem. Paul says, ". . . immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me;" (Gal. 1:1617). This certainly emphasizes his independent ministry prior to Acts 15.
In Acts 13 and 14 we read of Paul's ministry into the area -of Galatia. In Acts 13 we note that he and Barnabas are at "Antioch in
Pisidia" (Acts 13:14), then in Chapter 14 they move on to Iconium. They were in Iconium a long time (Acts 14:3). However, eventually the city became divided and "an assault (was) made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them (Paul and Barnabas) despitefully . . . They were aware of it and fled unto Lystra and Derbe . . . and unto the region round about" (Acts 14:5-6).
While in this region Paul was stoned by Jews coming from Antioch and Iconium. The Jews persuaded the people of Lystra to join them in the stoning of Paul. They "drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead" (Acts 14:19). As the disciples stood around Paul (who was probably dead) "he rose up" (Acts 14:20) went into the city and the next day departed with Barnabas to
Derbe. They then returned the way they came, going back again to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in
Pisidia, "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in "every church, and prayed with fasting." and then "commended them to the Lord" (Acts 14:23). Paul and Barnanas then sailed on to Antioch in Syria "from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled" (Acts 14:26). It %%-as at headquarters in Antioch that Paul told "how He (God) had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27).
We read in verse 28 of Acts 14, "And there (Antioch) they abode long time with the disciples." It is here while Paul abode a long time that he received news from the area of Galatia embracing the churches at Antioch in
Pisidia, Lvstra, Derbe and Iconium. The news he received certainly was upsetting.
He received word from the Galatians that believing Pharisees had journeyed from Jerusalem on "missionary duty" into the Galatian area insisting that the believing Gentiles submit to circumcision, and that they "keep the Law of Moses."
It was while Paul abode a long time at Antioch (Acts 14:28) that he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians. This was his earliest writing. Had he written it after the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15 there would have been no occasion for it. For during Acts 15 Paul received a letter from James stating that the Twelve had not sent any "missionaries" out from Jerusalem in an effort to subvert Paul's ministry among the Gentiles. As a matter of fact James states that the only requirement laid down for Gentiles was (1) they should abstain from meats offered to idols, (2) abstain from blood, (3) abstain from things strangled, and (4) abstain from fornication.
This letter from James settled once and for all the question of circumcision of Gentiles and Gentiles living under the Mosaic Law. Thus we see no need for Paul to have written a letter such as Galatians after Acts 15.
We trust enough has been said to provide the reader with somewhat of a background for "preaching of the cross."