The cross is the center of the Christian life. From eternity past to eternal life, the cross is central to our redemption and hope. In this message on 1 Corinthians 2:1–16, David Platt teaches Christians that the cross should be the center of their lives.
- Because the cross represents God’s predetermined affection for you.
- Because the cross demonstrates God’s past substitution for you.
- Because the cross makes clear God’s daily execution of you.
- Because the cross makes possible God’s constant communion with you.
- Because the cross makes certain God’s future glorification of you.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to 1 Corinthians 1. I am keenly aware among all the people who hear this message, a diverse array of needs are represented. Many of you need joy right now in your life. For many of you, the busyness of this life, and the burdens of this life are weighing you down, and you long for a deep and abiding joy that supersedes your circumstances.
Many of you need peace. Maybe many of you are wrestling through decisions and walking through situations where you’re not sure what to do next. Maybe things are not quite working out the way you had planned or quite the way you had envisioned them. You’re not sure what’s the next step to take. Some of you need comfort.
1 Corinthians 2 1–16 Reminds Us That Strength is Found in Jesus Christ
Many of you need love, may feel alone, and really just desire someone to be able to turn to. Many of you need strength. I’m guessing that there are quite a few people in this room that probably feel like you’re at the end of yourself, maybe at work, maybe at home, maybe as mom, or a dad, a single mom, or a single dad, widow, widower, husband, wife, or single. You’re wondering where the resources are to muster up and to keep going forward with what you have to accomplish. What I want to propose is that your only hope for joy, and your only hope for peace, and your only hope for comfort, your only hope for love, and your only hope for strength in this life is found in the cross of Jesus Christ.
My aim is to show you that your only hope in this life is found in the brutal, bloody, humiliating, horrifying death of a naked man on a wooden post. That is your only hope. Now, I realize that sounds bold and maybe even strange to some, if not many, but my desire, my prayer is that every single person would walk away from this place clinging to the cross of Jesus Christ as your only hope; that you would see the cross of Jesus Christ at the center of everything you do, and everything you are, and everything you want, and everything you need, and everything you long for in this life.
Now, here’s how I want to show this to you. I want to speak, specifically, to the Christian. I want to speak to men and women who have found forgiveness for your sins at the cross of Christ, men and women who have come to the cross and found salvation for your soul. The reason I want to speak specifically to Christians is because that’s who this letter called 1 Corinthians is written to.
You look at the very beginning of 1 Corinthians 1, and you see the author and audience from the start. Paul is writing the letter, and he says, “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes…” The recipient is “…To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, this is addressed to Christians. Part of the chapter that we’re going to read is foundational for, both, 1 and 2 Corinthians, because Paul is talking to a group of Christians who had received salvation at the cross, and who had found forgiveness for their sins at the cross, but what they had done is move on from the cross to bigger and better things in Christianity, or so they thought.
1 Corinthians 2 1–16 Shows Us that the Cross is at the Center of Everything
Paul says, “No, you don’t leave the cross behind. The cross is at the center of everything, not just at the point where you become a Christian but in the entire Christian life.” So, what I want to do is I want to speak specifically to Christians, and I want to show you five reasons why the cross is the center of your life, but I know that there are some people here who are not Christians. There are many who are not followers of Christ.
So, my desire for you is that you would see how precious, and wonderful, and beautiful the cross of Jesus Christ is, and for the first time that you would, in your soul, go running to the cross as your only hope, not just in this life but for all of eternity. So, that’s where we’re going, and I want us to start in 1 Corinthians 1:18. I want us to read through this together and then consider this claim that the cross is at the center of our lives and must be at the center of our lives.
1 Corinthians 1:18:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Let’s stop there, and let’s pray. God, we come to you, all of us, my life included, with a variety of needs. You alone are familiar with every situation represented, every circumstance, and every longing, and every desire, and every need. So, I pray that I would not speak with lofty speech or wisdom, but that these next few moments would be a demonstration of the Spirit and of power in your Word. We pray that you will take this Word and by your Spirit bring it to bear on every heart who hears these words.
We trust that not one of us is here by accident, and so we pray that you will take this Word and implant it in our lives, in our hearts, that you would draw people by your Spirit to the cross of Christ for the first time, and that you would draw Christians, those that know you in Christ, to see the cross with new eyes and fresh perspective, and that you would remind us of the beauty and centrality of the cross. We want to see a demonstration of your Spirit and power in your Word, and so we pray this, and we go into the next few moments with great anticipation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
There’s a lot here from the mouth of God, and I’ve wrestled with how to best walk us through it. We’re going to spend most of our time, mainly, in the last part here of 1 Corinthians 1. We’ll see how much we get into 1 Corinthians 2, but we will be here in the last part of 1 Corinthians 1. What I want us to do is I want us to walk through this picture. It’s talking about the cross. I want us to walk through it chronologically, and what I mean by that is I want us to start from the perspective of eternity past, and I want us to look at the cross from eternity past and go all the way to eternity future, and see the cross chronologically.
Five Reasons Why The Cross Is the Center of Your Life…
You’ll see what I mean as we go, and along the way see five reasons why the cross is at the center of your life as a Christian. So, here’s reason number one of why the cross is at the center of your life: Because the cross represents God’s predetermined affection for you. That is good. So, here I want to acknowledge from the start that I am beginning with the most mind-baffling, confusion-causing, debate-inducing, email-eliciting point in the whole time together is this right here.
The cross is the center of your life because it represents God’s predetermined affection for you. So, I want you to circle two key words. They’re mentioned a few different times each in the text. Start with me in verse 22. We’re going to read this again, and I’ll tell you when to circle the two words. Verse 22 says, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called…” Circle that. “To those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It says, “To those who are called.”
Then, you get to verse 26, and Paul says, “For consider your calling…” So, circle it there again. It’s mentioned twice there in this passage that we read. In fact, you can look back to the very beginning of 1 Corinthians 1, which we ran over very quickly, but in 1 Corinthians 1:2, he used the same word there, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” So, circle it there. “…together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So, three times he has talked about how God has called.
So, that’s the first keyword. The second keyword is in verse 27. Paul says, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…” So, circle “chose” right there. He chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. “God chose…” Circle it again. “…what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” Verse 28, “God chose…” Circle it third time. “[He] chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…”
We See That God Draws People Closer to Him
So, these are the two words I want us to think about for a moment here. Let’s start with the first, “called.” This is a word that Paul uses at different points to describe God’s gracious drawing of people to Himself, how God draws people to Himself in salvation. This is how He brings people to Himself. He calls them. This we saw earlier at the very beginning of the chapter. When it says, “called to be saints,” it simply means, “called to salvation.”
In fact, to help us understand this, let’s turn back just a couple of pages in your Bible to Romans 8. Romans is the book right before 1 Corinthians. Go to Romans 8:28. I’m guessing this verse is probably very familiar to many Christians in this room. I want us to see the context here.
In Romans 8:28, Paul writes, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called…” So, circle it. “And those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
So, see the relationship here that Paul is showing us in Romans 8 between “those he predestined, he also called…those he called, he also justified…those he justified, he also glorified.” He’s called them according to His purpose, and this is the key. Romans 8:28 oftentimes is taken way out of context. God is going to work out everything together for those who love Him. That does not mean, Christian, that everything is always going to go well for you, and it is going to be flowery, and it’s always going to be wonderful circumstances.
Can anyone testify to that reality? Yes, but that doesn’t mean Romans 8:28 is lying. The reality is all things will work together for good. What is the good? Keep going to verse 29. The good is what God has predetermined to do. He has predetermined to take your life as a Christian and to conform you into the likeness of His Son, into the likeness of Christ. That is the good. The best is to look like Christ, to know Christ, and become like Christ. The reality it is sometimes, I would say, oftentimes or most times in trials that we are most conformed into His likeness.
1 Corinthians 2 1–16 Reminds Us that God is Working for Us Even in the Darkest of Times
So, we can rejoice in trial. Not some trite, put a smile on your face and act like everything is good and easy. No, but rejoice, because even in the darkest times in your life, God is working in you the image of His Son, and teaching you who Christ is, and conforming you into His image. That’s the good that we want as Christians, and what he’s saying here is, “This is what God predestined. It’s his purpose that I do this. Those he predestined he also called. Those he called he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified.” In other words, you can take that one to the bank. You’ve been called, you’re going to be conformed into the image of Christ, and one day, that’s going to be complete, and you’re going to be glorified with Him. That’s good news.
Now, I’m not supposed to be preaching on Romans 8:28-30. We’ve got plenty of material in 1 Corinthians 1, but that’s key. We’ve been called, drawn to Christ, to become more like Christ. So, now, go to Romans 11. Romans 9, 10, and 11 is the mind-baffling, confusion-causing, debate-inducing three chapters in the Bible talking about God’s mercy and grace in salvation.
What I want to show you is this word “called”, used again in Romans 11:29. At the end of this whole picture that he’s talking about, how God draws people to Himself, He says in Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This is not talking about a calling to a particular task like I’m called to move to East Asia, or I’m called to pastor a church, or I’m called to do this or that in a profession. No, this is drawn to God, called to God, drawn to Him in salvation, and the calling of God is irrevocable.
This is what we saw in Romans 8:30. God accomplishes what He starts. So, that’s the picture of calling. Now, we’ve got this other word in 1 Corinthians 1, “chose”. So, in order to help us understand this word, let’s go to the right of 1 Corinthians just a couple of books to the book of Ephesians 1. So, you turn to the right from 1 Corinthians 1. You’ll come to 2 Corinthians, and then Galatians, and the next book is Ephesians, just a few pages down the road. Ephesians 1, and I want you to look with me there at verse 3 and following.
Ephesians 1:3. Check this out. Paul writes here,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the richness of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Did you hear that? Before the foundation of the world, God chose, predestined us to be His children. Now, some people say, “I don’t know about all of this chosen, predestined stuff in the Bible.” Well, what are you going to do with Ephesians 1? Are you going to throw it out? Why would you want to throw that out? That’s good. Let’s keep that in, along with the rest of it, but yes, we don’t want to throw that out. That’s good.
1 Corinthians 2 1–16 Teaches Us that God Knows All
Think about it. Christian, before the sun was ever formed, before one star was set in the sky, before the mountains were laid on the land, and the oceans were poured across the earth, the God of the universe set His sight on your soul. Through the cross, He predetermined to show His affection for you.
Come back to 1 Corinthians 1. Come back for a moment to 1 Corinthians 1. Now, you see “called,” and “chose.” See it come back together. Now, I want you to see this in the context of 1 Corinthians 1, especially verse 18, because this is breathtaking when you think about it. I want you to see the contrast here. In verse 18, there are two types of people with two different responses to the cross in verse 18.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” You see it? Two types of people with two different responses to the cross. First, to those who are perishing, the cross seems absurd. The idea that God would become a man is absurd. If you just stop right there, then you’ve already isolated billions of people who are saying, “No way.”
You’re already setting aside every Muslim who would say God couldn’t, God wouldn’t debase Himself by becoming a man. In addition to countless others who would say, “There’s no way a man could be divine.” So, you’ve already crossed into the realm of absurdity with billions of people here. Then, take it a step further that God would become a man. He would take on a robe of human flesh in Christ and be crucified. Now, when you see those words, “Christ crucified”, feel the horror, the shock, and awe in that.
We have, for good reason, reverence and respect for the cross. Today, we need to put ourselves, though, in the first century here. There was nobody walking around with crosses around their necks in the first century, and nobody hanging crosses on the walls in their homes in the first century. It’d be like you wearing an electric chair around your neck today. Putting up in your home a picture of a lethal injection table, except worse, because this form of murder, execution, was designed to be as torturous as possible, to be as shameful and humiliating as possible for the worst of barbarians. Not even the most cruel Roman citizen convicted of a crime would have to be crucified. They would have to be a non-Roman citizen, barbarian, or slave, hung naked on a cross bloodied and battered for all to see as he hangs with nails in his arms and his feet.
The very claim that this determines the fate of every single person in all of history for all of eternity is absurd to many. Paul says in verse 23, “Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews.” That is an understatement. For Jews to see the word, “Christ,” “Messiah” and “crucified” next to one another was blasphemy. That would be like saying, “Godly child abuser.” No way. A Jewish person knowing Deuteronomy would know that any person who is hung on a tree is cursed of God. The Messiah would not be cursed of God, and so for many Jews, this is preposterous.
Then, for many Gentiles, it is folly. The word for “folly” there, literally, means “madness.” The Gentiles hear that a Jewish man died on a piece of wood in a nondescript place, on a nondescript hill, and that how they respond to that will determine their eternity. That’s ridiculous. It’s madness.
If we’re honest, this is absurd in our culture. I mean, take yourself out of the story here for a moment. When you hear news that political authorities in a small Middle Eastern country have taken a man who claims to be the Savior of the world and executed him, such a story gets a small thought from us, and we move on very quickly. We think nothing of that. Imagine taking a successful businessman who has a nice job, and a nice car, and a nice house, a nice life, a truly self-made man, and the freethinking woman who delights in her independence from everything including God. Imagine taking both of them outside of the city to a garbage dump, where a man hangs by nails on a post, and saying, “This man claims to be the king and lord over your life who deserves all your worship, all your praise, and all your obedience.” They would laugh at such a claim. At most, they would feel sorry for the man in his deranged condition.
1 Corinthians 2 1–16 is an Invitation to See Power in the Cross
So, we need to see this very clearly. To those who are perishing, the cross seems absurd, Jews, and Gentiles, people in our culture alike. However, Paul is writing to another group here, to a group of Jews and Gentiles who had believed in Christ. Don’t miss it. There’s another group here. To those who are perishing, the cross seems absurd, but to those who are being saved, the cross evokes awe. Verse 18 says, “The word of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” There’s a whole group of people here, of which Paul is one, who don’t see the cross as preposterous. They see the cross as powerful. It’s not absurd to them. It’s awe-inspiring to them.
So, here’s the question: Why does one group of people see it as absurd and another group of people see it as awe-inspiring? What’s the difference between the two groups? What causes one group of people to respond to the cross in awe? It is not any specific quality in those people. In those who are being saved, those who see the power of God in the cross, there’s no quality in them that evokes that kind of response. That’s what Paul is saying all throughout this passage. He’s saying, “You’re Christians. You are followers of Christ. You have been saved at the cross, not because of anything in you.”
In verse 26, he says, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” In other words, you were not voted as “most likely to succeed.” You were not even in the picture. He goes on to say, in verse 27, when he’s talking about who God chose, the reality is, he’s talking to Christians who’ve been graciously drawn to Christ, called by Christ, and chosen by Christ in this whole picture.
So, the words that are here are describing the Christians. God has called “what is foolish in the world, what is weak in the world, what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not.” Paul is saying, “It’s like you are nothing.” That’s whom God has called. He’s called nobodies, and what Paul is saying is, “You’re responding in awe at the cross has nothing to do with how smart you are, where you were born, or what you achieved. You are not in the church because of any specific quality in you. You are in the church only because of the sovereign mercy of the one who calls.”
I want you to follow with me here because this is huge. I’ve walked through this passage before. I’ve taught from this text before, previous to this church here. I’ve been through 1 Corinthians 1, but it was that moment in my study where I was just brought to my knees in speechless awe to realize the only difference in this text between those who think the cross is absurd and those who have believed in the cross in awe is the merciful call of God. It’s the only thing that sets them apart.
The Cross is not absurd. The Cross is Wonder.
Christians, so many people look at the cross and see absurdity. So, why do you look at the cross and see wonder? Are you smarter than everybody else? Are you better than everybody else? Are you sharper than everybody else? Are you just more humble than everybody else? No. It’s because of the mercy of the one who has called that you look at the cross and see beauty instead of absurdity. It’s only because of His mercy.
Now, again, this is the mind-baffling, confusion-causing, debate-inducing, e-mail-eliciting part of this whole picture, because I don’t presume to know how all of this comes together. That’s why I want to pause here for a moment and put in your notes here a caution. In this passage, I want you to recognize the initiative of God. God calls. God chose. That’s the language that the text uses. So, I want to be faithful to that. There’s divine initiative here, but as you recognize the initiative of God also remember the responsibility of man.
So, don’t lose sight of that either, because you go to verse 21, and it says at the end of verse 21, you might underline it, “Pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” There’s something here that men and women are responsible for doing, for believing, and we are responsible for whether or not we believe. We are not puppets here on a divine stage controlled by a divine fatalism. That is not what Scripture teaches.
Scripture teaches very clearly that every single person comes to the cross with a decision. Will you walk away and say, “Folly,” or will you bow the knee and find forgiveness? Every person is responsible and eternally accountable for what you do in response to this cross. The reality is for all who fall, bow the knee, and find forgiveness, the reality is the only way you can do that is because of the mercy of God in your heart.
This is so important for the cross at the center of our lives. Think of it, Christian, why should the cross be the center of your life? Because the cross is a constant reminder day by day, moment by moment, in the ups in the downs of this life, the cross is a constant reminder that the God of the universe, before time began, set His affections on you and determined to send His Son to die so that you might be adopted as His child; so that you might find hope, and joy, and strength, and life in Him. He has been determined on bringing that to you before the sun was formed, and He is determined to bring that to completion.
The Cross Represents Two Great Truths:
That is a hope you can stand, like a rock, on no matter what happens in this life. The cross represents God’s predetermined affection for you. That’s one reason, and we have four to go. The second reason why the cross is at the center of your life: Because the cross determines God’s past substitution for you. Now, this reason right here strikes at the heart of what Paul was addressing and really countering in this passage.
Paul’s reminding us here about the essence of sin. In this picture of Jews and Gentiles who don’t believe, the essence of sin is this: Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be. Now, that’s a loaded statement. Let me simplify it, and you might even write this down. I should have made it simpler. Whenever you say that, then, that’s your clue that you’ve messed up. So, in other words, men and women act as if they are God.
That’s the essence of sin. You and I act as if we are God. We take the throne that God alone belongs on, and we say, “No, I’m on the throne.” We rebel against His authority in our lives, and we become the authority, which is at the core of what Paul is addressing among Jews and Gentiles who see the cross as absurdity. He says in verse 22, “Jews demand signs.” They want to see demonstrations of power.
This is what we saw in the Gospels, right? For example, in John 6, they would go to Jesus, and they would say, “What are you going to do for us? What miracle are you going to perform so that we can believe in you? What are you going to show us? You show us enough, we’ll believe in you.” Do you feel the arrogance at the heart of that statement? For the creation to say to the Creator that, “You must meet conditions for me. You must perform well enough for me if you want to enjoy my company.”
Oh, this is not just Jews in the first century. This is people all across the place today who have either said, or we think, “God, I will believe in you if you will heal my child, if you will heal my spouse. God I’ll believe in you, I’ll trust in you if you bring this marriage back together; if you will give me a wife or husband. God, I’ll worship you if you get me out of this financial struggle that I’m in. I will give you worship.” Do not put conditions upon the Creator God for Him to perform in order for you to give Him your approval. See in any such small thought the sinful nature at the core of who you are, that you and I would have a position of authority to assess whether or not God is good and great.
Jews demand signs. Greeks seek wisdom. It’s intellectual for Greeks. Does God raise Himself to the academic standards that we have established? Does God fit into the philosophical system that we have formed, and if He does, that we with our finite minds would create systems of thoughts that, in order to believe in God, He must fit into. Think of the arrogance there.
1 Corinthians 2 1–16 Calls Us to be Humble Before God
I want to be careful here because 1 Corinthians 1 is abused sometimes. Paul is not advocating an anti-intellectualism here. Paul’s not saying, “Well, if you’re going to become a Christian you need to check your brains at the door.” However, what Paul is saying, what Paul is advocating is a humility before God that says, “Your ways are higher than my ways, and I submit myself to you.” So this is the essence of sin, a man asserting Himself against God, acting as if He is God, putting Himself in God’s place.
Here is the essence of salvation: God sacrificed Himself for man and puts Himself where only man deserves to be. Oh, follow with me here. This is profound, and this is what the cross is all about. Don’t miss it. It’s what makes the cross so precious, and wonderful, and beautiful. In our sin, we substitute ourselves for God, right? We put ourselves in His rightful place. We stand in the place that He alone deserves to stand.
In our rebellion against Him, we usurp His authority, and what do we deserve for this? We deserve death. We deserve separation from a Holy God in our rebellion, but what does God in His mercy do? In our sin, we have put ourselves in the place where He alone deserves to be. What God has done in our salvation is He has put Himself in the place where you and I alone deserve to be. Oh, when you see the horror of the cross, realize that this is the payment and the penalty due your sin, and my sin, and the way that this horrifying scene becomes absolutely beautiful is when you realize that, indeed, God has taken on a robe of human flesh in Christ. He has come, and He has lived a life that we could not live, totally sinless, and He has died, not as a payment for any sin in Him. Jesus has died in your place and in my place, so that when you see that brutal, bloody cross, you realize that He has taken the payment of sin upon Himself in my place, and there is no more payment left to pour out on me.
This is why this cross must be at the center of your life, because when the Adversary begins to beat you down in sin, begins to bring you low in self-condemnation, when the Adversary begins to haunt you with past failures and present regrets you run to the cross, and you preach this gospel to yourself all over again, because the reality is, Jesus has already taken all of that condemnation upon Himself. He has taken all of that guilt and all of that shame upon Himself. There is none left for you to endure. He has done it on your behalf. This is how you wake up every morning, and you go through every day with joy, and confidence, and hope, and life because you know there is no more condemnation for you. You’re in Christ Jesus, and He has taken everything upon Himself in your place and by His grace. You are free. You are washed white as snow before God. That’s why the cross needs to be at the center of your life.
Third, the cross makes clear God’s daily execution of you. Now, that probably requires a little bit of explanation. This is the reason why the cross must be the center of your life, because the cross makes clear God’s daily execution of you. So, here’s the deal. Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”? So this is not just to be believed. This is to be embraced.
So, this is where we realize that the cross is not just a place that represents substitution. The cross is a place that represents execution. I’d mentioned earlier they had moved on from the cross. Here’s what happened: You’ve got these Corinthian Christians who had been saved at the cross; they had been forgiven at the cross for what they had done. He’s in their lives and in their Christianity, and they had moved on, and you read the rest of 1 Corinthians, and you see they were indulging in all sorts of immorality, and they were indulging in riches. Some of them had become very wealthy and were ignoring the poor in their midst, even in the context of worship and the Lord’s Supper.
So, Paul’s writing to them, saying, “No, you don’t just leave the cross behind.” He is addressing here what is rampant in our day. We have this tendency, this idea to come to the cross to find forgiveness. “I pray, ask God to forgive my sins, and then, okay, I’m going to heaven. Now, what am I going to do in this life? I’m going to live it up.” There are a lot of so-called preachers who are selling the idea that the cross is a means to get all this stuff, and you’ve been forgiven so that you can enjoy all the stuff in this world.
1 Corinthians 2 1–16 Leads us to Trust in the Cross
You can live it up in this world. You can have it all. That’s not biblical Christianity. Think of that Christian; you think about the day when you were saved. Christian, the day when you came to the cross of Christ, and you fell on your face before Him, and you said, “I cannot do it. There is no effort, and no ability in me. There’s nothing in this world that can satisfy. You alone are my life, and my hope, and my joy, and I’ve rebelled against God, and I need forgiveness of my sins. I need to be reconciled. I give you everything. I’ve died to myself, and I give you everything I have. You’re my hope, my only hope, nothing else in this world.”
This is what happens at salvation, right? This is what happens at that moment. It’s not just praying a prayer. This is what happens here. We express the depth of our need for Him. Every single day, we say the same thing, “I can’t do it. There is no effort, or no work in me. It’s not in me, and nothing else in this world satisfies. You alone satisfy. You alone are my joy, and my life, and my hope, and my peace. So, I don’t want the stuff of this world. I want you. You are everything to me,” and that radically changes the way you live.
When you are clinging to the cross every moment of every day then it changes everything. We have died to ourselves in this world. Daily, we rely completely on God. This is how we live. The cross is not just the point where you were saved when you were 18 years old. The cross is the way you live when you’re 80 years old. It’s Paul in Galatians 2:20, “I’m crucified with Christ. I don’t live anymore. Christ lives in me, and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in Him, the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
I’m dead. It’s Christ in me. We died of ourselves in this world. We died of the stuff of this world. This is what Paul is addressing here. Jews are all about signs and power. Greeks are all about wisdom and intelligence, and Paul says to them, “No. We don’t revel in worldly power. We don’t revel in worldly intellect.” “God destroys the wisdom of the wise,” that’s that quote from Isaiah 29 in verse 19 in 1 Corinthians 1.
This is key. Again, this is not an anti-intellectualism, but here’s the reality. The most uneducated, unlearned, untalented man who comes to the cross of Jesus Christ and finds there His life, and joy, and peace, and love, and hope is far, far wiser than the man with three doctorates in chemistry, and physics, and mathematics who knows all of this stuff this world has. That man is a fool. It’s not that he doesn’t have some knowledge in there, but the reality is his entire worldview is based on that which is false, and he has missed the whole point. He thinks his intellect will lead to what he needs in this life and it won’t.
The uneducated man over here has found the wisdom of God, leaving behind the pride of man and trusting in the cross of Christ. Is it not the case? This was 2,000 years ago. We’ve learned a lot since then, yeah? The earth is round. There’s so much stuff we’ve learned in 2,000 years. We have so much more knowledge. Are we any more moral? We have so much more things that we’ve created with our innovation, and our power, so much more means to help people in the world. Are we any more helpful to those in need? Do we see the wisdom of God that puts the wisdom of man to total shame? So, we revel only in God. We’ll talk about that in a moment.
Next, fourth, the cross needs to be the center of your life because the cross makes possible God’s constant communion with you. Listen to what Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians 1. Verse 30, he says, “Because of what God has done, you are in Christ Jesus.” Oh, underline that phrase, “You are in Christ,” and because you’re in Him who became for us wisdom from God, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, they’re yours. So that as it is written let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. You’re in Christ, Christian. You’re in Christ. Because of Christ crucified, the wisdom of God, you are in Christ, and He is our righteousness. He has saved us from sin’s penalty.
Righteousness deals with our standing before God. In our sin, we are cast out of God’s presence. In the righteousness of Christ, we are invited into His presence. Is this not glorious truth, the very reality that at every moment of every day, no matter how well you’re doing in your quiet time, or how well you’re doing in obedience or this or that area of your life, the reality is, Christian, you have unhindered access to God at every moment of every day because your standing before Him is not based on how you are doing. Your standing before Him is based on what He has done, and what He has bought for you.
Christ is our righteousness. Christ is our sanctification.
He is our righteousness. He’s our sanctification: He is saving us from sin’s power. As He fills us, He is enabling us to turn from sin and to walk away from sin. He gives us victory over sin in the midst of temptation. He’s making us look more like Christ, and ultimately, He is our redemption: He will save us from sin’s presence. He is redeeming us. God is re-creating us into the image of Christ, and we wait for the day when our redemption will be complete, and we will be free from sin altogether, and we will be conformed in the likeness of Christ.
Paul says in Romans, “We long for the redemption of our bodies.” Then, he quotes from Jeremiah 9, “Don’t boast in this or that that you have in this world. Boast in this: That you know God,” Jeremiah says, and Paul brings it in here. He says, “This is what you boast in. This is what you joy in. This is what you revel in, and you delight in.”
Let me encourage you to be very cautious about investing affection and joy in empty places like sporting events or riches or jobs. Certainly, do not find your identity there, because that is a dangerous road that leads to an eternal hell, because it will burn up. It is temporary. It is temporary. It doesn’t last. So don’t boast in, and enjoy, and delight in, and revel in that. You’ve got something better to boast in, and delight in, and revel in because, when you woke up this morning, Christ was your righteousness before God, and your sanctification before God, and your waiting redemption before God.
Because the reality is, He has already won the decisive victory. He has conquered, and in Him we have life, and joy, and hope, and take away it all from this world. It doesn’t matter. We are identified with Him, and He is our everything, and that’s why we have a skip in our step on a daily basis, because the cross is at the center of our life, and we enjoy constant communion with Him. That is better than anything else in this world.
So just be careful. Enjoy things in this world, but be very, very careful with the affections of your heart and your mind. The last reason the cross is at the center of your life is because the cross makes certain God’s future glorification of you, and this is where we don’t have time to look at this in 1 Corinthians 2, but what we see in 1 Corinthians 2 is the Spirit of God, and how the Spirit speaks to us on earth. The Spirit speaks to us on earth and reveals to us the secret things of God, and the beauty of God, and the mysteries of God.
The same Spirit, Ephesians 1:13-14, seals us for eternity. It seals us for eternity. So, here’s the picture. The Spirit of God who draws you to the cross is the same Spirit who at the cross will, day by day, help you to understand more and more of His beauty, and His glory, and His majesty. The same Spirit who brought you to the cross will bring this whole picture to completion, and He, the Spirit of God, will bring you, Christian, to the day when you behold the face of your crucified King. You see Him, and you delight in Him, and you are like Him, and you glorify Him. This is the work of the Spirit. So cling to the cross because that’s where His work happens.