1 Corinthians 1:17

No man did so much as Paul to prevent Christianity degenerating into form. He had himself been galled by the bondage of the old dispensation, and he the more rejoiced in the liberty of the new. He upheld the spirit against the letter, the life against the ceremony. He did not depreciate baptism, for it would not have been easy to depreciate the ordinance and at the same time to honour the spiritual reality it symbolized. But others could and might administer the rite of purification; he was at liberty to leave this to them, in order to give himself the more devotedly to his own special and appointed work, the preaching of the gospel.


1. The Christian, and emphatically the Christian preacher, does not go his own way and do his own work in the world. He does not claim to direct his own steps.

2. Christ is the sender. To Paul he had said, "Unto whom now I send thee;" and Paul acknowledged concerning his commission, "I received it not of men." It is a high and sacred truth that we are sent men. The soul that awakens to a sense of the reality of life and hears the voice of God, proves its vitality by exclaiming, "Here am I; send me." Every Christian is, in a sense, a missionary, an apostle of Christ.

II. THE LANGUAGE ASSERTS THE VAST IMPORTANCE OF PREACHING. It is common amongst worldly men to undervalue this spiritual agency; they think more of political or physical power than of moral influence. What is preaching? It is the use of moral means towards a moral end. It is the presentation of truth to the understanding, of authority to the conscience, of persuasion to the heart. Above all, it is the use of a Divine weapon, though with an arm weak and ill adapted for a service so high. Our Lord himself was a preacher, Paul was a preacher, and preachers have been among the greatest moral factors in the history of all Christian nations. Preaching is the vehicle of a Divine blessing, the means towards a Divine and immortal result.

III. THE LANGUAGE LAYS STRESS UPON THE SUBSTANCE OF CHRISTIAN PREACHING. Paul felt himself called and qualified to preach the gospel.

1. This was good news. An argument may be reasoned, an oration may be declaimed, a poem may be sung, but that which has to be preached is good news.

2. It was good news from God. From any inferior source good tidings could scarcely have deserved the name. Man needed pardon, the principle and power of a new life, hope for the future; and these were blessings God alone could bestow.

3. It was good news concerning Christ. Thus to preach Christ and to preach the gospel were one and the same thing. For Christ was to man the wisdom, the power, and the love of God.

4. It was good news for all men. It brought liberty to the Jew and light to the Gentile, truth to the inquiring, comfort to the sorrowful, peace to the sinful penitent, and hope to the downtrodden and the slave.


1. The preacher may be reminded of his true vocation.

2. The hearer of the gospel may be reminded of his precious privilege and of his sacred responsibility. - T.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.
I. IT EXALTED THE CROSS OF CHRIST AS THE CENTRAL ELEMENT OF THE GOSPEL. The apostle does not teach that truths associated with the details of Christian belief and living are not proper themes for the pulpit; nor that ritualistic observances are of no importance; nor that he considered as naught the human wisdom seen both in logic and skill; what he meant was that the gospel as the means of salvation revealed by God was everywhere the burden of his message. Neither church observances nor creeds, nor man's philosophy can become a substitute for this essential truth.


1. Paul gives the reason of man its proper place in the apprehension of the truth, and the truth so apprehended its proper place as connected with regeneration; but he never teaches that the truth alone, however fully understood, will secure salvation. Being saved is not an intellectual process only, even though the sacrifice of Christ be the truth considered. Only when made the power of God through the attending influence of the Holy Ghost does it save.

2. Paul's preaching insisted that this Divine agency can render the weak —(1) Able to appropriate the gospel in its saving power. The pride of high station and marked ability would not avail, but the humility of confessed unworthiness and dependence upon him who would attract God's favour and incline its possessor to accept the Saviour He has provided. Hence, the poor, the ignorant, the wicked, the child, will find no barriers around the Cross when they turn toward it for help.(2) Useful in throwing over opposition and causing the gospel to triumph (ver. 27, &c.).


1. That true salvation is the penitent and trustful acceptance of the crucified Christ.

2. That true religion is loyalty to God.

(J. Exells, D. D.)

Paul sought to teach that there were different functions which belonged to the officers of the Church. Some were to "serve tables," some to administer the ordinances. He did not cast contempt on the ordinances, but declared that he had a special work appointed him.

I. THE OFFICE OF THE PREACHER AROSE WITH THE SAVIOUR. There were instructors previously. The prophets were much more teachers than predictors. The Rabbis when Christ was upon earth were teachers. Christ's method of teaching was utterly different. Outwardly it was the same — He went from place to place, He taught sitting, &c.; but the interior contents of His teaching were very different. Christ spake "with authority"; so does every man who speaks from the roots and fundamental elements of truth.

II. PREACHING IS TEACHING IN A VITALISING WAY ETHICAL TRUTHS — truths which ally men to God and to each other. They must be taught so as to breathe the life of Him who teaches. They must carry personal power.

III. IT IS NOT TO BE THOUGHT THAT THIS FUNCTION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH HAS CEASED EVEN IN LIBERALLY EDUCATED AND CULTIVATED SECTIONS OF SOCIETY. Let us look closely and ask, Is the function of the preacher temporary? Will it ever pass away? There is one element belonging distinctively to the preacher which will for ever give him a place and function which can never change: the bringing of the truth home to men in a living form. In the light of this observe the genius and the sphere of preaching —

1. From this sphere are excluded largely the higher forms of theological speculation, for it is not possible to bring these home to men in a living way. His distinctive business is to deal with those truths which he can take into his consciousness, and, having given to these a personal expression from himself, send them forth living truths. His proper sphere is ethical truth. That which men most need to know is how to love God and man perfectly. This is his whole duty. To teach this duty is the sphere of the preacher.

2. This includes every condition of mankind.

3. From this it appears that no man is a true preacher whose chief business is the organisation of worship, the conduct of Church affairs, or mere pastoral administration. The true preacher is the utterer of truth.

4. Then as no man can represent in himself every form of the human mind, or have a full conception of all truth, the preacher must necessarily be a partialist. The robin sings as a robin, bluebirds as bluebirds. One man has large power of imagination, another overflowing emotion, &c. All are fragmentary preachers. No man was ever built large enough to preach the whole of God.

5. Pride, vanity, and unspiritual life will effectually prevent the preacher becoming personally, experimentally, a presentation of the truth to the people.

(H. W. Beecher.)



1. It conveys far better than any other vehicle the affirmation of the whole man — his whole nature, his whole experience — to the matter which he desires to communicate.

2. It brings into play all the affinities, sympathies, and affections of the being, and is therefore a most powerful instrument in arriving at the truth.

3. So much is true of all preaching. But in the preaching of the gospel there is a source of special power — the principle of representation — the power and right to speak to men in the name of God.

(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

1. Observe, Paul does not say "we preach Christ" as if the declaration of the personal dignity of the God-man were all. Neither does he emphasise the "crucified" as if the setting off of the death of Jesus as that of a martyr and for an example were enough. But he combines the two. The dignity of the Christ was needed to give efficacy to the sacrifice on the Cross, and the sacrifice on the Cross was required to complete the work of the Christ.

2. In the prosecution of his work Paul met with three classes, each of which treated his message in a peculiar fashion. The Jew and the Greek, without trying the gospel on themselves, rejected it — the one for its lack of power and the other for its lack of wisdom; but the third class, acting on the only true philosophical principle of proving the matter by personal experiment, found in it both the power of God and the wisdom of God. Nowadays it is sturdily insisted on that nothing shall be received save that which rests on the basis of observation and experiment, but that is all the gospel asks; and here we see that those who reject it are those who refuse to put it to the test. Which of the two classes is the more scientific? The Baconian philosophers should not hesitate as to the reply. Christ crucified is —


1. Yes, but this power is not physical like the might of an army; nor material, like that which is connected with a development of matter; nor mechanical, as derived from any sort of mechanism, but dynamical, as exerted by spirit upon spirit. It is "power unto salvation." It is not therefore to be tested by material gauges, as one measures the pressure on a steam-boiler, or estimates the horse-power of an engine. We are to look for its operation in the human heart. Its trophics are in character, and its results are in life.(1) Take it in the case of an individual, and the transformation wrought on such men as Paul, and , and John Newton, may well illustrate its reality and efficacy.(2) Take it in the case of communities, and Christianity has either implanted or stimulated regard for the personality of the weakest and the poorest; respect for women; the absolute duty of each member of the fortunate classes to raise the unfortunate; humanity to the child, the prisoner, the stranger, the needy, and even the brute; unceasing opposition to all forms of cruelty; the duty of personal purity; the sacredness of marriage; the necessity of temperance.

2. But are we quite sure that it is "the power of God"? Yes, for there are only two spiritual powers in the world — that of evil and that of good. Very evidently, therefore, a result like that of the conversion of a man, and the revolution of society, from evil to good, must be traced up to God. Man cannot do it for himself, for as water cannot rise above its level, so the soul cannot change its nature by its own efforts. And what one man cannot do for himself, the aggregate of men cannot do for the race. They had four thousand years given to them in which to make the experiment, and here (ver. 21) is the result.


1. Wisdom is manifested in the choice of such means as are best adapted to the production of the end. The problem to be solved in the salvation of men is, "How shall a sinner be forgiven without weakening the sanctions of morality and giving encouragement to evil?" Now the race vainly wrestled with that for four millenniums; but the despair of humanity is the opportunity of God, for in "Christ crucified" we are shown "a just God and a Saviour."

2. Wisdom is seen in the securing of different ends by one and the same means. So salvation is not merely forgiveness; it is also regeneration and growth in holiness. Its highest result is character, and the renovation of that is produced by the Holy Ghost. Now the dispensation of the Holy Spirit would have been impossible save for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; while, again, the love of Christ, as manifested in His sacrifice on the Cross, is the great means used by the Spirit for the regeneration and sanctification of the believer. Conclusion: From all this four inferences follow. If Christ crucified is the power of God unto salvation, then —

1. Any sinner may be saved through faith in Him.

2. There is no other way of salvation.

3. When men are saved through this means the whole glory of their salvation is due to God.

4. If we would see such results from our preaching as those which followed Paul's, we must preach the same gospel, "Christ crucified." This is the gospel for our age, because it is the gospel for all the ages.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

I. THERE IS A GOSPEL TO BE PREACHED. Amid all the diversities of doctrine and ritual there are some things which must be found in all Christian preaching: that Christ alone can save men; that He can save any man and all men; that He saves men completely and for ever. No man can be said to preach the gospel who does not make these thoughts central and controlling. He may preach very important and helpful truth; but until he makes Christ the ground, the motive, and the end of his teaching, he is not a preacher of the gospel. The gospel is good news. It is not the publication of the moral law. It is not telling men what they ought to be and do. The ministry of Christ was not needed to teach that lesson. Conscience proclaims it, and universal experience confirms it. It is not equivalent to the affirmation of the eternal and universal Fatherhood of the Holy One. It implies this, but it is more. That consoling thought is imbedded in the Old Testament. Paul affirmed more than that. In his preaching the person of Christ assumes central and permanent prominence. In Him the law of God is fulfilled and honoured. In Him the love of God leaps from the heavens to the earth links itself with the burden and guilt of humanity, challenges the powers of darkness and the might of death, achieving a practical and eternal victory. Fear rules paganism, hope smiles in the Old Testament, assurance is the ringing keynote of the gospel. So much for the contents of the gospel. It is crowded into this sentence: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."

II. But DOES THE WORLD NEED SUCH A MESSAGE? Can we not get along fairly well without it? That is the very question which Paul discussed in Romans 1. What does the world need? Righteousness. That secured and the millennium would be there. But the one thing most needed is the thing most difficult to create and promote. It cannot be said that there has been any lack of earnest attempts. Confucius, Sakya-Muni, Zoroaster, and Socrates, tried to supply the want. But the multitudes were deaf to their appeal; and Rome at the zenith of her culture was but a "veneered brutality." And mightily endowed as Judiasm was it failed to achieve even its own reformation. The men who boasted in the law trampled upon it every day. A mightier hand than that of Socrates, or of Moses, was needed to save the world. A more than human hand, though nerved by an inspired heart, must smite the ranks of evil.

III. But granting that the world needs just the help which the gospel declares has been brought to it. "WILL EVEN THIS SECURE THE DESIRED RESULT? To this we can only answer, first, if it does not then God is clearly and hopelessly defeated, for a greater than Christ cannot, come to the rescue; and second, if Christ be what the gospel affirms Him to be, the triumph of righteousness is a foregone conclusion. Hence the tone of victory in the New Testament is always in the present tense. "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory." "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." This is our highest assurance. It receives impressive confirmation in the historical triumphs of Christianity. Its moral conquest of the civilisations of Rome and Greece are unquestioned. Its restraining and reorganising energy during the Middle Ages is freely admitted. Its profound and salutary influence upon modern life is beyond cavil; but there is a more direct and living proof of its power. Hundreds among you can bear testimony to the grace of salvation in Jesus Christ. What the gospel has done for you it can do for all.

(A. J. F. Behrends, D. D.)

I. A LARGE CLASS OF MINDS LIKE TO MAKE A SUPERSTITION OUT OF THEIR RELIGION. Mere words addressed to the understanding and the heart appear too feeble, too immaterial. They long to be set in rapport with the superhuman in some realistic way. Establish some "sign." Paul, generalising from what he saw before his eyes, calls this demand of human nature Jewish; but it is common everywhere. It has penetrated every religion from the days of the Chaldeans downwards. One after another Judaism, Buddhism, Parseeism, Mohammedanism, Christianity, have succumbed to this demand for material signs. Each of them has degenerated into a system of ceremonial and stooped to pander to the sensuous taste of its devotees.

II. THERE IS IN MAN A TENDENCY, not So widespread, but nobler than the vulgar bent to superstition — AFTER INTELLECTUAL SATISFACTION AND AN EXHAUSTIVE KNOWLEDGE OF TRUTH.

1. No sooner had Christianity appeared than this appetite seized upon it, questioned it, thought to find in it what it had failed to find elsewhere. Generalising, again, Paul termed this the Greek habit of mind. "The Greek," he says, "searches after philosophy"; but it is as little exclusively Greek as the bias to superstition is exclusively Jewish. In our day it is no less profound, unsuitable, or eager than it ever was. Men claim that it shall be as systematic, exhaustive, and demonstrable as a science; that it shall help to answer the unanswered problems of existence; that it shall abjure all pretensions to be supernatural; that every one of its facts be found explicable on natural grounds; and that its boasted virtue to save shall prove as intelligible as the action of any other truth upon human minds.

2. Follow out this conception of Christianity to its issues, and what have you? Not a genuine revelation from heaven; not the advent of a Divine power to save; but simply some very beautiful and elevating truths, discerned first by a certain Jew of Palestine and by him added to the world's treasure-house of thought, yet competing with many discoveries of more modern times. Is it not to some such appraisement of the gospel that a great deal of modern discussion among the learned is tending? Nay, is there not a way of preaching and defending the gospel — such a way as Paul avoided in speculative Corinth — which actually invites men to rate its value as low as this among the rival systems of human wisdom?

3. Against such a misconception of the essence of the gospel, what is St. Paul's protest? It is true, he seems to say, the gospel is a rational word, and not a magical rite. It is spoken truth, and it acts, like truth, through the misunderstandings of men. But, for all that, it is not a philosophy. With abstract truth it has little to do; but it proclaims Jesus the Messiah, and proclaims Him as crucified for the sins of men. Its real character is this — it is a, testimony from God which we are not called upon to discuss so much as to credit. It is in this, accordingly, that its power lies. For power it unquestionably possesses. Only not the mere power of wisdom, but the quiet personal power of the Speaker's authority and the Speaker's love. Speculate about this and it may seem in your sagacious eyes folly. But cease to criticise and be humble enough to believe it, to surrender yourself to Him who speaks; then it will prove itself to be Divinely wise and strong in your experience. It will work in you as no human wisdom works; it will save you as no intellectual system saves.

4. On this side also I think a faithful Church needs just now to speak out in clear tones. It is not the first time in the history of our faith that the gospel has been like to lose its characteristic spirit by evaporation. Treat it as you treat an ordinary system of thought, and you end (as Paul feared to end) by making the Cross of Christ "of none effect." You miss its very essence as a gospel. For what makes it to be a gospel? Just this, that it is God's own record of His peculiar way of having mercy upon sinners. It is a plain, practical, personal appeal from our reconciling Father to each wandered soul among us; or it is nothing.

(J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

As Paul repudiates the idea that he had given any countenance to the founding of a Pauline party, it occurs to him that some may say, True enough, he did not baptize; but his preaching may more effectually have won partisans than even baptizing them into his own name could have done. And so Paul goes on to show that his preaching was not that of a demagogue or party-leader, but was a bare statement of fact, garnished by absolutely nothing which could divert attention from the fact either to the speaker or to his style. Paul explains to the Corinthians —


1. His time in Corinth, he assures them, had been spent, not in propagating a system of truth which might have been identified with his name, but in presenting the Cross of Christ. In approaching them he had necessarily weighed in his own mind the comparative merits of various modes of presenting the gospel, and he well knew that a new philosophy clothed in elegant language was likely to secure a number of disciples. And it was quite in Paul's power to present the gospel as a philosophy; but he "determined not to know anything among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

2. Paul then deliberately trusted to the bare statement of facts and not to any theory about these facts. In preaching to audiences with whom the facts are familiar, it is perfectly justifiable to draw inferences from them and to theorise about them. Paul himself spoke "wisdom among them that were perfect." But what is to be noted is that for doing the work proper to the gospel, for making men Christians, it is not theory or explanation, but fact, that is effective. It is the presentation of Christ as He is presented in the Gospels which stands in the first rank of efficiency as a means of evangelising the world. The actor does not instruct his audience how they should be affected by the play; he so presents the scene that they instinctively smile or find their eyes fill. Those onlookers at the crucifixion who beat their breasts were not told that they should feel compunction; it was enough that they saw the Crucified. So it is always; it is the direct vision of the Cross, and not anything which is said about it, which is most effective in producing penitence and faith.

3. The very fact that it was a Person, not a system of philosophy, that Paul proclaimed Was sufficient proof that he was not anxious to become the founder of a school or the head of a party. And that which permanently distinguishes Christianity from all philosophies is that it presents to men, not a system of truth to be understood, but a Person to be relied upon. Christianity is for all men and not for the select, highly educated few; and it depends therefore not on exceptional ability to see truth, but on the universal human emotions of love and trust.


1. Because God had changed His method (ver. 21).(1) Even the wisest of the Greeks had attained only to inadequate and indefinite views of God. To pass even from Plato to the Gospel of John is to pass from darkness to light. Plato philosophises, and a few souls seem for a moment to see things more clearly; Peter preaches, and three thousand souls spring to life.(2) That which, in point of fact, has made God known is the Cross of Christ. No doubt it must have seemed mere lunacy to summon the seeker after God away from the high speculations of Plato to a human form gibbeted on a malefactor's cross. None knew better than Paul the infamy attaching to that cursed death, but he knew also its power (vers. 22-24). As proof that God was in their midst the Jews required a demonstration of physical power. Even at the last it would have satisfied them had Christ stepped down from the Cross. The Cross seemed to them a confession of weakness, and was a stumbling-block they could not get over. And yet in it was the whole power of God for the salvation of the world. For the power of God that is required to draw men to Himself is not power to alter the course of rivers or change the site of mountains, but power to sympathise, to sacrifice self, to give all for the needs of His creatures. It is this love of God that overpowers men and makes it impossible for them to resist Him.

2. Paul appeals to the elements of which the Church was actually composed.(1) It is plain, he says, that it is not by anything generally esteemed among men that you hold your place in the Church (ver. 26). It is not men who by their wisdom find out God and by their nobility of character commend themselves to Him; but it is God who calls men, and the very absence of wisdom and possessions makes men readier to listen to His call (vers. 27-29). It is all God's doing now; it is "of Him are ye in Christ Jesus." Human wisdom had its opportunity and accomplished little; God now by the foolishness of the Cross lifts the despised, &c., to a far higher position than the wise and noble can attain by their might and their wisdom.(2) Paul thus justifies this method by its results. The Cross may seem a most unlikely weapon with which to accomplish great things, but it is God who uses it, and that makes the difference. Hence the emphasis throughout this passage on the agency of God. But for this reason also all ground of boasting is removed from those who are within the Christian Church.(3) In Paul's day this argument from the general poverty and insignificance of the members of the Christian Church was readily drawn. Things are changed now; and the Church is filled with the wise, the powerful, the noble. But Paul's main proposition remains: whoever is in Christ Jesus is so, not through any wisdom or power of his own, but because God has chosen and called him. And the practical result remains. Let the Christian, while he rejoices in his position, be humble.

3. Paul avers that had he used "enticing words of man's wisdom" the hearers might have been unduly influenced by the mere guise in which the gospel was presented and too little influenced by the essence of it. He feared to adorn the simple tale lest the attention of his audience might be diverted from the substance of his message. He was resolved that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Here again things have changed since Paul's day. The assailants of Christianity have put it on its defence, and its apologists have been compelled to show that it is in harmony with the soundest philosophy. It was inevitable that this should be done; but Paul considered that the only sound and trustworthy faith was produced by direct personal contact with the Cross. And this remains for ever true.

(M. Dods, D. D.)



1. Not to baptize, much less busy himself with a thousand other things.

2. But to preach the gospel.


1. Not with wisdom of words.

2. But simply, plainly, pointedly.


1. That nothing might hinder.

2. But everything promote the effect of the Cross of Christ.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

In a village church in one of the Tyrolese valleys, we saw upon the pulpit an outstretched arm, carved in wood, the hand of which held forth a cross. We noted the emblem as full of instruction as to what all true ministry should be, and must be — a holding forth of the Cross of Christ to the multitude as the only trust of sinners. Jesus Christ must be set forth evidently crucified among them. Lord, make this the aim and habit of all our ministers.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Lest the Cross of Christ
I. "THE CROSS OF CHRIST" IS AN INSTRUMENT INTENDED AND ADAPTED TO PRODUCE A CERTAIN "EFFECT." So far as man had to do with it it was intended to abase a prophet whom many honoured, to kill as a malefactor a Man whose great fault was that He had no fault at all. So far as God had to do with it, it was intended to be a Divine force. The Cross of Christ is to be a Divine force with an "effect" retrospective, aspective, and prospective.

1. The Cross fulfilled the first promise; it was the "good thing" of which the sacrifices were a shadow; it was the event toward which the course of all events had tended.

2. The Cross cast a long, deep shadow upon the Holy Land; its peculiar people; its priesthood, temple, and ritual; a night-of-death shadow to cover a time of change in which old things would pass away and all things become new.

3. The Cross shed light into the darkness of the world, and indicated those stirrings of the Divine mercy which terminated in the proclamation of salvation to the world. As matter of history, since the Cross of Christ has begun to take effect, it has caused religious systems hoary with age, and rooted by ten thousand fibres in the hearts of the people to be laid aside as worn-out garments. It has spread civilisation over many nations; it has been a key to unlock the treasures of all useful knowledge; it has elevated art, widened commerce, removed the fetters from the slave; it has founded hospitals and schools, checked the harsh government of rulers, quelled the anarchy of subjects, restored woman to her primitive position, imparted peace and joy to the home, exalted nations, and is now both the light and leaven of the world. The Cross of Christ alone saves.


1. To make the sun of none effect would send our world back to chaos, but this ruin would be —

2. Small compared with negativing the Cross of Christ. And Paul tells us that if he had exhibited the Cross with "wisdom of words," it would have been powerless in his hands. He cannot mean intelligible and acceptable words; for without such the Cross could not be manifested at all. By "wisdom of words" is meant the artifices of rhetoric, &c. If the Cross were a jewel to be hoarded and hid I would make its bed in wool; but as it is a gem to be used let me see it as it is. If the Cross were an inferior gem I might add to its worth and beauty by the setting; but as its value is beyond price, let its surroundings be as simple as possible. The question is not, however, one of taste, but of utility. Shall we mingle with our daily bread that which will deprive us of its nutritive effect?

3. The Cross is made of none effect when —(1) It is made identical with the crucifix, as though the Cross were nothing more than His crucifixion. The crucifix to the vulgar eye puts exclusively forward the bodily sufferings of Christ, and its effect is to bring us into sympathy with them. This is the effect of painting, poetry, and music, when employed upon the same subject. But the Cross of Christ is not an example of suffering merely, but the "Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world."(2) False doctrine and speculation concerning it are taught. The effect of the Atonement is in itself, not in its philosophy. And if the attempt at explanation fail, and the philosophy be false, I exhibit a cross framed by my own vain imagination. Then, what have I done? I have led men from living waters to the appearance of a fountain in shining sand.(3) It is exhibited without a personal recognition of its claims. That which you say about it will not be believed unless it appears important. and true, and it cannot appear real and momentous except as exhibited in faith. Faith begets faith.(4) Its requirements are multiplied and complicated. It saith, "Come to Me"; "Look to Me"; "Believe in Me." If we surround it with a long and difficult creed; if we clothe it with an elaborate ritual; if we plant it in the shrine of a particular ecclesiastical polity, and require men to come to it, by these we make it of none effect.(5) There is lack of faith in its power. It is impotent in the hand of an unbeliever. Our faith does not affect the value and efficacy of the Cross in the eye of God; but it does in the eye of man.(6) When it is used for objects foreign to itself. Ecclesiastics have used it to satisfy their ungodly ambition; political rulers as an engine of government; private individuals as a, spy in a camp uses the password, and prejudice has been raised against it.Conclusion:

1. What is the effect of the Cross of Christ upon yourselves?(1) Child of Christian parents, you have been directed to it ever since your eyes opened to see. Other things have had effect. The scenes of your early life; the books you have read; the companions with whom you associated, &c. And what has been the effect of the Cross of Christ? It has repelled you or attracted you. Repelled you! The magnet of the eternal mercy repelled you!(2) Pupil of a Christian school!(3) Hearer of Christian preaching and possessor of Holy Scripture, unless you are saved by it you will be damned by it. Christian brethren, what is its daily effect upon your hearts and lives? Are you crucified with Christ? Is its effect to captivate your heart; to command your energies; to sanctify your life?

2. What is the effect of the Cross in your hands? We more than fear that Christians and Churches of Christ have done much to make the Cross of Christ of none effect.

(S. Martin.)

I. THE GREATEST BLESSING IN THE WORLD — "the Cross of Christ." By "the Cross of Christ" the apostle did not mean of course the timber on which Christ was crucified, or any imitation of that in wood, &c. He uses the word as a symbol, as we use the words Crown, Court, Bench, &c. He meant the eternal principles of which the Cross of Christ was at once the effect, the evidence, and the expression — i.e., all that we mean by the gospel. And this is the greatest blessing in the world to-day. Look at it —

1. As a revealer. All true theological doctrine and ethical science come to us through the Cross. It is the moral light of the world.

2. As an educator. The Cross is to the human soul what the vernal sunbeam is to the seed; it penetrates, warms, quickens, and brings all its latent powers out to perfection.

3. As a deliverer. The Cross bears a pen to cancel the sentence, a balm to heal the wound, a weapon to break the fettering chain. Such, and infinitely more, is the Cross. What would human life be without it? A voyage without a compass, chart, or star.

II. THE GREATEST EVIL IN THE WORLD. Making this Cross of "none effect," i.e., so far as its grand mission is concerned. Some effect it must have; it will deepen the damnation where it does not save. "We are unto God a sweet savour," &c. This tremendous evil is —

1. Painfully manifest. Intellectually, socially, politically, it has confessedly done wonders for mankind; but morally, how little! How little genuine holiness, disinterested philanthropy, self-sacrificing devotion to truth and God, Christliness of life!

2. Easily explained. The apostle indicates one way, viz., by "wisdom of words," i.e., gorgeous rhetoric. The Church has done it by(1) Its theologies. In its name it has propounded dogmas that have clashed with reason and outraged conscience.(2) Its polity. It has sanctioned wars, established hierarchies, which have fattened on the ignorance and poverty of the people.(3) Its spirit. The spirit of the Cross is self-sacrificing love, the spirit of the Church has been to a great extent that of selfishness, greed, ambition, and oppression. Malrepresentation of Christ by the Church is the instrument that has made the Cross of "none effect."

3. Terribly criminal. It is wonderful that man has the power thus to pervert Divine institutions and blessings; but such power he has. He forges metals into weapons for murder, he turns breadcorn into liquids to damn the reason and the souls of men. A greater crime you cannot conceive. Were you to turf, all bread into poison, make the flowing rivers pestiferous, quench the light of the sun, mantle the stars in sackcloth, you would not penetrate an evil half so enormous as that of making the Cross of Christ of "none effect." Conclusion:

1. What is the spiritual influence of the Cross on us? Has it crucified unto us the world?

2. What are we doing with the Cross? Are we abusing it or rightly employing it?

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The force of κενὸς (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14; Romans 4:14) may be conveyed by the words "empty of content, unreal, not having objective existence, consisting only of opinions, sentiment speculation." The Cross of Christ is a real cause in the moral order of things. To substitute a system of notions, however true and ennobling, for the fact of Christ's death, is like confounding the theory of gravitation with gravitation itself.

(Principal . Edwards.)


1. Aims only at the intellect, not at the heart.

2. Gives no satisfaction on the main point — religion.

3. Deals with philosophical speculations which injure rather than edify.


1. Which proceeds not from a zeal for the truth, but from a desire to please.

2. This unworthy mode of dealing with Divine truth robs the Cross of its effect, because it diverts the attention from the truth to the speaker and distracts the heart — because it excites a craving for merely intellectual gratification — because the impression produced is referred to the ability of the preacher and not to the truth itself.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

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