1 Corinthians 1:22-24
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:…
St. Paul magnified the function of preaching. He could leave the baptism of converts and the details of Church business to others, but devoted himself to the proclamation and defence of the truth, No encounter of resistance or neglect could turn him away from preaching Christ, or make him ashamed of the gospel. His occupation gave him a deep and solemn joy.
I. THE SUBJECT OF PREACHING. "We preach Christ crucified;" not Christianity, but Christ; not even the Crucifixion, but the Christ crucified. There are many topics on which we may discourse, many questions we may discuss; but we ought to preach Christ. Indeed, our discourses and discussions have spiritual freshness and force only as they start from or lead up to this central object and inexhaustible theme. And "Christ crucified" - not his life and character and example only, but his dying "for our sins according to the Scriptures;" - it is this that brings peace to troubled consciences of men, and the strongest and most persuasive appeal to their hearts. Little does he know the calling of a New Testament preacher, or the secret of success in proclaiming the Word of truth, who contents himself with occasional and distant allusions to the great Sacrifice. The preacher's place is over against the cross.
II. THE PREJUDICE WHICH THIS PREACHING PROVOKED AND ENCOUNTERED. The Jews required signs. Addicted as they were to much boasting over the signs and wonders wrought for their forefathers by the hand of Moses and other prophets, they demanded signs or prodigies in attestation of the gospel. It was a demand which our Lord always refused when it was urged on him, and one which the apostles did well to discourage. They were not thaumaturgists, but preachers of righteousness. Therefore the Jews believed not. To them Christ crucified was a stumbling block. A Man whom their council had condemned for blasphemy, and whom the Roman authorities had put to death, - how could he be a Saviour? how could he be the Messiah? Why did not God save him from a miserable death if he delighted in him? Why did he himself not come down from the cross? So the Jews stumbled and fell through unbelief. And to this day they blaspheme the Nazarene as the Man who was hanged upon a tree. A similar prejudice shows itself among Gentile hearers of the gospel also. Men who have little sense of sin dislike any distinct doctrine of Christ suffering for our sins. And men who think chiefly of power as the sign of Deity stumble at the statement that One who died with nails through his hands and feet was the Son of God and is the Lord of all.
2. The Greeks sought after wisdom. And to them the preaching of the cross seemed to be mere folly. It appealed to the consciousness of sin, which did not much trouble them; and it said nothing to the speculative understanding, hardly noticed those problems over which the philosophical schools of Greece had tallied and disputed for generations. The same prejudice hinders many educated men at the present day from receiving the gospel. Is it high thought? What light can the fate of One who was unjustly crucified among the Jews long ago cast on the intellectual problems of today? The gospel seems to them unworthy of the serious attention of cultured persons. It may have its uses for the common people; but it has no philosophy, and so it is foolishness! But blessed are they who are not offended in Jesus. When the gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, it finds some receptive hearts. There are always some on whom the preaching is not wasted or lost.
III. THE GAIN WHICH ACCRUES TO BELIEVERS. They are described as "the called" - a phrase evidently not tantamount to "invited," for all are invited. By "them that arc called" are meant those in whom the gospel finds reverence and faith. These are the called according to God's purpose. And see what Christ crucified is to them.
1. Are they Jews, or do they resemble the Jews in looking for signs of heavenly power? Lo! they have in Christ a power far greater than ever dwelt in Moses or Elias. He is the Power of God; and that not merely in the outward sphere in which the Jews desired to see signs and wonders, but also in the inward or moral sphere, where he has strewn himself able to loose men from their sins, and to despoil evil principalities and powers, triumphing over them on the cross. Just because "crucified in weakness," he is mighty to save. And all believers of the gospel may know in themselves his sin vanquishing and burden bearing power. They need no further sign.
2. Are they disposed by nature, or education, or both, to seek after wisdom like the Greeks? Have they a restless, hungry mind? Here is the best provision for their want, if not for their curiosity. Christ is the Wisdom of God. The highest problems receive light from Christ crucified. Reconciliation of the claims of justice with the yearnings of mercy; justification of the transgressors of moral Law without detriment or dishonour to the Law itself; and the introduction of a new and better life through death, as wheat grows from seed that has died in the earth; - these are not small or easy problems, and they have no solution till we receive the gospel of Christ crucified. He who would make his own calling sure should seek the evidence in his own attitude of mind and heart towards Christ crucified. Is he in your eyes weakness or power? foolishness or wisdom? As the Power of God, has he subdued you to himself? As the Wisdom of God, is he the Light of life to you - the Wonderful, the Counsellor? - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: