Preaching the Powerless Cross
Over the years I have heard that the only message Paul preached in Corinth was the cross—Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). This is especially emphasized by Evangelicals that are zealous for church gatherings to be centered on peaching sermons. They envision Paul standing behind a pulpit preaching away, something that was totally foreign to Paul.
But we can’t stop there in what Paul writes about his ministry in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 he writes, “And I did not preach the gospel with human wisdom (speculation) and eloquent speech (learned rhetorical techniques), so that the cross of Jesus Christ would not be emptied of its power. The message of the cross is foolishness (nonsense) to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
For many Evangelicals who are only Word-centered, they seem to emphasize that the preached message of the cross has some sort of “inherit power” in it. But that is not what Paul is saying. He is saying that if we preach the cross without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we are preaching a powerless cross.
Simply rhetoric about the cross is powerless. Unless the Holy Spirit gives us understanding, then the cross is foolishness and an offense.
In Corinthians 2:3-5, Paul makes it clear when he wrote, “I came to you in weakness. I came to you with great fear and trembling in God’s presence. My message and preaching were not filled with persuasive arguments of human wisdom, but with the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit, so that your faith (in the cross) would be established in God’s power and not in human wisdom.
As Jesus says, “God seeks those who will worship him in Spirit and Truth. The Holy Spirit is not an addendum that is to be recognized as an afterthought. The Holy Spirit is the life of God that enlivens, empowers, and experientially applies the truth of Jesus to our lives, individually and corporately.
Come, Holy Spirit! We need you in our churches today!