Saturday, August 23, 2008

The gospel: Christ and Him crucified (2)

1 Corinthians 2:2
"For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

This is probably one of the most important conviction that Paul had in mind whenever he went out to preach the gospel. This verse was Paul's reality. He knew what the important matter was and that was the salvation of souls. Paul knew that if someone was to be saved. That person must have put faith in the Lord Jesus, and that faith could only come from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

And what did Paul's preaching constitute? It was a message of a great scandal. God became a man and he died a horrible death on the cross by His own people. The message is not friendly and it seems almost ridiculous for anyone to believe such a message. However we learn that Paul was not ashamed of Jesus' gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

To maximize his gospel presenting, he literally had to know nothing but the gospel and preach nothing but Christ crucified because if Paul starts to teach people about morality, philosophy, deep theology or wondrous mysteries of God, people may become moral, philosophical or wise yet they may still come short of the glory of God and never be saved.
It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation and it is the faith by grace that a person is justified in the sight of God. It takes as much effort for a Harvard scholar to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ as does an Aborigine living in the desert of Australia. 
The kind of people that God desires are not just a moral type nor a theologically wise type. He may ignore all these types of people who believe that they are right with God in their own eyes.  So then what kind of people does God look at? We have an answer in the prophecies of Isaiah 66:2.
"But to this one I will look,
 To him who is humble and 
 contrite of spirit, and who 
 trembles at My word."
God wants a humble person, not a proud person. God desires a person who is contrite of spirit, not haughty in spirit. God looks to a person who trembles at His word, and not a person who ignores His word.
These words also characterise our Lord Jesus. He was humble, obedient to His Father even to death for He knew that there was not a moment when Father was not looking at Him and Jesus was always beholding His Father. The prayer was His life. He often went away into a mountain or wilderness to pray in secret.
Coming back to the main verse of 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul preached, first of all, Jesus. He preached who Jesus was. Paul presented the life of Jesus to people. He told people who this Son of God was and what He did while He was on the earth. The reason for that is that by knowing who Jesus was, people could believe that there was such a person. However, acknowledging His existence and accepting the facts about Jesus were not enough. That was not a saving faith.
Then the next half of the verse gives us the essence of the gospel, "Christ crucified." This is of utter importance to everyone who belongs to Christ or to anyone who desires to come to put faith in Jesus. A person must believe that Jesus was crucified and at the same time the person must believe that his former sins were now obliterated with the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus was raised from the dead and likewise the person becomes a new person the moment he truly put his faith in Christ's death and resurrection for the atonement ie the gospel.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATURE; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) 
It would be a hypocritical thing if after the person had put faith in Jesus and still commit sins and lived a rebellious, unrighteous life. That alone gives the evidence he is not a new creature and the Bible is true, he REALLY is not a new creature.
We know that salvation is the work of God. And we know that when God looks at a person and saves a person, that person, out of his heart, produces certain characteristics. We have looked at some of these traits; humility, contrition of spirit and fear of God. 
The implication of Paul's teaching is that we should always constantly remind ourselves of the good news that we have come to know Jesus and believed His work on the cross for our sins and that we are now new creatures. Our former sinful lives passed away; behold new things have come.
Lastly, I want us all to examine our lives to see if we have any unconfessed sin in our lives. I pray that God will help us to turn away from our former sins and live a life pleasing to the Lord. Let us not deceive ourselves, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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