Have We Left Christ Behind?

By Bruce Reeves

From time to time I hear folks say things like, “We need to major in the gospels and minor in the epistles.” The implication being that if someone stresses doctrinal issues they are missing the point of the New Testament. There is no doubt that we must have the right attitude when teaching God’s word, but that is not to say we are to minimize the necessity of doctrinal truth!

Unfortunately, sound gospel preachers are being charged with preaching a “church-centered” message rather than a “Christ-centered” message. The statement that those who stress baptism, church organization, and the work of the church have left Christ behind is false.

Christ commanded baptism, so when we preach baptism we are preaching the gospel of the Son of God (Mark 16:15, 16). As far as the organization and work of the local church is concerned, that is a subject that has to do with the authority of Christ and we must always stress that.

Paul Was a “Christ-Centered” Preacher

The apostle Paul preached Jesus and him crucified. His preaching did not emphasize lofty words of eloquence and human philosophy, but Jesus Christ was the attraction and him alone. “And I brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1, 2). The question we are concerning ourselves with in this article is, since we know Paul preached Christ and him crucified, what exactly did he teach?

Paul Talked About the Shame of Religious Division

Some have the idea that preaching Jesus means that you never condemn anything or anyone for sinful activity but such is simply not the case. Involved in encouraging unity is the condemnation of division. Paul condemned the division at Corinth, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment . . . Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:10, 13). There were some who viewed preachers as competitive teachers, thus creating factions in the church. Paul had not asked that they do this, nor had Cephas or Apollos, but divisive men were using their names to promote their own agendas.

Was Paul preaching Jesus when he condemned this? Absolutely! We cannot preach Christ without preaching his word. There is no doubt in my mind that were Paul living today he would denounce the religious division in the world and plead with believers to stand on the word of God without compromise.

Paul Preached Against Sin

F. Lagard Smith (professor at Pepperdine University) said, “For our generation, tolerance has become the highest virtue (tolerance, that is, for everything and everyone other than those who would insist on absolute moral standards) . . . if nothing is right and nothing wrong, then tolerance is the only option . . . So we have to tow the line on issues like abortion, gay rights, and radical feminism or we will be reported to the sensitivity police for being intolerant.” You see the stage has been set for divorce and remarriage, adulterous relationships, and homosexuality and since we are preaching Jesus we cannot condemn anyone; such ideas appear as a smoke-screen for sin. But Paul preached to the Corinthians about withdrawing fellowship from a disorderly brother (1 Cor. 5:1-13). In preaching church discipline, Paul was preaching the authority of Christ (1 Cor. 5:4, 5). To neglect such teaching would have been to neglect Jesus Christ.

Paul Preached On Marriage and Divorce (1 Cor. 7:1-40)

Many pulpits are silent on this, but Paul was not. Involved in preaching Jesus is preaching his law concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 states God’s will on the matter, “Let not the wife depart from her husband.” The word chorizo is the word for divorce in verse 11. If she departs she must either be reconciled, if possible, or remain celibate. What Christ taught in the gospels, Paul taught in the epistles (Matt. 19:1-9).

Paul Refuted False Doctrine (1 Cor. 15:12)

We cannot truly preach Jesus Christ and reject what his word teaches us. Someone says, “But this was something that determined whether or not people were saved!” This is true, but what false doctrine does not influence people’s salvation if it is a matter of faith? Including such issues as: the plan of salvation, the church, institutionalism, denominationalism, marriage, divorce, and remarriage . . . and we could go on and on.

The point I want us to all understand is though we refer over and over to the cross and though we say, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” the moment we leave scriptural authority behind is the moment we leave Christ behind!