By Larry Ray Hafley
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). In the context of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul contrasts human wisdom with divine wisdom. He shows the absolute futility of man apart from the gospel. It is the gospel, he affirms, that is both God’s wisdom and power unto salvation. By “the preaching the cross” man can have “fellowship” or communion with God and the forgiveness of his sins or salvation. The story of the cross appears as weakness and foolishness unto man, but it is the power and wisdom of God to save. Why was such a base, ignoble, weak and foolish thing as “the preaching of the cross” chosen? It was chosen (1) “to confound the things which are mighty” in the eyes of men, (2) “to bring to nought” things that are honored by men, (3) in order “that no flesh should glory in his presence,” and (4) “that . . . he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
In the blood of the cross of the Christ we find the hope of the gospel. The center and circumference of all genuine gospel preaching is the cross of Calvary. The echoes of the execution, the cries of the cross, resound and reverberate throughout the gospel. Whether one is speaking of the promises made to Abraham, or of “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven,” he is preaching the cross and making known the true grace of God (Gal. 3:8; Col. 1:5,6). If one claiming to be a gospel preacher speaks of something that is not a part of the blood of the everlasting covenant, he had better cease to preach it (1 Cor. 4:6; Heb. 12:25).
There is a current trend that has borrowed an old philosophy from denominational and modern, fundamental evangelicalism. The concept is this: Let us preach the physical facts of the cross and the actual death of Jesus and let us not dwell on how one becomes a Christian, or on the work, worship and organization of the church. While these items are necessary and important, when we preach them we are liable and likely to ignore “the preaching of the cross.” A more liberal spirit speaks of “preaching the man and not the plan.” Others say that the New Testament is a “love letter” and not a law book; hence, we should bind the “life” of our Lord as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but not the “rules and regulations” of the epistles.
While we cannot read another person’s mind (1 Cor. 2:11), it is not difficult to see the effects of such teaching. First, though, the word of God does not urge us to “preach the man and not the plan.” Rather, in the most urgent terms, it insists on the constant teaching, “with all longsuffering and doctrine,” of “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:5). Second, a result of such preaching as they advocate will be the destruction of the plain pattern of gospel obedience and of behavior in the house of God (1 Tim. 1: 16; 3:14,15). Third, the unique and distinct nature of the church will be lost (Heb. 8:5). When the plan, purpose and pattern of any institution is relegated to a secondary status, its original design will be desecrated and destroyed (cf. Rom. 1:21; 1 Sam. 8; 1 Kgs. 12:26-33). Fourth, a false distinction is made between the things of the gospel. Thus, though no apostle ever said so, the Lord’s supper becomes “the most important part of our service.” Ultimately, the day of its observance will become merely a “legalistic,” “Pharisaic technicality,” which concerns only “coldeyed formalists.” Singing unto the Lord, with or without mechanical instruments, becomes inconsequential. Jesus’ death on the cross is our salvation, so sermons on the “how” and “what” of Bible baptism are seen as “divisive and sectarian.” This is the spirit that would feign exalt the cross and lower its conditions.
In opposition to this disposition, we have devoted this series of articles. In the last issue, we noted the things that “Philip the evangelist” did not preach. Now, we shall see:
What Philip Preached
As seen and cited earlier, Philip “preached Christ,” “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:5,12,35). Assuredly, we should all preach what Philip preached (1 Pet. 4:11; 1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:6-12). In the “preaching of the cross,” what did Philip preach? Philip preached:
1. Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Remember the question of the eunuch, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this?” (Acts 8:34; Isa. 5 3:7,8) It was in response to that query that Philip spoke. One is preaching Christ and his cross when he speaks of Jesus as “him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write” (Jn. 1:45; 5:46,47; Lk. 24:2527). As we address a premillennialist on the throne and the crown of the Christ, we are preaching “unto him Jesus” (Acts 2:30,31; 8:35; 17:2,3; 18:4-6). Some would argue that a book on the errors of premillennialism (e.g., Foy E. Wallace, Jr., God’s Prophetic Word) is a case of ignoring the cross and putting too much emphasis “on refuting false doctrine” while taking the cross “for granted.” It is a false dichotomy. Philip preached Jesus as the answer of the purposes and promises of God, and he was preaching “Jesus” when he did so. Therefore, one is preaching the gospel, the cross, when he preaches of Jesus from the Old Testament (Acts 8:35; 10:43).
2. That Christ is the Son of God. We know that Philip “preached Christ unto them.” When Paul “preached Christ,” he preached “that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). So, to preach that Jesus is the Son of God is to preach the gospel, the cross. When one argues with a Mormon or a Muslim on the sonship of the Son of God, he is preaching Christ. Do not be fooled into thinking that one is neglecting the cross of Christ or giving it secondary consideration if he is debating the nature of Deity with a Jehovah’s Witness. To preach Christ is to preach “that he is the Son of God” (1 Jn. 1:1-3; 4:14,15; 5:5,9-12,20). One does not deny the centrality of the cross in salvation when, “by many infallible proofs,” he establishes Jesus as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4).
3. “The things concerning the kingdom of God.” After his resurrection but prior to his ascension, Jesus, too, spoke “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). To speak of the kingdom of God is to speak of the rule or reign of God (Matt. 28:28; Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:13,18-24). To speak, as we shall presently show, of the kingdom of God is to speak of the church of God (Matt. 16:18,19). However, notice that the text does not say that Philip spoke of the kingdom of God, but of “the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:12; cf. 1:3 – “things pertaining to the kingdom of God”). But more about that later.
Obviously, not every reference to the kingdom of God is a reference to the church. The kingdom is spoken of in at least three different senses. In this, it is comparable to the word, “saved … .. Saved-may refer to (A) salvation from past sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 3:19; 2 Pet. 1:9; Rom. 10:9,10), to (B) the present salvation enjoyed by the Christian (1 Cor. 15:2) and to (C) salvation in heaven (Rom. 5:9; 13:11; 1 Pet. 1:9). Likewise, the kingdom of God is spoken of as (A) the universal rule of God (1 Chron. 29:11; Psa. 47:2,7,8; 103:19), as (B) the heavenly kingdom, the abode of the saved in eternity (1 Cor. 15:50; Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 4:18; 2 Pet. 1:11; Matt. 25:34), and as (C) the church (Matt. 16:18,19; Col. 1:13,18; Heb. 12:23,28).
If I told any 16 year old, “I am going to purchase a car, and I will give you the keys to my automobile,” do you think he would be confused by my use of the terms, “car” and “automobile”? Me, neither! So, Jesus said, “I will build my church . . . and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:18,19). Keys are symbolic of entrance. Control of the keys is control of use and access. The apostles announced the terms of entrance in the kingdom in that they pronounced the conditions of pardon (Jn. 20:23; Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38,47; 10:39-43,48). One is added to the church or translated into the kingdom when he obeys the gospel (Acts 2:47; Eph. 1:13; 3:6; Col. 1:13).
Observe some parallel comparisons of the church and kingdom of Christ.
1. The church is “a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5; cf. 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6).
“My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36); hence, it is a spiritual kingdom (Jn. 3:3-8; Rom. 14:17; Heb. 1:8).
2. One is called out of the world and into the church by the gospel (1 Pet. 1:22-25; 2:5-9; Eph. 2:16; 3:6).
One is called unto his kingdom and glory by the gospel (1 Thess. 2:12,13; 2 Thess. 2:13,14).
3. The Lord’s supper is in the church (1 Cor. 10; 11).
The Lord’s supper is in the kingdom (Matt. 26:29).
4. By one Spirit, we are baptized “into one body,” the church (1 Cor. 12:13).
We are “born of water and of the Spirit” to “see” or “enter” the kingdom (Jn. 3:3,5).
5. The temple, tabernacle, house or church is not made with hands (1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; 8:2; 9:11).
The kingdom was made “without hands” (Dan. 2:44,45).
6. God set Christ on his own right hand and gave him to be head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18).
God set his king on his holy hill of Zion (Psa. 2:6). Since kings are set over kingdoms, Christ has rule over his kingdom (1 Cor. 15:24; Acts 2:30,31; Zech. 6:13; Heb. 1:3,8; Lk. 1:32,33).
7. “Saved,” “us,” “righteous” are “the house (church) of God” (1 Pet. 4:17,18; Heb. 3:6; 1 Tim. 3:15).
“Righteousness” is the sceptre of Christ’s kingdom (Heb. 1:8,9; Rom. 14:17).
8. The “mountain,” government, house (church) of the Lord and his word go forth “from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:2,3; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6).
God set his king upon his holy hill of Zion; his government, throne, dominion and kingdom began “at Jerusalem” (Psa.2:6; Lk. 1:32,33; 24:47,49; Acts 1:6; 2:5,30,31; 11:15).
9. “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:21). After his death, Christ was made head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:9-11).
“In thy kingdom” equals “into thy glory” (Matt. 20:21; Mk. 10:37). Christ entered into his glory after his death (Lk, 24:26; 1 Pet. 1:11).
10. Christ is the Savior of the body, the church (Eph. 5:23).
Christ will “deliver up the kingdom unto God” (1 Cor. 15:24).
In his farewell address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-38), allow the peerless Paul to tell what he had preached among them. First, he preached “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Second, he preached “the gospel of the grace of God.” Third, he preached “the kingdom of God” (cf. Acts 19:8; 28:23,31). Fourth, he “ceased not to warn every one night and day” about “grievous wolves” who would speak “perverse things to draw away disciples.” Fifth, he commended them “to God, and to the word of his grace.” Sixth, he taught them “to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus.”
All of the items above are a part of what it means to “preach the kingdom of God,” and to preach the cross. Repentance and faith are essential ingredients of preaching the cross and kingdom of Christ. Preaching God’s grace, which brings salvation and teaches us to live pure lives (Tit. 2:11-14), is preaching the kingdom. Warnings against false doctrines and false brethren are a necessary part of preaching the cross, for such men “are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). Preaching that encourages benevolence and that reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus in caring for our fellow man is preaching the cross and its kingdom. Be not deceived by those who would beguile you with smooth words and sweet speeches and have you believe that you are somehow forgetting the cross of Christ when you speak of similar subjects.
4. “The name of Jesus Christ.” To preach the name of Jesus Christ is to preach the authority of the Son of God (Matt. 28:18,19). When David met Goliath “in the name of the Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 17:45), he came in the power and by the authority of Jehovah. In 1 Samuel 25:4-9, David sent out “ten young men” who were to speak “in (his) name.” “And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David and ceased.” Perhaps the most important aspect of the young men’s work is that they “ceased.” Whenever one speaks or acts in the name and by the authority of the king, he must speak and act as directly commissioned and charged by the king himself. He dares not to do less or more. So, when one speaks or preaches in the name of Jesus Christ, he had better know when to “cease.” He had better know not to go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). In short, he must speak as divinely directed by the Lord in his word (1 Pet. 4:11).
In Jeremiah 34:16-18, God said, “Ye turned and polluted my name.” How had they done so? How had they polluted the name of the Lord? They did so by doing their own will, by not listening to the Lord’s instructions, by transgressing the covenant, by not performing “the words of the covenant. ” The surest way on earth to incur the Lord’s wrath is to pollute his name, and Jeremiah says that the way we do that is to disobey divine direction of the word of God.
Jesus said, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me” (Jn. 17:6). And how did he manifest the “name” of God? “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me” (Jn. 17:8). One preaches the name of Jesus Christ when he makes known the words of Jesus Christ. It is just that simple. If you want to preach his name, if you want to glorify his name, then preach the word, preach the cross. Anything that does not have the name of heaven behind it is without the authority of God. Thus, when Philip preached “the name of Jesus Christ,” when “he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” he did so with the full power and authority of the Son of God (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 10:48; 19:5). To preach baptism “for the remission of sins” is to preach in the name of Jesus Christ (Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38; 10:43,48). It is to preach “the cross of Christ.” When you are too spiritual, too holy, to preach repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, you are too sanctimonious and vainly puffed up by your carnal mind (Col. 2:18).
Again, the “name of Jesus Christ” is the “power of Jesus Christ” (Acts 3:6,12,16; 4:7,10,12). Study those texts. It was in the name, by the power and authority of Jesus Christ, that the lame man was raised up. There is no other power or authority under heaven “whereby we must be saved.” Further, Ephesians 1:20-23 and Philippians 2:9-11 are coordinate passages. Christ was “given . . . a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue should confess” (Phil. 2:9-11). Pentecostal people say that this name is the name, “Jesus.” No, that cannot be, for he was given that “name” at his birth, however, this “name” was his dominion, power and authority, when, after his death, he “was made head over all things” (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18; Lk. 24:46,47).
Philip preached this “name.” When he did so, “both men and women” “believed . . . and were baptized” (Acts 8:12). When one, like Billy Sunday of yesteryear or Billy Graham of today, claims to “preach the name or cross of Christ,” we know they are not doing so, for “men and women” are not believing and being baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” as they were when Philip truly preached his name, cross and kingdom (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 10:43,48; 16:31; 19:5). Remember, those who leave off or neglect the word of God, on this or any other part, are polluting the name of God (Jer. 34:16-18). They are not exalting the cross of Christ. They are not “preaching the cross.”
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 13, pp. 390-392
July 2, 1992