I wonder if you have noticed, but in 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul the apostle first speaks of the preaching the Gospel, and then follows this up in 1 Cor 1:18 by speaking of the preaching of the Cross. These two lines run parallel from Genesis to Revelation. God is first of all introduced in all His grace; we remember how He clothed the nakedness of Adam and Eve in the skins of that slain animal, Gen 3.21. However, we must remember this truth also – that Adam and Eve were shut out from the Garden of Eden. And cherubim and a flaming sword prevented man in all his sinfulness from eating of the tree of life, Gen 3. 24.
The Gospel of God’s grace is a theme that thrills the heart of the believer, for it reveals the love of God in all its surpassing excellence. It launches us into the ocean of salvation, where we are carried forward by the waves of the mercy and grace of God. We cite three references from the New Testament. “God our Saviour who will have all men to be saved.” 1 Tim 2:3-4. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Cor 5.19. “The grace of God that brings salvation to all men has appeared.” Titus 2.11. These Scriptures show us how God would be gracious to all men – none excepted. “For God SO loved the world!” John 3.16
But together with the announcement of the glad tidings (or the ‘gospel’), comes the preaching of the Cross. The Cross condemns man by nature (the natural man, the man after the flesh). If we read Gen 6.5, John 3.6 (first part), Rom 7.18 (first part), Rom 8.8 – we know what man after the flesh is in the eyes of God. Flesh is flesh, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God, Rom 8.8! The preaching of the Cross is foolishness to the unbeliever for it sets the natural man aside as being worthless before God, no matter what wisdom he may possess as regards the things of this world. And however much he may glory in his achievements on earth! To the believer, however, the preaching of the Cross is the power of God, for it gives him the sense of his own nothingness before God and causes him to look to the One who alone is his resource in all circumstances, viz. the Lord Jesus Christ who is ‘all in all’.
Alas, in these last days, the preaching of the Gospel is done without the preaching of the Cross, and so everywhere we have the sad spectacle of carnal ‘christians’ – those who claim to be born again, but know nothing of the depravity of their own flesh.
The preaching of the Gospel must include the preaching of the Cross. Hence Paul declares: “We preach Christ crucified!” The Cross makes foolish the wisdom of this world. The natural man, the man after the flesh, may glory in many things in this perishing world. But in the eyes of God he is but a foolish and blind man, groping in the dark and unable to come to God – because he will not humble himself before the Cross. The Cross declares the death of all those who are in Adam (1 Cor 15.22). (And that includes every great man on this globe – be he a leader or an artist or a scientist or an inventor or whatever he may call himself!)
The Cross, however, must be understood to cover not only the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, but His burial and resurrection also. This was the gospel of the Apostle Paul, as we see in 1 Cor 15.3,4. There is no hope for Adam, no hope for the natural man, the man in the flesh; he will die, never to rise again. But those who come to the Cross, confessing the depravity of their hearts, acknowledging that they are but vile sinners in the presence of the holy and awesome God – to such, the Cross becomes the gateway to eternal life. That is why, in the early church, those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ testified immediately in the waters of baptism, declaring that ‘the old things are passed away’ (the old man, our old self, is crucified and buried) and now they are a new creation in Christ, 2 Cor 5.17.
“All in Christ shall be made alive” 1 Cor 15.22. Have you received that new life, eternal life, resurrection life, in Jesus Christ your Lord?