Preaching the Cross
Paul K. Williams
It happened in about 1950 when I was on a two-week Texas National Guard training camp at Fort Hood. A Baptist boy accepted my invitation to go to mid-week service at Killeen, and to my surprise the service was a rip-roaring sermon against denominationalism. I thought, "My friend will never come back!" But as we were leaving the building he said, "Paul, I want to talk to you about these things." And at midnight on Friday, after he and I had studied for hours, he was baptized into Christ. I never forgot that lesson. The unvarnished truth has power with one who loves the truth. Calling names and telling it like it is will not drive that one away.
I have been reading with concern the pleas of some for us to preach the cross instead of preaching "a lot of anger and name-calling" (Bob Setliff, June 20, 1993 bulletin, Gruver, Texas). And I personally resent the implication that the kind of preaching I grew up on, and the kind of preaching I have done all my life, is not preaching the cross. The preachers I heard in my youth repeatedly quoted Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 2:2, "For I deter-mined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." I heard prayer after prayer from men who pleaded that the preacher would "hide behind the cross." How people can say that such preaching is not cross-centered is beyond me.
This morning I decided to take note of how cross centered our worship was. Before classes we sang for our usual half hour. Thokozani led "Rock of Ages" in Zulu. The English translation of the second verse goes: "Though my tears flow, Though I try everything, Nothing can take sins away Except the cross. Nothing can I do Except to cling to the cross." And we sang, "To God Be the Glory" in which the second verse says, "0 Perfect redemption, the purchase of blood." Thokozani took time to emphasize certain things from the songs, bringing our hearts to praise and devotion. During our regular worship we sang "The Old Rugged Cross." When Eric rose to wait on the Lord's Table he led, "I Saw the Cross of Jesus" and used that as the basis for his talk before the Lord's Supper. Every Sunday in every church of the Lord Christians eat the Lord's Supper in remembrance of the Christ who died on the cross. This proclaims that the center of our lives is the sacrifice of Jesus, our Lord. Every Sunday in the Lord's Supper we are preaching the cross. In my sermon on certain truths which show that there is a God, and that he is the God of the Bible, I did not specifically refer to the cross of Christ. But I was preaching the cross in the same way that Paul was preaching at Athens (Acts 17).
Those who say that Baptists are preaching the cross are sadly deceived. Paul said that a distorted gospel is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7). Though the Baptists preach about the cross, they distort the gospel of the cross by refusing to baptize people into Christ's death (Romans 6:3-4). Sentimental talk about the cross of Christ which does not lead people to obey that Christ is not preaching the cross! My brethren, plain preaching of the gospel truths which condemn denominational error is preaching the cross. Tearing down the false doctrines which keep people away from forgiveness through Jesus Christ is preaching the cross. Naming the names of false religions and pleading with people to follow Christ instead of men is preaching the cross. When we "shrink not from declaring to you anything that was profitable" (Acts 20:20) and we declare "the whole purpose of God" (Acts 20:27) we are preaching the cross because only in that way can people be brought to the obedience that the crucified Jesus requires. Those who condemn that kind of teaching do not love the cross of Christ! They love a distorted theory about the cross and are putting themselves in danger of being rejected by God (Galatians 1:6-9)! Brethren, let us stand against error and for obedience to Christ. Only in this way can we truly preach the cross.