The Power and Message of the Cross
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The Power and Message of the Cross

From Series: Encore 2022

1 Corinthians 1:18-31  (ID: 3446)

While most people would agree that our world is broken, they may not agree about how to fix it. The only solution, Alistair Begg clarifies, is found in the execution of an innocent man: Jesus, the Son of God. We must continue to proclaim the message of Christ’s death on the cross both to ourselves and to others, as it establishes the gravity of the human condition, reveals God’s wonder and grace, and offers hope for all of time.


Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to 1 Corinthians and to chapter 1 and to follow along as I read from verse 18.

As you turn there, a moment to say a sincere thank you for the privilege of being here this evening. To come to a place that I’ve never been, to be welcomed by folks that, by and large, I don’t know is another testimony to the wonder of what it means to be united to Christ and to be part of the body of Christ. It’s a happy thing for a Scotsman to be in the great state of Texas, because we have a long history and association with Texas. If you know your history, you’ll know that approximately 40 percent of the original three hundred colonists who settled here with Stephen F. Austin at the beginning of the nineteenth century were all of Scottish descent. And when we began to export our famous Aberdeen Angus cattle from Scotland, we sent them first of all here to Texas in 1883. I first made a visit here in 1972 for Explo ’72 when I was twenty years of age, and I remember very vividly so many things about it. And so, to be invited back is, as I say, a privilege.

First Corinthians 1:18:

“For the word of the cross”—or “the message of the cross”[1]—“is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. [He is the source of your life] in Christ Jesus, [whom God made our] wisdom … [and our] righteousness and sanctification and redemption[; therefore,] as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

Amen.

And a brief prayer, an old Anglican prayer:

Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

Well, my text is essentially the eighteenth verse, and my topic is the power or the message of the cross. And I should say at the very outset—especially if somebody says, “Well, why choose such a topic for this evening? Is it really necessary to come to an event like this, to a place like this, and address the matter of the centrality of the cross?”—well, I should say that I have not arrived here to tell you something that you do not know, but rather that we would remind each other of that which we must never forget. In 1951, James Denney, who was a Scottish theologian, remarking at the beginning of that decade: the cross “has less than its proper place in preaching and in theology.”[2] One could only wonder what Denney would have to say if he were to reappear at this point, certainly in my native Scotland.

Three simple observations by way of introduction.

First of all, the cross is rejected by other religions. Islam rejects the notion of a sin-bearing Savior. According to the Qur’an, each one shall reap the fruit of their own deeds. And therefore, there is no place, there is no need, for the cross. And indeed, to the Muslim mind, it is unthinkable that a major prophet of God should come to such an ignominious end. Hinduism, while accepting the historicity of the death of Christ, rejects its saving significance. And humanism, in all of its forms in contemporary selfism, rejects the notion of the cross entirely. In an earlier era, a rather arrogant professor from Oxford University remarked that Christianity is the worst of all religions—he’d said, because it rests “on the allied doctrines of original sin and vicarious atonement, which,” he said, “are intellectually contemptible and morally outrageous.”[3] So the cross is rejected by other religions.

The cross is marginalized by liberal scholarship. In liberal thinking throughout, certainly, the last 150 years, the essence of Christianity is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is an exemplar. He’s an ethicist. He is in some places the leader of a liberation army. The incarnation is defined apart from its relationship to the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross. It’s a kind of Harry Belafonte kind of Christianity: that “man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day.”[4] But in actual fact, the incarnation without the atonement has nothing at all to say to us.

So, if it is rejected by religions, if it is marginalized by liberal scholarship, what will we say further? Well—and this is painful—the cross is in danger of being trivialized by the approach of much contemporary evangelicalism. I’ll say again: this is bitter. We should examine ourselves in this regard and recognize that the rehearsing of clichés and evangelical mantras should not be equated with a central emphasis on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ—an emphasis which declares its necessity, which establishes its meaning, and which does not shy away from its offense; the offense which is clearly stated by Paul in this section: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”[5] But that is exactly what Paul preached.

Somebody puts up their hand and immediately says, “But of course, Alistair, we have moved a long way from those days. Time has gone by. That was then, and that was there. But this is here, and this is now. Wasn’t Paul just able to do this because that’s the kind of thing that people in Paul’s day were happy to hear?” Actually, no. If he had chosen to respond to the expectations of his listeners, he would have spent the afternoon performing miracles, and then he would have had a crowd over to his tent later in the evening, when they could sit around and discuss philosophy. It wasn’t just that he chose not to give them what they wanted; he continued to provide them with the one thing they didn’t want. Now, what possible idea of church growth is this, that you set your stall up to make sure that whatever it is that appeals to people, you’ve decided, “I’m going to set that aside, and why don’t I talk to them about something else? Why don’t I give them this story of a crucified Christ?” Especially if I’ve got a number of Jewish people listening! Because it stumbles them. And of course, the gentiles, they just thought it was absolutely ridiculous. Why do such a thing? Why do it then, and why do it now?

Well, in large measure, it falls on from where we have been earlier, in terms of this great paradox, not only revealed as it is outlined there in 2 Corinthians 4 but also in this respect: that God’s power is seen in weakness, and his wisdom is revealed in the foolishness of what is preached; that the cross is actually not simply a central event of biblical theology, but the cross is actually the pivotal event of human history. Can you imagine going into the history faculty at one of the great universities here in Texas and saying, “You know, I’d like to give a talk to the class. I’d like to explain to them that whatever their perspective of ancient history and ancient Rome and Greece and right through into the twenty-first century, I want to be able to explain to them that they will never understand history as it is taught them unless they have a Bible. And they will never understand the Bible unless they realize that the cross is at the very center of God’s making himself known.”

We can tell people that Christ will come into their hearts and live, but first they need to know that he has come into the world, lived and died, and rose again.

You see, all the way through the Bible, God does this, doesn’t he? We’re studying 1 Samuel at the moment—1 Samuel 16 and 17. I’m struggling my way through it. If you doubt that, just go online, and you can see how much I’m struggling. Or better still, phone my wife; she’ll tell you. At least, she told me on Sunday night I was struggling. But there you have it. I mean, Samuel says, “Well, Eliab, he’s the big, strong, tall one. He’s the obvious one.” No, he’s not. We go through the whole seven brothers, and there’s nobody there at all, till eventually the father, Jesse, says, “Well, there’s another… We do have another one, just… That fellow. But I never even brought him up for the interview, because clearly, clearly, he’s not the man.”[6] Oh, yes, he is the man! Who would think that he would be the man?

And who would think—who would think—that the major problems of our world and the troubles of human life find their ultimate solution in the execution of an innocent man in AD 33 and in the preaching of that news about him to the nations of the world? Who actually believes that? Who believes it, you see? We do not expect people to believe it. We understand that their immediate response to it is to say, “You know what? You are a major clown, and we don’t know where you appeared from, but the sooner you go back, the better. Because in actual fact, it is obvious to us that such a thing is folly.”

And yet everywhere Paul goes, he does the same thing. He’s essentially got one string to his bow. He goes into the synagogues again and again, and he labors to show them that the Messiah had to suffer and die. Check it out, wherever he goes. And he goes in, and he says, “Now, I want to show you from the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer and die.” And then when he has done that, he then says, “And this Jesus is that Messiah. This Jesus is that Christ.” In other words, the Jesus of history is the Lord of glory. He was pointing out something that we need to point out in our preaching, and that is that we can tell people that Christ will come into their hearts and live, but first they need to know that he has come into the world, lived and died, and rose again. And that historic foundation gives to us the platform upon which we are then able to encourage them in that way.

Well, we had a little tour round Corinth there, didn’t we? Thank you, brother. Very, very good: commercial center, lots of shops, and the Isthmian Games, and the sea and the sailors and everything that comes with it, and the Temple of Aphrodite, with a focus on the pagan goddess of love. All of the excessive immorality of the place, so much so that it becomes a byword for sexual license and excess of every kind. And then, of course, there were all the bright boys and ladies that lived there with their high-sounding discourses and the ponderings of the intelligentsia. That was the whole framework. Similar to Athens, wasn’t it? They spent their time doing nothing other than just talking about the latest ideas, Luke says of Athens.[7] Similar here. That’s the context.

And so it is into this significant, decadent city that this little converted Jew walks. And he says to them, “I’m not going to talk about myself. I’m not going to try and impress you in the way I speak to you. Because if I were to do that, you might then just be fascinated by my ability, by my rhetoric, by my capacity with language, by the philosophical notions that I can promulgate for you. But I’m not going to do that at all. I’m not here to build a crowd. No, I’m here just to tell you about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, preaching the message in such a way that people would cease trusting in anything other than the work of God in Christ.”

We didn’t read as far as 2:5, but that’s the point that he makes. He says, “And the reason for my approach is straightforward: so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”[8] And where is the power of God displayed? In the weakness. And where is the epitome of weakness? In this death of a Galilean carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing looked less like a Messiah than that scene on the middle cross, outside the city wall. Nobody would have walked up there and said, “Oh, this must be the Messiah!” No, they walked up there and said, “This couldn’t possibly be the Messiah. After all, the whole thing has come to a crashing halt in a Palestinian tomb.”

No, the cross is not only a picture of weakness as revealed in Jesus himself, but he’s actually prepared to say to them, “You know, if you have a mirror”—one of those things that we were hearing about earlier—“if you have a mirror, you can prove what I’m telling you. Because think about yourselves. Think about yourselves. You’re not really a particularly fantastic group of people.” It’s not very nice to say, but I mean, it’s true. He said… You’ve got to make sure that you keep the consonants in this. He doesn’t say, “Not any.” He says, “Not many.” “Not many.”

It’s true. I mean, look at this choir. It’s a very nice group—still awake, most of them, as far as I can see. That’s the only reason I turned around, just to check. But I don’t want to be unkind. This is a very nice church and a nice choir. But you take the average choir on a Sunday, and you look up there, and you go, “Look at these people. What a funny group of people.” Right? And they are representative of the larger group of people. And you say, “We’re going to turn the world upside down with this group? I mean, they can sing, but…”

And he says, “And if you’re feeling bad that I mentioned you, why don’t I just mention me? ’Cause I’m no great shakes myself,” he said. You know, whoever had picked him up at the donkey port or whatever and brought him home for tea, you know, if, you know, while he was waiting for his evening meal, the wife said to her husband who’d picked him up, said, “Well, what do you think? I mean, he hasn’t done anything yet, but…” “Oh,” he says, “he’s a weird guy, man. He’s got sweaty palms. I don’t know whether he’s nervous or what it is, but we didn’t have much of a conversation. I don’t know if he’s going to be much good.”

Weakness! Weak group, weak preacher. Weak! “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.” They look at that and they say, “No, it’s never going to happen.”

The Message for the Unbeliever

Now, when we apply this, we have to say first what this means to the unbeliever. Why this message for the unbeliever? Well, let me suggest a couple of things.

First of all, because the message of the cross establishes the gravity of the human condition. The message of the cross establishes the gravity of sin, says that the story of humanity is the story of man’s rebellion and man’s alienation and man’s brokenness. And the death of Jesus and the picture that is then given to us in the Bible causes us to ponder and then to proclaim that it took the death of God’s perfect Son to deal with my sinful life, with my alienation, and with my brokenness, and with my rebellion.

Now, I’m pretty sure—but I haven’t checked, ’cause I’m not here—but I think if you let me loose tomorrow morning anywhere in your city, I can get agreement from just about anyone that I meet about one subject, and it is this: that our world is broken. That it is broken. You can broach the subject in Starbucks. You can broach it on the airplane. Anywhere you want to go, you will get general agreement that something has gone amazingly wrong. You get agreement on that when it comes to the issue of not simply dealing with the symptoms but actually a diagnosis of the cause, then the opportunity for “evangelism explosion” is just kicking in at that point. But the point I’m making is straightforward: people are prepared to acknowledge something is badly up.

If you saw At Eternity’s Gate, the movie—actually, if you did, you’re in a very small group—but it’s a movie that was made about Van Gogh most recently, called At Eternity’s Gate. And part of that involves his interaction with Gauguin, who ended his life in a miserable situation down in the Islands. And Gauguin, who was brought up as a Roman Catholic and catechized all through his life and painted and abused his circumstances in all kinds of ways, his largest painting is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. And he wrote on that painting—and he doesn’t write on his paintings! And he wrote three questions up in the corner.:

D'où Venons Nous?
Que Sommes Nous?
Où Allons Nous?

“Where do we come from? What are we? And where are we going?” And he didn’t have an answer to the question.

And the average millennial out in Texas tonight has no answer for that question either. They’ve no answer for the question. They have been raised believing that they exist as a result of time plus matter plus chance. They are a collection of molecules held in suspension. There is no ultimate destiny towards which they are moving; therefore, there is no arc that they’re able to navigate through their lives, and they are at sea. And if the message that is then offered to them is a kind of watery substitute for the message of the cross, then we ought not be surprised that they just walk away from it. Because what we have to face up to is the fact of our rebellion against God: that no part of our lives is left intact—our emotions, our affections, our minds, our wills. The anti-God bias which is part and parcel of our human existence comes in at the level of our understanding and our intellect. And there is no intellectual road to God.

David Wells, who has been a friend to me over the years, has a purple passage in one of his books. I can’t remember where it is. But he talks about how God is beyond the realm of our “intuitive radar,” as he puts it. It’s a wonderful line. So he says, “There is an invisible boundary” between ourselves and God[9]—God in his holiness and we in our rebellion and in our alienation. There is no intellectual road for us to get there. And so it is that the only way that it is possible is for him to come in down, as it were, underneath the radar. We cannot access him on our own terms. We cannot access him in our own time. No, we need him to come and cross the boundary so that we might know him savingly. And what is the message of the cross? It is that God in Christ has done exactly that: that he has crossed that boundary and that he has made himself known.

And so, when we think about it in terms of its gravity in the predicament that we face, it also is possible for us to explain to our friends the absolute necessity of God’s grace, which means that we either, in our proclamation and in our conversation, preach what the Bible says—that human beings are rebels against God, by nature under his judgment and lost, and that Jesus crucified, who bore their sin and curse, is the only available Savior—we either proclaim that, or we emphasize human potential and human ability, with Christ brought in to boost them, but with no necessity for the cross except to exhibit God’s love and inspire us to greater endeavor.

The latter is popular. The former is true. If you go with the latter, no one will say you’re a fool. They say, “No, that’s fine. God, whoever he is…” I mean, I preach every week to a congregation of people. Many of them, because of their status in life, they are operating on this basis: “A good God, if he exists, will reward nice people if they do their best.” That’s the story. “If there is a good God and he exists, he’ll reward nice people.” In other words, “If he’s grading on the curve, I’m in with a chance, because there’s a lot of really bad people, and they’re all sitting just along the row from me. So they are definitely in the F category or the D-minus category. And even if I’m only getting a good, solid C-plus, as long as it’s going that way, I’m in with a very good chance.” No, no, no, it’s not going to work that way. If that was the case, why would we have Jesus dying on the cross? No, see, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

So what it does is it establishes the gravity of sin, it reveals the absolute wonder and necessity of grace, and it allows us to say to people, “There is a wonderful opportunity for you now to close with this.” You see, when the “waft of the supernatural,”[10] as James Stewart on one occasion put it—when “the waft of the supernatural” threw the apostles out onto the streets of Jerusalem and they began to preach, they didn’t shilly-shally about, did they? No, no, no. “This Jesus, whom you crucified…” You’ll get yourself stoned for stuff like that! “This Jesus whom you crucified, he has made him both Lord and Christ.” And what did they say? “What do you want us to do? What should we do?”[11]

The average response to the preaching of the Word of God is not “What shall we do?” but “When can we leave?” It’s, like, “Where are you going for lunch?” It’s trivial. Or it’s applause. Applause! Who started applause? Santa Claus. I don’t know who started applause. You said, “Oh, now, you shouldn’t say that, because we’ve had a lot of applause.” I don’t care if you’ve had a lot of applause. This is not a performance. This is not something that you get kudos for! This is, to quote [Thielemann] again—this is horrible! [Thielemann] says, “The pulpit draws the preacher the way the sea draws the sailor. To preach, and to really preach, is to die naked, and every time you do to realize that you’re going to have to do it again.”[12]

That’s what it is: to stand, as M’Cheyne said, as a dying man in the face of dying men and women, and the issue of eternity is at stake, and in between a lostness in the grave and the opportunity for reality is the cross of Jesus Christ. “There … stands the cross” of Christ, with “two arms outstretched to save.”[13] And that’s what they said: “What do you want us to do?” And Peter says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you.”[14] Because to put your confidence and trust in the person and work of the Lord Jesus is actually to believe the gospel.

The Message for the Believer

Well, it matters, this preaching of the cross, for the unbeliever, but I suggest to you that it matters also for those of us who believe—which, I think, would be the vast company this evening, although I never want to assume that everyone who is here has actually closed with God’s offer of salvation in Jesus. Calvin, in the Institutes, he says, you know, that the idea that we simply know it intellectually does not mean that we have embraced it.[15]

But you believe tonight, and I believe. What, then, is this message of the cross? Well, I suggest to you that it is first of all a compelling force. A compelling force. “For the love of Christ compels us.”[16] “The love of Christ compels us.” When Billy Graham was in transition many, many years ago, probably in the ’50s, again—I think this is in the book by Pollock, the biographer—and he didn’t know whether he should stay up in Minneapolis or wherever he was with the school there (I don’t remember the details) or whether this tug in his heart was to go out into the world with this great story of Jesus Christ and him crucified, and he tells of how he walked out through the forest, and as he walked out through the forest, the hymn that just kept coming to him again and again:

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring ones, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, [he’s] mighty to save.[17]

And he says, “I could not get that out of my heart or my mind, and the love of Christ compelled me, drove me out with this story of the death of Christ for sinners.”

A compelling force—and also, for the believer, a correcting force. A correcting force. “In what way?” you say. Well, in this way: without the preaching of the cross, without preaching the cross to ourselves all day and every day, we will very, very quickly revert to faith plus works as the ground of our salvation; so that, to go to the old Fort Lauderdale question—“If you were to die tonight and you were getting entry into heaven, what would you say?”—if you answer that, and if I answer it, in the first person, we’ve immediately gone wrong. “Because I…” “Because I believed. Because I have faith. Because I am this. Because I am continuing.” Loved ones, the only proper answer’s in the third person: “Because he…” “Because he…”

The man on the middle cross said I can come.

Think about the thief on the cross. What an immense… I can’t wait to find that fellow one day to ask him, “How did that shake out for you? Because you were cussing the guy out with your friend. You’d never been in a Bible study. You’d never got baptized. You didn’t know a thing about church membership. And yet—and yet, you made it! You made it! How did you make it?”

That’s what the angel must have said—you know, like, “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?”

“Well, ’cause I don’t know.”

“Well, you know… Excuse me. Let me get my supervisor.”

They go get the supervisor angel: “So, we’ve just a few questions for you. First of all, are you clear on the doctrine of justification by faith?”

The guy says, “I’ve never heard of it in my life.”

“And what about… Let’s just go to the doctrine of Scripture immediately.”

This guy’s just staring.

And eventually, in frustration, he says, “On what basis are you here?”

And he said, “The man on the middle cross said I can come.”

Now, that is the only answer. That is the only answer. And if I don’t preach the gospel to myself all day and every day, then I will find myself beginning to trust myself, trust my experience, which is part of my fallenness as a man. If I take my eyes off the cross, I can then give only lip service to its efficacy while at the same time living as if my salvation depends upon me. And as soon as you go there, it will lead you either to abject despair or a horrible kind of arrogance. And it is only the cross of Christ that deals both with the dreadful depths of despair and the pretentious arrogance of the pride of man that says, “You know, I can figure this out, and I’m doing wonderfully well.” No.

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.[18]

That’s why Luther says most of your Christian life is outside of you, in this sense: that we know that we’re not saved by good works, we’re not saved as a result of our professions, but we’re saved as a result of what Christ has achieved.

So, it gives to the believer a reminder—and a very important reminder—of the story of God’s love that we get to take out into a broken world. It corrects my tendencies to self-aggrandizement. And it gives me a confidence that I couldn’t otherwise have—a confidence in the gospel. In the gospel. As a student of church history, which you will be if you’ve been around at all, then you know that whenever the Church, big C—or wee c, for that matter—whenever the church loses confidence in the truth, the power, and the relevance of the gospel, it loses any compelling sense of mission. Because what is it going to talk about? It’s got nothing to say. Nineteen fifty-two, James S. Stewart, whom I’ve mentioned, is preaching to the faculty and students at Yale Divinity School. And he warned them—1952, the year I was born—of “a theologically vague and harmlessly accommodating” Christianity which, he said, was “less than useless.”[19]

As I end, let me go back to where I started. And I’m not here to try and say something that we don’t know. I’m just here… The ministry of reminder is the pastor’s responsibility. “I intend always to remind you of these [things],”[20] says Peter, and so do we. So I’m just reminding us of what we know to be true: we are not charged with the political agenda of the left or the right, but we are charged with the biblical message of Jesus Christ and him crucified. To offer to a man or a woman a God who does everything in general and nothing in particular—that kind of gospel is just absolutely hopeless. And it is hopeless because it is not the gospel that is proclaimed by the apostles who went before us.

Think about it. Either in Christ God, the Creator and Redeemer, came right into human life and bore in his own body our sins—either he did—or the gospel is a fabrication. Either he did… In our postmodern milieu, this is the sort of “Well, that’s just your perspective.” No, it ain’t! Either he did, or he didn’t. There is no middle ground. “Well, there are certain parts, and this… I like a bit of this and a bit of that.” Did you ever read Augustine, when he said, “Listen, if we believe what we like in the gospel and reject what we don’t, it’s not the gospel we believe; it’s ourselves”?[21]

So, Paul, by the time he gets to the end of his long letter—the first letter before we get back to the second letter—what does he do? Well, he really comes full circle. By the time he gets to chapter 15, the great chapter on the resurrection, how does he begin?

Now I would remind you, brothers [and sisters], of the gospel [that] I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.[22]

All that Christ has done for us is of no value to us so long as we remain outside of Christ.[23] And if ever there was a time in the crazy, broken, beautiful, wonderful, fantastic US of A for those who have come to the cross of Christ and have knelt down and have been transformed by the power of the Spirit—if there ever was a moment and a time—surely, it’s this moment, it’s this time, to go out and lovingly, kindly, imaginatively, creatively, crazily say to people, “I’ve got a really good friend, and I’d love to introduce you to him, if you’d be interested.” And then you can just tell them about Jesus, mighty to save.

Now, you’re all frightened now about the clapping and everything and stuff like that. I’m a guest. You can do whatever you want. But I’m going to pray, and then we’re going to have a hymn, brother, right? Isn’t that how it go? It’s “A Mighty Fortress.”

Lord God in heaven, look upon us in your mercy, we pray, and grant that what is of yourself may find a resting place in our minds and hearts; anything that is unclear, that you’ll clear it up; anything that is untrue, that you’ll banish it from our recollection; anything that is unhelpful, that we may forget all about it. Lord, unless we hear your voice, the dulcet tones of speaker number one and the squeaky voice of speaker number two will avail nothing, either now or for eternity’s sake. So we look from ourselves and ask you, we who plant and water, to take care of the growth. To the glory of your name we ask it. Amen.


[1] 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV).

[2] James Denney, The Death of Christ: Its Place and Interpretation in the New Testament, 2nd ed. (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1903), 9.

[3] Alfred Ayer, The Guardian, August 30, 1979, quoted in John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), 43.

[4] Jester Hairston, “Mary’s Boy Child” (1956).

[5] 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV).

[6] 1 Samuel 16:6, 11 (paraphrased).

[7] See Acts 17:21.

[8] 1 Corinthians 2:5 (paraphrased).

[9] David F. Wells,What Is the Trinity?(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2012), 11.

[10] James S. Stewart, A Faith to Proclaim (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1953), 45.

[11] Acts 2:36–37 (paraphrased).

[12] Bruce W. Thielemann,The Wittenburg Door36 (April–May 1977), quoted in Joseph M. Stowell, “Why I Love to Preach,” inThe Moody Handbook of Preaching, ed. John Koessler (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 69. Paraphrased.

[13] Elizabeth C. Clephane, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” (1868).

[14] Acts 2:38 (ESV).

[15] See, for instance, John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion 1.2.1.

[16] 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NKJV).

[17] Fanny J. Crosby, “Rescue the Perishing” (1869).

[18] Charitie L. Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above” (1863).

[19] James S. Stewart, A Faith to Proclaim (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1953), 16.

[20] 2 Peter 1:12 (ESV).

[21] Augustine, Contra Faustum 17.3. Paraphrased.

[22] 1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (ESV).

[23] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.1.1.

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.