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1 Corinthians 1:23, 24

Clay Village, Ky., April, 1879

Brethren Beebe: – With your permission, I will try to comply with the request of brother Nathan Hart, of N. J., which is that I should give my views through the Signs of the Times on 1 Cor. 1:23, 24, which reads as follows: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God. and the wisdom of God.”

Paul dedicates this epistle “to them that are sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” He exhorts them to be of the same mind and of the same judgment. He has been informed that there are contentions among them. One is of Paul, another of Apollos, another of Cephas, and another of Christ. He asks them if Christ is divided – if Paul was crucified for them. He points out one prime object in the preaching of the gospel. It was not to convert sinners to God, or make christians of them, as the Arminians now say, but that the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. He also informs us that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. He then asks, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ?“ He then says, “After that [after he has made foolish the wisdom of this world] in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Not to save sinners or unbelievers from their sins, as work-mongers think, but to save or deliver believers from those divisions and other errors to which they are incident. He further says, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” The Jews required some tangible evidence that natural minds could comprehend; but Christ told them, when they called on him for a sign, that there should be no sign given them but the sign of Jonas the prophet, which was a very portentious one; but they failed to understand it. The Greeks seek after wisdom, but by that worldly wisdom they could not know God; it must be made foolish before the preaching of the cross could profit them in any degree.

“But we [who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints] preach Christ crucified.” This is a part of the subject on which my brother requests me to write; and 0 that mine now could be the “pen of a ready writer,” that I could even do half justice to the momentous, all important theme.

Christ crucified has been the excessive joy, the rapturous enthusiasm of the saints in all ages. Patriarchs and prophets looked forward through the vista of long succeeding ages with emotions of thrilling ecstasy, with assurances and the most soothing anticipations that a crucified Savior was their first and last and only but steadfast hope of salvation from their sins. “They saw his day, and were glad.” By faith they saw him wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their iniquities. They had his infallible promise that he would “ransom them from the power of the grave, redeem them from death.” – Hosea 8:14. Those holy seers knew they had all gone astray, but that the Lord had laid on him all their iniquity. – Isa. 53:6. What a scene for those holy men of God! By faith they could behold the beloved, the dearly beloved Son of God, brilliant with the lustrous glory which he had with the Father before the world was, far, far beyond the reach of enemies to annoy or dangers to threaten him, leave that supermundane residence, and plunge into this wretched world of suffering, misery, degradation and death. What incentive could have moved the dear Redeemer to condescend to such unparalleled humility? It was love; love was the great moving cause. But love for whom? for friends who would lay down their lives for him? No; but for cruel enemies, traitors, rebels. These were the ones for whom he died.

“What pangs are these that tear his heart?
What burden’s this that’s on him laid?
What means this agony of smart?
What makes our. Maker hang his head?

“'Tis justice’ with its iron rod,
inflicting strokes of wrath divine;
‘Tis the vindictive hand of God,
Incens’d ‘at all your sins and mine.”

Amazing, wondrous, unparalleled condescension! It was love, unalterable love that brought the dear Redeemer down from his supernal abode of excellency,

“To suffer in the sinner’s place;
To die for man. Surprising grace!”

Yes, he was “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” – Gal. 4:4, 5.

Notwithstanding all our defilement and wicked rebellion, that love could undergo no alteration. As soon could God cease to love his dearly beloved and only begotten Son, as he could the rest of his children. – See John 17:23, 24. Even sin, hateful as it is in his sight, could never stop the current or change the course of the love of God to his people, disobedient and rebellious as we are. Nay, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Did not wait for us to cease to be sinners, and perform a certain routine of good works, that he might save us: that is Arminianism; hence they do not believe ‘that Christ came into the world to save sinners. No; they must cease to be sinners before he will save them. Now we believe that “there is something done for the sinner.” “He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” – 1 Tim. 1:15. And that salvation was effectually finished by his’ crucifixion. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. Well may we then “preach Christ crucified.”

But we are not to conclude that his suffering on the Roman cross constituted all his crucifixion. See what he endured in the garden of Gethsemane, when he sweat as it were great drops of, blood falling to the ground. Here was a cross indeed. In fact, his whole life, from his bed In the manger to his grave, was one continued cross. His people are frequently commanded to bear their cross, take it daily and follow him. – Matt. 10:3; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, and many other places. But those commands did not signify that they were to bear the Roman cross, made of wood. Our old man is to be crucified continually, and the apostles could rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. – Acts 5:41.

“But in Jerusalem and on Calvary was a tragical, terrible cross, where he Was overwhelmed, immersed, baptized in suffering. That direful scene never had a parallel; yet with all the meekness of a lamb he bore it, while the dreadful vials of wrath were poured out upon him without mixture. Yes,

He that distributes crowns and thrones
Hangs on the tree, and bleeds and groans;
The Prince of life resigns his breath,
The King of glory bows in death.

“And did he bleed, for sinners bleed?
And could the sun behold the deed?
No; he withdrew his sickening ray,
And darkness veiled the morning day.”

And while the earth was convulsed, the rocks rent, and the veil of the temple severed in twain, man, unmoved, inflexible, callous man, could remain unmoved, except by vengeance and an insatiate desire to shed his blood – to take away his life. And yet for man, the monster man, he died; died to redeem, died

“To raise him from the depths of sin,
The gates of gaping hell,
And fix his standing more secure
Than ‘twas before he fell.”

And although his people were guilty as the rest, he “removed their iniquity in one day.” – Zech. 3:13. It is for the work of that auspicious day that “we preach Christ crucified.”

But although the preaching of Christ crucified is to the saints an animating and reviving cordial, it is to the carnal Jews and other Arminians a stumblingblock and to the Greeks foolishness. And how is Christ a stumbling-block to the Jews? Well, exactly as he is to all other work-mongers. The Jews claimed to be Moses’ disciples, and if they would only be circumcised, and keep the law, all would be well; and they think they can get along very well themselves. But only preach Christ crucified to them, and by that crucifixion he completely saved his people, without any of their works, good or bad, and the Jew, (or work-monger), being blind, and cannot see, bang they come against that stumbling-block, and into the ditch they go.

“And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense,” &c. – Isa. 8:14. “And to the Greeks foolishness.” The Greek, whether an ancient or modern one, is a real wiseacre; must have a fine stock of the wisdom of this world. The modern one, if he is not of the ancient order, must understand their language, by which, and by other scholastic attainments, they seek after wisdom; but instead of asking it of God, they go to their theological schools, where they learn to “teach for doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matt. 15:9. Talk to them about the crucifixion of Christ saving any one; foolishness! They will begin directly to cry out about their Dianas, or other imaginary gods. It matters not what they call them:they may call them by the name of our God; but hear them talk about theirs, and you will soon discover that he is as unlike ours as night is unlike day; so that when they give him the name of ours, it does not make him at all like ours, either in his nature or in his works. He will not save them until they do their part of the work; “but wants to save everybody,” as one told me recently, if they would only repent and believe.

“But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” When our God calls, “the, dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live ;“ it matters not of what nationality they may be, whether Jew or Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, they must hear, and that call is the funeral knell to all their former boasted powers. The power of God and the wisdom of God give potency and efficacy to that call. He “who hath saved us, [not who will save us, if we do our part,] and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works,” (2 Tim. 1:9) calls from death to life, “out of darkness into his marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9. This is an effectual calling; for “whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” – Rom. 8:30.

“Christ the power of God.” Omnipotent, regal, reigning power. “All power in heaven and earth.” Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. He has power “to subdue all things unto himself.” – Phil. 3:21. Power to subdue our iniquities, and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea – Micah 7:19. And blessed be his name, power on earth to forgive sin. This is authoritative power, exercised because he has suffered for the sins of his people, redeemed them from under the law, satisfied all the demands of justice; therefore he can with authority forgive them. Besides, he has power over all the enemies of his people, to shield them from all danger, and control all things for their good. The last enemy is death, but he has conquered that; but that is not all, for he has power to raise us from the dead, to change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself, (Phil. 3:21,) and thus cause “this corruptible to put on incorruption, and this mortal to put on immortality.” – 1 Cor. 15:53. And after having done all this, he has power to induct us into his glorious presence, where there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand, where there are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11. Truly, he is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of ‘God.”

This wisdom is infinite, limitless. It was “set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” It rejoiced in the habitable part of his earth, and its delights were with the sons of men. – Prov. 8:23, and onward. That wisdom had not only comprehended, but fully grasped the gracious and glorious way of the salvation of sinners from their sins, made a complete revelation of that wondrous way, and so completely comprehended all things in relation to the momentous work, as to render a failure in any part of it utterly impossible; and therefore should incite the most sublime praises and hearty thanksgivings in every redeemed, grace-given subject of his kingdom. He not only has this wisdom intrinsically, but when asked for it in faith by his children, he gives it to them “liberally, and upbraideth not.” – James 1:5. It is a precious boon, for it is “pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” – James 3:17. How different from “the wisdom of this world,” which is “earthly, sensual, and devilish.” The dear Redeemer is even “made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” And besides all this, his wisdom completely comprehended all the machinations and devices of our enemies, and exactly how to frustrate them.

“Though many foes beset our road,
And feeble is our arm,
Our life is hid with Christ in God,
Beyond the reach of harm.”

This wisdom, too, has amply provided all that is needful to supply and support us in time, all that is necessary to fully beatify us in eternity. What a prospect is before us! What ecstasy awaits us beyond the end of our weary pilgrimage here!

“Fair, distant land – could mortal eyes
But half its charms explore,
How would our spirits long to rise,
And dwell on earth no more.

“No cloud those blissful regions know,
Realms ever bright and fair;
For sin, the source of mortal woe,
Can never enter there.”

Your brother in hope,
J.F. Johnson

Signs of the Times
May 16, 1879

Republished: Signs of the Times
Volume 137, No. 7
July 1969