Summary: This sermon is the author’s first message to his new congregation. It focuses on the sufficiency of Christ in all things.
HOW I WANT OUR BEGINNING
TO BE REMEMBERED
1 Corinthians 1.18-25 and 2.1-5
Dr. Michael A. Milton, Senior Pastor
First Presbyterian Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Preached on February 3, 2002
Introduction to the Reading
We don’t mean to, but we often make Christianity more complicated than it really is—and sometimes less glorious, less majestic than who Christ really is. It even happened to a church that Paul planted. If you would like to get back to the basic message of what it is we believe and long to see the power of God demonstrated in our midst, read with me from the inerrant and infallible Word of the living God as found in 1 Corinthians 1.18-25 and 2.1-5:
1.18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
21 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
2.1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Lord, help me to preach as if never to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men, through Christ our Lord, I pray. Amen.
Remembering the Beginning
Remembering the beginning is important. When my wife and I were married, I did everything possible to make our first day as husband and wife a special one. I wrote her a special song for the day. I ordered flowers, bought her a memorable wedding present, reserved a place at the special restaurant and tipped the waiter to say our names as "Mr. and Mrs. Milton." But the most special thing that took place, the thing that we would always remember most, was not planned. As I took her to dance, the band played our song. They didn’t know it was our song, and I didn’t tip them to play it. In fact, the song was sort of obscure, and I doubted any musical group would ever know it. But, there it was: my bride and I, dancing to our song. That was so important to us. For in the days ahead, in trials and difficulties that always come to couples, we could look back and, if we were on the wrong track, we could remember and readjust our way.
Beginnings are also important for pastors and congregations, and our beginning is important today. As I prepared to bring this message to you today, I went back to the Bible and to Paul’s ministry. When he was dealing with the Corinthians, who were having some problems, he reminded them about their beginning. And in reminding them about the beginning, he led them to see the very foundation of his ministry. Paul’s instructions in our reading from 1 Corinthians this morning contain some very basic truths which I want us to remember in years to come.
I want us to remember that we began our ministry together
by focusing on the Centrality of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
In Corinth, there were Jews who wanted miraculous signs and Greeks who craved rhetorically satisfying logic for their religion. Paul went to Isaiah, in verse 19, and answered these problems with God’s own Word: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." – Isaiah 29.14
In dealing with this church he had planted, Paul wanted them to remember that his central message was the Cross. Many things had happened in that church since Paul had planted it: others had come in, parties had arisen in the church, and there was great trouble at Corinth. And in the midst of this, Paul reminded them about the fundamentals of the faith: the Cross of Christ. In that one event—the God of heaven who came in the flesh, offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of His people—faith makes sense. It is the wisdom of God over against the supposed wisdom of man. This is antithesis, and it is a necessary tension in the Gospel. Man looks at the cross as foolish. It doesn’t seem right that men are saved by a God who dies for them. But in this one act of love and grace and mercy—in Christ identifying with us in our sin and taking the punishment for those who repent—we come to see God’s power.