Charles H. Spurgeon’s sermon on preaching Christ-crucified is full of pastoral wisdom. Below I provide some excerpts and headings from this amazing message. He exhorts us to preach Christ alone, and to do so boldly, affectionately, simply, as the Christian’s only joy, and savingly.
“But we preach Christ crucified.”—1 Corinthians 1:23.
In the verse preceding our text, Paul writes, “The Jews require a sign.” They said, “Moses wrought miracles; let us see miracles wrought, and then we will believe,” forgetting that all the wonders that Moses wrought were altogether eclipsed by those which Jesus wrought while he was upon earth in the flesh. Then there were certain Judaizing teachers who, in order to win the Jews, preached circumcision, exalted the passover, and endeavoured to prove that Judaism might still exist side by side with Christianity, and that the old rites might still be practised by the followers of Christ. So Paul, who was made all things to all men that he might by all means save some, put his foot down, and said, in effect, “Whatever others may do, we preach Christ crucified; we dare not, we cannot, and we will not alter the great subject-matter of our preaching, Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
Now, in these days, there are some who would be glad if we would preach anything except Christ crucified. Perhaps the most dangerous amongst them are those who are continually crying out for intellectual preaching, by which they mean preaching which neither the hearers nor the preachers themselves can comprehend, the kind of preaching which has little or nothing to do with the Scriptures, and which requires a dictionary rather than a Bible to explain it. These are the people who are continually running about, and asking, “Have you heard our minister? He gave us a wonderful discourse last Sunday morning; he quoted Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin, he gave us some charming pieces of poetry, in fact, it was altogether an intellectual treat.” Yes, and I have usually found that such intellectual treats lead to the ruination of souls; that is not the kind of preaching that God generally blesses to the salvation of souls, and therefore, even though others may preach the philosophy of Plato or adopt the arguments of Aristotle, “we preach Christ crucified,” the Christ who died for sinners, the people’s Christ, and “we preach Christ crucified” in simple language, in plain speech such as the common people can understand.
how ought we to preach Christ crucified?
I think, first, we ought to preach Christ very boldly.
I recollect a young man going into a pulpit, to address a small congregation, and he began by saying that he hoped they would pardon his youth, and forgive his impertinence in coming to speak to them. Some foolish old gentleman said, “How humble that young man is to talk like that!” but another, who was wiser though he was younger, said, “What a dishonour to his Lord and Master! If God sent him with a message to those people, what does it matter whether he is young or old! Such mock modesty as that is out of place in the pulpit.” I think that second man was right, and the first one wrong.
A true minister of the gospel is an ambassador for Christ, and do our ambassadors go to foreign courts with apologies for carrying messages from their sovereign? It would be a gross insult to the crown of these realms if they showed such humility as that in their official capacity. Let ministers of the gospel keep their modesty for other occasions when it ought to be manifested, but let them not dishonour their Master and discredit his message as that silly young man did. When we preach Christ crucified, we have no reason to stammer, or stutter, or hesitate, or apologize; there is nothing in the gospel of which we have any cause to be ashamed. If a minister is not sure about his message, let him keep quiet till he is sure about it; but we believe, and therefore we speak with the accent of conviction. If I have not proved the power of the gospel in my own heart and life, I am a base impostor to be standing in this pulpit to preach that gospel to others; but as I do know most assuredly that I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and as I feel certain that I have been divinely called to preach his gospel,—
“Shall I, for fear of feeble man,
The Spirit’s course in me restrain?
Or undismay’d in deed and word,
Be a true witness for my Lord?”
But while we preach Christ boldly, we must also preach him affectionately.
There must be great love in our proclamation of the truth. We must not hesitate to point out to sinners the state of ruin to which sin has brought them, and we must clearly set before them the divinely-appointed remedy; but we must mingle a mother’s tenderness with a father’s sternness. Paul was like both mother and father, in a spiritual sense, in his ministry. He wrote to the Galatians, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you;” and to the Corinthians he wrote, “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel;” and every true minister of Christ can in his measure sympathize with him in both those experiences. Yes, sinners, we do indeed love you; often, our heart is well-nigh broken with the longing we have to see you saved. We wish we could preach to you with Baxter’s tearful eye; nay, rather, with the Saviour’s melting heart and all-consuming zeal.
Then, next, we must preach Christ only.
With Paul, every true minister ought to be able to say to his hearers, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The preacher must never mix up anything else with the gospel. Every time he preaches, he must still have the same old theme, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Christ is the Alpha of the gospel, and he is the Omega too; the first letter of the gospel alphabet, and the last letter, and all the letters in between. It must be Christ, Christ, Christ from beginning to end. There must be no work-mongering or anything else mixed up with Christ. There must be no daubing with untempered mortar in our building upon Christ, the one foundation, that is laid once for all.
The preacher must also mind that he preaches Christ very simply.
He must break up his big words and long sentences, and pray against the temptation: to use them. It is usually the short, dagger-like sentence that does the work best. A true servant of Christ must never try to let the people see how well he can preach; he must never go out of his way to drag a pretty piece of poetry into his sermon, nor to introduce some fine quotations from the classics. He must employ a simple, homely style, or such a style as God has given him; and he must preach Christ so plainly that his hearers can not only understand him, but that they cannot misunderstand him even if they try to do so.
We must preach Christ as the Christian’s only joy.
We wanted Christ as a life-buoy when we were sinking in the waves of sin, but we want him to be our meat and our drink now that he has brought us safe to land. When we were sick through sin, we wanted Christ as medicine; but now that he has restored our soul, we want him as our continual nourishment. There is no lack which a Christian ever has which Christ cannot fully supply, and there is nothing in Christ which is not useful to a Christian.
You know that some things that we have are good, but they are not altogether of service to us. For instance, fruit is good, but there is the skin to be pared off, and the stone to be thrown away; but when Christ gives himself to us, we may take the whole of him, and enjoy him to our heart’s content. Everything Christ is, and everything Christ has, is ours. Therefore, Christian, make a covenant with your hand that you will lay hold on Christ’s cross for your only confidence; make a covenant with your eyes that you will look nowhere for light but to the Sun of righteousness; make a covenant with your whole being that it shall be crucified with Christ, and then be taken up to heaven to live and reign with him for ever. Yea, let this be the utterance of your heart,—
“Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in thee I find.”
Finally, we must try to preach Christ savingly.
O sinners, I would that ye would trust Christ this very moment! Do you realize how great your danger is? Unconverted soul, you are standing, as it were, over the mouth of hell, on a single plank, and that plank is rotten! Man, thou mayest be in thy grave before another Sabbath dawns; and then, if unsaved, thou wilt be in hell! Beware lest thou art taken away unprepared; for, if that is thine unhappy lot, there will be no ransom that can deliver thy lost soul from going down to the pit. See thy need of Christ, sinner, and lay hold of him by faith.
None but Christ can save thee. Christ is the Way; thou mayest go about all thy days trying to find another entrance to heaven, but thou wilt not find it, for this is the only one. Why wilt thou not come unto God by Christ? Wherefore art thou so ungrateful as to despise the longsuffering mercy of God? Will not the goodness of God lead thee to repentance? Shall Christ die for sinners, and yet wilt thou, O sinner, turn away from him who alone can give thee life? If thou wilt but trust him, he will save thee; thy sins, which are many, shall all be forgiven thee; thou shalt be adopted into the family of God, and in due time thou shalt find thyself in heaven to go no more out for ever. If thou wouldst be happy, if thou wouldst enjoy the peace that passeth all understanding, if thou wouldst have two heavens,—a heaven below and a heaven above,—trust in Jesus, sinner, trust in Jesus this very moment. Go not out of this building unsaved. One believing look will bring thee salvation, for—
“There is life for a look at the Crucified One;
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner,—look unto him, and be saved,—
Unto him who was nail’d to the tree.”
Look unto him, look unto him now; may the Holy Spirit enable you to look and live, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.