Nothing but Jesus
March 27th, 1955 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 2:1-2
NOTHING BUT JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 2:1-2
3-27-55 7:30 p.m.
In the message of the morning, we were in the conclusion of the first chapter of the first Corinthian letter, and now tonight, we begin the second chapter of the first Corinthian letter; and if you will turn to the passage, you can look at it while I try to preach from it: First Corinthians, the second chapter. It’s of a part and of a piece with the first chapter. Now the second chapter begins:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony
– the oracles, the revelation –
For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
[1 Corinthians 2:1-5]
That’s the passage, and we take the first part of it tonight:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom declaring unto you the oracles of God.
For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
[1 Corinthians 2:1-2]
And the thought of the message tonight is from that word: "I determined not to know anything but Jesus and Jesus crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. For you see, Paul had a tremendous reversal in his personal devotion, the commitment of his life [Philippians 3:4-11]; and out of that tremendous reversal came personal and theological and intellectual problems that were almost overwhelming. Paul was trained in all the learning of the rabbis [Acts 22:3]. He possibly, almost certainly, was a member of the Sanhedrin [Philippians 3:4-5]. He was a young man in his thirties, maybe just thirty – certainly not more than thirty-one or thirty-two – when that tremendous reversal came in his life.
For a young fellow like that to be a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest court of the Israelite nation, was one of the most signal honors that could come to any neophyte. He said in his letters, referring to himself – boasting not because of pride but because others forced him to defend his ministry, his apostleship in Jesus [1 Corinthians 9:1-27] – he said of himself that he excelled in the religion of the Jewish people above all others of his own peerage, his own age, his own group [Galatians 1:14].
He was a fine, brilliant, young student. He was a disciple of the school of Gamaliel [Acts 22:3], and he was given to all the religion of Judaism [Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:5-6]. Then in the midst of his fervent and zealous exposition of rabbinical lore and knowledge – in the midst of it, zealous even to the persecution of the church even in to strange cities [Acts 9:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:13] – in the midst of that devotion to the tradition of his fathers, he became a Christian – the exact opposite of what he had been expounding [Acts 9:1-31; Galatians 1:23].
Well I say, any such reversal as that would posit in any man’s life tremendous intellectual and religious problems. So when Paul began to preach, it was not immediate upon his conversion; but he went into Arabia, in the sands of the deserts, and he stayed there three solid years [Galatians 1:11-18]. There he communed with God. There he talked to Christ. There he wrestled like Jacob did at the River Jabbok [Genesis 32:22-32]. There he wrestled with God, and there did those revelations come to him that made him refer to the gospel that he preached as "my gospel" [Romans 2:16, 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8]: "Though I, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other gospel than the gospel I have preached unto you, let him be anathema" [Galatians 1:8]. "For I have received of the Lord Jesus that which also I delivered unto you . . ." [1 Corinthians 11:23].
The gospel that Paul preached came out of tremendous personal struggle before the Lord; and the things that he preached, he received by direct revelation from Jesus Christ [Galatians 1:12]. And I say that period of tremendous reversal came right after his conversion when he opened his heart to God to the new revelation and the new faith in Christ Jesus.
So he began to preach it. In the city of Damascus when he returned from Arabia [Acts 9:1-20; Galatians 1:17] – in the city of Damascus, he first lifted up his voice preaching Jesus and Him crucified [Acts 9:19-22]. They let him out, preserved his life by letting him down in a basket over the wall [Acts 9:23-26]. Then he went to Jerusalem and he preached the same gospel: Jesus and Him crucified [Acts 9:26-28]. The brethren sent him away lest he be destroyed [Acts 9:29-30].
In the first missionary journey in Pisidian Antioch, the Judaizing people raised a mob against him, and he was expelled from the city still preaching Jesus and Him crucified [Acts 13:14-52]. At Lystra, he was stoned and dragged out of the city for dead [Acts 14:6-19], but he arose with the life quickened within him, his breath restored by God [Acts 14:20]; he arose still to preach Jesus and Him crucified [Acts 14:20-21].
In Philippi, he was beaten and, with Silas, placed in an inner dungeon, but he was still preaching Jesus, and Him crucified [Acts 16:22-33]. In Thessalonica and in Berea where he suffered persecution [Acts 17:1-15], as everywhere else that he preached, he still was true to the gospel he received from the Lord Himself. He was preaching Jesus, and Him crucified.
Then something happened in the city of Athens. I don’t know what. I don’t know why. You can be persecuted and you can be beat, you can be put in stocks and in chains, you can be placed on the inside of prison wall, and if you have a great conviction, if you have a tremendous commitment, the harder you’re persecuted, the more adamantine are those convictions crystallized in your soul.
But there’s something in a man’s life – weakness, the way he’s put together – I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in the composition of a man’s soul that, when he’s in dead earnest and he’s delivering his soul and he has a great truth and he’s trying to say it to the people, you just let the folks out there in front of him laugh at him and scorn and ridicule what he says, and it will unnerve and unhinge and unhook like nothing else in the world.
I say, you can persecute a man for what he’s preaching, and if he’s sincere and earnest, persecution just makes him the more fervent and zealous in his zeal to make known those truths. But laugh at him, ridicule him, make fun of him, scorn him, and it does something to him.
Now, especially is that true if the scoffing and the ridicule is done by intellectuals – people of the university, people of training, people of knowledge and understanding, people of scholarship and background. Let them belittle him, let them speak of the ignorance in his life: "What he does, he does because he doesn’t know any better. Why, listen to him! If he had studied, if he had learned, if he were a product of the schools, he wouldn’t be as he is." And to laugh, and to joke, and to scorn, and to belittle, and to ridicule is a weapon that not many men can withstand.
Now, Paul was human. He was a great man of God and had committed himself to the gospel of Christ, but his experience at Athens [Acts 17:16-34] was something he had never met before. Every time he preached, it had been in an atmosphere of either tremendous devotion to the cause he espoused or tremendous opposition. But in any event, it was serious, dead in earnest either way.
But in Athens they never hurt a hair of his head. They never laid a hand on his body. They never so much as put the weight of a finger on him. Those Athenians – the intellectuals, the Epicurean and the Stoic philosophers – as they listened to him preach the Lord Jesus, they looked at one another and with raised eyebrows said, "Well. Well." And some of them laughed out loud [Acts 17:32], and some of the more courteous bowed and said, "Oh, yes, yes, we’ll hear you again of the matter. Yes, yes. Yes, yes, we’ll uh – we’ll come back again, yes, yes. Yes, we understand." And in disdain and in intellectual superiority, they walked away smiling and laughing to one another [Acts 17:32].
Now I say that plunged the apostle Paul into a reexamination of all of his faith, of all of his commitment, of all of his devotion, of all of his preaching. And if you don’t have that background, the things that you’ll find here written by Paul won’t have much meaning to you for Paul will be saying – listen to him: "Christ sent me . . . to preach the gospel, not with the wisdom and the sophistry of men" [1 Corinthians 1:17], not like an Epicurean, not like a Stoic, not like a Platonic teacher, not like a Socratic philosopher, not like an Aristotilean disciple: ",not with the wisdom of men, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish idiocy," foolishness, moronic, "but unto us who are saved it is the power of God" [1 Corinthians 1:17-18].
"For after that in the wisdom of the world," the smartness of the world, the philosophy and metaphysics of the world, "For after that," in the sophistry of the world, the world by its wisdom, by its sophistry, by its metaphysical acumen, by its philosophical insight, "the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe., We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, unto the Greeks idiocy" – foolishness, ridiculousness! – "but unto us who are called, Jew or Greek, Christ the power of God, and the revelation, and the wisdom and the gift of God" [1 Corinthians 1: 21, 23-24].
"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in sophistry," came not preaching philosophy or metaphysics. When I came to you, I came not with beautiful and excellent orations; "When I came to you, I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom declaring unto you the revelations of God. For I had determined" – he had just left Athens; all of that in his heart and in his soul making his journey down there to Corinth – "For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:1-2].
Now in another message, maybe still another, we’ll have other things to say. But tonight, at the beginning of this revival meeting, I’m taking this text as a delineation of our task in this ministry. This is a thing to which this pastor, this pulpit, and, I am persuaded, our people are fully committed.
First, we have here a definition of method: "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. "For Christ sent me . . . to preach the gospel, not with the wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect . . . for . . . it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" [1 Corinthians 1:17, 21].
First, I say, a definition of method. How shall our church be organized? How shall it be run? Around what shall it be built? And how shall we do and how shall we take seriously the commandment of our God to evangelize the world? How shall we do it? This is the way we shall do it. We shall build our church around the preaching ministry of the Son of God. We shall build our church around its pulpit. We shall build our church around its sanctuary. We shall build our church around its high altar before God. We shall preach our church around the message of Jesus Christ.
A definition of how we shall do: we shall build our church around the ministry, the breaking of bread, the preaching of the Son of God. All the other things that we do in our church are but to lead to that great and high and holy and heavenly and precious hour when the Book is opened and appeal is made in the name of Christ.
And of those things, we have many; we have many. We pray. All last week in the daytime and in the evening, we had prayer services. Praying for what? That in prayer itself, people might be saved: "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" [1 Corinthians 1:21]. Our praying was to the end that when the pastor lifts his hand God might bear His arm to save. We’re to visit. We’re to knock at the door. But in no wise, and in no sense, is it our persuasion that visitation evangelism could ever take the place of the gathering of our people together for the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God.
We have many, many other programs in the church. We have a great recreational program. We have a great social program. We have our retreats. We have our Sunday school. We have our Training Union, our Brotherhood, our W.M.U. [Women’s Missionary Union]. We have a great program that goes by day and by night seven days out of every week.
But the great end and the great purpose that lies back of all that we do is reaching out and up toward this holy hour when on Sunday morning and on Sunday night the church gathers together for the reading of the Word, for the preaching of the cross, and for the appeal that men turn and accept Christ as their Savior. Our church is built around this focal point: the preaching of the Word of God.
There are many substitutes that in our day especially are made for that. The church comes together, and they look at a picture show. The church comes together, and they go through Chautauqua services. The church comes together, and they have many and varied programs. Always and without exception, that makes for a weak church, and the spiritual depth of the people is thinner, and thinner, and more shallow, and more shallow!
"It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" [1 Corinthians 1:21]. "And the word of the Lord came to Isaiah" [Isaiah 38:4]. "And the word of God came to Jeremiah" [Jeremiah 36:27]. And the word of the Lord came to Amos, and he lifted up his voice and spake saying,[Amos 3:1, 3:8 7:16].
"And in those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, ye, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" [Matthew 3:1-2] "And Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and saying, "Repent, ye, and believe the gospel" [Mark 1:14-15].
It’s a delineation. It’s a defining of method. How shall we do? We shall do this: "We are determined not to know anything but Jesus Christ and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2] and "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" [1 Corinthians 1:21]. This is our method.
We have here a definition of content. What shall we preach? What shall we preach? Why, this is what we shall preach. We shall preach the new theology. We shall preach the new light. We shall preach the new psychology. We shall preach all of these things that go into psychiatry. We shall preach all of the things that enter into the latest book reviews, the latest magazine articles, and the latest current events, and what we think about all of the social issues of the day. We shall preach intellectualism. We shall preach social amelioration. This is what we shall preach: the sophistry of a passing moment.
No, sir! No, sir! We have here defined the content of our method: "For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. Our preaching, our preaching is the Lord – in the beginning, in the middle, in the end, all in between. We have one message and one sermon: it’s the Lord; it’s the Lord.
Somebody listening to Spurgeon time after time, somebody said about Spurgeon: "He has one sermon – just preaches one sermon all the time." And somebody came to Mr. Spurgeon and said, "Mr. Spurgeon, a man who’d heard you preach a lot said you have just one sermon, just one sermon, and you preach that sermon all the time." And Mr. Spurgeon replied, "That’s right. That’s right." He said, "Wherever in the Bible I take my text, I make a beeline to the cross and start preaching about the Lord Jesus" [quoted in The Lutheran Standard, vol. 5, 1965].
That’s it. That’s it! We know one thing. We have one gospel. We have one message – Jesus Christ and Him crucified: "And I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ on the cross" [1 Corinthians 2:2], dying for our sins, raised for our justification [Romans 4:25].
I can tell it anywhere, anywhere – tell it anywhere – when a man preaches the gospel: find it anywhere, sense it anywhere, see it anywhere. In the Garden of Eden, the Lord took animals and slew them and poured their blood out into the ground – the first shedding of blood – and He made coats of skins to cover the nakedness of Adam and his wife [Genesis 3:21]. That’s it. That’s it – the blood. That’s the gospel; that’s Jesus. It looked forward to the covering, the atonement of the Lord Jesus – Christ and Him crucified. This is it.
"And when I see the blood, I’ll pass over you" [Exodus 12:13]. That’s it. That’s it. It’s got a color to it. It’s straight. It’s a crimson way. That’s it. "When I see the blood, I’ll pass over you" [Exodus 12:13]. That’s the gospel: Jesus and Him crucified [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. I’ll listen to Isaiah:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, unto his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all . . .
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened up not His mouth.
That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. It’s the blood. It’s the blood. It’s the Lamb of God. That’s it. Look into glory. "Who are these arrayed in white robes and whenst came they? These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:13-14]. That’s it. That’s is it. That’s it.
In the passage I read this morning: "And there came a soldier and pierced His side, and forthwith flowed thereout blood and water" [John 19:34]. That’s it. That’s it. It has a color to it. The preaching of the Son of God always has a color to it. It’s a scarlet message; it’s a crimson way. It’s the story of the cross. It’s the preaching of the blood: "For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. We have a definition of content – that’s it: Jesus dying for our sins; Jesus buried; Jesus raised for our justification [Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. That’s it.
Every time you see the pastor baptize a boy, a girl, a man or woman who’s given his heart to the Lord Jesus – that’s it: He died for our sins; He was buried, and He was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]. Buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:5]. That’s it. We know one thing. We know one thing: Jesus Christ and Him crucified [1 Corinthians 2:2].
I make a last avowal. A definition of method: preaching the gospel, everything leading to that holy and sacred hour; a definition of content: Christ and Him crucified; a definition of life: "I am crucified with Christ Jesus; nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" [Galatians 2:20].
"Determined not to know to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. The Spirit of Christ in a man is the Spirit that exalts Him [John 16:14], the crucified Christ: raising Him, raising Him – not looking at the man, not looking at the preacher, not looking at the sermon, not looking at man – looking at the Lord Jesus; and the more the Spirit of the crucified Lord is in us, the more do we hide ourselves away that He might be seen [Galatians 2:20, 6:14].
Those nearest to the Lord in time were so much like that. You can hardly find them. All you can find is the Lord Jesus that they uphold. For example, I turn in my Book. The first gospel here, you say, is the Gospel of Matthew. What makes you think so? There’s not a man in the earth that knows. The ancient tradition said that Matthew wrote an Aramaic gospel, and on the basis of that Aramaic gospel, this first gospel was made in translation into Greek. But you won’t find Matthew there: you won’t find his name; you won’t find his signature. Who wrote it? He didn’t say. Matthew hid himself away, and there the Lord Jesus – just look unto Him.
Who wrote the second gospel? You say Mark. You could read Mark’s gospel a thousand years; you’ll never find a signature to it. You’ll never find Mark mentioned. The tradition of the fathers comes down and says to us, "Mark wrote it." That’s all. But Mark – hide himself away holding up the Lord Jesus.
You say the third gospel is Luke. You could read it all you like; you’ll never see Luke there. There’s not a mention of him nor a reference to him. He hid himself away, raising up the Lord Jesus.
The Gospel of John: John never calls his name. When he refers to himself in the story, because he was one of the disciples, he never calls his name. He just says "the disciple that Jesus loved" [John 13:23], or, "the disciple that lay on His bosom" [John 13:23] at the Last Supper. It was the Lord Jesus, not John – holding up the Lord Jesus. The crucified life is like that: not we; it’s Him. It’s the Lord, not us. It’s Him, not of us. It’s the Lord Jesus – all the Lord Jesus.
A man went to hear two preachers. When he heard the first one, a world-famous man, he said, "What a great orator. What a marvelous speaker. What a glorious preacher." When he heard the second one, he went away saying, "What a marvelous Savior. What a glorious Lord! What a marvelous Redeemer. What a wonderful, wonderful Jesus."
The commitment of our life: none of self and all of Thee. Kurios Iēsous – Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus. For us, we hide ourselves away, put ourselves in the background, bury ourselves in our hands, cover our faces like the seraphim who were close to the throne of God [Isaiah 6:2]. Do you remember them – how they’re described? "With twain of their wings they flew, with twain of their wings they covered their feet, and with twain of their wings they covered their faces" [Isaiah 6:2]. Who would be equal to stand in the presence of God? We hide our faces; we cover our faces [Exodus 3:6; Luke 5:8; Revelation 1:17].
Lord, Lord, that they don’t see me, that they don’t see us, because if they do, they’ll stumble. They’ll make mistakes looking at us. They’ll fall into error looking at us, but they’re to look at the Lord Jesus. We’re to raise up the Lord Jesus – not preaching ourselves but Christ Jesus and ourselves His slaves [2 Corinthians 4:5]. That’s where the Greek is – "and ourselves His slaves for your sake" [2 Corinthians 4:5]. If in His name we can wash feet [John 13:5-17], if in His name we can minister [Ephesians 3:7, Colossians 1:23], if in His name we can serve [Romans 12:6-7], if in His name, we can help [Matthew 10:42], we are your slaves for Jesus’ sake [2 Corinthians 4:5]. But it isn’t us, it’s the Lord Jesus. Look to Him. Look to Him.
I don’t know how we are; I know He’s all right. I don’t know how we may fare; I know He’s all right. I don’t know into what pitfalls we may stumble, but He is all right. I don’t know with what error we live our lives day after day, but I know He is all right.
And if we can just look to Jesus. Don’t look to man; don’t look to organization; don’t look to church; don’t look to ordinances; don’t look to the preacher. Look to Him. Keep your eyes upon Him, and I know you’ll be all right. He’s all right. Holding up Jesus: "For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. May we pray?
Our Lord, all that in this spirit of dedication written large on the page here by Thy servant Paul, would to God there might be a like commitment on the part of all the members of this church, the body of Christ. We’re doing one thing. We know one thing. Our lives are committed to one thing: not the exaltation of self, not pride and vanity and vainglory, but lifting up the cross, raising high the banner of Jesus, pointing men to the Lamb of God.
Look! Look! Behold! Behold, the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus! [John 1:29]. Look to Him. Look to Him. Look and live [Numbers 21:7-9; John 3:14-15]. There He is. There He is. He’s at your side. He’s knocking at the door of your heart [Revelation 3:20]. Let Him in; let Him in. Look to Jesus: look and live, my brother, live [Numbers 21:7-9; John 3:14-15].
O Christ, that as we stand in this holy place, it might be a raising of the cross upon which the Son of God died, that men coming to these services might go out these doors not conscious of us but conscious of the Lord who died for us, who was raised that we might live with Him. Ah, that all that we do or say might flow to the glory of our Master, less and less and, finally, nothing of us; more and more and more and, finally, all of Him [John 3:30; 2 Corinthians 5:15].
Oh, may the spirit of sacrifice, of self-effacement, of the abandonment of all that is selfish and personal – that it might be more and more of the power and the presence and the glory of the Lord Jesus determining one thing: raising high the cross of Christ in the pulpit, in the life, in our witness and testimony. In all that we do, looking to Him, pointing to Him.
Bless, Lord, the appeal of tonight; and as our people shall bear it on wings of prayer to the great host assembled, may somebody be saved. May somebody tonight look and live. May somebody tonight give his heart to Jesus. May somebody tonight come down that aisle, take the pastor by the hand: "Here I am, and here I come. I have felt His presence. I have sensed this call, and here I am responding with my life." The Lord grant it in His holy name. Amen.
Now while we sing our song, while we make appeal, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord: "Here I am Pastor, and here I come." Somebody you, put his life in the church: a family you, a child, a youth – somebody re-give himself to the work and ministry and testimony of Christ. However God shall make appeal, open the door, lead the way while we sing this song. Would you come? Would you make it now? In the balcony, anywhere – while we sing, would you come? As our people stand, pray, and wait, and make appeal, and sing the song, you come.
NOTHING BUT JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 2:1-2
A. Paul had a tremendous reversal in the personal devotion of his life
1. He excelled in Jewish religion above all others of his peers
2. In the midst of his fervent, zealous exposition of rabbinical lore and knowledge, he became a Christian
B. Out of that came great theological, intellectual and religious problems
1. After conversion, he stayed in Arabia three years; communed with God
2. Began to preach, being persecuted everywhere he went
3. Experience at Athens something different – they laughed at him
a. Forced Paul into a reexamination of his faith, commitment, preaching (1 Corinthians 1:17-24, 2:1-2)
II. A definition of method – preaching(1 Corinthians 1:17, 20, 2:1, 3)
A. The God-ordained method of evangelizing the world
1. We shall build our church around preaching ministry of Son of God
B. No substitution possible(1 Corinthians 1:21, 2:2, Isaiah 38:4, Jeremiah 36:27, Matthew 3:1, Mark 1:14-15)
III. A definition of content – Christ, Christ crucified(1 Corinthians 1:17, 2:2)
A. Not the "isms"; not the new thought, new issues, new sophistry
1. Spurgeon – "Wherever the textâ€¦I make a beeline to the crossâ€¦"
B. But Christ and Him crucified
1. A scarlet message (Exodus 12:13, Isaiah 53:6-7, Revelation 7:14, John 19:34, Romans 4:25, 6:5)
IV. A definition of life – crucified with Christ(Galatians 2:20)
A. The spirit of lost to self – just Jesus
1. Those closest to Him in time hid themselves, raising up Jesus
B. The devotion of life to Him – Jesus, all in all(Isaiah 6:2)