For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified…said the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian boasters. It is of great interest to me that it was Paul who dropped this little bomb. It’s impressive actually, purely because of Paul’s impressive resume. Paul wasn’t stupid. Paul knew a great deal more than…nothing. Paul was an academic genius being trained at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) in all Old Testament Scripture, language, and religion. Paul battled intellectually with the philosophical titans of Athens at the Aeropagus (where he quoted their own poets as an illustration for his message). Peter even says that Paul’s words can at times be… hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Paul was academically qualified. He was legit and yet decidedly choose to know two distinct things: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Everything else was excluded. For Paul’s theology excluded the human trophy of academics but it also excludes any additional trophy man may seek to boast of. Nothing excludes everything but the exception. It excludes talents. Faith in human talents is vain because talents can’t save you. Hell will be full of talented people. It excludes your economic status. Poverty, though God consistently cares for the poor, does not excuse your sin. Neither can your wealth pay the price of your sins. It doesn’t matter how large… or how small your bank account may be for money (or lack of it) does not excuse sin. Hell will be full of both, the rich and the poor. It excludes social status. Just because your friends like you doesn’t change the fact that you are a reckless sinner before God. Hell will be full of cool people. It excludes your human works. As Edwards once wrote, ‘If God should let you go… all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling stone.’ Your righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Friend you have a better chance at flying across the Pacific by flapping your arms than you do at redeeming your soul with a human trophy. Paul’s words unravel us… because nothing excludes everything but the exception, and that means faith in any other trophy is truly sinking sand.
What is the exception? Quite simple. Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Yet so many are tempted to skim across the life of Christ and run directly to the cross. Listen, the cross was not empty. It lifted up Jesus Christ who was: The declared Son of God (Lk. 1:34-35, Mttw. 3:17, Rom. 1:4) who was divine (Colossians 1:16-17) and yet somehow human (Philippians 2:6-7) yet who was perfect in being without sin (Hebrew 4:15). Can you feel the weight of that glory? I will never grow tired of telling people the great news of the life of Jesus: Where you have failed He has succeeded! Consider for a moment this sinless God-man who was obedient unto death (Philippians 2:8) for you (2 Corinthians 5:21). Him crucified, is the second equally important exception. That terrifyingly great cross. We must know this for sure. It’s terrifying for it shows me the sinfulness of my sin. It demonstrates the cost of my depravity. It terrifies me for I see that it took the blood of God to rescue me. Yet what makes it a terror also makes it glad news for it’s where Jesus became my substitute. Like a hickory branch stripped of its’ leaves so Christ removes my sin from me. He put this sin onto Himself. Bearing the sin in his own body (1 Peter 2:24) He was treated as if He had lived like me. The cross is great because it’s where Jesus takes my sin away and with His righteousness I become arrayed. The perfect status He earned in life He gives by grace to the sinner who knows nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul’s reasoning for his excluding word of nothing with the exception of the Gospel is “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. I don’t think it’s’ popular in our pluralistic relativistic humanist culture to say this these days, but truth is truth. Hell is paved with people who boast in all types of human trophies and heaven is full of saints who know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let not pride divide you Christians. For nothing that divides you can save you. And ironically the only one who can save you, Jesus, is the one who unites you.