The cross of Christ is the crux of Christianity. It is the focal point, the nucleus, the climactic point of redemptive-history. R. C. Sproul has remarked, “The words crucial and crux both have their root in the Latin word for ‘cross,’ crux, and they have come into the English language with their current meanings because the concept of the cross is at the very center and core of biblical Christianity. In a very real sense, the cross crystallizes the essence of the ministry of Jesus.”
The apostle Paul especially speaks to this central importance of the cross in the Christian faith. In rebuking the Corinthian believers for their factions (“I follow Paul;” “I follow Cephas;” “I follow Apollos;”) he reminds them that none of these men were crucified for them, nor were the Corinthians baptized in the name of any of these men. No! He points them to Christ and Him crucified. Paul says Christ sent him “to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17). Note how Paul equates the preaching of the gospel with the preaching of the cross of Christ. The cross is so central and vital to the gospel message itself, that to speak of the gospel is, in essence, to speak of Christ’s crucifixion. Quite simply, without the cross there would be no Christianity; indeed, there would be no salvation.
Paul continues his emphasis of Christ and Him crucified in Chapter 2 of the same epistle: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (vv. 1-2). Sproul provides helpful insight again:
Paul was a man who had the equivalent of two Ph.D.’s in theology by the time he was 21 years of age, a man who wrote with great insight on the whole scope of theology. Nevertheless, he said that the focal point of his teaching, preaching, and ministry among the Corinthians was simply Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
This well learned apostle saw as the most important and glorious truth of all his learning to be the cross! Of course, Paul did teach other necessary and important doctrines of the faith, but the cross was his consuming focus. Everything ultimately came back to the cross for Paul. It was the hinge upon which his ministry swung. The entirety of Paul’s life, as should be true of our lives, was lived in the shadow of the cross (Gal. 2:20; 6:14; Eph. 5:1-2).
Although I have given particular focus to Paul here, there should be no doubt that the rest of the apostles, as well as the early church as a whole, saw Christ and His cross as their primary message and consuming passion (see Acts 2:22-24, 36; 3:13-15; 4:23-31; 8:4-8, 12, 35; 10:34-43; 1 Pet. 1:18-21; 2:21-25; 3:18; 2 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 2:1-2; 4:10; Rev. 5:9).