Date: October 20, 1935
I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified! – 1 Corinthians 2:2
Heavenly Father: In Thy name and for the far-reaching testimony to the love of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, the only, but all-sufficient Savior from sin and sorrow, we today begin this third series of broadcasts. Send us Thy Spirit, so that, as the hymns, prayers, and messages wing their way over the nation and beyond its confines, men may raise believing hearts to the cross and in Christ’s ever-valid redemption find the divine answer to every question of body and soul. May Thy Word bring comfort to those who are afflicted by sickness and sorrow. May the promise of the Gospel raise the falling, cheer the cheerless, enlighten the doubting. O Father of truth and life, bless us, we beseech Thee; grant us through these months of broadcasting Thy saving grace. Consecrate all our powers of mind and body to this sacred task. Strengthen our weak efforts with a full measure of Thy power, so that all that we may do or say may be to the glory of Jesus’ name and the salvation of many souls. And as Thou hast been our fathers’ God, let Thy favor be upon us; establish Thou this work of our hands and hearts upon us; and unto Thy name we will give all praise, glory, and honor, now and forever. Amen.
THE mighty Apostle St. Paul, who could have earned popular acclaim by his impassioned oratory, his literary brilliance, his astonishing endowments; the man of red-blooded courage who fearlessly rode Mediterranean hurricanes, resolutely faced shrieking mobs and cynical tyrants; that towering genius who pulled the props from decaying heathendom and mightily helped to shape the upward course of human history; greatest of Christ’s ambassadors that he was, when he summarizes his one, all-absorbing life-task, he directs his Christians not to the academic halls of Athens, not to the imperial palaces on the banks of the Tiber, not to the counting-houses of Alexandria, but to an unmarked hill of desolate death near Jerusalem. The imprint of other memories recedes as his thoughts perpetually envision the rough-hewn cross upon Calvary, where Jesus Christ, hated as no man has ever been hated, suffering as only God could suffer, paid with His blood the appalling price of all human sin. What though his loyalty to this Cross meant becoming a fool for Christ? What though men of affairs branded the preaching of this blood atonement as an insult to their intelligence? What though his allegiance to the Crucified put a price upon his head? What though he could still feel the cut of forty lashes less one as their leaded thongs ripped open his quivering flesh? Above rack and torture, prison and dungeon, starvation and blistering thirst, above earth and hell, above life and death itself, his determination “not to know anything . . . save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” rings out in eternal triumph.
As we inaugurate today the third season of this radio mission over a special network from Minnesota to the Atlantic seaboard, you may ask in challenge: “What is the message of this broadcast?” With many and conflicting voices on the air, some that appeal to reason and intellect, some that would inflame passions and prejudices, we promise that these weekly broadcasts have no political aims. This microphone will not be employed to fan the fires of class hatred, bigotry, and intolerance. The facilities of our Gospel network have not been drafted to flood the American nation and our Canadian neighbors with economic theories, financial strategies, and social speculations. Rather do we acknowledge as our own the apostle’s determination “not to know anything . . . save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Addressing you from the campus of a divinity school that for almost a century has dedicated its resources to the Christ of the Scriptures, I offer you in the name of the Triune God not the Christ of present-day compromise and concession, not the Christ of twentieth-century indifference and indecision, not the Christ of modern doubt and denial, who has been exalted in His humanity only to be robbed of His deity, but (above all the evasion and distortion, the rank unbelief of our day) the Christ of the Cross. With my hand on the Bible, I dedicate this radio mission to the preaching of that Cross,—not as a memorial to martyrdom, a glorified symbol of an unselfish ideal, but as “the accursed tree,” the cruel, heart-breaking gibbet on which the Savior died the blackest death of all history. That crucified Christ, Son of God, yet Son of Man, offering the eternal mercies of forgiven sins as the free gift of His boundless grace; strengthening our faltering souls with His never-failing Spirit; guiding those who trust in Him from the sorrows of this life to the glories of the next; the Savior for every sin and for every sinner, the unfailing Friend for every moment and for every path; the Christ for our hearts, our homes, our churches, our nation,—this all-sufficient Savior, and Him alone, we offer with the pledge:—
“NOTHING . . . SAVE JESUS CHRIST, AND HIM CRUCIFIED,”
in every message, every prayer, every hymn, broadcast over this Gospel network.
OUR DISTRACTED AGE NEEDS THE CRUCIFIED
Is not this the resolution that our scarred and bewildered age needs with alarming urgency as blind, wilful men clench their fists against the Almighty and sneer: “Anything but Christ, and Him crucified”? The battalions of organized atheism in Russia, still mobilized to tear down every church of Christ; wily Communism, which lifts its serpent head with leering insolence as it inaugurates in our own country a cut-throat campaign against the Christ of God; that vicious philosophy of life, glorified in lecherous novels, sanctioned even on the campuses of tax-supported universities, championed by sensualists, who, dropping down to the gutter of lust, gloat, “Animals we are, and animals we remain!”—these are the glaring evidences of worldwide uprising against Christ prophesied three thousand years ago by the inspired author of the Second Psalm: “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us.”
Even where Christ is not thus brutally attacked, His high and holy teachings are often neglected, His love and mercy cast into contemptuous discard. In spite of the catastrophes of this generation, men are forgetting the immeasurable compassion of their royal Redeemer, who in the agonized ordeal of His crucifixion and its God-forsaken loneliness spoke this parting prayer: “Father, forgive them.” Instead of witnessing the merciful Christ in control of human affairs and His love hallowing the relation of individual to individual and nation to nation, we are staggered by the present spectacle of two Christian countries engaged in the bloody business of war, seeking to destroy each other by poison gas, which chokes and blinds and bleaches men into the whiteness of death; by whistling shrapnel, which tears and blasts human bodies; by hellish aerial bombs, which in a twinkling turn cities into blazing infernos and mow down non-combatants in wanton massacre. There is nothing of the Savior’s love in all this nor in any other conflict that rages in the class hatred, the endless friction between the laborer and the capitalist, the systematic exploitation of American masses that have made some of the rich richer and millions of the poor poorer.
Among American churches, too, the reverence for Christ has not increased in favor or in fervor. If it were possible to approach individually the quarter of a million men in our country who are called ministers of God and ask them for their endorsement of St. Paul’s determination “not to know anything . . . save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,”—not hundreds, but thousands would deliberately refuse to make the bleeding Christ the heart of their preaching and their praying. Unfortunately a class of clergymen is abroad in the land who, ill informed as they may be, insist upon knowing a hundred things in preference to the Crucified. They must speak on banking systems, presidential policies, inflated currency, and allied subjects, which exclude the Savior of men from His own sanctuary. Long ago have they banished from their sermons the high-priestly Christ, who, as He commends His soul into His Father’s hands, declares with blessed finality, “It is finished!” They want to finish the task of saving men—if indeed we must be saved, and they can only plunge desperate so into deeper dismay, only offer new versions of age-old delusions that place men before the impossible task of earning heaven.
American homes, in far too many instances, have spurned the abiding presence of the Crucified, who, as the death-fever raced through His torn body, looked down upon His mother and provided for her support. “Anything but that Christ and His code for domestic happiness,” brazen unbelief protests as millions laugh at the Christian’s “until-death-do-you-part” loyalty, sneer at that first of all divine commands: “Be fruitful and multiply,” lampoon Christ’s ideals of personal purity, marital faithfulness, filial piety, and parental responsibility, proclaiming instead the reign of unbridled lust and of jungle morality.
No wonder that millions in America are trying to live without Christ and have wilfully rejected the grace of the Crucified. Too many want a bread-and-butter paradise here on earth. Too many are ready to welcome the Christ of the loaves and the fishes, but spurn the Christ of the thorns and the nails; for His cross, an imperishable monument to God’s hatred of sin, but to His greater love for the sinner, makes no appeal to selfish affections and self-indulgent ambitions. “Anything but Christ and Him crucified!” the cry that rises from the lives of misguided multitudes, seals the doom of sorrow, deprives the souls, minds, and bodies of men and women of all permanent benedictions and happinesses.
WE NEED THE CRUCIFIED FOR GRACE AND STRENGTH
How blessed, by contrast, is the joy of peace, the patience of hope, the strength of spirit, which comes to those who commit themselves to the Redeemer’s care! Once you regard Jesus as the apostle did, in that intensive focus which beholds only “Christ and Him crucified,” you need nothing else to help you discover a cheering, sustaining answer to every problem of life. When your soul is cleansed, your conscience stilled; your heavenly Father reconciled, then are you prepared to meet the best or the worst that life may hold for you. Let the avalanche of human miseries sweep over you; if you know and trust the Crucified, you will hear His sustaining “Let not your heart be troubled.” Let whirlwinds of disaster or destitution blow the high towers of your hopes into shapeless ruins; over the wreckage Christ’s voice will ring dear: “Behold, I make all things new.” Let the ravages of incurable disease, the feebleness of old age, the terrors of approaching death, shake the foundation upon which life itself rests; after these upheavals have subsided, your Savior’s stabilizing pledge declares: “Thou shalt be steadfast and not fear.” Let sin and hell raise their charges against you; if you have Christ as your “Advocate before the Father,” you need nothing else to assure you of God’s pardon.
Because Christ gives all and freely offers all contrite hearts the full release from sin; because with Christ we can move mountains and without Christ, as He Himself warns us, we “can do nothing,” the direct appeal that would now wing its way into every destitute, Christless soul is to receive Him, to believe Him, and to crown Him Lord of lords. Our message to the 60,000,000 unchurched in America is not: “Up, for the day of class conflict has come!” but: “Repent ye, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” We have no pretentious organization for which we seek your membership; but we do pray that your name may be enrolled in the Book of Life and in the Church of Christ. We have none of the pomp and acclaim of widely heralded endeavors that clamor for your support; but we have Christ, and we can promise you that, if with all your hearts you seek Him and His kingdom first, everything that you need for this life will be added unto you. “Come . . . with us,” we beseech you, as in Christ’s name and by His command we promise, “we will do thee good.”
To you who are enrolled in Christ’s marching army and with the apostle know that Christ must be all in all, let me say that this ignorance of everything “save Christ and Him crucified” must be no empty slogan. Because it is either reformation with Christ or ruin without Christ, we need a twentieth-century revival and a nation-wide protest against pulpit infidelity. The call of the crisis is for spiritual before social security, a return of American preaching to the Christ of the Bible, a rebirth in soul strength. American churches must disavow secular ambitions, eliminate worldliness and commercialism, and go back to the program of their charter, the saving and ennobling of souls through Christ as the basis of every abiding personal or national benediction.
That these blessings may be preserved for us, will you not rally to the cause of the Crucified in word and in deed, in faith and in life, in testimony and in protest? Will you not support through your prayers, your letters, your gifts, the radio crusade that we have today inaugurated for the glory of the Crucified? May God’s Holy Spirit grant that from East and West, from Canada and our nation, from the mountains and the high seas, from the silent forests and our teeming cities, from the hovels of the impoverished and the comfortable homes of the richly blessed, a mighty chorus may ascend to God’s high heavens with the never-changing refrain: Nothing “save Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified.” Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.