The cross is central to the gospel. In fact, the cross IS the message of the gospel.
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve… (1 Cor. 15:1-5)
Scripture defines the gospel in these terms, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It affirms that this gospel was witnessed and testified to by people living at that time through the many appearances of the resurrected Lord Jesus.
The cross is what the early Christians preached.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:18, 21-25)
“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5)
This was not just the message of the apostle Paul, nor was it limited to the first century church. In every generation, in every place, we are to “preach Christ crucified.” Just as they did then, today we must proclaim “Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as…servants for Jesus’ sake.“
The first part of that is fine. We are all willing to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. But it’s the second part that gives us trouble. It’s that whole “serving others” thing that gets in our way.
But what we fail to see is that if we are not considering ourselves as servants in behalf of others; if we do not put others before ourselves; if we have not applied the gospel of the cross to our own lives; then have we really made Jesus Christ our Lord? Is He our Lord more than just in our words? Have we been “crucified with Christ?” (Gal. 2:20) Or do we consider sacrificing for others to be just, well, “foolishness?”