Paul’s message was crucifixion. He himself was a crucified man, and he preached the cross by way of the cross. It was a man of the cross preaching the message of the cross with the spirit of the cross. Many times what we preach is the cross, but our attitude, our words, and our feeling do not seem like we are preaching the cross! Many preachings of the cross are not done in the spirit of the cross! Paul said, "I..came not according to excellence of speech or of wisdom, announcing to you the mystery of God." Here the mystery of God refers to the word of the cross. Paul did not preach the cross with excellence of speech or wisdom. "And my speech and my proclamation were not in persuasive words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." This is the spirit of the cross. The cross is wisdom to God but foolishness to man (1 Cor. 1:23-24). When we preach the word of this foolishness, we should have the form of "foolishness," the attitude of "foolishness," and the speech of "foolishness." Paul gained the victory because he was a truly crucified man. He preached the cross with the spirit of the cross and the attitude of the cross. Those who have not experienced crucifixion will not be filled with the spirit of crucifixion, and they are not worthy to preach the word of the cross.
After seeing the experience of Paul, does it not tell us the reason for our failures? The message we preach may be good, but we should examine ourselves in the light of the Lord—are we truly crucified men? With what kind of spirit, word, and attitude do we preach the cross? May we humble ourselves before these questions so that God can have mercy upon us.
We are not talking about those who preach a "different gospel." We are talking only about those who preach "the gospel of God’s grace." The word is not wrong, our message is not bad, but why do others not gain life? This must be due to the failure of the preacher! It is the person who is wrong, not the word that has lost its power. It is the man who has hindered God’s life from flowing, not the Word of God that has lost its effect. When the man who preaches the cross does not himself have the experience of the cross nor the spirit of the cross, he cannot dispense to others the life of the cross. We cannot give others what we ourselves do not have. If the cross does not become our life, we cannot give the life of the cross to others. The failure of our work comes because we love to give the cross to others before we know whether or not we have the cross in ourselves. Those who are good at preaching to others must be good at preaching to themselves first. Otherwise, the Spirit will not co-work with them.
Although the message we preach is important, we must not stress the message too much and forget ourselves. We can gain some knowledge from books about the word of the cross which we preach. We can use our mind to look for many meanings in the Bible. However, all these are borrowed; they do not belong to us. Those who have clever minds are more dangerous than others. A preacher is in more danger than others, because all the studying, reading, researching, and listening may be done for others and not for himself. He may labor for others only to find himself starved spiritually! We can hear deep words about various aspects of the cross or read from books about the meanings of substitution and co-crucifixion. If we have a clever mind, we can even add a proper order to these teachings, so that when we speak, we can develop the things we have heard and thought in a very clear and sincere way, having everything well-organized and all the points clearly presented and the arguments neatly divided up. We may cause our audience to think that they have understood everything. Yet, despite the fact that they have understood everything, there is not an urging power to make the audience pursue what they have understood. They seem to think that to understand the doctrines of the cross is enough. They stop at the things they understand and do not pursue what the cross promises to give them. Even if the speaker understands the audience’s mind, has a loud, sincere voice, and urges them not to understand the doctrine only but to pursue after the experience, his audience can only be stirred up at that moment. They still have not received life. They still have the theory only, not the experience. We must never be self-satisfied and think that our silvery tongue can maneuver the audience. They may be affected at that one moment, but have we only given them thoughts and doctrines, or do we need to give life to them? Without giving life to man, we contribute nothing to his spirituality. What use is it to give man only thoughts or doctrines? May this thought be planted deeply into our being so that we would repent of the vanity of our previous work!
The reasons why no one gains life through our preaching of the cross are: (1) we ourselves do not have the experience of the cross, and (2) we do not use the spirit of the cross to preach the word of the cross.
(The Messenger of the Cross, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)