This is directly connected to what came before: why is it that preaching the gospel with the words of wordly wisdom, with “wise speech,” speech marked by earthly wisdom, can empty the cross, make it null, and void? It has to do with the context in which God has placed the gospel: the sinful, fallen world. The gospel, in all places, at all times, calls rebel sinners, no matter what their culture, their language, their education, to repentance and obedience to His Lordship. Man will always respond to that message—and outside of grace, that response will always be negative. To those who are perishing, the preaching of the cross is foolishness. The contrast is striking, “but to us who which are being saved, it is the power of God.” Same message, heard very differently, having very different results.
What is the preaching of the cross? Is Paul saying that every sermon he preached had only one theme? I don’t believe so. But the cross is indeed the focus, the center, of the gospel, and hence anything that can be called “preaching” must be related thereto, and even when preaching on other aspects of the gospel’s impact upon our lives, we do so standing in its shadow.
One thing is for certain: there is no such thing as Christian proclamation without the cross. There is no preaching without the full message of the cross, and that includes God’s wrath against sin, His holiness, and His provision of full and complete salvation in only one way, through the cross. Abandon the cross, atonement, forgiveness, and all you have is…worldly wisdom.