2 Corinthians 4:5 says, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” The main message of the Bible is Christ. The entire message of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, centers on Christ, particularly His death and resurrection to pay for sin and provide salvation. Without Christ, there is no Gospel. Without Christ, there is no Christian faith (a point that is made very clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 regarding Christ’s resurrection). But sadly, many today leave Christ out of the message of Christianity. The Bible teaches several things that are considered outdated or offensive by today’s popular morality, so they are often ignored. The Bible teaches that each person has sinned (Romans 3:10, 23). The Bible teaches that there are eternal consequences for sin (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15). The Bible teaches that faith in Christ alone is the only way to avoid those consequences (John 14:6; Romans 3:20; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible also teaches that after one accepts Christ, there is a particular way that God wants him to live (Ephesians 2:10). This lifestyle has nothing to do with earning salvation from sin or a place in heaven. The question of heaven or hell is answered by whether or not we trust in Christ for salvation. But this lifestyle is how God wants us to live after we have placed our faith in Christ and after the question of our eternal destiny is secured.
Many in the world are generally familiar with this Christian lifestyle. Whether they accept Christ or not and whether they themselves would live this way or not, they expect a Christian to live according to a Christian lifestyle. On one hand, many genuine Christians have given a poor reflection of how a Christian should live. But on the other hand, many have tried to become a Christian or act like a Christian by living the Christian lifestyle while never turning to Christ. They may know some principles of how a Christian should live, and they try to live according to them. They may go to church. They may get baptized. They may give money to a church. But they never place their faith in Christ alone to save them.
But this does not work, and any preaching or teaching that fails to show that Christ is the true source of salvation fails to proclaim that Christ Jesus the Lord, as 2 Corinthians 4:5 says. Charles Hodge said, “To make the end of preaching the inculcation of virtue, to render men honest, sober, benevolent and faithful, is part and parcel of that wisdom of the world that is foolishness with God. It is attempting to raise fruit without trees.” The message of Christ Jesus the Lord is that only Christ can provide salvation. The Bible teaches that there are two groups of people in the world: those who have placed faith in Christ alone for salvation (believers) and those who have not (unbelievers). If someone tries to live as a Christian while not believing in Christ, then we have seen an immoral unbeliever turn into a moral unbeliever, but he is still an unbeliever. Teaching morality says that we can be honest and hardworking and kind to others and that God will be pleased with us if we do. Teaching Christ says that no matter how honest we try to be, we have still lied, and we still need a Savior. Then, because of what the Savior has done for us, we can be honest in a way that pleases God. If we try to follow a Christian ethic without placing faith in Christ alone to save us from sin, then we are trying to provide the fruit of a Christian life while never being attached to the root of the Christian life, who is Christ. John 15:4-5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Unless we abide in Christ, we cannot truly bear the fruit of the Christian life. The foundation of abiding in Christ is turning to Christ and accepting Him as Savior. That is how we are “attached to the vine.” As Hodge said, any preaching or any attempt to live as a Christian that neglects Christ is like attempting to raise fruit without trees. In the end, it will prove useless.