But we preach Christ crucified: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Both the title and the subtitle of this week’s lesson are taken directly from the Bible text, word for word. As I work my way through the New Testament, I am so often amazed by the tenacity the apostle Paul showed as he preached the gospel, whether in word or in a letter. Here was someone who had come to grips with the reality of the gospel, that Jesus Christ was the crucified One, and his focus is fixed on this one aspect, Jesus, the crucified. Read the first chapter of the first letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 1.
When he writes the first letter, it is against the background of people who lived heathen lives before their conversion and where everything was allowed. Even once the church was established and heathens came to salvation, there was division, which Paul had to address. His letter is a response to a letter they sent him. However, he quickly switches to what is important:
17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. – 1 Corinthians 1:17
He immediately makes it clear that he has no interest in preaching man-made words and ideas, but rather focuses on the cross of Christ. This is all that is important. He emphasises the foolishness of man’s thinking and that it will be destroyed:
18For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. – 1 Corinthians 1:18-19
He quotes from the Old Testament:
14Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. – Isaiah 29:14
This is the biggest problem we have in our time – there are millions who will not fathom the truth of the cross, will not accept it, and will try to find another way to God while there is no other. For them, the road to salvation that God has chosen for mankind is foolishness when compared to their way of thinking. So, God will ensure that their “wisdom” is destroyed. See our article titled They want Jesus, but not His cross for more examples of a world which denies that death on the cross gives life.
In his time, Paul had to endure the constant attacks of the Jewish leaders, those that he turned his back on after his conversion. The irony is that Paul knew what mentality the Jewish leaders had. He used to be one of them after all, a hater of the church and the cross. However, when the reality struck him literally, on the way to Damascus, he was a changed man. He also had to endure the attacks of Greek philosophy, and since he spoke Greek, he was accustomed with all the ideas and teaching of the time. Of these two groups, the Jews and the Greeks, he has this to say:
22For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:22-24
The Jews were seeking for a sign of the Messiah, but the sign was there, lived among them, performed miracles, and taught the truth. Yet they were too blind to see the sign sent to them, and so killed Him. The Greeks on the other hand, wanted to find salvation through the “wisdom” of their own thinking.
Paul teaches neither. Preaching the crucified Christ is a stumbling block for the Jews that they constantly meet on their way, even today, until their eyes will be opened (Romans 11:25). The Greeks in their wisdom think that the teaching of the cross is foolish. However, those who accept his teaching experience the power of God, not that of the Jewish authorities, and the wisdom of God, not the vain worldly wisdom of man.
What about you?
Are you pointing out aspects of the Old Testament that according to what you have heard, do not make sense, and use that as an excuse not to accept the truth of the cross? It is interesting how many people who are unsaved read the Bible, not for the salvation it brings, but to seek areas that they can use to lodge senseless arguments. Paul warns Timothy against this:
23But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. – 2 Timothy 2:23
Are you running away from the truth of the gospel because of your supposed wisdom which you have learnt from others and will not give up? This verse may make you reconsider:
8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. – Colossians 2:8
Jesus is the final authority on His own Word, and uttered these words:
25At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. – Matthew 11:25
This was in reaction to the unbelief of many people, despite the miracles He performed in their towns and cities (Matthew 11:20-24). Let us therefor remain fixed to a gospel that is not filled with man's wisdom of words, rather one that may seem foolish to us, but represents the wisdom of the omniscient God.
What more do you need to be convinced that the entire message of the Bible is about the cross, death, resurrection, and eternal life God offers through Jesus Christ? Are you going to be misled by the world’s wisdom and die in your sins, or be saved by what many consider God’s foolishness? It is your choice, but I pray that you will make the right one, today.