Today I started a new book, 1 Corinthians. This is one of two letters recorded in the Bible that Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth. Corinth was located in Greece, the capital of a Roman province, and had a reputation. It was a prosperous city but known for its tolerance of immorality. (Sounds like some places we could name today!) The church located in this city was made up of both Gentile and Jewish believers, and as the letter unfolds, we’ll see that they were struggling with quite a few issues.
Paul makes a call for unity in this first chapter, reminding us that our salvation is not of our own doing; it is God’s plan, and God’s work that calls men to salvation, thus humbling us all at the foot of the cross.
1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Apparently, there were divisions popping up among the people, as they claimed loyalty to different leaders. Instead, Paul reminds us that the focus is not to be on any particular person but on God, as it is His wisdom, and His faithfulness, and the powerful, life-changing message of the gospel that does the work. It is the “word of the cross” that is the power of God to those who are being saved (1:18). Human wisdom counts for nothing.
1 Corinthians 1:20-24 – Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Have you found this to be true? Do you feel a bit foolish trying to explain the message of the cross to those unwilling to hear or believe? The person who has yet to recognize their own sin sees the cross as foolishness. The religious person who believes they are righteous will stumble over the cross, unable to recognize what is right before them. But to those whom God is calling and speaking and drawing, the cross will make perfect sense.
I’m afraid that human wisdom has crept into our churches and pulpits to a great degree. We look for charismatic preachers and teachers and claim loyalty to their words over the very words of the Bible. While it’s certainly not unbiblical for a church to be made up of large numbers of people, there is a danger in the attractional messages being put out today as “gospel” that may bring thousands to sit in our padded chairs, but not have the power of spiritual transformation and salvation. They are messages of man’s wisdom, rather than the Holy Spirit-empowered “foolishness” of the preaching of the cross. The gospel message is pretty simple: God created, man sinned, all need redemption, Jesus came, lived, and died, and rose again, and those who repent and believe are saved. The gospel message is simple because it is focused on the cross.
In His great wisdom, God chose to redeem us by means of the cross so that no one could boast in his own abilities. It is by God’s wisdom and God’s grace and God’s faithfulness and God’s mercy that any of us come to believe and be saved. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
As we begin this new letter of encouragement and admonition, we must all lay down any ideas of our own wisdom and worth in favor of God’s wisdom and the power of the cross. Let’s not follow any man or any of man’s ideas, but instead, kneel at the cross and surrender fully to the wisdom of God who called us. Let us be fools for Christ and preach the cross, putting an end to the wisdom of the world that keeps men from following Jesus alone.