Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Word of the Cross: A foolish notion to some...the power and wisdom of God to others

Somewhat regularly I pause and marvel at how I count the cross of Christ so precious while so many other people think it's an empty, powerless symbol. Scripture testifies to this strange opposition of views concerning Christ and his cross.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 1:18

By the "word of the cross", Paul means the gospel.  The word of the cross means good news for sinners who must have their sins atoned for.  The word of the cross is a simple phrase that refers to Christ’s substitutionary death for us. The word of the cross is another way of saying Christ pays all for our sin and we pay nothing.  Paul is talking about Christ’s righteousness being credited to us in exchange for our sin being credited to Him.  The word of the cross means Christ had to be crucified to appease God's justice on our behalf.  The word of the cross has some very pointed implications attached.  The word of the cross says our sin is so bad, it must be paid for by death on the cross.  Our sin is so pervasive and all-destroying that only a perfect Savior could remedy our awful and miserable plight-by a gruesome death on the cross.

This "word of the cross" is foolish to some. Those who are still dead in their trespasses and sins cannot see the word of the cross in any kind of favorable light.  It is a silly notion, that Christ would have to die for sins he didn't commit.  It is an implausible proposition to say we are such sinners that we cannot save ourselves and must have a substitute.  The word of the cross is foolish to many people because they simply cannot see how truly heinous their sin is.  People want to believe humankind is basically good.  When push comes to shove, people are loving and kind, say those who dismiss the word of the cross. Yes, there is such a thing as "sin", but it's not really THAT bad.  The word "sin" has largely been substituted with "mistake", a subtle way to lessen the truth about sin, iniquity, and transgressions. The idea of Christ’s substitutionary death is foolish as it is unnecessary. The word of the cross is downplayed, denied, or mocked because there really isn’t a true sense of how radically destructive sin is.

Only God can open the eyes of one who thinks the "word of the cross" is folly.

For those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the word of the cross stands out as God's glorious apex of redemption.  For those who are born again, the cross of Christ represents salvation.  Unlike those who deem the cross foolish, we who "are being saved" have been made able to see the truth about our sin and it is terrifying.  When the actual sin and misery that is our human estate is identified, there is a sense of dread that overtakes us.  We cannot know the full weight and burden of this sin unless God, by His Spirit, awakens us to it.  But once we are given a true picture and concept of our sin and it's depth and width, the cross of Christ shines in our eyes as the only hope we have to be rescued.  When an authentic picture of our wickedness and spiritual deadness is comprehended, only Christ and His work on the cross makes sense and gives us refuge and relief.

We are like people thrown off the deck of the Titanic in to the icy sea.  We are bobbing in the water with a very limited amount of time before our bodies succumb to hypothermia and our limbs give up their strength.  What terror those people must have felt as it became more and more difficult to keep their heads above the water.  But, for some, one of the few life boats broke through the fog of that night.  What was on the minds of those lucky few who were plucked from the ocean when a life boat came their way?  Rescued!!  I am saved!!  We are like those people fighting to tread water, with only minutes to live, and the life boat that came and plucked them from their grave is like Christ's work on the cross.  Christ is our only hope.  Indeed, the word of the cross is salvation to us through Christ.

At base level, the word of the cross opposes the natural wisdom of sinful man.  Man’s wisdom says he’ll be alright on his own. Man's natural intuition tends to downplay the idea of personal guilt or sin. God's wisdom shines the light of the truth on sin and reveals man's wisdom as not wise at all.  Paul turns the argument against those who do not believe- those who thought of the gospel as foolish. What man thinks of as foolish, that is, the word of the cross, is actually far wiser than the most profound "wisdom" you can conjure as human beings.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. - 1 Corinthians 1:15

What do you think of the word of the cross?  Is it foolish or is it the power and wisdom of God?


Woody Woodward said...

As we stand prepared “to give the reason for the hope that is within us, yet with gentleness and reverence” we should keep the proper perspective that there are two contrasting or opposite terms that come to mind: Remember, “the Word of the Cross is Power to those who believe, but it is folly to those who are perishing.”
I spent some time thinking of one Word at a time that describes, the Word of the Cross is the Power of God
1. Victory
2. Triumph
3. Freedom
4. Strength
5. Hope
6. Wisdom
7. Glorious
8. Peace
9. Humility
10. Grace
11. Sacrifice
12. Brokenness
13. Selflessness
14. Steadfastness
15. Truth
16. Others first
17. Heavenly riches
18. Unchanging
19. Mercy
20. Godly Knowledge
21. Security
22. Compassion
23. Understanding

Now in order, the opposite to each of the above: the Word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing
1. Defeat
2. Failure
3. Bondage
4. Weakness
5. Hopelessness
6. Folly
7. Pointless
8. Confusion
9. Arrogance
10 Condemnation
11. Nonsense
12. Boastful
13. Selfishness
14. Narrow mindedness
15. Fairy Tale
16. Elites
17. Worldly riches
18. Irrelevant
19. Getting even
20 Academia
21. Insecurity
22. Who Cares?
23. No Answers

Boyd said...

Hey Pastor Tony -- Here's an update on KR's new commentary on 1Cor:


Cheers, Boyd