The Foolish Cross?

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul tells us the message of the cross is considered foolishness to those who are perishing.  What is the “message of the cross”?  Why would it be considered foolishness? Well, let’s put this verse in its context and see if that will help us::

1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (NIV)

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I think Paul is trying to drive home the point that it was incomprehensible to most Jews (and certainly to most non-Jews) that a Messiah … a Warrior King … a Savior and Deliverer sent by God to His people would have been mightier than to have suffered a torturous, humiliating death on a cross.  What kind of Messiah could Jesus have been to have suffered such a fate?  Why would anyone believe in such a weakling? Such thinking is foolishness … beyond irrational.  I think that mindset is what drove Paul (Saul) to persecute the “fanatical” Christians before He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.  They were dangerous “lunatics” subverting Judaism and had to be stopped.  But the other aspect that drove the earliest believers to persist in their faith was the resurrection of Jesus.  Had He not been resurrected … this “foolishness” would have long since abated.  Indeed, if Jesus were not resurrected … then our faith would be in vain.  It would be foolish.  But we would still be in our sin as well….  (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12-17)

As Paul reasons, God ordained for His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Jesus had to die … to pay the wages of sin on our behalf. Redemption had a cost. There was a price for reconciliation.  While the cross “appeased” the justice requirement of a Holy God, it also demonstrated the incomprehensible love of God for us.  He paid the debt we owed for us!  Thus, in Christ Jesus, we see the wisdom of God because the resurrection demonstrates the power of God.  Those who reject the grace of God as foolishness will perish in their pride and arrogance.  But those who believe in Christ Jesus, the power and wisdom of God, received His gift of grace, salvation, and eternal life.  Again, the Prophet Isaiah comes to mind. The Jews should have known from their own Scriptures that the Messiah would suffer and die for their transgressions.  Their blindness became their foolishness….

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

To the world, the death of Jesus upon a cross is meaningless and foolish. A victorious, warrior King would not have let that happen … certainly not the Son of God.  But the wisdom of God required a demonstration of His wrath against sin and iniquity.  Sin is an affront to His holiness and to those created in His image.  Sin stains.  It mars.  It kills and destroys the souls of man.  And God loves us too much to allow such devastation and destruction to annihilate our souls.  He wrought His own salvation for us through His Son.  Through faith, we just need to trust Him … in His finished work on the cross … and receive His gracious offer of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.  Faith in Christ Jesus is the game changer; and I can assure you He is the power and the wisdom of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM the Resurrection

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

It’s hard to believe we are already a week into April.  Easter is just two weeks away … and I am excited about the celebration to come.  I will address the Verse of the Day above in a moment, but first I would like to explore the topic of the resurrection itself because Paul addresses how we should live and walk under the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. During His time of ministry, Jesus Himself affirmed that the resurrection of our own bodies will occur:

Matthew 22:23; 29-32 (NIV)

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Cf. Exodus 3:6) He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Jesus confirmed to the Sadducees that the resurrection is not some foolish hope or religious myth. God has revealed to us the truth of the resurrection through His Word.  And later, Jesus shared with His disciples regarding His own power and authority to grant eternal life to those who believe in Him….

John 11:21-27 (NIV)

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Again, from this conversation between Jesus and Martha, Martha professes her belief in the resurrection and Jesus assures her that Lazarus will “rise again”.  But Jesus goes on the reveal something much greater than her belief in a theological concept.  Jesus claims to be the agency and reality of her faith! “I AM the resurrection and the life.” And then He asks her (and us) a very pointed question: “Do You believe this?” His question was not about whether she believed in the possibility of physical resurrection.  His question concerned whether she believed that HE is the resurrection and the life?  And her response was indeed the correct one!  Jesus IS the Messiah, the Son of God, who came into the world as testified through the Word of God spoken through the Holy Prophets and now revealed to us through His life.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3)

But in our Verse of the Day, Paul challenges us to living a “resurrected life” now! Since Jesus has already died to take away the sin of the world, Paul indicates that His death became our own death to sin.  Likewise, the resurrected Jesus became the new life that we can live through faith in Him who loves us and gave Himself for us.  This is an incredible theological construct for us to embrace.  And Paul goes on to explain the application for us. In Verse 21 Paul continued, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:20) For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:28) Salvation and eternal life are not earned, gained, or otherwise merited upon human effort. No human has ever been 100% obedient to the commandments of God except Christ Jesus alone.  A blood sacrifice for atonement was required … and God sent His Son to be the propitiation for the sin of the world.  Jesus, our Redeemer, was the Lamb of God … without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-20)

So what I believe Paul is teaching in this passage is that the efficacy of His sacrifice should become immediate in the life of a believer.  That is, we should individually identify with His sacrifice – specifically to the death of our sinful, human nature and to the resurrection (spiritual rebirth) of our lives through faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  The lives we now live in our redeemed bodies, we live by faith in the One who loves us and gave Himself for us…. Look at these incredible words of longing Paul wrote as He contemplated living in light of the resurrection:

Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV)

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and the power of participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

No, Jesus did not die in vain. He accomplished all the Father sent Him to do. “It is finished!” And through His resurrection, we have full assurance of and confidence in His promise to grant us eternal life! We receive this assurance through the Holy Spirit. And as Paul asserted with Timothy, ” For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:17) Yes, we can live in the power of His resurrection now and become vessels of His righteousness in us. So I pray that we will all give deeper thought and consideration to these truths for our lives….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!