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. For it is written:I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.1 Corinthians 1:18-19
The theme of this section is the power of the cross, and Paul is going to show clearly what the cross does in human thinking and in human affairs. The cross has become the symbol of Christianity today. Women wear it on chains around their necks; we use it as decorations. We have become so familiar with the cross that we have forgotten much of the impact it had in the first century. It was, for these early Christians, and for those among whom they lived, a horrible symbol. If you had used it then as a symbol it would have made people shudder. We would get much closer to it today if we substituted a symbol of an electric chair for the cross. Wouldn't it be strange driving across this country to see church steeples with electric chairs on top?
The cross is significant in Christianity because it exposes the fundamental conflict of life. The cross gets down below all our surface attempts at compromise and cuts through all human disagreement. Once you confront the cross and its meaning, you find yourself unable to escape that final judgment of life as to whether you are committed to error or committed to truth.
We must understand what Paul means by
the word of the cross. First of all, it means the basic announcement of the crucifixion of Jesus. There are many religious groups based upon various philosophical concepts. But when you come to Christianity you do not start with philosophy, you start with facts of history that cannot be thrown out. One of them is the incarnation of Jesus, the fact that he was born as a man and came among us. Another of the great facts of our faith is the crucifixion. Jesus died. It was done at a certain point of time in history and cannot be evaded. This is part of the word of the cross. He did not deserve it, but by the judgment of the Romans and Jews alike he was put to death for a crime that he did not commit.
Paul is pointing to the judgment that the cross makes upon human life. When you say that Jesus was crucified you are saying that when the finest man who ever lived takes our place, he deserves nothing but the instant judgment of God. And that is a judgment on all of us. That is what people do not like about the cross. It condemns our righteousnesses. It casts aspersion on all our good efforts.
The word of the cross always produces two reactions. First, the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. It is silliness, absurdity, nonsense, to those who are perishing. If you have ever tried to witness to somebody who has a sense of sufficiency about himself, you have discovered the folly of the cross. To come and tell such a person that all his efforts and all his impressive record of achievement is worth nothing in God's sight, you will immediately run into the offense of the cross.
The other reaction is that the cross is the power of God to those of us who are being saved. To us who are being saved, the cross is the key to the release of all God's blessing in human life. It is the way to experience the healing of God in the heart, the deliverance from the reign of sin, and the entry into wholeness, peace, and joy. The cross is an inescapable part of that process.
Thank you, Father for the cross. Thank you that I no longer have to prove myself worthy of your love, but that through the cross you are changing me into the likeness of Christ.
What are the two inescapable implications of the Cross of Christ? What provision does Christ's sacrifice make for us to live as new creations, in the liberty of forgiveness and the power of His indwelling Life?