The foolishness and power of the cross

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.
1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)

Read: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Consider: Have you ever shared your faith with someone only to realise that they think that your beliefs are nonsense?  It is not easy to explain the significance of the cross and why God chose to allow his Son to die in this way, so as to be the means of paying the price for mankind’s sin.  Society, in general, does not even believe in the concept of sin and many react negatively when confronted with the truth of their sinfulness and need of forgiveness.

Today’s reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians tells us that: ‘… the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing …’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).  We must always remember that it is not God’s wish that anyone should perish, rather as Peter says in his second letter: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  God is infinitely patient with all mankind.  His heart is for everyone to repent, yet he knows that many will reject his gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  When a person regards the message of the cross as foolishness, they may feel justified in their scorn and disregard of that message.  However, despite their self-assurance, they are destined to spend eternity isolated from God and subject to his judgement and punishment.  If we wish to express God’s love in the world, it is not right to water down the message of the cross, thinking that the truth might offend people.   If we believe the message of the cross is the ‘power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18), then we should be able to confidently speak of it to others.

It is interesting that Paul speaks of the ‘power’ of the cross in the same sentence where he refers to the ‘foolishness’ of the cross.  Paul wants to show that no matter how incongruous the message of the cross might appear to the world, it cannot lose its power to change people’s hearts and minds.  Later in our reading Paul says: ‘…  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1:23-24).  Here Paul describes the message of the cross (Christ crucified) as the ‘power of God’ and the ‘wisdom of God’.  Paul clarifies what he means by the wisdom of God: It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1:30).  The ESV renders part of this as: ‘… righteousness, sanctification and redemption …’. Through Christ’s death on the cross he has become our means to being declared righteous in God’s sight, our means of being sanctified (cleansed and made holy), and our means of being redeemed (the price for our sin has been paid and we are freed from God’s wrath and judgement).  Now if that is the essence of the good news of the gospel, it would be unthinkable to keep it to ourselves!

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)

Pray: Father, help us not to overcomplicate the message of the cross.  May we keep it simple and straightforward, pointing people to Christ, where they may receive forgiveness and receive newness of life.  Amen

Every blessing

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