The Message of the Cross

No automatic alt text available.Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (January 29, 2017)


1 Corinthians 1:18-31 | New Living Translation (NLT)

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
    and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”


During the season that follows Epiphany, we continue to be in 1 Corinthians.  Remember that this season is about the mission of Jesus.  Why did Jesus come? What was Jesus doing?

Right off the bat, Paul declares, “The message of the cross is foolishness…” “To whom is the message of the cross foolishness?” we should ask.  Paul continues, “It is foolish to those who are headed for destruction!”  Then he goes on, “But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

Paul then lays out his argument.  I don’t think it would come as surprise to any believer that there are those who think what we do as foolishness.  They say that it is foolish to believe in God – it is foolish to believe in Christ – it is foolish to believe that Christ died for our sins – it is foolish to believe that Christ rose again from the grave – and so on.

He goes on to say that human wisdom cannot understand – human philosophy cannot understand the power of the cross.  It is interesting in verse 23 Paul writes, “So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.”

I like that Paul doesn’t leave us there for long.  In our human wisdom, the plan of salvation doesn’t make much sense – I think that’s the beauty of it.

The foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

It is important to remember that God’s kingdom is a backwards kingdom – God’s ways are not our ways.  Jesus us tells us to be first, you must be last.  If you want to be great, you must be a servant. Power is not important in God’s economy. Strength is not important in God’s economy.  Why else would powerful God become Emmanuel (Jesus) – God with us and lay down his very life for us?  We are his creation and we killed him.  Think about a God who was killed by his very own creation.  The ones that He loved. And He willingly gave himself up for our sake.  That is a very different economy.

Paul writes again, “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.”

The reasoning behind that is so that none of us can boast that we can save ourselves – our wisdom can’t save us – our philosophy can’t save us – our good works – our good deeds can’t save us – because if they could – we would boast about it. That’s just the way we are – that is our human nature or our old man or perhaps to use a spiritual word – our carnal nature.  I love the last two verses:

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

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