The Word of The Cross

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). In this one statement, Paul exposes the perverse human tendency to measure the revelation of God by the standards of human wisdom. As one man put it, “When god’s thoughts are actually higher than our thoughts, we regard Him as being refuted. For under all circumstances we want our thoughts to be the program according to which God operates”. (Helmet Thielicke)

The problem is made worse when we consider that God has revealed the depths of supernatural wisdom in plain workingman’s clothes. He has not spoken to us in the “tongues of angels” or in “unutterable groans.” Instead, He has employed human thought forms and “blue collar” vocabulary to change our wicked ways and stir our souls. Some were saying of Paul, “His personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor 10:10). Exactly how is it, some have thought, that the intense pleadings of a dying martyr (Acts 7:51), the tears of an old man (Phil 3:18), the parodies of singing prophets, and the gentle but firm rebukes of a Galilean Carpenter have turned the world upside down? Besides, the central facet of the message is a scandalous story of a would-be Savior dying on a cross! “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

The scorn and derision of unbelievers have caused a reactionary tendency of believers to desperately want to dress the gospel up in philosophical clothes, to make it more respectable. Paul’s appeal to the church at Corinth, in short, is, “This is the wrong approach!” Human achievement is limited. Once in a long while, a mere mortal will make a great discovery. Galileo said, “I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries.”

These discoveries pale compared to the power of the Almighty Creator. Moreover, we need to be reminded, as Paul reminded the worldly saints at Corinth, that God is God and man is man (1 Cor 1:18-2:5). Men are inclined to worship the human spirit. A “we-can-do anything” mentality seems to pervade human thought. Nevertheless, man’s capacity to determine the will of God does not reside in his own unaided powers. No mere mortal can manufacture a divine message, no matter how hard he tries (Deut 30:11-14). God has utilized the “foolishness” of the gospel to confound the world’s wisdom, that “no man should boast before God” (1 Cor 1:29).

That does not mean the revealed message lacks power to do what it was intended to do. In the 1972 “Nobel Lecture on Literature”, the winner was directed to answering the question of what literature can do “in the face of the remorseless assault” on human freedoms. At the height of the cold war, he said, “One word of Truth shall outweigh the whole world.” Truth is more powerful than a nuclear arsenal, an oppressive government, or a tight network of secret police. It is also more powerful than Satan’s propaganda mills, which continue to churn out lies. Hugh Hewitt has rightfully surmised, “But believers do themselves enormous harm by overestimating the pure numbers of their opponents and by underestimating how insecure these opponents are in their collective disbelief” (The Embarrassed Believer).

The truth of Christ does not need to be repackaged in garb that makes it more respectable to sinners whose pride blinds them to the light. What is needed is an army of courageous and dedicated soldiers of the cross who will not be silenced by the scorn of the world — in short, Christians who are “in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that from God” (Phil 1:28). — Mike Wilson; Gospel Power, July 1, 2007.

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