In What Shall We Boast?

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Christ crucified is God's power and wisdom


Hillcrest Community Church

Good morning, and thank you for this welcome. I’m humbled and honored to be here this morning. As Jay said, I’m Gerald and I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in Christ at Brentwood Baptist Church.
Some of you may be familiar with Brentwood Baptist at the intersection south of here at 65 and Concord Road. It’s only 11 miles away. If you enter it into your GPS it’s only 13 minutes away. If you put it into Waze or your smart phone it might even be faster because our world’s technology is - as the name suggests - pretty smart.
If you look at our 2 churches’ Vision and Mission Statements, I don’t think we’re miles apart. We’re not far apart at all! Think about it: The vision of Hillcrest Community Church is...
To be a unified body of believers who love and serve the whole person unconditionally, who prayerfully teach scripture for the edification of the body, and who lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Did I get that right? I love it.
Brentwood Baptist’s Mission Statement is to engage the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhereanytime, with anybody.
Am I the only one who thinks those sound similar? We’re pretty close, aren’t we?! Of course we are! You know why? Because we work for the same boss. You see, Jay and I aren’t just friends, we’re colleagues in what we’re doing here. We’re not just colleagues in our work, we’re brothers in Christ. You and I, we’re all part of the same body, and today I pray we’ll consume scripture together for the edification and building up of the body of Christ.
A week ago I didn’t feel that close, if I’m honest. A week ago I was in Germany. I was, in fact, in Munich, which is 4,753 miles away from Nashville. You know how far that is according to your Smart Phone?
If you ask Google Maps, it says “Can’t find a way there.”
If you ask Waze, the screen will blink and it will say it can’t calculate a route. My phone told me something’s wrong.
That smart phone is pretty smart, but doesn’t seem very wise. It’s pretty powerful, but it stumbles over itself if the path of logic is interrupted. The programmers who put it together will brag about how great their little invention is, but they’re embarrassed when we hear a story of someone driving into a lake because they followed the wisdom of their smart phone.
We laugh and chuckle at the folly of modern wisdom, but it’s not a new idea. In fact, true wisdom has eluded the world a long time, as Paul knew when he wrote to the church in Corinth.
Today, we’ll read from 1 Corinthians; the end of the first chapter and the beginning of the second. Please open your Bible, or your Bible app as it might be since we’ve been talking about technology, or gather round your neighbor’s Bible.
Please stand with me in honor of God’s Word as I read from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 1, beginning in verse 18:
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5
1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5 NIV
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.” 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? 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. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 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. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 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. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
God’s Word says: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, you taught the early church what true wisdom and power looked like. Please teach us today, so we may confidently boast in you and do so for your Glory. Amen.
Now, you heard me talk about smart phones and google maps and modern technology, and I’m pretty sure you understand what I’m talking about when I speak of such things today. But what was Paul dealing with in the mid 50s AD writing to the Church at Corinth?
Well, like many family members who travel for work, Paul got word that things weren’t as he left them back in Corinth. In fact, he was getting some pretty serious reports that the church was being led astray by fancy talk and what we’d call today “earthly living and wisdom” I’ll leave the details of that for a future visit, if you’ll have me. But let’s look today at what he was saying and how he lays the groundwork for his message.
Paul knew the church in Corinth was young, and they hadn’t yet learned to apply Wisdom in Christ to the difficulties they were facing, so he laid it out for them, pretty simply and boldly at first. Some folks, in fact, have called 1 Corinthians the very first Christian Counselor’s Manual.
Let’s break down his manual a little bit. If we look at the end of the first chapter as a whole, I want you to see that the Gospel here doesn’t appeal to basic human pride. People in Paul’s day and I’ll argue people in our time today are tripping all over their pride, and Paul wants to illustrate it as a waste of time to try to appeal to human wisdom because the cross is offensive — it’s at odds — with human wisdom and pride.
In 18-25, Paul stresses the limitation of human wisdom and how it can be an obstacle to faith. The questions in 1:20 emphasize that those who rely on human wisdom are not seeking Christ. The intellectual and scholarly giants are not rushing to Christ. They are not seeking to get into God’s kingdom.
1:18 The cross does not attract the world; the people of the world think it foolish.
1:19 Paul quotes Isa 29:14 to emphasize God’s superiority over the “wisdom of the wise,” wisdom that fails to recognize the power of God in the message of the cross.

The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth

and honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship of me

is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

14 Therefore once more I will astound these people

with wonder upon wonder;

the wisdom of the wise will perish,

the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

Now in verse 20 Paul starts a series of rhetorical questions, underscoring the failure of those considered wise by the world to recognize God and his message of salvation.
1:21 The Jews expected the Messiah as conqueror and a king. They did not expect a suffering servant.
1:21 The gentile world views wisdom (intellectual) as power. They take pride in great intellectual thinkers and orators (i.e., Plato, Aristotle). The “word of the cross” was not popular then or now. The preaching of the cross is the power of God to save. It is the only way, and it humiliates the wisdom of worldly scholars.
1:22 Jews seek for signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but neither provides the answers to their great need or deliverance from their greatest problem.
1:23 God has sent Paul and the apostles to preach the answer, which is “Christ crucified.” To the religious Jews, the message of a crucified Messiah is a “stumbling block,” and to gentiles, it is “foolishness.”
1:24 “Called” introduces a concept explored more in the next paragraph (1:26–31) and elsewhere in Paul’s writings (e.g., Rom 8:29–30).

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Here those called by God are able to see and respond to the reality of the gospel message.
1:25 Whether in reference to wisdom or strength, no matter what humankind may do God is always smarter and stronger.Glory Only in the Lord
So what do we do with that call? What are we to gain by answering that call?
Moving along to verses 26-31… Here Paul emphasizes God’s role in bringing salvation to humanity. Believers should rejoice that God has called them, for humanity cannot save itself. Glory only in God.
1:26 God does not call people to himself based on attributes the world might value like wisdom, power, or nobility.
1:27 God saved what the world calls “foolish” and “weak,” and he did so to shame the world’s selection. God’s plan intentionally subverts human expectations.
1:28 Paul is using a familiar contrast in these verses (1:27–28) to illustrate God’s choosing. The world values what it thinks of as strength, wisdom, position, and power, and God does not value things the way the world values them (Luke 16:15). He puts it all to shame.
1:29 No person may boast about his salvation because it is all of God (compare Eph 2:8–9).
1:30 All the saved must glory in God because their salvation is all God’s doing through Jesus Christ.
1:31 Paul quotes Jer 9:24–25 to remind the reader that it is as true now as it was in OT times—all glory is to God alone.The Holy Spirit Empowers
In the second chapter Paul continues to emphasize that God’s wisdom is viewed as foolish by the world.
Here Paul is giving an example from his own behavior to illustrate what he was saying earlier. In fact, it’s as if he knew we’d be insulted by being called dogs, and he’s throwing himself under that same bus.
In fact, he knows that the Corinthians may have viewed him through the lens of worldly wisdom, so he corrects this thinking, reminding them of his reliance on the Spirit. He knows what he is saying and teaching. It is by his original message of Christ crucified that the Corinthians were saved. Paul stresses that he came relying on the power of God, not authoritative human speech or wisdom, to convince the Corinthians of the truth of the gospel. He simply proclaimed the testimony of God to them.
2:1 Paul came with a humble attitude and a simple gospel message. He rejected the pretensions of the worldly minded.
2:2 He planned and preached only “Christ crucified,” not an elaborate presentation or philosophical system designed to impress.
2:3 Paul offers a reminder that he did not boast or use what the world elevates. He came in humility and in the fear of God
2:4 Paul did not deliver his message with human, worldly wisdom. He simply demonstrated the power of the Spirit by teaching what the Spirit gave him to say
2:5 Paul wants to be certain that their faith is based on God’s power, which is the gospel (Rom 1:16–17), and not on ideas that are palatable to the ungodly.

“Christian worship is shaped by the cross—and so must Christian theology be, unless the theologian is to find himself alienated from the worship of the church. The heart and mind of the church cannot be allowed to go their separate ways, but must be forged together in a cruciform unity.”

SOURCE: Alister E. McGrath, The Enigma of the Cross (Hodder and Stoughton, 1987), 73.

Another illustration from J.C.Ryle, warning us not to forget the cross in our religion:

“If you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, a hearth without a keystone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil.… Beware, I say again, of a religion without the cross” (pp. 19–20).

“Without Christ crucified in its pulpits, a church is little better than a cumberer of the ground, a dead carcass, a well without water, a barren fig tree, a sleeping watchman, a silent trumpet, a dumb witness, an ambassador without terms of peace, a messenger without tidings, a lighthouse without fire, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a hotbed for formalism, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God” (p. 33).

SOURCE: J. C. Ryle, Home Truths (Charles J. Thynne, 1859), 171.

I’m here to tell you, church, that we’re not that far from Corinth. We’re not that far from Paul.
The church at Corinth might have been listening to great orators, speakers, and false prophets who were telling people the Gospel was fake or foolishness or weak minded. If you get in your cars and turn on the radio, or if you go to the local coffee shop, or turn on the favorite news channel you might here the same thing. We’re surrounded by celebrities telling us we can figure out who we are and why we’re here. Social sciences and social media will tell us the algorithm can figure out everything we need and have it delivered to our door by tomorrow. That’s all we need to figure out. “Trust the science,” we hear.
Have you heard of AI? They call it “Artificial Intelligence.” Maybe that’s exactly what it is! Artificial — FAKE --- Intelligence. Because the artificial intelligence of the smart phone gets tripped up when I need a plane to get across an ocean. What’s it going to tell me when I need a redemptive savior to get me out of a 6-foot hole in the dirt?!
My smart phone can’t get wet. How can it possibly hold the life saving blood of Christ crucified?
The world is going to tell you you’re weak; you’re foolish. God, in Jesus Christ, calls you righteous, holy, and redeemed.
The world is going to woo you with Artificial Intelligence, or slick and persuasive arguments and words. But the Spirit will demonstrate true Power so that your faith will rest on God’s power, not human logic or “wisdom.”
This is all yours when you answer the call. As Paul said in 1:24
but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God.
Answer the call, whatever that is for you in this moment. Maybe it’s trusting in Christ on the Cross for the first time, and taking that step of humble obedience to admit you need Christ and his Wisdom because the false wisdom of this world keeps letting you down.
Maybe it’s taking that step of obedience to preach Christ crucified and the truth of the cross to your neighbor.
In obedience you and I can live out the Vision of Hillcrest and the Mission of Brentwood Baptist as obedient brothers and sisters who build up the body for the Glory of God.
Let’s pray.
Father we come now, humbled and open to receive you. May the decisions we make and the steps we take be in total obedience to you. Amen.
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