The Word of the Cross

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:08:50
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If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of 1 Corinthians 1.
1 Corinthians 1:18–25 ESV
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Lets Pray
My aim this morning is to do what this text models for me to do.
My aim is to do what Christians have been doing for 2,000 years.
According to this text, my aim is to do something that God is actually pleased with.
It is something that is the plan and the power of God to save those who believe.
What I aim to do is something that the Corinthians were losing sight of.…, and frankly what many churches in our day have lost sight of.
My aim is to preach.
That’s the word Paul uses in verse 21 and verse 22.
The word “preach” is a unique word.
It is not the same thing as the word “teach”
It is not the same as “instruct” Or “tell” Or “explain”
The word “preach” In the first century commonly referred to the town crier or the town herald….
He’s the messenger who ran ahead of the coming king with a message that carried with it the authority of the king.
The town herald would arrive into a town and with all of the passion and the energy within him he would declare, or announce, or proclaim the good news of the coming King.
To preach is to cry out…with a passion that is appropriate to the message itself and the authority of the one who sent the message.
My aim this morning is to preach…
to cry out, to announce, to proclaim, to herald a message that is not my message, but rather it is a message handed down to me....
a message that Paul summarizes like this.
In verse 21… he summarizes the message with a phrase, “The Word of the Cross”
In verse 22… he says “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
In verse 23, he says “we preach Christ crucified”
There was a fundamental problem happening within the Corinthian church…
They had lost their appetite and appreciation for the faithful preaching of the word of the cross.
They had elevated the Corinthian values of human wisdom, oration, rhetoric, debate, and entertainment.
They Loved eloquent speeches More than they loved the message of the cross.
They prized Corinthian values like strength, and pride, and power, and eloquence, and social status…,
And as their value for Corinthian culture increased…, their unity around the primary message of Christianity decreased.
Sin entered the church.
Division entered the church.
And rather than reaching the Corinthian culture with the gospel…, they simply became what they were trying to reach.
They began to argue about who was greatest,
and who followed the more powerful and the more eloquent leader, and before too long…, they valued what the world valued so much that they emptied the message of the cross of its power in the church.
That is where we left off last week..
A divided church prioritizing the wrong things And falling apart from within.
This is what Paul last said in verse 17.
1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
in other words…
I have no interest in impressing you Corinthians.
I have no interest in drawing a crowd with my pristine presentation.
I have no interest in how many followers I have on instagram or whether I am the one who baptized you or not…
I have no interest in entertaining you… or flattering you
I have no interest in doing anything that would take your eyes off of the central message that God is really using in the world to save sinners and to build his church.
Verse 18 is a thesis statement of sorts for a three fold argument that Paul is about to unfold before us over the next several weeks.
The whole letter really is a re-centering of the Corinthians church on this word That Paul preaches And that he summarizes here in verse 18.
1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Truth #1 The Word of the Cross is Folly to the Perishing

Paul’s first line of argument is an explanation as to why these Corinthians and their church had drifted from the preaching of Christ crucified.
That word folly in verse 18 comes from the Greek word “Moria” which is where we get our word “moron”
Paul essentially, says of course you have abandoned the centrality of preaching this message and have traded it for something more acceptable and more entertaining.
This message of the cross is naturally moronic to the Corinthian culture.
The message of the cross was absurdity to the natural ear of the Corinthian person.
I think we need to pause and recognize just how true this statement was and is.
We need to pause and give the word “cross” its proper weightiness.
I think it is safe to say that we have become too familiar with the word cross, with the symbol of the cross, with the concept of a cross.
Because we live in a world far removed from anything like public execution by way of crucifixion,
the word cross does not mean for us what it meant to a listener in the first century.
John Stott in his book the Cross of Christ says it well…, (look up quote on page 29).
The Christian’s choice of a cross as the symbol of their faith is more surprising when we remember the horror with which crucifixion was regarded in the ancient world. We can understand why Paul’s message of the cross was to many of his listeners foolishness, even madness. How could any sane person worship as a god a dead man who had been justly condemned as a criminal and subjected to the most humiliating form of execution? This combination of death, crime, and shame put him beyond the pale of respect, let alone worship… This is well illustrated by graffito from the second century. It is the first surviving picture of the crucifixion, and is a caricature. A crude drawing depicts, stretched on a cross, a man with the head of a donkey.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 29-31)
We need to realize this morning that the message that spread throughout the world in the first century was in fact a message that should NOT have spread...
Everything about the message of the cross of Jesus Christ was a counter-cultural message…
It was a message that was hard to stomach for the average Greek or Jew..
Christianity claimed that there was one God in a world that worshipped a pantheon of Gods.
Christianity claimed that their one God had eternally been Father, Son and Spirit.… that is being was unlike any other being… he was the great I AM, who was and is, and is to come..
He was one God who was always in relationship to himself and who had now revealed himself as eternally Father, Son, and Spirit.
God the Son, humbled himself to humanity.
God humbled himself to the most humiliating death known to man at the time.
all this was in a cultural moment where humility was not a virtue…
Roman culture did not see humility as a virtue.
Pride and honor and strength were the superior virtues.
Christians, however, preached a message about a God who showed his love by embodying weakness, humiliation, and death by way of gruesome torture.
For the Jews… its true that they were waiting on a messiah savior promised by God.
They were expecting a savior to come, but they were expecting a triumphant military power.
Jesus, however, showed himself to be accursed by God by being hung on a tree.
The Jews had grown up reading this verse in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 21:22–23 ESV
22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
The Jews wanted someone who would show powerful signs over the present oppression of Rome.
The Greeks wanted someone who would embody their wisdom teachings and unlock all of the answers to the mysteries and questions they were asking.
Paul says that the message of the cross was none of that for them.
1 Corinthians 1:22 ESV
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
Not only did the Christ of Christianity embrace the execution device of the cross…,
the message of the cross…, the word of the cross….
Was that Jesus did this because every human being actually deserves what he took.
The message or the word of the cross is that the humiliation and the agony of the cross of Jesus is actually the kind of death penalty that all sinners against a holy God deserve.… and everyone fits that category.
Everyone is weak, helpless, hopeless, and on their way to an eternal dying of sorts under the wrath of God.,
Everyone dies.
And everyone will be held accountable for their sins against God.
Everyone is going into some kind of eternity where they will face the punishment for their sins….
UNLESS they confess their weakness and trust themselves to this Jesus who took their penalty.
So not only is the Christian God the kind of God who takes on humiliation in love for his people…
in order to become a Christian you have to admit your own humiliation…
you have to admit that you deserve what Jesus took because of your failure to worship God rightly.…
you have to admit that you cannot save yourself from an eternal perishing in hell…
Your ONLY HOPE is to trust the salvation that God provides through Jesus who died on that Cross And rose again.
And if you do….
if you do trust him and his message…,
that he really is God and that he really did rise again on the third day…, you will receive eternal life….
you will not get honor in this life,
you will not get riches,
you will not get safety, and ease in this life…,
In fact, your faith might even cost you your life here on this earth…,
One of the reasons that Paul was so unimpressive as a Christian preacher…
one of the reasons as we will see later that he came in trembling was because his faith in Christ had cost him dearly.
He preached Christ crucified as a man with many scars across his back from the lashings he had received.
The word of the cross is a message of eternal life and salvation from eternal perishing…,
but it was a message that if really believed in the 1st century,
would have gotten you less honor and less comfort in the world… not more.
So, to the ancient world this word of the cross was absolutely moronic. It was foolishness.
It did not satisfy the intellectual and cultural cravings of the Greeks…,
it did not satisfy the cultural expectations of the Jews…,
And we must admit… It will not satisfy the consumeristic, materialistic, individualistic, self-centered, independent, entertainment crazed, sex-obssessed, culture of America either.
Its why you might go to many churches across our country this morning…, and you won’t hear about the primary message of Christianity. You won’t hear about the cross, or a cross-centered life. As preacher H.B. Charles puts it, “The American Church trying to reach the world according to Man’s wisdom leaned over into the world so much that they fell in.”
The word of the cross… the message of a crucified savior… is foolish to those who are perishing eternally.
But…, verse 18…. Has a very important contrastive conjunction at the center of the verse.
It has a very important “BUT” at the center of the sentence.
1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Truth #2 The Word of the Cross is Power of God to Save

As far as Paul is concerned their are two categories of people in the world…
There are those who are presently perishing and those who are presently being saved.
Now all of us are presently dying. I read a true but discouraging quote this week
“Every human body that is living is also some where on the well-trodden path of dying. Numerous studies have shown that the growth we experience through our childhood and teen years hits a peak somewhere around the age of 25. From there, our bodies begin to physiologically decline.” - Adam Ramsey, Faithfully Present, p. 116)
We are all presently dying…, but for some of us death will simply be our passage way into eternal life.
Some of us are presently being saved from our sins, and our sins consequences.
Notice that Paul does not put the word saved in the past tense, but rather in a present ongoing tense.
He recognizes that when we put faith in Jesus, we are forever and finally saved.., but that we have not yet experienced the fullness of that salvation yet.
We are looking forward to a day where we see Jesus face to face…
But why?
Why are we looking forward to that day with joy in our hearts?
Why aren’t we afraid of the day of judgment?
Why aren’t we afraid that we will go into an eternal state of perishing?
Because we believe the WORD of the CROSS.
To us the Word of the Cross is the very power of God to wipe away all our guilt, all our shame, all our sin, all our fear!
The cross tells us that our sins are paid for.
The cross tells us that God’s love for us is beyond comprehension.
The cross and resurrection tells us that death is not the end for those who believe.
And that message is a kind of power.
It has power to save us through our faith in it…
and it has the power to change us from within to live very different lives, fulfilled lives, fearless lives, hopeful lives, optimistic lives, sacrificial lives.
The cross was the power to change Corinthians from the inside out.
The message of the cross, despite all of its foolishness to the world, spread like a spiritual fire throughout the ancient world regardless of how fiercely it was opposed.
The message of the cross showed itself powerful in the lives of those who believed all the way until their dying breath.
Ignatius on his way to potential martyrdom wrote,
“Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, if only I may gain Christ Jesus” - Ignatius
There is power in this message, power to save to the uttermost and to the bitter end.
Now all of this should stir up a theological question…
How is it that some people so passionately, so whole heartedly, so transformedly experience the power of the message of the cross?
and how can some people simply ridicule it as foolishness?
What is the primary difference between the perishing and saved?
The primary difference is a miracle saving faith worked in us by the call of God in our lives…
Verse 21 says its a matter of believing.
1 Corinthians 1:21 ESV
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
verses 22-24 tell us the difference is the effective call of God intervening into our hardened hearts.
1 Corinthians 1:22–24 ESV
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
If you are a Christian here this morning.. and the message of the cross is no longer a stumbling block to you and it is no longer folly to you… but it is the power of God and it is the very wisdom of God…
Paul says that it is evidence of God’s gracious call in your life.
God interrupted your hell-bound race.
He broke up your hardened heart.
He opened up your blind eyes,
And he CALLED you To faith in him.
Salvation through faith in this message, is a Glorious work of the power of God through the message of the Cross....
he gets the credit…
In fact, all of this is structured so that God may declare himself to be most sovereign, most glorious, most gracious, and more wise then any human being could ever hope to be.
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve wanted to be wiser than God. They wanted to be God
that is one of humanity’s most chief sins.
We want to boast in ourselves and in our own wisdom…
We want to take things into our own hands in a way that makes the most sense to us and that results in us receiving the most credit…
But Paul’s point in all of this is that the Saving Power Through the Foolishness of the Message of the Cross actually glorifies God in a way that pleases him.
God saves through a message that the world deems foolish…
and God is pleased to put an end to human boasting in that way.
Paul quotes Scripture to make his point here and its the emphasis of that Scripture that unlocks another element of the whole paragraph.
1 Corinthians 1:19 ESV
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Truth #3 The Word of the Cross Exalts the Wisdom of God Over the Wisdom of Man

The quotation is from the book of Isaiah… specifically Isaiah 29:14..
Lets read that passage in context to see why Paul may have quoted this text particularly.
Isaiah 29:13–16 ESV
13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, 14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” 15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
Isaiah prophesied about a coming judgment, where the way that seemed right to them would actually be to their destruction.
Israel had a problem of regarding God as the clay rather than the potter.
What that means is that Israel had a reoccurring problem of molding God into whatever image they wanted him to be,
rather than putting him in the place of God and thus being molded into what ever image God wanted them to be.
The Israelites did things their own way to their own demise.
We are given a tangible example in the very next chapter of Isaiah.
Isaiah 30:1–3 ESV
“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
The Israelites used their own human wisdom and they turned to human strength…, more particularly the nation of Egypt for help in their fear of being overtaken by another nation.
They turned to man’s wisdom, rather than turning to God…, and God says that what they thought was wise, was actually going to turn into the very reason for their humiliation.
You can see how if Paul had been reading from the Isaiah scroll…, he may have seen the Corinthian church in these prophetic words.
They too were embracing the wisdom of the world and the devices of the world rather than the wisdom of God.… and they too would find that the wisdom of man is folly and fruitless.
The wisdom of man never works Over and against the wisdom of God.
This is Paul’s primary point.
Now back to 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 1:20–21 ESV
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
The worldly wisdom of man does not lead to the knowledge of God.
It fails.
If you come to God trying to mold him into your image or into what you want him to be, you will not know God.
What pleases God is when you come to him on his terms… and you hear his words…
And you lay down your perceived wisdom.
It pleases God that he saves us in such a way that we must lay down our pride, and embrace his message in faith.
It pleases God when we trust what he has said and what he has done.
It please God when we preach Christ crucified in this confidence…
1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
It has been my aim this morning to preach Christ crucified from the inspired texts of Scripture.
It is not a popular message.
It is not an easy message.
It is not necessarily what people in the world want to hear.
It is not necessarily what the world would say attracts people to a church.
But you are here this morning…
Not because our stage performance is awesome, not because our music is concert qualities, not because our facilities are great, not because we offer superior programming for your kids and teenagers.
NO, St. Rose Community Church exists as it is today…, because God is pleased through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Our church began over seven years ago with this kind of primary mission.
We are going to preach Christ crucified and we are going to let God prove himself wiser than men.
We are going to ask God to prove himself powerful through the Word of the cross.
We are going to ask God to prove himself wiser than us through the Word of the cross…
week in and week out we preach Christ crucified in this gathering, in our small groups, in our daily lives… we preach Christ crucified… a stumbling block to some, folly to others, but to those who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
I, along with Paul, believe there are only two kinds of people in this room this morning.
There are those who are perishing who have not come to believe in this message of the cross.
And there are the called who have experienced the power and wisdom of this message first hand, and have been transformed by it.
To the perishing - I plead with you to consider the legitimacy of Christianity’s claim. There is a reason that Christianity did not die out in the first century with the death of Jesus.
There is a reason that even in Corinth, people became followers of Jesus.
The word of the cross does not include with it just that Jesus died…, but the full word, the full message, is that Jesus also lived again.
We Christian’s do not have a blind faith.
we have a very grounded, historical, legitimate trust in a resurrected savior.… as did the thousands upon thousands of people who came to faith in Jesus in the first century and every century thereafter.
If you are among the perishing this morning without saving faith in Jesus… I beg of you to beg of God that he open your eyes to the message of the cross.
Plead with him to effectively all you out of your unbelief, and then watch him do it Unto his glory.
Your going to have a few moments to do just that.
This morning the born again Christians who follow Jesus are going to partake in something that is only for them.… the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is a visual, participatory, symbolic act of worship that helps Christians remember that the Cross of Christ is the center of the story.
As we partake in the cup we remember that Jesus’ blood was shed for our sins.
As we partake of the bread we remember that his body was broken for us.
As we partake together, we rejoice in this fact that we are united together as one church by way of this one bread and one cup and one salvation that they represent.
So if you are not a Christian…, do not partake this morning… Let the plate pass you by…, and then do some serious soul searching.
Secondly, to those being saved:
believe in the power of the message that saved you.
That same message is God’s tool for the salvation of others.
Share the message with confidence in a world that will tell you you are crazy.
You are not crazy. We are about to participate in this Lord’s Supper together, a symbolic act partaken by Christians for thousands of years.
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