If you have your Bibles tonight, I’d like to ask you to turn to the first book of Corinthians and the first chapter. As I mentioned this morning, we are in a series dealing with the purpose of the church insofar as its message is concerned. This morning, we talked about the fact that the message that the church preaches is a divisive message. That is that if the church is to really be the church the message that it preaches is going to divide people, that the church can never court the world it must be its antagonist. And then we presented the portion of Scripture in Matthew chapter 7 where we saw those who were religious people standing before the judgment seat of Christ – or I should say the judgment of Christ, who were not able to enter the Kingdom of God because they had not fulfilled the requirement of doing the will of God. We found out then that Christ came not to bring peace but a sword, and that must be the message of the – of the church in any age.
Tonight, I want to take that a step further and I want to talk about the foolishness of the world and the foolishness of preaching. In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 beginning at verse 17, the apostle Paul says this, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that are perishing, foolishness; but unto us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased
God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks or the Gentiles seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness. But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” May we pray.
Father, as we approach this most important passage, together may we see what is the message that we are to preach. May we see that preaching is an indispensable part of that which has been assigned to the church and that the message of the preacher must be the message of the cross. Perhaps tonight, Father, we shall see anew the cross, a glimpse of it that we have never seen before. To that end we pray and to the end that those who know not Christ might this night meet Him and be saved. For it’s in His name we pray. Amen.
Verse 17, Paul says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel. Not with wisdom of words lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” Paul says that the issue of priority in the ministry is simply the issue of the cross. It is not to be set aside and substituted with the wisdom of words. Nothing is less important that when – than what you think or what I think. The thing that it is of priority is the cross of Jesus Christ. That is what He said. Christ said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Myself.”
Paul’s desire then was to set before men the cross of Christ in its simplicity. That was the message which he proclaimed. He didn’t want to decorate it with any cleverness. He didn’t want to add to it any little fancy words to make men think more of the language than the cross. He didn’t want to add dimensions to it that would make men think more of the speaker than of the message. He only wanted the cross of Christ to stand out. And he as a preacher of the gospel wanted to find his life hidden behind that cross so that he was totally invisible.
Now, the situation in Corinth when this epistle was written was a very problematic situation. The Corinthian church was the most fouled-up church in existence. Paul had to take the first great long series of chapters to tell them how messed up they were before he could even get in to how to help themselves. And they had one particular thing that was an issue in Corinth at that time and that was the idea that wisdom was all in all. It was a place of philosophers. And it was a place where people accepted other people on the basis of how delicately they could handle words. And the man who was articulate and clever in the way he said things would gain a great following, for they sought after philosophy.
And as a result of that, if you’ll notice back in verse 12 – or, actually, you can go clear back to verse 10 and he says there are divisions among you. And then when he comes to verse 12 he says, “Some of you are following Peter, some of you are following Apollos, some of you are following me, and some of Christ.” Now what was causing this division? Well it was simply this, they were among themselves deciding whose words they liked the best. Whoever sounded the wisest to them was the one they went after. And it became sort of a contest where some would say, “Well Apollos is definitely the greatest preacher.” “No, no, no, Peter is the greatest preacher.” “No, no, no, Paul is the greatest.” “No, Christ, even in all of the beautiful simplicity of His message, He’s still the greatest.” And they were all divided over the issue of who was the most clever speaker. And wisdom was the big issue in Corinth and it had caused divisions.
The apostle Paul says, “Wait a minute, folks, wisdom isn’t the issue at all. The issue is the cross of Jesus Christ. Wisdom has nothing to do with that. In fact, in the minds of men,” he says, “it’s foolishness.” All the wisdom of man is a futile attempt at anything. Who was the wisest man who ever lived? Who was it? Solomon. Who said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity?” Solomon. Wisdom never brought Solomon anything but the realization that he didn’t have anything. Wisdom. The wiser he got allowed him to see that the more wisdom he had the better he was able to understand he didn’t have anything. And he said, “I sought for wisdom but vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
Paul says, “I’m not coming to you with clever words, I’m coming to you with the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s my only message.” And I say to you right now, as a pastor, that’s my only message. When the day comes that I start trying to entice you with clever words, that’s the day you can kick me out because that’s the day I’m through. The only message that I can proclaim and still be as God would have me to be is the cross of Jesus Christ. Not clever words but the cross of Christ.
Then Paul uses a great preacher’s technique. Having mentioned the cross of Christ in verse 17, he sort of comes up in verse 18 with this: “By the way” – have you ever heard a preacher get off the subject? You see, he’s been talking about wisdom, hasn’t he? And he’s been talking about the divisions in Corinth. And he’s talking to a specific issue at Corinth. And all of a sudden, he says, “The cross of Christ.” By the way, let me tell you about the cross of Christ. I like that about Paul because I do that. Humph. He says, “By the way.” Verse 18 to 25 is his aside, if you please.
The cross must be preached. It is the only standard, and so in verses 18 to 25 Paul suggests three features of the preaching of the cross. And you’re going to find out that the longer you come here that I like to have three or four points that are very clear so that you can kind of have something in your brain to hang the truth on. If we can nail three little nails in your head, then you can hang something on those and you can remember it a little better. At least I can. It helps me and I trust it will help you.
So Paul suggests three features of the preaching of the cross. First of all, he talks about the dynamic of the preaching of the cross. Then he talks about the demand for the preaching of the cross. And then he talks about the defiance toward those who preach the cross and toward the cross itself. The dynamic, the demand and the defiance, and we’ll see these as we go from verse 18 through verse 23, in particular, and then we’ll note verse 24 and 25.
First of all, then, the dynamic of the preaching of the cross is in verse 18. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that are perishing” – for it’s a linear tense – “foolishness, but unto us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Now the Greek word for power is dunamis, it’s the same word from which we get our word “dynamite.” The dynamite of the gospel is the cross. The dynamic of the gospel is the preaching of the cross. Now, you will notice that he says “for the preaching of the cross.” Now the word “preaching” is really not the right word for preaching, it is the word, logos, a very familiar word to anyone who studies the Bible. It means the word of the cross. Now that’s a very important thing and I want you to see it, because he has just said in verse 17 that I am not preaching the wisdom of – what? – words. And now, he makes a fantastic contrast in verse 18. “But I am preaching the word of the cross.”
Now I want you to catch something there initially. Did you notice that the wisdom of words is plural? Does that suggest a degree of confusion? Is there any more obvious characteristic of philosophy than words and more words and more words and more words? And is there anything more beautiful than the simplicity of that single word “the word of the cross?” Do you see the complexness of the wisdom of words that tangle in the very term? And all of a sudden Paul shifts gears in verse 18 and says, it’s not the words of the cross, it’s the simple unified concept of the cross itself. There’s a difference right there.
Now the term, logos, is very important. It doesn’t mean just word. There’s another Greek word for word itself. That’s the word rhema. That means just a word. Logos is something completely different. Logos means a body of truth. Like if you go to your friend and you say, “Hey, give me the word,” which is common vernacular. “Hey what’s the word on so-and-so?” You don’t mean one word, do you? You mean the totality of truth about that certain thing. “Give me the word on this,” or “give the word on that.” You mean what about it in totality. And so the Greek term logos is the same thing. And what Paul is saying here is “For the word, or the totality of truth about the cross is the power of God.” It’s not just a wooden stick that’s the power of God. It’s the totality of that which surround the cross that is the power of God.
You remember in John’s gospel, in the first chapter in the first section there he talks about the Word was made flesh. Now who is the Word there? Christ. Now do you see what he’s saying? He uses that same term logos, because Christ was the totality of truth in human flesh, wasn’t He? He was the very embodiment of truth about God. He was the revelation of the self-disclosed God. He was God in human flesh. He was total God. And so John calls Him the logos. You see the logos – John picked that term up from philosophy because to philosophers logos was the whole truth about anything. And so God says – or John says, “Are you looking for the whole truth about God? Look at Jesus, He is that logos, He is that body of total truth about God.”
And here Paul picks it up again and he says this. “The logos or the total truth that has power is the cross.” And so it’s very important to realize what he’s saying here. The preaching of the cross is the only dynamic that the church of Jesus Christ has. It’s the only power to transform the souls of men. It’s the only thing, he says at the end of verse 18, that can save, the power of God. And so Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined to know nothing among you save Christ and Him – what? – crucified.” And so he says in Galatians 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And he says in 1 Corinthians 15 in verse 3, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I received how that Christ died according to the Scriptures.” And he goes on to say that He was buried and rose again the third day.
The preaching of the cross is the dynamic of salvation. Not only was this the burden of the heart of the apostle Paul, but this was Peter’s message. And I want you to just grab your Bible and we’re just going to fly through a couple of chapters in the book of Acts because I think they’re important to us in this regard. And they’re much more important than anything I would have to say, personally, so let’s look right at what the Word says. And I want you to see there’s four sermons in Acts that Peter preached, four fantastic sermons, and I want you to see the theme of every single sermon. And then I want you to file this concept in your brain, for a few minutes later I’m going to come back to it and you’re going to see something really exciting about Peter.
In chapter 2 verse 22, Peter’s preaching. And notice the theme of his message. “You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Now what’s the theme of that message? The cross.
Now, watch his next message in the third chapter and notice verse 13. “The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers hath glorified His Son Jesus whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate when he was determined to let Him go, and you denied the Holy One and the Just and desired a murderer to be granted unto you and kill the Prince of life.” There’s the same theme, the cross of Jesus Christ.
We’re not done. Look at Acts chapter 4. Peter is preaching again in verse 10. “Be it known unto you all and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified.” And he goes on to talk about the resurrection, again the same theme. And then you go over and you see him again in Acts chapter 10. And in verse 38 we read this. “How God” – and this time he’s preaching not to the Jews but he’s preaching to the Gentiles – “How God” – particularly in the house of Cornelius – “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree.”
What is the theme that recurs in every single sermon of Peter in the book of Acts? The cross of Jesus Christ. That is the only theme. It is always the cross in all of Scripture. Do you remember how that on the road to Emmaus in Luke chapter 24, Christ said, “Oh fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken, ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” Do you know what the theme of the Old Testament is? The cross of Christ. Every single sacrifice in the Old Testament pointed to that final sacrifice.
The cross looks like idiocy to the world. It looks like pure foolishness but it is not. What looks like weakness is really the greatest power in all the universe, the cross of Christ. The word, “foolishness,” is an interesting verse – interesting word in verse 18. It’s the word – listen to this one – Greek, Greek, moron. It’s an interesting word. Do you know what it means? Stupid. You knew that. Now the idea of stupid is the idea of pointless, pointless. And what they’re saying is – Paul is saying to people who don’t know Christ the cross is one great big pointless piece of stupidity. It’s a waste of time.
You say, “Well why does the world say the cross is so pointless?” I’ll tell you why. What’s the world hung up on? Look back at verse 10 to 17, what’s the world’s problem? What do they see? Where are they searching for the answer? In what? In wisdom, aren’t they? They’re looking for the answer in human wisdom. And when somebody comes along and says it’s in the simplicity of the cross, they can’t buy that because it rejects all philosophy, it rejects all the books and treatises and theses and volumes that have ever been written, it’s too simple and looks stupid. It’s not even very profound to the observer.
But what looks like stupidity because it is not the wisdom of men is really the highest wisdom of God. Even religion – if you’ll notice, when man contrives his own religion, have you ever noticed how complex it gets? Have you ever talked to anybody who is in another religion or a cult or an occult or something else and have you ever tried to figure how out complex that whole situation is? Whenever man does anything, he relies on his own wisdom and he comes up with some kind of a complex, elaborate conglomeration leading nowhere. You see, man’s afraid that he’s going to have to crush his ego if he’s going to accept the simplicity of the cross. And you want to know something? He’s right, he’s going to have to crush his ego. There’s no place in the cross of Christ for your ego or mine.
That’s a hard thing for man to swallow. It’s too big a sacrifice and he can’t quite understand it. But, you see, that’s what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:14. You remember what he said? “The natural man understandeth” – what? – “not the things of God. To him they are” – what? – “foolishness.” Why? Because they’re spiritually discerned and Paul says he’s spiritually dead. And I always use the illustration, if you stick a dead man with a pin, what happens? Nothing happens. If anything does, you’re in a lot of trouble. Nothing happens. And the reason nothing happens is because to be dead is to be insensible to physical stimulus.
The same thing is true in the spiritual world, did you know that? The unsaved man gets jabbed with spiritual truth and what happens? Nothing, he’s spiritually dead, he’s insensible. And so the cross looks to him like the greatest stupidity because it doesn’t require anything on the part of his brain or intellect or the wisdom of men. But the cross is still the theme. The cross, based on the sacrificial plan of God from the beginning, without the shedding of blood there was no remission for sin. From the time of Abel until 70 A.D., till the temple was destroyed by Titus, for those years, all that time God had in motion a sacrificial system. You know why it stopped in 70 A.D.? Because that was after Christ died and there was no more need.
And, you know, you confront an orthodox Jew today and ask him one question that he’ll never be able to answer. Ask him why they don’t sacrifice anymore? You and I know why. Because in the economy of God, Christ became that final sacrifice, the veil of the temple was rent and access was wide open. There’s no need of sacrifice anymore. And the book of Hebrews paints the picture, doesn’t it? We are under the blood of a new covenant, aren’t we? All the prefiguring and prophesying of the Old Testament points toward the cross of Christ. And did you know that the New Testament centers on that? Have you ever looked at the gospels? Two-fifths of Matthew deals with the events around the cross. Three-fifths of Mark deals with the events around the cross. One-third of Luke deals with the events around the cross. And one-half of John’s gospel deals with the events around the cross.
Paul gave priority to the cross, didn’t he? Peter gave priority to the cross. In Hebrews, the writer gave priority to the cross. He said He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Revelation 5:12, John says, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” The cross is the reigning theme from one end of the Bible to the other. Paul says it’s the message of the power of God. It’s the scarlet thread that runs from the beginning to the end. There’s no Christianity without the cross. There’s no answer to anything without the cross. There’s no answer to the problem in the longing of the heart of a man without the cross for it’s the dynamic of God.
You say, “But is the cross necessary? Why not a bloodless Christianity? Why do we have to have that cross?” Well, you know, a lot of people ask that question. You know, there was one guy in the Bible who really didn’t – and we’ve talked about him. And this is why I had you remember what Peter said in his sermon. Because Peter didn’t think the cross was necessary.
If you’ll remember correctly, Peter was very reluctant for the Lord to suffer. Now he knew that He was the Lord and he knew the system that God had ordained. But do you remember that in Matthew 16 Peter was there and Christ said, “Who do men say that I am? And Peter said, Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.” What a fantastic statement. “And Christ looked him in the eye and said, Flesh and blood didn’t tell you that, Peter, My Father in heaven did. You got that right out of heaven. That’s a divine statement, Peter.” Peter made a divine statement, “Thou art the Christ.” What a tremendous statement. He knew He was the Christ, but, you know, he never thought that the crucifixion or suffering had anything to do with that.
The very next thing Jesus does is tell them He’s going to die, and Peter comes to Him and says, “Lord, let it not be so. And Christ said to him, Get thee behind Me, Satan.” You see, Peter with his mouth confessed that Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God but he couldn’t see the need of the cross, not at all. And then in the garden in John 18, do you remember what he tried to do? When the soldiers came to take Jesus Christ, he grabbed a sword and tried to stop them, didn’t he? He only got as far as the first guy and he only got as far as the first guy’s ear. Christ gave him a new ear.
You see, Peter still didn’t understand that the suffering was necessary. Christianity isn’t Christianity without suffering, without the suffering Savior. In Acts 3:18, it says, “But those things which God before had shown by the mouth of all His prophets that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.” Even Peter didn’t see that.
But do you know what happened? You know what happened to Peter after the cross? He became an Old Testament scholar because he saw the need of the cross. Do you know what the theme of 1 Peter is? Take a wild guess...the cross. And what was the theme of all four of his sermons? The cross. First Peter 2:24, Peter just wells up everything that’s within him and he says, “Christ who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed.” The post-cross Peter really knew the significance of Calvary.
The Old Testament, you remember, that it was a part of the sacrificial system, that there was one who would bear away sin was symbolized by the scape goat in Leviticus 26. The goat was symbolically the recipient of the sins of the people and then he bore them away. And is it not true that it is Christ who has borne away our sin? Who has paid the penalty for – excuse me – for us? And the veil was rent and instant access is ours. Yes, the dynamic – the dynamic of the preaching of the gospel is the cross of Jesus Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation.
What about the demand? Why do we have to preach the cross? Verses 19 to 21, “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Here is the demand. We’ve seen the dynamic of the preaching of the cross. Here is the demand for it. And it is this, that the world with all of its wisdom doesn’t know anything. And he says I’m going to destroy the wisdom of the wise, I’m going to take all their wisdom and add it up to zero. I’ll bring it to naught, he says. And then he asks, “Where is the wise? Who is really wise? Who is really a scribe? Who is really an effective debater? Hasn’t God taken all of the wisdom of man and made it foolishness?” All that has been written, all that has been said adds up to nothing. The apostle Paul had it right when he said they’re ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
It is the complex world that is stupid and it is the simple cross that is profound, is it not? This is what demands that we preach Christ and Him crucified, the inability of men by their own wisdom to come to any answers about reality and peace. Paul uses two quotations here in verses 19 and 20. He quotes from Isaiah 29 and Isaiah 33 to point out how human wisdom is going to fail and be destroyed. You know, there is a way and it seems right to a man but the ends thereof are the ways of what?... Human wisdom doesn’t lead very far. In verse 19 he’s going to bring it to nothing, what a statement. All of the world’s wisdom adds up to zero, nothing. And in chapter 3 verse 19 of this self-same letter Paul says, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” It’s zero.
In Jeremiah 8:9, Jeremiah, in chapter 8, is standing outside the temple gate. He used to pick the greatest places to preach. And he’d stand out there and he indicted the wise men of Israel, the guys that sat around spinning all the stuff off the top of their heads. And this is what he said. He told the people, he said, “These wise men have rejected the word of wisdom of the Lord and therefore what wisdom is in them?” Boy, what a statement.
I mean, if you reject the only real truth, what wisdom do you have? All the wise men of all time end up with a pile of nothing if they neglect the one basic truth in all wisdom, the cross of Jesus Christ. Verse 21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God.” You couldn’t find God by wisdom. Impossible. “But it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Do you know that the wisdom of man was a calculated act on the part of God? Did you know that? Did you know that God gave man a certain amount of wisdom just so he could run himself into a stone wall? That’s what that verse is. That says, “In the wisdom of God.” You know what that means? That means God had a plan and His plan was this – watch the next phrase – “that the world by wisdom knew not God.” God planned for the world to use its brains to come to zero.
You say, “Why would He do that? Why would God make a plan to allow men to run to the extreme of their brain and come up with nothing?” You know why? Because He wanted them to come up with nothing so that they would realize that, on their own, they couldn’t do anything, they had no answers. They had no power for self-salvation. Paul says with all their wisdom in Romans 1:22, “Professing themselves to be wise they became” – what? – “fools.” That was a calculated plan of God. He wanted men to run up against a stone wall.
If you’re here tonight and you’ve been hoping that your own wisdom, your own brain is going to bring you the answers, you’re wrong. And, in fact, you may be on the path that God has set you on so that you’re going to hit that stone wall so hard that you’re not going to be able to pick yourself up the next time and you’re going to cry out to God and ask Him to pick you up. That’s what He wants. Human philosophy, human theology, man-centered and man-authored ideas may tax the limits of the human brain. They may run to the very extreme of human ability. And when they get to the very extreme of their human capacity, they’re just inching up on God’s scales toward stupidity. That’s what he says.
Notice, God planned to frustrate man that man might fall on his face and cry out to God. In Romans 11:32, great verse, listen to it. He says, “For God hath concluded” – did you get that? God worked it all out. “God hath concluded” – listen to this – “He hath concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon them.” Fantastic truth, Romans 11:32. I’ll say it again, “He concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy on them.” God ran them against a stone wall. They were all wiped out with nothing to believe in, then God could come with mercy.
Did you know that Christ can never enter your life until you’re a broken man, broken woman, until you’ve run the gamut and found out you’re zero, till you know that by yourself you can’t figure out what life’s all about? You haven’t got any purpose to life, you don’t know where it is. When you come to that place then God can have mercy on you.
Well we’ve seen the dynamic of the preaching of the cross. We’ve seen the demand for it, that men can’t find it by their own wisdom. Now let’s look at the defiance toward the preaching of the cross. What happens when the cross is preached? You think these men would hear it in their frustration but they don’t. Notice verse 22 and 23. “For the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified.” Now what does it do, what’s the reaction? “Unto the Jews it’s a stumbling block and unto the Gentiles it’s foolishness.”
Here is the defiance toward the preaching of the cross. Now let’s notice the Jews very quickly and we’ll be done in a moment. Let’s notice the Jews first. He says the Jews are seeking a sign and that’s their hang-up. He doesn’t say that but I mean, you know, that’s what he means. Aha! The Jews are seeking a sign and that’s their problem. And they look at the cross and they say, Oh, that’s a stumbling block, that’s not the sign we’re looking for.
Do you know why the Bible says that – John recorded it. He said, “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” Do you know why the Jews won’t receive Christ? Do you know why the cross of Christ is a stumbling block? I’ll tell you why. Two reasons. Number one, it is incredible, it is absolutely incredible to a Jew that the one chosen to be Messiah would end up nailed to a cross. They can’t buy that.
You know, as a matter of fact, Judas was in on the whole thing because he thought that Christ was going to set up the Kingdom and he’d be a part of it. And if you don’t think that’s true, he was a worse guy than James and John. And what were they in it for? Do you remember that they sent their mother to Jesus? And they said, “Mother, would you ask Jesus if we could sit next to Him in the Kingdom?” See what they had on their minds. It’s incredible to a Jew that the Messiah would end up nailed to a cross.
You say, “Well why?” Well in Deuteronomy 21:23 you know what it says? “Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree.” Now by the very – the very law of Israel, it was a curse to hang on a tree. How could they accept a crucified Messiah? It couldn’t be done. Amazingly enough the crucifixion, instead of proving Christ – you know, they didn’t see Isaiah 53. They didn’t see that at all, the fact that He was going to suffer. No, no. They still don’t understand what that’s all about. But all they could see was the idea of the curse of hanging on a tree. And so instead of the crucifixion proving Christ, it eliminated Him. They couldn’t understand the cross.
And then, secondly, why they don’t believe, not only because the cross is an offense to them, but secondly because they want a sign and Christ didn’t give them any signs. It’s an old story with the Jews, very interesting. They were always looking for Messiahs who could do tricks. And they would come along from time to time.
There was a guy named Theudas, 45 A.D., who had a whole plan figured out. No, it’s 45 BC. Yeah, it’s 45 BC. He had a beautiful plan. He was going to take all the people of Jerusalem out and divide the Jordan River, just part it like that, and they would all walk across a dry shod. Well, he got the crowd out there but he – he just couldn’t do it.
Then there was an Egyptian who came along and he came along about – about – oh, about nine years later in 54, or around there. And his plan was to go up to the Mount of Olives and say, you know, “zap” or something or other, and all the walls of Jerusalem would fall down. Now would you believe that history records for us that 30 thousand Jews gathered with him on the Mount of Olives to watch the walls fall down? And 30 thousand Jews made their way back to their homes.
There was another one who came along and claimed that he could dive off the temple. He did, beautiful. The only thing that was bad was the landing. They were always looking for a sign. And do you know that Satan tempted Christ this way? Do you remember that the third temptation of Christ was for Him to dive off the pinnacle of the temple? Why would he tell Him to do that? Because all the Jews would have to do would be to see somebody bail out off the top of that thing and angels come and carry Him and land Him on the ground, and that would be it. But Christ came to die. He came to suffer.
In Matthew chapter 12, you remember the scribes and the Pharisees came and they said, “Master, we would see a sign from Thee.” He said, “No sign is going to be given this evil adulterous generation.” And then the Pharisees joined up with the Sadducees, which was a very strange relationship, and they came to Him in Matthew. I think it’s the sixteenth chapter. And they said again, “We want another sign,” and He never gave them a sign.
It was the idea that if You could do some tricks that are really fantastic, we’ll follow You. And they looked at Jesus Christ and they saw Him meek and lowly, they saw Him deliberately going around avoiding the spectacular. They saw Him ending on a cross and He brought no earthly kingdom, an impossible Messiah. And so He was a stumbling block and so was the cross. Now what about the Gentiles? It says the Gentiles seek after wisdom. Well, we’ve been talking about that. The Greeks and the Gentiles, they were hung up on the wisdom end of it. They were mental acrobats. One writer in early church history says that they sat around in the cities and croaked like frogs. This is kind of an interesting comment on the kind of discussions they had. They were really – they were really excited about glittering words and they would sit around discussing hair-splitting trivialities and spinning theories off their brains and everything was in the terms of human wisdom.
You remember at Athens when Paul arrived at Athens in the Gentile world and he started talking about Christ being resurrected? And they got together and they said, “Oh, we’ve got a guy with a new theory. Let’s get him up here.” And they besought Paul that he would come up and spin his new theory. Anything new, any new doctrine to chew on. You see, Gentiles can’t accept the simplicity of the cross. It’s too simple. Human wisdom was and is too much a part of the heart of man and this is a self-designing world and it can’t admit to itself that everything it’s come up with is useless in matters of the soul.
Now, I’m not disparaging wisdom in all their other areas. But in matters of the soul, all the wisdom of the world is nothing. You say, “Wow, this is kind of a hopeless passage. We might as fold up the church and go home if nobody is going to believe.” Wait a minute. Verse 24 and 25, “But unto them who are called, both Jews and Gentiles” – isn’t that interesting how God goes right by the barriers and calls some? – “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
It did look kind of hopeless there, didn’t it? It looked like maybe no Gentiles would ever believe. It looked like maybe no Jews would. But wait a minute. God’s a lot wiser, a lot more loving, a lot more gracious, a lot more merciful, and so He reaches down and calls those of us who are to be His, both Jew and Gentile. The Jews won’t come apart from their religion and the Gentiles won’t come apart from their wisdom. But Jesus Christ strips both aside, and in His love and grace and in the call of God, He brings to His side those who are His own from both the Jews and the Gentiles. What tremendous power is in the cross, is it not?
Let me ask you tonight as we close. Are you looking for a sign? Do you expect religion to be some fantastic thing where all kinds of things are going off in space and all kinds of strange things are happening? You’re not going to get a sign. Are you hung up on some kind of religious rules and laws to reach favor with God, and the cross offends you? You’re never going to get to God by keeping any rules. Or maybe you’re so eager centered – ego-centered that you’re spinning out your own ideas about God, about reality and about eternal truth. Let me ask you tonight, what foolishness, what foolishness is keep you from the wisdom of God? May we pray.
Our Father, we again thank You for this tremendous portion of Scripture. We thank You for the clarity with which the gospel is presented through the cross of Jesus Christ. Oh God, we just rejoice in the cross. Our souls love it, for it is that by which Thou didst purchase us. Oh God, Thy grace is multiplied a millionfold and manifest in the fact that even though some seek a sign and some follow after wisdom, Thou dost still call those both Jew and Greek to be Thy own – Thine own to join Thee in Thy Kingdom.
Lord, we don’t know the hearts of those here tonight. Perhaps there are some who have been going along depending on human wisdom. God, strip them completely naked and bare, cause them to arrive at zero, knock them down so that they cannot get up, and cause them to ask Thee to lift them. Father, tonight if there are some here who don’t know Christ, who do not know the cross of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God, right now may they receive that selfsame Christ into their life. For it was on that cross that He bore their sins and Thou hast said that all we have to do is believe on Him and receive Him into our lives and our sins are forgiven, and the cross becomes to us wisdom and truth. God, we pray for those. May this be a night when they make that decision and they open their heart to Jesus Christ.
And, right now, why don’t you just say, “I can’t do it on my own, God, I want Christ to come into my life. I accept the work that He did for me on the cross, to forgive my sin. I invite Him in to my life right now.” Can you pray that right where you sit? Lord, Jesus, I believe in You, I accept Your work on the cross for me and I invite You into my life. I can’t do it on my own, I realize that. Take control. Invite Him in right now.
Did you invite Him in? If some of you did, He came in. Praise the Lord. He always comes when you call.
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