1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 16
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|We want to begin looking now at the wonderful message of the cross. This message is seen by men as being utter foolishness which shows how foolish man is in his own wisdom. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”|
I Corinthians 1:21-25
The Wonderful Message of The Cross
You know the world is filled with those of us who have an opinion and consider ourselves wise because of it. Don’t we love to brag on what we know? Whether it be in the area of philosophy or theology or the general run of the mill folks who in the barber shop like to express our opinion, we like to be seen as being wise. Of course, that goes right back to Adam.
Look in Jeremiah 9:23. Jeremiah talks about what man loves to boast in the most. There are three things, but I want you to see the first thing he mentions. I think that’s the bottom line of it all. Jeremiah 9:23 is a very wonderful passage which will open our eyes as to what we really enjoy boasting about. It says, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” Oh, how we love our wisdom.
When you take all the wisdom of man, whether it be the most academic or whatever, and you put it up next to God’s wisdom, it will absolutely pale to nonexistence. However, on this earth we tend to follow people we think know a lot. People who have a lot of wisdom tend to have a following. You say, “What does this have to do with 1 Corinthians 1?” It has everything to do with it. There was a division in the church at Corinth which had ripped it asunder, had torn it, in other words. Division means to rip, to tear, to rend. It’s a terrible word.
It says in 1:11, “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.” These contentious quarrels were surfacing. Verse 12 goes on, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’” Now the ones who says, “I am of Christ”, they’re the ones who had the right person, but the wrong motive. They’re the toughest ones to deal with. They excluded everybody. It was this attitude of exclusion that came with this division that has gotten into the church.
The Corinthians had made the same mistake we make in our time. We tend to listen to somebody preach or to teach and we tend, instead of hearing the message and letting the message draw us to God, we tend to attach ourselves to the person. That’s what Paul is saying. Don’t you attach yourself to a person. You attach yourself to Christ.
Paul is horrified that they even have put him in the mix. In verses 13-17 he takes them back to their baptism and says to them, “I wasn’t crucified for you. You weren’t baptized in my name.” Why would he say that? The little phrase “in the name of” or “in my name” has the idea of being attached to someone. What he’s saying to them is, “Listen, Jesus Christ saved you. He was crucified for you. And not only that, when you put your faith into Him, He attached you to Himself. When you were baptized, which has nothing to do with your salvation, you made a public statement that you were consciously attaching yourself to Him. Now, since He was crucified for you, He is your life. He didn’t just give you life. He is your life. Now you’re attached to that life. What are you doing attaching yourself to me?”
Don’t go around attaching yourselves to the people who have the message. Attach yourself to the Christ who gives the message. That’s the main thing. But we as human beings would rather follow a person we can see, touch, and feel. This was causing great division in the church of Corinth and it’s doing the same thing in the day that we live in.
As a matter of fact, Paul was saying, “Listen, this message that you heard from me in no way came from me. So why would you want to follow me? Follow the One who gave me the message.” That’s what we’re going to get into in a moment. Paul says, “The message is the message of Christ and Him crucified. I didn’t come up with that. I was a wise man for years, but religiously wise, and my wisdom was foolishness compared to this message. Don’t attach yourself to me.”
Then he begins to compare the wisdom of the world with the wisdom of God. In doing this, he shows them why they should never attach themselves to any man. Man’s wisdom is foolishness in light of God’s wisdom. The proof that man’s wisdom is foolishness in light of God’s wisdom is that man looks at God’s wisdom and calls it foolishness. That’s the very proof of the fact that man’s wisdom is foolishness. Whenever he hears what God has to say, hears the message of the gospel, and sees it as foolishness, it shows you how foolish his own wisdom really is.
So Paul basically is saying, “Listen, we are messengers. I’m a messenger, Peter was a messenger, Apollos was a messenger. But don’t attach yourself to the messenger. The message didn’t come from us. The wisdom of man will never save you. The message came from God. Attach yourself to Him and His message and let the message transform your life.”
Look at verse 17. We’ve looked at these verses, but we’re continuing to review. Verse 17 says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech [because if it was in cleverness of speech and human wisdom, it couldn’t save anybody] that the cross of Christ should not be made void.” Then he says, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, 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, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
That brings us up to verse 21. We want to begin looking now at the wonderful message of the cross. This message is seen by men as being utter foolishness which shows how foolish man is in his own wisdom. Look at verse 21. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
Here’s the whole point Paul’s making. He’s saying, “Listen, it’s not as if the world has never seen the wisdom of God, but being right in the midst of it, they never recognized it to be the wisdom of God.” Creation is a looking glass through which man can see the wisdom of God, but man in his own mind, in his own thinking, cannot see it as God’s wisdom. The Puritan Thomas Watson wrote this about the wisdom of God. I think it’s just excellent to show you how we live in the midst of it every day. I wonder, by the way, when you drive to work or come to church, are you looking around you? If you’ll just start observing the wisdom of God, it’s all around you. Thomas Watson says this.
None but a wise God could so curiously contrive the world. Behold the earth decked with a variety of flowers which are both for beauty and fragrance. Behold the heavens bespangled with lights. We may see the glorious wisdom of God blazing in the sun, twinkling in the stars. His wisdom is seen in the marshaling and ordering everything in its proper place and sphere. If the sun had been set lower, it would have burned us. If it had been set higher, it would not have warmed us with its rays. God’s wisdom is seen in appointing the seasons of the year. The Psalmist said in Psalm 74:14, “Thou hast established all the boundaries of the earth. Thou hast made summer and winter.” If it had been all summer, the heat would have scorched us. If it had been winter, the cold would have killed us. The wisdom of God can be seen in the checkering of the dark and the light. If it had been all dark, there would have been no labor. If it have been all light, there would have been no rest. God’s wisdom is seen in mixing the elements, the earth and the sea. If it had been all sea, we would have wanted bread. If it had been all earth, we would have wanted water. The wisdom of God is seen in preparing and ripening the fruits of the earth. In the wind and the frost that prepare the fruit and in the sun and the rain that ripen the fruits. God’s wisdom is seen in setting bounds to the sea and so wisely contriving it that though the sea be higher than many parts of the earth, yet it should not overflow the earth so that we may cry out with the Psalmist in Psalm 104:24, “O Lord, how many are thy works. In wisdom thou has made them all. The earth is full of all thy possessions.”
You see, man has witnessed the wisdom of God in the created order that is around him. Look again at 1:21. “For since in the wisdom of God [in the sphere of it, being right in the middle of it] the world through its wisdom did not come to know God.” Encased in the wisdom of God, man in his foolishness did not come to understand it to be God’s wisdom. When it talks about the world and its wisdom, there’s a definite article there. It directly separates two kinds of wisdom. There’s the wisdom of the world or the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God.
The author of the book of James says, “Listen, is your wisdom divine and from God or is it earthly and demon?” He is showing that there are two kinds of wisdom. So man left alone without God’s intervention does not discover the wisdom of God. We chose the foolishness of man’s wisdom which shows you the foolishness of ever following after man. The only men you ever want to listen to are the men who have the message that came from God.
Man is discovering laws constantly. We’ve got the law of gravity. We’ve got the law of aerodynamics. We’ve got the law of…., you just go right on down the list. But man will not attribute them to be of God. They will not do that. In fact, we have substituted the word “nature” for God. The most intelligent individual who knows that these laws are beyond anything that man could comprehend will not attribute them to God. Unregenerate man does not have the intelligence, nor does he have the courtesy to attribute what he has found and seen and discovered to be the wisdom of God. Man’s wisdom, that might even recognize that there is a God, would never bring that man to know God, experientially. It’s God’s wisdom in the message of the cross that leads man to understand how he can know God. It didn’t come from us. It came from God.
Paul says again in verse 21, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God.” The word “know” means to know Him by experience. There are religions all over this world but they cannot get to know God by experiencing Him personally because He has a wisdom in His message of the cross that man could never equate.
Paul refers to lost humanity in verse 21 as the world. That’s a very precious thought here. He uses the term “the world.” You ask, “Why is that important?” Because that’s the same term he used in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world.” The world of people who are foolish in their own selves who would never give credit to God for anything. “God so loved that same world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God still loved this foolish world and sent His Son and His wisdom into the world. That’s why Jesus is called the Word, the divine intelligence. If you want to know anything about God, you’ve got to come to Jesus and to His Word. He brought that message into this world to us that we might understand now how we can know Him and know Him personally.
Verse 21 goes on to say, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Now, not only did man not recognize the wisdom of God that was around him, but when the message came through His Son of how man could personally know God, man considered it to be foolishness. But even at that God was well-pleased to save those who believed. Now, you just kind of keep this in mind. The emphasis is not on man. The emphasis is on God, His message and His love, His care, His grace, and what He has done for us. Paul is saying, basically, “Why in the world would you attach yourself to man who has the message? That man could never come up with the message. God must have given that man the message. So let the message lead you to the God of the man and attach yourself unto Him.”
The Problem of the Message of The Cross
Well, we’re going to look at that saving message of the cross. There are two things I want you to see. First of all, I want you to see the problem of the message and secondly, I want you to see the power of the message of the cross, remembering that man in his wisdom is foolish when he does not receive the wisdom that God gives to him. And man, by calling God’s foolishness, shows himself to be a fool. Remembering that all along, because the message of the cross is not something your flesh wants to hear.
What’s the problem with the message of the cross? Well it was in verse 21. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased [now watch] through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Now, we can put computers together. We can come up with all kinds of the fine laws of nuclear physics. We can do all these things. Mankind can come up with all of these things, but mankind cannot come up with this message. And to him, intelligent man, as we call intelligence, it’s really foolishness in God’s eyes because he rejects what God has come up.
How did God choose to get this message into this world? This message that was going to confound the wise, this message that was going to put down the wisdom of men, what was the method that God chose to get this message? Notice, it says, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached.” Now, folks, I want to tell you something. That word for “preached” means preached, exactly what it says. It means the method of delivering, that the person preaches it. It also has to do with the content of it. Just to make sure you know I know where I am, in verse 23 Paul says, “but we preach Christ crucified.” So it’s the message of the cross. It has to do with the delivery. It has to do with the content of the message but, particularly, the content. Preaching is what God anointed to get this message into a world of men who considered themselves wise but in light of God’s wisdom actually are fools.
What is it that brings this message in? It’s the method of preaching. Romans 10:14 says, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” God said, “That’s the way I want this message to get into the world, through preaching.”
Here’s a side thought. Isn’t it interesting we’re living in a day when preaching no longer is what man says they want to hear? As a matter of fact, forty-five minute messages, hour messages, man, people think, “Man, oh man, will he ever hurry up? I don’t want to hear this. I don’t want to be here. It’s the most boring stuff I’ve ever heard in my life. Let me get out of here. My stomach’s growling.” People will sit for four hours in a concert, but they don’t want to hear preaching any more. “I’m tired of preaching.” So an hour message or a forty-five minute message is down in some places to a fourteen minute message. People are doing what makes them feel better about the service rather than coming back to the way that God said, “This is the way the message is going to get into this world. It’s going to be by preaching. And this message will be the message of the cross of Christ.” It’s not just the preaching, remember, but the content which is the cross of Christ.
What did Paul mean by the foolishness of the message? Let me tell you something. The message of the cross, us being crucified with Christ, us understanding that Christ had to be crucified for us, that message automatically makes man admit that he’s a sinner. We don’t like that. We like to boast in what we know. We like to boast in what we can do. We like to boast in what we have. We want the attention to come to us. But the message of the cross takes all the attention off us, puts us in our place and shows us what we’re not. It shows us that we were such sinners that no man’s wisdom could come up with a method of getting us to God. God had to come to us and build a bridge. God had to send His Son to die on the cross. Our flesh does not want to hear the message of the cross. It wants to hear all the other stuff but not the message of the cross.
Romans just fills in the blanks. Whenever you’re kind of worried about anything, go back to Romans. Romans somehow will cover it. That’s the constitution of our faith. Verse 21 of Romans 1 says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile [this is the picture of all the Gentile nations of the world from which we have come] in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became [what?] fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Here we are today, living in a state where we’ll spend millions to save a snail-darter but we’ll let an unborn child be aborted. That’s what’s happened to man. We’re upside down. And the wisdom of man, what he calls intelligence, God says is foolishness because man will not recognize his need of a savior. Man will not recognize the fact that he’s in the state of being a sinner because of Adam.
We saw in 1 Corinthians 1:20 that the world at that time was composed of the Jews and the Gentiles. Look over in verse 22 and you’ll see this was all Paul knew. Who’s he talking about when he says, “the foolishness and the wisdom of the world”? He’s just talking about people groups, folks. It’s the same way today. One’s the Jews and one’s the Gentiles. You’ve got two people groups during this period. There is another group but it’s something different. I’ll show you in a moment. Why do they think the preaching of the cross is such foolishness? Why would the Jews think it’s foolish? Why would the Gentiles think it’s foolishness? Because that’s all he had to deal with. It’s very simply seen.
It says in verse 22, “For indeed Jews ask for signs.” Now the word for “ask” is much stronger than ask. It means demand. In other words, the Jew, upon hearing the message of the cross, would say, “Hold it, hold it. Show me some miracles. Show me some signs. Show me something that tells me that Jesus truly is Yeshua, the true Messiah. I want to see a sign. I want to see a miracle.” You can understand why they feel that way. God used signs. The word is semeion. It refers to miracles.
As a matter of fact, you often see it combined with “wonders,” which has the idea that this miracle was of such degree that it was a wonder to the point I’ll keep it in my mind. The two kind of go together that way. But the signs are the key. Miracles, that which is extraordinary, those things that only God can do that’s beyond human thinking. God used those signs. These were fingerprints of God and the Jew wanted those fingerprints on everything that they heard. If those fingerprints were not there, they looked at whatever message that was preached as foolishness. The Jews wanted God’s fingerprint.
We know from the book of Deuteronomy God had used miracles all along their way. Every time He dealt with them there was a miracle. You can understand why they developed this mentality. In Deuteronomy 4:34 it says, “Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” It says in Deuteronomy 5:15, “And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.” Over and over and over again you see the miraculous signs and wonders that God would use in the nation of Israel.
Now what did this do for Israel? I’ll tell you what it did for them. It made them grow complacent and they lost all their spiritual discernment. If it wasn’t a miracle, if it wasn’t something that was earth-shaking, if it wasn’t something that was extraordinary, they rejected the message. So the message of Christ crucified, to them, it’s total foolishness, you see. Therefore, they only picked certain prophets to listen to. That’s kind of like a cafeteria line. The Scribes and the Pharisees and the elders would go by and say, “Oh, I like this story. I like this one. I like this one, but I don’t like that one. Don’t like that one. Don’t like that one, but I like this one.” They got so confused looking for the miraculous power of God rather than Jesus coming and dying on a cross that.
When He resurrected, two of the disciples were walking down the road to Emmaus and Jesus had to come alongside them. He said, “Hey, guys, what are you talking about?” And they said, “Don’t you know what’s been going on this weekend?” I guess He did. He was kind of the center of attention. But He kind of acted like He didn’t. He said, “No, tell me about it.” And they told Him about how Jesus was crucified and they said, “Oh, we’re so discouraged. We thought He was going to set up His kingdom.” You see, Israel always looked for that kind of thing, power, big, exciting, awesome. So as a result of that, in Luke 24:25 we read, “And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken?’” You grabbed this piece and you grabbed that piece but you missed Isaiah 53. It says, “He’ll be wounded for our transgressions.” And all the passages that talk about the sacrificial death of Jesus upon the cross, you picked this one and that one. You’re looking for signs. You’re looking for wonders. You’re not looking for the true wisdom of God which is in the message of Christ and Him crucified. So to the Jews, it was foolishness to them.
As a matter of fact, it was a stumbling block. That word “stumbling block” there in 1 Corinthians 1:23 is not stumbling block really, it’s skandalon, which is a trap. But it’s more than that. It’s the trigger that sets that trap off. Those traps, by the way, were a death trap. If you have mice in your house, you put a little cheese or a little peanut butter on a trap and put the top over it. It’s kind of like a little trigger. If the mouse touches that, it sets the trap off, but they don’t know what’s coming. Smack!! It’s a death trap.
They considered the preaching of the cross a death trap to them. Why would they consider it to be a death trap? Because for a Jew to accept the message of the crucified Lord Jesus on the cross, was for them to have fallen into a death trap. They’d have to cut themselves off from family and friends and deny everything their religion taught them from that point on because they became new creatures in Christ. No more need to go to the temple. No more need for this and this and this. It just cut it off. So it was a death trap to the Jews. This was their wisdom, you see. Their wisdom was a system, a form, and that which looked for signs and wonders. It didn’t look for the message of the cross. It was a stumbling block to the Jews.
But the Greeks were a little bit different. The Greeks, you see, didn’t have a Bible. They didn’t have all the prophecies. They didn’t have the prophets. They didn’t have all these things behind them. They were searching for wisdom it says. The Jews demand a sign; the Greeks search for wisdom. By the way, we all mostly came out of the Gentile world. You may be a converted Jewish person but most of us came from the Gentile world. And the Gentile world, since they didn’t have the Scriptures, debated and discussed and searched out wisdom for themselves. The word for search is zeteo. It means to zealously look for something.
There are a lot of people who search for wisdom. They’ll spend hours and hours and hours. That’s the Greek mindset. They want to come up with the conclusion themselves. Why? So they can point back to themselves as being wise enough for having discovered it. That’s the intellect. Do you know anybody like that, trying to figure out everything the Word of God has to say, trying to always wrestle with something, always learning but failing to come to an understanding of the truth? That’s the intellect.
So the Greek world, the Gentile world, represented the intellectual pursuit. The Jewish world looked for signs and wonders. So the gospel, that message of the cross, was foolishness to both groups. It was a deathtrap to the Jews, it was foolishness to the Greek. The Greek couldn’t stand to think of his sins, first of all even being there, but secondly being expiated by the shed blood of a person on a horrible cross. Crucifixion was the worst kind of death. They couldn’t handle this. You would never walk into the academia of that time and preach Jesus crucified because they’d throw it right back in your face. They’d laugh you out of the room. “What do you mean? We’re not even sinners, much less have to have our sins cleansed by the shedding of a man’s blood.” So they saw it as foolishness.
By the way, folks, while we’re in this, the world hasn’t changed much, has it? There are still two groups of people. It’s not any different. You’ve got that group who will only believe something if they have the signs and the wonders. They don’t like the message of the cross. You see, the message of the cross is not just what saves you. The message of the cross continues through your sanctification and we must remember that. You don’t take the cross out of your vocabulary. Just because you’re a believer does not mean that you don’t have to daily reckon yourself to be dead. That’s why we hate the message of the cross.
Paul said in Philippians, “I say this with weeping. There are people among us that are enemies of the cross and I’ll tell you where they are. They’re over here looking for signs and wonders or they’re over here trying to figure it out. They don’t want to die to themselves. They don’t want to reckon themselves to be dead. They don’t want to see themselves for how the cross makes them see one another.”
I’ll tell you, it’s scary, folks. People don’t want to hear the message of the cross any more. But that’s the day we’re living in, folks. The message of the cross is not wanting to be heard by anybody. It never has been popular because it makes a man realize that he has to recognize what he’s not. It makes a man come to grips with the facts. He’s got to understand to say “Yes” to Jesus and saying “Yes” to Jesus is saying “No” to his flesh. We don’t want to do that. That’s why marriages and everybody else is upside down sometimes because people don’t want to hear that message, to go home and die to self. It’s not them. It’s me. I’ve got to die to me, reckon myself to be dead as He put me to death on the cross and rise to walk in newness of His life. We don’t want to hear that anymore.
The problem with the preaching of the cross is it’s just not popular, never has been. Do you know why? Because it takes all of our wisdom and all that which we would take credit for and puts it to death and stomps it in the floor and puts it on the cross with Jesus and says, “Now, whatever you are is because of Him and His wisdom and what He has done for you.” But to the world it’s foolishness, those looking for a sign and those wanting to try to figure it out for themselves.
The Power of the Message of The Cross
The second thing, however, is the power of the preaching of the cross. You’ve got two sides to this thing. You’ve got a problem, but look what he says here in verse 24: “but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks [that same message we’re talking about], Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” You see, there really are three groups, aren’t they? Let’s make sure we understand that.
Look over in 1 Corinthians 10:32. I’ll show you there are three groups. There is the Jewish wisdom; there is the Greek wisdom and they see the message of the cross as foolishness; but look here, there’s another group. “Give no offense either to Jews [that’s one group] or to Greeks [that’s the other group] or to the church of God.” Whoa! Whoa! Do you mean there’s a third group? That’s right. The third group is those who are the called ones.
We’ve seen the word “called” already in this chapter. In 1:1 we saw that Paul said he was “called as an apostle.” They didn’t have punctuation marks so we don’t know if he meant called as an apostle or called apostle. “I’m a believer first, the called ones, then I’m an apostle, one sent forth especially commissioned by God for the doctrine of the New Testament.” It has to be in that order. Κletos is the word “called” in the plural. Every times it’s used in Scripture it means the called ones. Now, what I want you to see is the emphasis is not on them calling themselves out. It’s on Him calling them. You see, they’re in the wisdom of the world. The cross is foolishness, but one day the cross gets hold of them and God takes that message and calls them to Himself. That’s the whole idea.
Verse 9 of chapter 1 shows it very clearly: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” I want to time-out here just a second because I’ve been wrestling with this. Have you wrestled with this? Can a man resist the grace of God, the calling of God? I’ve really struggled with it. The older I’m getting the more I’m coming to the fact that I don’t believe he can.
But you see, the whole emphasis here is on the fact that salvation came from God. It did not come from man at all. We tend to sometimes say that we’re on one side but drift over here and make the responsibility man’s when it’s really God. God even gives us the faith to believe. But there’s a verse that hit me this time. Listen to the statement that Jesus makes over in Matthew 22:14. He seems to imply two callings here: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” I’m thinking, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute.” The many are called. There’s a general calling to everyone. We’re encased with the wisdom of God and God beckons each one of us constantly. But there seems to be a specific call.
Spurgeon made a statement that really makes a lot of sense to me. He said, “There are two different kinds of callings.” He likens it to the bell that sounds over the workshop to call men to work. This is a general call. Every man is called. Kind of like a dinner bell: “Okay, we’re eating. If you don’t come, it’s your fault.” The call is there. But then there’s a father who goes to the door and opens the door and says, “Johnny, it’s time for supper.” There’s a big difference in that specific call than that general call which is issued there.
I’ve been thinking about that. You pray for me. I may change my mind. The more I thought about that, the more I realized that you may resist it for a while but ultimately you will submit to it. The apostle Paul, I think, resisted it for years in his life. He was around it all the time. God was on his case. He wouldn’t turn to him. Finally one day on the Damascus Road he responded.
Salvation is of God. It’s His message. It’s His doing. It’s His Son who came and died on the cross for you and me. And when a person is saved, they better wake up and begin to understand this is not because you’re so smart you found Jesus. I hate those little bumper stickers that say, “I Found Jesus.” You did not! He found you and you finally woke up to the fact. He knew you before you ever knew Him. We need to realize this.
In Romans he doesn’t even bring it up until the 8th chapter. Do you know why I think he doesn’t? It’s because it’s a family word. It’s special to the family, to understand, I’m in this not because of my doing or because of my wisdom but because of the power and the wisdom of God that brought me to this place. I’ll tell you. You just think about it. He knew our warts before the world was ever created. He knew all of our sin. He knew the garbage of our flesh. What did you say this past week that you’re ashamed of? Just think back. “Oh, I lived so good last week. I just can’t wait to have another week.” Climb down off that pedestal. Oh, you sinner! Good grief! All of us struggle with flesh, don’t we? But God knew that and at the same time God loved us in spite of it and called us. I’ll tell you, it will make your salvation a little bit different, put it in a brand new dimension, when you realize God’s the one who came after you and called you.
Well, Paul goes on: “but to those who are the called.” The called ones came out of the Jews and the Greeks. That’s what God promised Abraham: through Israel would all nations be blessed. He said, “but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It’s all wrapped up in one person. Christ is the power of God and Christ is the wisdom of God. He’s the treasurer of all knowledge and wisdom. So, therefore, if you want wisdom, you turn to what God has to say and what God has done for you. Not only the wisdom to come up with the plan of salvation, but the power to carry it out, you see. It’s all wrapped up in God, and God, with that one message of the Gospel and how He came and Christ was crucified, put to shame the wisdom of this world. Just literally brought an end to the wise and put a lid over the people who call themselves clever. Because this is wisdom that man could have never thought of. And if we’re saved today, it’s because of Him and His message.
Now listen, go back to the context. Paul is saying, “Don’t ever attach yourself to a man who’s got the message right because the only reason he has it right is by the grace, the power and the wisdom of God who brought him to that message.” Listen to the message and let the message bring you back to your attachment to Christ and you’ll not divide and conquer. There will not be exclusiveness in the body of Christ. There will not be divisions and schisms and rendering and ripping and tearing because when we’re following after Him, His Spirit living in us will unite us together. That’s how the church walks united, keeping their focus and their attachment on the One who is their origin and the empowerment of the very message of the cross in our life.
This week, when you’re going about your daily tasks, remember something. Your identity now is in Christ. Any demand that God puts on you this next week is not a demand on you. It’s a demand on His life that He has placed within you. So don’t come up with the old excuse “I can’t.” It’s really, “I won’t.” God has given us His life to live within us. We’re dead in Him and raised to walk in the newness of life. Whose life? His life. Paul says in Colossians, “Christ is our life.” And the message of the cross continues on every day. When I have to make a decision, I choose either between His wisdom, His word, His will, or I choose between my own will. You see, if I make the choice here, then I have put my identity back on the cross where I belong. The flesh is dead and I have said “Yes” to what God wants in my life. That’s not a message people want to hear. But it’s a message you better hear. I had better hear it because the cross is where Jesus saved us by dying for us. But the cross also is where we find our identity and that’s where sanctification takes place, from that place as we reckon ourselves dead and alive to His Word and His wisdom and His will in our life. But the message of the cross is not what our flesh likes to hear. When your flesh is pampered, you haven’t heard from God. But when your flesh is offended, you have just heard from God and it’s the message of Christ and Him crucified and your identity with His crucifixion.
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