by Mike Ratliff
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. (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)
As I write this it is Saturday evening. Tomorrow is Easter. In our last few posts we have looked at the last Passover meal our Lord had with His disciples when He instituted the Lord’s Supper and revealed the New Covenant sealed in His blood. Then we looked at the timing of the arrest, trial, scourging, crucifixion, death, and burial of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw where the three Jewish Feasts, Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Early First Fruits lined up exactly with the three days and nights in which people were given authority over our Lord in order to fulfill them.
All genuine believers know that our Lord did not stay in the tomb. He was resurrected on Sunday morning of Nisan 17. We find the Biblical accounts of this in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20. However, if you do a search on the internet using the term “Resurrection Foolishness” or “Empty Tomb,” for instance, you will find some godly accounts of these things, but you will also find many accounts of resistance and scorn and skepticism. I fully intended to write a post for Easter about our Lord’s Resurrection, but as I began my research and Bible reading for it, I was drawn to 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.
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. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 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? 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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25 ESV)
My wife and I had a lively discussion today about the nature of faith. The faith that believes God, that which saves a person, is supernatural. It is a quickened faith that is made alive by God’s grace. It sees God’s Wisdom and accords with it while the unbelieving sees the very same thing and scoffs and ridicules and refuses to believe. Why did God do it this way? Let’s start with vv18-19.
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. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 ESV)
The Greek word for ‘word’ here is ‘λογος’ or ‘logos.’ Some Bible translations render this as, “the word of the cross.” Others use “message” or “preaching” here for ‘logos.” The word means, “something said (including the thought). It can also be used to represent a topic or subject. It can refer to reasoning or motive. So what was Paul talking about here. He was saying that the preaching of the Gospel, the real Gospel, is folly to those who are perishing. Who is this? The Greek used here for ‘who are perishing’ is ‘μεν απολλυμενοις’ or ‘men apollumi.’ These two words together would read ‘those being destroyed fully.’Notice the contrast between this group of people and those ‘who are being saved.’ This is the Greek word ‘σωζομενοις’ or ‘sozo.’ This is describing those who are being delivered or saved. The grammar structure of both phrases is ‘Present Passive/Middle Participle.’ This means that those who are saved are being saved and those who are perishing are being destroyed by continuous or repeated action. Present participles in Greek refer to action, but in both cases the saved and the lost both are having this action applied to them.
To those who are being saved the message of the Cross is the power of God. However, to those who are perishing it is foolishness. The Greek word for power is ‘δυναμις’ or ‘dunnamis.’ It refers to miraculous power. The Greek word for foolishness here is ‘μωρια’ or ‘moria.’ It means ‘silliness, absurdity, or foolishness.’ One’s response to the cross of Christ determines whether he or she is one of those being saved or one of those being destroyed. I have had some debates over the last several months with the scoffers and from that I have learned that there is nothing darker than the understanding of one who sees the message of the cross as foolishness. They see our faith as blindness and see us as morons. However, this is God’s work. In v19 we see where Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14. God declares that man’s wisdom will be destroyed.
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? 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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25 ESV)
Human wisdom always proves to be unreliable and impermanent. Unregenerate Human reason seems wise to those who are perishing while they see God’s Wisdom as utter nonsense. I was watching a commercial yesterday with my wife. An attractive Afro-American lady was on the screen making a public service announcement of some sort. She made the statement that we must raise up our children to be accepting of all religions, etc, etc, etc. For if we do that then we can create a society of equality and fairness and perpetual peace. Now to our Human reason this sounds good and right. However, the Holy Spirit caused a huge red flag to be waved in my heart when I heard that. Should Christians be accepting of all religions? I am not advocating violence or any such thing. I am saying that the message of the Cross is black and white. There are no gray areas. It is exclusive and we do no one any favors if we do not share the Gospel with them out of fear of offending them because of the differences in our religions.
God saves those who believe the Gospel and receive the Risen Christ as Lord and Saviour. That which is preached that God uses to save us is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. The only true sign and the only true wisdom is the Cross and Christ crucified. This was Paul’s message, and should be ours as well, because it alone has the power to save all who believe. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. Those who believe and are saved are those who see their desperate need for a Saviour because they see the sinfulness of their sin. Those who refuse to see this see themselves as wise and God’s ways as foolish. They refuse to see the sinfulness of their sin and, therefore, see no need for a Saviour.
My Brethren, this is why we must never dilute the Gospel. It is the power of God to save souls and there is no other. You must ask yourself whether you are one who is being saved or one who is being destroyed.