Christ the wisdom and power of God vs gospel contextualization

by Mike Ratliff

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν. 19 γέγραπται γάρ·
ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν
καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NA28)

18 For the word of the cross to those perishing is senseless, but to us being saved, it is the power of God 19 for it has been written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise ones
and the understanding of the intelligent I will set aside.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Look around at those man-focused, pragmatic, seeker-sensitive “churches” in our time. They may vary in many ways, but there is a commonality that marks them all as products of the spirit of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) rather than the spirit of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). That commonality is seen in the passage I placed at the top of this post. It is what makes them of the spirit of Laodicea. They are structured and operate according to the wisdom of men. Their very way of handling the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ depletes the cross of its power. What do I mean? When the “so-called gospel” that is “preached” is given in a way that intentionally removes its offense and an attempt is made to make it sensible to the lost and dying world by removing the blood and removing the necessity of our Lord’s death for those who owed a debt to God they could not pay, what is given is more of a sales pitch and self-help remedy. All this does is create a body of people who are neither cold nor hot. No, they believe they have everything and are right with God, but are in reality, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked who are simply ready for the next deceiver to come along. 

I was contacted by a friend earlier today about this article by David Sills from 2009. The reason she wanted me to look at it was that it was linked to by a very recent page here that reaffirms gospel contextualization for missionaries. It was disturbing to her because she supports a ministry that supports that ministry… I have posted about Gospel Contextualization before, but it’s been awhile. To summarize, it depends on what you mean by it. If you are referring to how you share the gospel with children like I did with my daughter when she was a young where I used a pencil with several colors on it so that the gospel message was simplified and you call that Gospel Contextualization then okay that is okay. However, if you are all about changing the Gospel message to fit a culture group and actually change the message of the atonement and remove the Doctrinal necessities for such as the ‘original sin,’ in order to remove the offense of the cross then we have a problem. The Gospel message is not really very complicated. It is not hard to understand at all. People who demand that we contextualize it in order to open wide the doors of the Kingdom so that people can come in without having to change much are making a huge error. Why?

The preaching of the gospel is never done correctly according to the wisdom of men. No, God created one way to salvation through the Son and that one way makes no sense to the unregenerate, that is, those who are of this world. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Don’t you believe God meant it when He said this? What Paul said in v18 totally defeats all attempts to modify or edit the gospel message by those who desire to conform it to man-made parameters like Political Correctness, or Pop-Culture, or Post-Modernist thinking, et cetera. The reason the proponents of those things desire to edit the gospel is they see that the word of the cross is foolish or senseless. What does that say about them my brethren? Doesn’t that mark them as among those who are perishing?

20 ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου; 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας· 22 ἐπειδὴ καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι σημεῖα αἰτοῦσιν καὶ Ἕλληνες σοφίαν ζητοῦσιν, 23 ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον, ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν, 24 αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν· 25 ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστὶν καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25 NA28)

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Did not God make foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, by the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews an offense, to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both to Jews and to Greeks, Christ, God’s power and God’s wisdom. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser then men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (Corinthians 1:20-25 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

This is very clear my brethren. As I said above, those who are not called by God, see the cross as foolishness or an offense. It makes no sense to them. When we deal with atheists, pagans, Jews, or Muslims in our apologetics, this is their complaint. Notice, however, that Paul makes it very clear, “but to those who are called, both to Jews and to Greeks” Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. The reference to “Greeks” is referring to all Gentiles. Therefore, where does the responsibility lay to draw people to believe? Is it with programs and preaching and big churches and fellowship? No! It is God who calls (John 6:44) and it is God who gives the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:1-10).

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NA28)

26 For you see, your calling brothers, that not many wise men according to the flesh, not many powerful men, not many well-born, 27 but the foolish ones of the world God chose that he might shame the wise men. 28 And the weak ones of the world God chose that he might shame the strong ones. And the low-born of the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no flesh may boast before God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom to us from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption 31 that according as it has been written, “The one boasting, let him boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Who chose whom? By what criteria did He make His choice of His elect? Do you see that those of us in Christ have no place to boast except in the Lord? We should not marvel that so few seem to be among the elect, but that anyone is at all. Are any of us deserving?

Now, compare what we just studied in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 with what is going on in most of the visible church in our time. You will find a great variance. Gone is the foolishness and offense of the cross replaced with Christless Christianity that is the religion of the “churches” of the spirit of Laodicea. Flee to the cross my brethren!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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