2005-02-27 — The Message Of The Cross Is Foolishness!

Lent 8:
Date: February 27, 2005

Theme: The Message Of The Cross Is Foolishness!

1. Man’s wisdom is foolishness.
2. God’s foolishness is Wisdom.
3. The power of the Cross is revealed in those being saved.
– 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

– Ude, John

The Order of Worship:

Liturgy: TLH, p. 5 ff.


TLH 37 : Lord, 'tis not that I did Choose Thee Hymnary.org link
TLH 354 : In the Cross of Christ I Glory Hymnary.org link
TLH 358 : Lamb of God, We Fall Before Thee Hymnary.org link
TLH 51 : Now May He Who from the Dead Hymnary.org link

Theme: The Message Of The Cross Is Foolishness!

1. Man’s wisdom is foolishness.
2. God’s foolishness is Wisdom.
3. The power of the Cross is revealed in those being saved.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

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. (ESV)

Sermon: 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

In the name of Jesus February 27, 2005
About two hundred years after Paul wrote these words, a pagan stood before a wall in Rome to draw some graffiti. He scratched down the sentence, “Alexamenos worships his god,” and illustrated it with a picture. Alexamenos is standing with his hand upraised to hail his god and facing a figure stretched out on a cross. But the human figure stretched out on the cross does not have the head of a man but rather the head of a donkey. With that blasphemous drawing, the graffiti artist showed what he thought of Christianity. “You might as well worship a donkey as believe in a crucified Jesus as your Savior, The Message Of The Cross Is Foolishness!”
Can the clay pot say to the potter that made it, “You have no wisdom, You didn’t make me.” Paul quotes this inversion of wisdom from Is. 29:11-16 to demonstrate: Man’s wisdom is foolishness and why the LORD rejects the inverted wisdom of man. Jesus reveals that the religious establishment of His day with all their accumulated wisdom, meticulously recorded in the Talmud and pietistically practiced in thousands upon thousands of laws were a fulfillment of this prophecy. Their wisdom crucified the LORD of glory Whom God raised up proving their wisdom to be foolishness. V. 22 For Jews demand signs. They did not dispute that Jesus did amazing signs but still always wanted more proof. People like this in any age expect to be overwhelmed into salvation by signs from Heaven which make repentance and faith unnecessary. For them Christ crucified is a stumbling block that is a trap that kills them, for the cross requires repentant faith. The Greeks seek wisdom. The Greeks prided themselves on their depth of intelligence. They expect to be reasoned into a salvation that they find rationally acceptable. For them Christ crucified is foolishness. And such a false teaching had invaded the minds of congregation at Corinth. They claimed a wisdom that went beyond the Scriptures and set them free to do whatever they wanted. That’s a wisdom from hell that still seeks our hearts thinking: “I know what I believe so I don’t need to go to church” and “I’ll be forgiven so sin won’t matter.” And Corinth is a blatant demonstration that such wisdom of man, though parading as religion, fosters human greatness and creates factions centering in man. It also V.17 makes the cross of no effect, a wasted effort of God since man’s wisdom saves him. It empties the cross of its power because it substitutes an attainment of man for God’s mighty act of deliverance. But Paul asks V. 20 “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (Indeed, He has!) For . . . in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God.” But someone may ask, most of us must spend most of our time working with human wisdom, must we abandon our secular callings? Any secular discipline is useful for the service of Christ, an opportunity to show our love for Jesus going to the cross for us, to model Christian values that seek first the kingdom of God and to exercise Christian judgment, putting everything under the authority of God’s Word. For all the world’s accumulated wisdom, even including the wisdom that God manifested in His creation, will never lead a person to know salvation in Christ. Pagans worship the powers God put in nature and the wise today conclude nature itself created all things so there is no god, Man’s wisdom is foolishness, it claims the pot made the potter.
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Paul makes it clear that the gospel is not a refinement or advancement of man’s wisdom. The gospel of Christ crucified sprang solely from the heart of God, and stands in utter contrast to the human spirit’s natural sense of values, propriety and logic. The contrast is so great that Paul almost sounds blasphemous himself as he momentarily views God’s gospel wisdom from a human perspective and speaks of it as V. 21″the foolishness of what was preached.” Every drop of blood that fell from Jesus dramatizes the irreconcilable contrast between the wisdom of man and the foolishness of God. Jesus thus prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Mt 11:25). Why reveal His salvation in a way that’s hidden from the wise? It is not that God does not love the wise, mighty or noble. God wants all men to be saved. Jesus died for them all. But the worldly wise will not receive the foolishness of God, submit to the authority of the inspired Scriptures, mingle with the lowly. What if God revealed salvation in the philosophical jargon and mathematical calculations of the wise. No one could understand it, even the wise could only pretend they did. What if salvation depended on your being able to correctly calculate all the launching, trajectory, and cosmic directions to send yourself in a spaceship to Alpha Centauri, getting there before you die and without burning up? Or what if God revealed salvation in the language of the wealthy, you must buy, earn, deserve it? No one could be saved. The Father offers salvation in simple grace for all. It is not God’s fault if the wise and powerful stumble over grace because they are clinging in pride to their medallions that proclaim: “I’m #1.” The wise, mighty, noble can be saved, but only in God’s way, not their own. For no flesh may boast in the presence of God. God’s saving wisdom puts us on our knees in gratitude for being favored with the gospel and faith to receive it. God’s foolishness of the cross is Wisdom. We sense that whenever we ponder the astonishing salvation God has brought to our ears and rooted in our hearts. We sense it whenever we gaze upon Christ crucified and find ourselves moved to adoration of the God whose yearning love for us is so inexpressibly great. The holy precious blood of this crucified God-man is the only sufficient price to pay for the guilt of all our sins, the sins of the world. The perfect obedience to the law of this holy God-man is the only righteousness sufficient for you, for all.
And V. 18 also reveals, the power of the Cross is revealed in those being saved. V. 26 “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise.” God chose Abel, the second son, not Cain, the first-born.God chose Jacob, the mother’s boy, not Esau, his father’s favorite.God chose Leah, the homely sister, not Rachel the beautiful.God chose Moses, the murderer with a speech problem, not Korah the prominent, charismatic leader. God chose the Israelites, a small people, not the Babylonians or Egyptians.God chose the weak tribe of Judah, not the ten northern tribes who were richer.God chose David, the shepherd boy overlooked by his own father, not Saul the magnificent.God chose Mary, a poor nobody, not the daughters of Annas or Caiaphas.God chose the shepherds of Bethlehem, not the rulers in Jerusalem.God chose fishermen and tax collectors, not scribes or Pharisees.God chose Saul, the blaspheming persecutor, not Gamaliel the prudent. God chose Martin Luther, a monk from backward Germany, not the pope at Rome nor his cardinals nor his bishops.God’s saving wisdom puts us on our knees in gratitude for being favored with the gospel and faith to receive it so we are a part of the ragged collection of have-nots whom God has chosen to be His own precious saints. Reliance on man’s wisdom empties the cross of its power, puffs men up, and creates divisive factions. But the wisdom of the cross pronounces an annihilating judgment on all human greatness, subjects all men to the Crucified condemning all factions and with its grace lays
a total claim on man to live wholly for the glory of Jesus. That power of the cross is seen then not only in our being called to faith but also in being called to live our faith. V. 30 “You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Yes, even our sanctification is in Christ. So quickly we claim credit for the things we must now do: the believing, the obeying, the sacrificing. But God does not tolerate anyone shouting: “I’m #1” in His court. It is only by being attached to the Vine of Christ that we can do any of those things in a way that’s please to the LORD. Jn 15:5 “Without Me you can do nothing.” So the final verse remains, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” Amen.