Friday, March 11, 2016
1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
Introduction and review
In yesterday's post I began reflecting on Paul's statement about the "foolishness of the cross' in 1 Corinthians 1:18. We spent most of that post dealing with the first half and ended with some remarks on the second half of the verse. Today's post will continue on whence we left off and conclude our reflections on this crucial element of the Gospel.
Reflecting on the second part of 1 Corinthians 1:18
Certainly the first-half of 1 Corinthians 1:18 may seem hopeless - that is - until we come to the contrastive little word "but" in the second part. The word "but" is important, for it means that regardless of what may be said against the cross, God's word in the cross renders such protests as absurd. In contrast to the hopelessness of those perishing, Paul points to the cross as the power of God and thus hope for those who are being saved.
Paul contrasts the "foolishness of the cross" to the perishing to that of it being "the power of God" to those who believe in the second part of 1 Corinthians 1:18. The repugnance of the cross to the natural unbelieving mindset can be a source of great tension. The flesh wants acceptance. Oftentimes the tendency in every church is to dial down the offense of the cross. But if for anything, this feature of the Gospel is what sets it apart from all other counterfeits.
Paul never diminished this offensive component of the Gospel - but all the more pressed it. The only place where God will meet the sinner is at the cross. All other attempts of man entail him trying to meet God or to manufacture some type of home-spun salvation. Such efforts fail. The cross is where Holy God in the Person of the Son, having been united to a truly human nature in His virgin birth - triumphed in providing reconciliation for all who would respond in saving faith. The unbeliever finds this offensive, since no credit can be taken - but rather can only be given to God alone.
Only the Holy Spirit can show the natural unbelieving mindset's estimation of the cross to be wrong (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). The Gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to all who believe" (Romans 1:16). Whether a ritualist or an elitist, whether rich or poor - all sorts of unbelievers are beckoned to come to the cross. The Holy Spirit's saving grace shining into the darkened mind and opaque heart shows the cross to be the place of rescue. The result of the Spirit's efforts and the sinner's response yields an embracing of the God-man - Jesus Christ.
The foolishness of the cross ends up being the strength of the Gospel - since God, not man, is credited with all the work. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:5 "so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.