The Foolishness of God, Part 1: The Cross of Christ (1 Corinthians Sermon 4)
August 19, 2018 | Andrew Davis
The Power of God for Salvation, The Gospel as the Power of God
The Wisdom of the World VS The Cross of Christ
I’d like to ask you to turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, what you just heard Jason read. We're going to begin walking through this passage. And as we do, we come in this section to of one of the greatest parts in the Bible, one of its greatest sections of Scripture celebrating the wisdom and the power of God in the cross of Christ. And the text itself gives us a sense of warfare, really, of a battle between God and the world, on the issue of wisdom and foolishness, and how in this battle of world views the world is saying to God, that the message of the cross is foolishness, makes no sense, and God is saying to the world that the way the world is living is foolishness.
And so there are these charges and counter charges of folly, of foolishness going on in the text. Now we, who are Christians, are kind of aware more and more in America, of a battle of world views, and we see things very differently than non-Christians. They see things very differently from us. But I want to appeal to you as Christians to stop seeing the battle out there with all of those people. That we need to realize that we still are thinking and behaving foolishly ourselves, that we haven't fully embraced the wisdom and power of God in the cross ourselves and that we need to be humbled by the cross.
So I want you to take this message of the cross, this foolishness and the weakness of God and have the Lord through the Holy Spirit drive at home into your heart that you will be humbled. The cross is the power to humble our proud spirits. And that's an ongoing work. I know you know it's true that we are still arrogant and so prideful, and the cross has the power to humble us, and that's what we're going to see in this text.
Context: An immature and sinning church with many specific problems
Now the context here is we're in the middle of a chapter of Paul's epistle here. Paul is writing to a church that he planted that is very talented, very gifted through the gifts of the Spirit, very talented church, but it's a dysfunctional church. It's the church with lots of problems, and he's writing this epistle to address a series of problems, one after the other. And the first one, we've already begun looking at it. But the first one he wants to address is divisions and factions within the church. "I follow Paul…I follow Apollos…I follow Cephas."
Now in Greek culture, there was this tendency, this pattern to arrange yourself under a great man, a great philosopher, as a disciple of that great leader. And the Greeks did this all the time. There were schools set up of Aristotle and Socrates and Plato and they would follow, and they would be disciples of Epicurus, and they would debate against each other, and they would lob grenades against each other. They were used to doing this. The Greeks of that time were fractious and divided people, city states warring against each other, and then schools of philosophy warring against each other, and so when the Gospel came, they just... The Corinthians just did the standard Greek thing, it's like, "Alright, we have new philosophical heroes now, I follow Paul the plan of the church, I follow Apollos, he's a more polished speaker. I follow Peter, he's the apostle to the Jews and the leader and was an apostle before Paul ever was. And I follow Christ more than all of you do." And so you have these factions and divisions, and Paul's wanting to address this and what he's going to do, not just with factions and divisions.
We're going to see these with problem after problem in the church, church discipline issues, sexual immorality issues, marital issues, problems with meat sacrifice to idols. He's going to address all of these problems, one after the other by showing the sufficiency of the cross for all of them. The cross is enough. The message of the cross is sufficient for addressing all of the problems in the Christian life, all of the problems of a dysfunctional, divided, immature Christian church. The cross is enough and he's going to zero in as we begin in this section here, on the apparent foolishness of the cross, the apparent weakness of the cross and say, "it's not what it appears".
I love Michael Card's music and one of my favorite songs is El Shaddai. I first heard it sung by Amy Grant. I thought she wrote it, but it wasn't Amy Grant that wrote it, it was Michael Card. I remember hearing Michael Card singing it on an album, and say "You stole that from Amy Grant" and that bothered me. But then I realized actually she didn't steal it, but sang his song. But one of the stanzas of El Shaddai, here's what it says,
Through the years you've made it clear,
That the time of Christ was near, Though the people failed to see
What Messiah ought to be.
Though your Word contained the plan, They just could not understand
Your most awesome work was done Through the frailty of your son.
Now that idea is foolishness to the world. How could God's most awesome work be done through the frailty, the mortality, the suffering and pain and death of God, the Son, how could that be powerful? And that's the very thing that Paul is seeking to address here. How could that be wise?
I. The Human Race in Love with Its Own Wisdom
Now, the human race is in love with its own wisdom. We are enamored with ourselves. We are impressed with ourselves, just like Satan once before. Very impressed he was with his beauty and wisdom and power and fell so in love with himself that he sought to topple God from his throne and take God's place. And he then recruited us in a similar arrogant lofty ambitious upward path to topple God from his throne. Now a great deal of the difference between us and the animals, of course, is our ability to think and reason, and plan, and understand abstract reality through language, things that are not immediately in front of us. We can think about them, what might happen, what's going to outcomes, things like that. It separates us from every other creature.
And this is the very area that the intellect, the mind that Satan sought to attack and go after with the temptation of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or how Adam and Eve saw that the fruit could make us wise and we would become like God, and maybe even, like Satan, topple God from His throne. And this continued to develop after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. We see it in the spirit of Babel, the Tower of Babel. They developed some technology. They learned how to bake bricks thoroughly, get the moisture out, greater compression strength, cover it with pits, and they could build higher than they'd ever built before, and they thought to build a tower to heaven. And then now, God says, "Let us go down and see this cute little tower that they're building." He didn't say "cute little", but that's the sense, you've not even come close to me.
And yet, he says, this is the greatest statement God could ever make about our innate capability, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So that's the sense of both our humbling before an infinite God, but also our capabilities and our power. And so we're in love with ourselves. We're in love with our wisdom, our intellect. And the love of wisdom was there in ancient Greece, too. The Greek word Philosophy means to love wisdom. That's literally what it means. And the city of Athens was the center of that love of human wisdom. It was named for the Greek goddess, Athena, the goddess of wisdom. And so people would come from miles around to be trained by Athenian philosophers and we know their names still. Socrates in the fifth century BC was born, and then his disciple was Plato, and then his top student was Aristotle. These are names we still know today.
Alexander the Great was himself a disciple of Aristotle and was so filled with zeal for Hellenism, for a zeal for the glory of Greece, that he spread it everywhere he went, also spread his own name, he established like 22 different Alexandria(s). But he's in love with himself and he was in love with Greece and Greek wisdom, and so everywhere that he conquered, he spread this love of philosophy. Paul was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, an area part of the Greek Empire, then later part of the Roman Empire, but because of the heritage of Alexander the Great spreading the Greek language and Greek love of wisdom, Paul wrote all of his epistles in Greek, not in Hebrew or Aramaic.
Now Athens was the center, as I said, of this human, this love of wisdom, human wisdom of philosophy. In Acts 17, the apostle Paul as he continues to move throughout Greece to preach the Gospel, he comes to Athens at last, and there it says, a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him, to argue with him, and they said very disparagingly, "What is this babbler trying to say?" The Greek is literally "what is this seed picker trying to say?" A guy who goes around and picks up little ideas here and there and kind of spreads them. They're very, very arrogant toward Paul. What is this babbler trying to say? Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods."
They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then "they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, [Mars Hill] where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you're presenting?’ You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears and we want to know what they mean." Then Luke tells us, "all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their whole time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas." That's what they did in Athens, especially, at Mars Hill, and so Paul preached his great Mars Hill sermon. And then at the end of that, most of the philosophers just mocked it, they scorned it because he was talking about the bodily resurrection from the dead. That made no sense to them. Why would you do that? They sneered about it, but a few of them said, "We want to hear you again on this subject."
Well, a lot of that same arrogance and that love of human wisdom is alive today. We are in awe of human intelligence, human wisdom, human education. As a matter of fact, most of us, many of us tend to think if only we had more education, things will be better. That is the answer of many of our leaders, our governmental leaders, if we would just have more knowledge, more education, the world, our nation will be much better off. But there's so many things in history to disprove that basic thesis. For example, the most educated nation in the world in the first third of the 20th century was Germany.
They were at the pinnacle of almost every intellectual endeavor. Some of the best physicists and chemists, and biologists, some of the best writers and thinkers and educators were in Germany, in the first third of the 20th century. Some of the highest number of books were published around that time, highest literacy rate in the world, best system of governmental sponsored education was in Germany. There was no lack of education, no lack of literacy, and look what they did with it. It was harnessed to a corrupt government, perhaps among the most corrupt and wicked governments there's ever been in human history. They took all of that scientific knowledge and all of that economic power and strength and used it to try to conquer the world and exterminate the Jewish people.
And yet we still hear this, if we had more education, obviously, a higher literacy rate is better. For me, as a pastor, a higher literacy rate…Amen. So people can read this book, the Bible. Let's have as many people in the world literate so they can read and study the word of God. To me, when I think of literacy, that's what I think of. But more than that, that helpful beneficial education can in some way improve our lives and lessen the suffering that we all go through as cursed in Adam. And yet human wisdom, knowledge, love of knowledge is still part of our culture. And we understand, the more you get involved in evangelism trying to share the Gospel, the more you're going to bump into these hostile world views that are going to hinder the spread of the Gospel. They're in opposition to the message of Christ and him crucified. Setting aside just human religions via alternate religions, just looking at world views such as materialism, that life consists in the material world. The idea that the metaphysical world cannot be proven so it's really not important.
Now what you can sense with your five senses is all your life is or ever will be, materialism. Then there is hedonism or sensualism. Saturate the senses with experiences that will please you. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Pursue pleasure of any sort that you choose as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. Then there's just science which is linked in many ways to the materialism I mentioned earlier. The ability to study the material world gives the human race all the knowledge it will need for success. The answer is more and more knowledge as we said. More education, more insight. Science is the crown jewel of the human race and science has the power to conquer all of our problems. And there's evolution, Darwin's theory of origins has extended far beyond any boundaries of biology, any boundaries he ever would have conceived. It's become a way of understanding all of human experience. We as the human race are continually evolving. Ever hear these kinds of phrases? We're evolving, we're getting better and better all the time. We have raised ourselves step by step from a pond of slime to the moon and to the stars beyond.
There's so much arrogance in all of this sort of stuff, but that's the idea of an evolutionary way of looking at a human experience. Then there's psychology. Sigmund Freud started this whole science and now it's gone in lots of different ways, but he developed the secular study of the human soul. That's what the word literally means, "the science of the soul," psychology. And he birthed what I would call more of a pseudoscience, which is constantly developing, notice I didn't use the word "evolving," constantly developing studying human beings based on their thought processes and their dispositions, their psychoses, their fears, their dreams, their upbringing from infancy, what their mothers did with them and their fathers when they were infants.
Then there's relativity. Albert Einstein came up with this theory, this physical theory in cosmology to answer a problem of distant starlight, and he developed the theory of relativity to address problems with Newton's physics at very high speeds, speeds near the speed of light. But it's become in popular thinking with people who, including myself could never follow, the math and the physics. But then you get popular expressions that say "everything depends on your frame of reference, the position from where you're standing."
So now you have this phrase "everything is relative." And so, relativity is like a world view that we're dealing with and from that came more post-modernism. The idea that you really can't know abstract material principles absolutely, but only as they appear to you. So in our culture, we can say "I'm a Christian." Well, that's good for you, dear. Happy you found something that brings meaning to your life. Post-modernism. And there's many other such world views. This is a bubbling pot of philosophies that we are dealing with, we're marinating in them as Christians in the west in the 21st century. Beyond this we have technology that brings human insights, human understanding right to your fingertips, handheld devices. This is just a clock for me right now. It's very important for you guys, alright? Telling me what time it is and that's all. But you know that with these smart phones, you can Google anything.
I saw a humorous clip of a millennial being interviewed for a job and the person didn't have any particular knowledge base but was confident that at any moment they could Google the answer. So it was just meant to be humorous. But I think we all feel that way, that we can get answers and we can hear from experts at any point. Experts weigh in on current events, and YouTube can give you "how to" videos and just about anything, like nine steps on building a super computer. I'm like, "Really?" [I actually Googled how to perform hip replacement surgery on yourself. Came up empty. Nobody's done a video yet, but who knows?
And we can become instant experts on any topic via our smart phones. However, this ocean of data and human learning and opinion does not equal wisdom, does not equal wisdom. Actually, 1 Corinthians 1-3 will directly pit the wisdom of God against the wisdom of this world. And it's going to charge the world with foolishness just as the world charges us with foolishness. The worldly wise person, it says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "cannot accept the things of God, because they are foolishness to him, cannot receive them because they are spiritually discerned." Now, if I can just stop and say to you Christians, who celebrate Christ and him crucified, who see already where we're going in all this, and see the message of the cross for you is the power of God for your salvation, you should stop and based on 1 Corinthians 2:14, thank the spirit of God for changing you, because if it weren't for the spirit of God, you would think it's foolish too, and you wouldn't be here today. So there is a war going on, a world view war between God and the unbelieving world. And God is fighting with some rather shocking weapons. There's going to be a progression of threefold foolishness in these first two chapters. We're looking just at the beginning of the first one. The first weapon of God in this world view war is Christ and him crucified, a dead savior on a Roman cross.
That's the start of the foolishness of God. The second step will be the Corinthian church itself. The fact that there were not many wise, not many influential, not many noble birth, God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. And so the Christian church is unimpressive and apparently foolish. And the third step will be The Messenger himself, the apostle Paul, not a great public speaker, was with them, in weakness and fear, and much trembling, not an impressive guy. But he's simply preaching Christ name crucified.
So those are going to be the three steps. God's weapons to humble the world. And God's goal in all this is the final verse of this first chapter, look at verse 31, it says, "Therefore as it is written, let him who boast, boast in the Lord." And He wants to work a humbling and in all of us so that when we get to heaven, we will be boasting entirely in the Lord Jesus Christ. And then his father, God the Father who sent Christ to die on the cross, we will be completely stripped of that devilish pride that dug us every step of our lives here in the world.
II. The Cross: Foolishness or God’s Power (verse 18)
Alright, look at Verse 18, The Cross, Is it foolishness? Or is it God's power? "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." Now, every word in this verse is vitally important, and we have to begin with the first word, "for," so that means we're right in in the middle of a chapter in a flow of argument, that you got to be able to follow Paul's logic, his argument. So verse 18, is in the middle of a train of thought. So that means we need to go back to verse 17. Now, last week I preached on water baptism, and Paul's limitation of water baptism in verse 17. He said, "Christ did not send me baptize, but to preach the gospel. Not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power, for the message of the cross is foolishness…" You see the flow of thought. So he's already in Verse 17, beginning to address what he wants to address the rest of the chapter and under the chapter two. And that is that God sent him to preach a message, a simple unvarnished message of Christ and him crucified, even though he knew it would appear foolish in the world's eyes.
He's distancing himself here from words of human wisdom, that's a polished presentation of human philosophy or rhetorical skills. These public speakers were trained in the polish of public speaking, of rhetoric, Paul threw all that out the window. So now, that's not what I came to do because if I did that, the cross of Christ would be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, this is the power of God.
The Message of the Cross
Now he zeros in on the message of the cross, the "word of the cross," literally. The Greek is specifically focused on the content, not on the delivery. Now, it is important for preachers to have a certain level of skill and speaking. If he is a very bad public speaker, it's distracting, it could be a beautiful piece of music but if the pianist is making lots of mistakes, it's just hard to hear the beauty. We understand that, but polished presentation will not save any souls, really all you're trying to do is remove distractions and make things clear, that's what you're trying to do. What's much more important than how a preacher speaks is what they say.
What is the actual message? That's what Paul's saying here, and the message of the cross is a simple shorthand for the Gospel itself. That there is an Almighty Creator God, that He made the entire universe and he made the earth, and he made human beings in his image and his likeness, created them to have a relationship with Him and to serve Him, but they rebelled against him, and fell into grievous sinfulness and could not save themselves, so God in His love and in His wisdom and grace sent His only begotten son to be born as a human being, born of the Virgin Mary. That he, this little baby, this little God Man was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, and that he grew up in a normal way, He grew in wisdom, and stature and favor with God and man.
He was a normal human being in every respect, yet was without sin, he walked along dusty roads as they did, and he got tired as they did and needed to sleep, he got hungry as they did and needed to eat, he got thirsty as they did and needed to drink. However he was also fully divine, never in any way lost his deity, not at all, he was truly Almighty God in human flesh, he walked on the water, he stilled a storm with a word, so that even the wind and the waves obeyed his voice, he was able to heal any and every disease and sickness among the people, there was never a case too difficult, he even raised Lazarus from the dead, after he had been buried for four days. And nothing was difficult for him, he did all things well. He was tempted in every way, as we are, in that way, he was human, but he never sinned, he was a sinless perfect God-man.
But the focus of this message was not that just that God was incarnate and looked ordinary like an ordinary human being. It's that he was arrested, tried, convicted, and crucified on a Roman cross. His hands and his feet were nailed to that cross and he bled out and died. And all of this was according to the scriptures, according to the plan of God, fashioned in the mind of God before the foundation of the world, that Christ would be an atoning sacrifice in our place for our sins, and that God would pour out His wrath that we deserve for violating his laws, that we deserve, He poured it out on the substitute on his own son, but not only that, God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and He was seen by many witnesses and you could touch him. You could and see that a spirit, a ghost, didn't have flesh and bones as you saw, as they saw that he did, and he ate some broiled fish in their presence. And he was with them for 40 days, and then God took him up, ascended him from the surface of the earth and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms. And from that place, someday, he's going to return to judge the living and the dead.
That's the message of the cross. And if you believe it, if you believe what I've just said to you, you'll be forgiven of all your sins by Almighty God, not if you go do good works, but if you just forsaking your own works, turn and believe that message, you will be forgiven. Now that message divides the human race into two categories: Believers and unbelievers. Those that believe that, and those that don't.
Foolishness to those who are Perishing
And that message that I've been describing is foolishness to those who are perishing. Now, the word "perishing" means in the process of dying and going to hell. We are dying physically, but the gospel is far more concerned with what happens after you die, because it's appointed for each of us to die once and after that, to face judgment. And there is a second death after the first death, but there's a way of perishing in this life, that shows your heading for that second death, Jesus said in Matthew 7, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." So the people that are running on the highway to destruction, they are the ones that are perishing. That's what Paul is talking about here. And so, for those people that are in the process of perishing, that are on that broad road to destruction, this message is foolishness. That's what he's saying, utterly foolish. Why would God do that? Why would he leave the comforts and glory of heaven and be born of a Jewish virgin, a Jewish teenage girl, and be wrapped in rough swaddling clothes, why would he, why...? It doesn't make any sense, why would he do that?
And if you were going to do that, I would think you would rise to the highest place in human society and be a glorious king on a glorious throne. It doesn't make any sense for him to be in some obscure part of the Roman Empire that nobody even knows about, and he does all these things and ends up arrested and convicted and nailed to a cross which was only reserved for the lowest dregs of society that'd been convicted in a Roman court. Roman citizens could never be crucified. It's the lowest worse form of death there could be. It makes no sense at all to those who are perishing.
The Power of God for Us Who Are Being Saved
But to those who are being saved, it is the power of God, amen, hallelujah. So as we're singing the songs that Wes chose today that this team was playing, I was like, "Hallelujah for the cross" so I knew what is about to preach. I had an advantage over all of you, like, "Yes praise God, hallelujah for the cross that saves me and qualifies me to even do this, however foolish this preaching is." Thank you God for saving a sinner like me. For us who are being saved, it is the power of God, just as Paul said, in Romans 1:16, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." It is the single most powerful thing in the history. It will be obvious on Judgment Day, how true that statement is.
Nothing has ever happened in human history, with this kind of impact. It changed my destiny from eternity in the lake of fire to eternity in the New Haven, New Earth in a resurrection body. And not just me, but a multitude greater than anyone could count from every tribe, language, people, and nation will be saying, "Hallelujah to the lamb" Praising God for our salvation as it is written, "Let him who boast, boast in the Lord." We'll be doing that forever. So that's how powerful this cross is. And not only that, but we are being saved. So they are perishing, they're in the process of perishing. We are in the process of being saved. You're not done being saved yet.
Just a plug for church, that's why you should keep coming to church. Okay? None of us that's here in this room today are done being saved. I would say Indeed no one, not even the disembodied saints in heaven are done being saved, they're done sinning, praise God. But they're waiting for their resurrection bodies and that'll come at the end of the age. So in the meantime, here we are. And if you haven't died yet, you are in grave danger and you are, if you are born again, if you're justified, you will most certainly make it through and go to Heaven Amen. You will, but you are in the process of being saved.
So the scripture uses all three time senses, we have been saved, "for by grace you have been saved through faith," Ephesians 2, that's justification. You are being saved in sanctification by working out your salvation with fear and trembling, and you will be saved on Judgment Day from God's wrath through him, Romans 5:9. All three here are part of the package. And he who began the good work in you will carry it on to completion in the day of Christ as he is. Now, the cross, the message of the cross is Tim Keller, said it very beautifully, "It's not the ABCs of salvation, it's the A to Z" It's everything you need, the cross and the empty tomb is everything that you need. So the human race is radically divided into these two categories; Believers and unbelievers by the cross, and this is not a mere accident now.
III. God’s Destruction of Human Wisdom (verses 19-21)
God was very wise to do this, look at verse 19-21. God is wise to destroy human wisdom. Verse 19, "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." God planned before the foundation of the world to humble the human mind. To humble human intelligence and arrogance by the gospel. The message of the gospel is meant for little children, it's meant for spiritual beggars. It's not meant for people who are basically fine, but could use a little help. It's meant for people who are stripped of all that and who know that they need a savior completely. God means to humble each one of us and to make us as believers, the humblest believer actually wiser than the most genius super intellectual atheist unbeliever in the world.
And so he reaches for a quote here, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of intelligent, I will frustrate," from Isaiah 29:14. So he's going back to Isaiah and he's picking up Isaiah 29:14. Now the context here in Isaiah 29 is that Jews were under great pressure and in great danger from The Mighty Assyrian empire, and they decided king Hezekiah and his counselors decided to send emissaries down to Egypt with some money to hire the wisest of the wise down in Egypt. Egypt was like basically Athens back in their day. And to go to the Wise counsels of Egypt. And Isaiah The Prophet again and again, warned him, warned them not to do it, and so he says here, "I'm going to humiliate the wisest of the wise" Because you know what I'm going to do with the Assyrians? I'm going to send one angel, and he's going to kill 185,000 Assyrian troops. So much for all the money you sent down to Egypt.
The wisdom of the wise I will destroy and the intelligence of the intelligent, I will frustrate. Here in our context, he's specifically meaning by the gospel, and on Judgment Day. Judgment Day will show how the unbelieving genius was a fool. I mentioned at Easter time Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who just died recently, he was an atheist who said this about the afterlife, "I regard the broad brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers, that is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark." Stephen Hawking.
Well there's tons of statements like that though, he's not the only one, history is full of scholars and skeptics and scientists and military conquerors, and inventors and authors and CEOs and other great men and women who mocked Christ in the church and the Gospel, and all of them thought they were smarter than Christians and smarter than the gospel. I think of Voltaire, who predicted that within his lifetime, the Bible would cease being read in France. Some of you know the rest of the story. Within a generation, his house was used by the Bible Society of France to print Bibles. That's God saying, "All flesh is grass, and all that glory it's the flower of the field, but the word of God stands forever."
Wow. The Bible is still here Voltaire. Bible is still here, Thomas Paine, you ranked atheist who railed against Christianity. Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, all of them made disparaging statements about Christ and Christianity in their lives. All of them seemed to be, I would think, the best and the brightest. Some of the biggest geniuses we've ever had. Brilliant minds, but they thought the gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness, but God promises to vindicate His son on Judgment Day. Look at verse 19 again, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent, I will frustrate." On that day God will mock them in this way, look at verse 20, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age, has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"
So project ahead to Judgment Day, if they were super geniuses, who rejected the Gospel, you could, to some degree, imagine after the dreadful sentence has been read "Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." To say to the philosopher of this age, the Wise Man of this age "Where are you now?" See that, look at verse 20, "Where is the wise man of this age?" I think you can project ahead to some degree, to say, "Where will you be eternally?" That's what's going on, that's the vindication of Christ and of the cross, and it was God's wisdom, verse 21, to make it impossible for these philosophers to find him.
"For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached, to save those who believe." Now, to unravel that statement, we start in verse 21 to say, "It was very wise for God to do this, it was wise for God, to set up himself as mysterious and unreachable by human philosophizing".
No humans could reason their way up to God, and find him. And that was actually wise for God to do that, so he wouldn't be listening to an eternity of boasting from those people who did it. It was actually very wise for God in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom, did not know Him and that is the greatest tragedy there is in the human race. Jesus cried out, in John 17:25 "Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you." The emptiness of not knowing God. Now, these people were brilliant. These Greeks, Archimedes, Pythagoras, these guys came up... Eratosthenes calculated the diameter of the earth within 15% accuracy without ever leaving Egypt, where he was. These guys were smart, but they could not reason their way up to God, that could not happen. And that was very wise because Isaiah 45:15 says, "Truly you are a God who hides Himself, oh God and Savior of Israel." God hides himself, and he can't be found that way. As a matter of fact, Jesus celebrated this. In Matthew 11, he says this, verse 25, and 26, "At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father for this was your good pleasure.’"
So Jesus celebrates the very thing Paul's talking about here in verse 21, "God was pleased to reveal Himself to the so-called foolish who are believing a so-called foolish message, he was pleased to save everyone who believes in this message. Verse 21, "God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached, to save those who believe." God delights in saving humble people. He enjoys it, he enjoys taking people from their arrogant highfalutin thoughts about themselves to make them like little children, because God opposes the proud, begets grace of the humble, he loves humbling us and then saving us.
Now Paul further heightens the point he's making verses 22 through 25 which we're going to look at, God willing, next week but I'll just read them. "Jews demand miraculous signs, Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God, for the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." So we'll look at that more next week.
Applications first more than anything, I want to urge you, come to Christ, if you've come here today as an unbelieving visitor, you are guest. Maybe a friend invite you to church. Welcome, I'm glad you're here, I prayed for you this morning, and I prayed that you would see the wisdom of God in the cross, prayed that you would understand that, as it says in Isaiah 55, "My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the Earth. So are my ways higher than your thoughts, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." But even better before that, he says, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, and He will freely pardon." This morning, you've heard the gospel, you've heard it clearly. I've explained it from God the Creator, all the way to Christ's return to the right-hand of God. I've explained it, you know everything you need to be saved. Your works cannot save you, look to Christ and to Him crucified, for the forgiveness of your sins. Now to you Christians, who've already done that.
I've already said look, again, like at 1 Corinthians 2:14 and realize you would still think the cross is foolishness if it weren't for the Spirit of God. So just thank the third person of trinity for saving your soul. I have grown over the last year or two, in appreciation for what the Spirit did to save me. Swim in 1 Corinthians 2:14 say, "I would think the cross is foolish if the Spirit hadn't made me wise. So I turned my back on my own intellect and my own wisdom." So just thank him.
Thirdly, can you just let the cross continue to humble you? It's not done humbling you. When you are having a problem in your life, do not rely on your own wisdom and do not rely on your own strength. Turn away from that and come to the cross again and say, "Oh God, help me, save me. Strengthen my marriage, help me in parenting, help me in my work life, help me as a student. Would you please help me? I don't trust in my own intellect, I don't trust in my own understanding. I'm leaning on you, I'm turning to you, I'm bringing this problem to you. Would you please show me your wisdom and your strength? Which is greater than my foolishness and my weakness" And know that he has the power to finish your salvation, you are being saved, you're not done with your salvation. So the message of the cross is the power of God to finish saving you.
So keep coming again and again. And then finally, let's not be overly impressed by the experts, the pundits, the ones on the panels and CNN and all the ones that'll tell you exactly how you should think. And they'll also tell you what they think about you as a Christian, they'll tell you that too. Let's not be impressed by it, we're not going to be impressed by human genius. Let's look instead to the message of the cross that the world calls foolishness and see that it's actually infinite wisdom and power. And let's be wise, I believe that the more you grow in Christ, the more foolish you are going to look to the world. Be willing to make that journey. 1 Corinthians 4 is all about that, where he says to the Corinthians, "You guys are trying to become more and more esteemed and powerful and wealthy and comfortable. I'm on an escalator going the down way, and we're going lower, and lower, in the estimation of the world." Be you ready for that journey. The bolder you are in witnessing, the bolder you are in admission, the more foolish and hateful the world will see you as. Be willing to be humbled, and be a fool for Christ. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the joy of the gospel, thank you for the message of the cross of Christ, and him crucified. There's nothing new here, I've not preached any new doctrines today. God forbid that I would turn away from the ancient message of the cross, that the Apostle Paul preached so faithfully. Help each one of us to be faithful, to hear and believe that message, and then proclaim it to a world that is desperately in need of it. Thank you for the spirit of God that has made all of us appear to be what it really is, the power of God and the wisdom of God at work in us who believe, in Jesus name. Amen.