Thursday 29 February 2024

1 Corinthians 1 v18/25.
This morning I want to speak about the Cross, and have chosen a passage from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Church at Corinth.

The Church at Corinth was having problems, which caused Paul to write to them.  Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, which has been described as the Soho of its day, full of corruption and immorality. It was a trading centre, and there was much wealth and a style of living, which did not match up to Christian standards. The Church, which had started with much power, was allowing some of the culture to invade the Church, and some members were influenced by the rhetoric of some preachers, who were deviating from gospel, and this caused division and dissension within the Church.
Paul wrote to give advice and admonishment to the people there, because of the way they were acting. He is showing us in this passage, how the Cross is so important for us as Christians, and how it is involved in human affairs and thinking.. We have a similar situation here, where there are men/women, occupying the most prominent position in the Church, openly accepting and even encouraging Christians, to adopt the morality of society, despite the fact that the Bible expressly condemns doing so

The passage opens with Paul stating those who are perishing, the unbelievers ,do not understand or realize the power of the Cross, and to them it is just  foolishness, for perishing means not being saved and no hope of going to heaven, for they have rejected Jesus, but to those of us who are saved and have accepted Jesus as Savior, the gospel is the power of God.

Just as the message was foolish by the world’s standards, so most of those in Corinth who also thought the message was foolish by the world’s standards.

Despite them being unimpressive, their boasting in ancestry and accomplishments, and having an affiliation with one of their chosen  preacher, God had chosen them to be saved.

The hostile opponents of Jesus kept demanding a miraculous sign to prove his claims, but they were just doing this to manipulate, but he had already given them sufficient so there was no excuse for their unbelief.

The Greeks were often classified as being wise, but were then seen as being antiquated, and more cultured people were interested in wisdom. A crucified Messiah was a stumbling stop for a Jew. God’s power to call forth his people, works through a deeper wisdom, that human beings can recognize unless God gives them faith, Paul writes that the gospel is preached to all, but God calls some effectively to salvation from among Jews and Greeks.

Paul is speaking to those in the Church who claimed to be wise and proud of their wisdom, which they were using to divide the Church and to promote themselves by changing the message of the Cross to make it more acceptable. Paul is telling them it is worthless in the sight of God, and will only destroy the Church.

The cultured Greek and the pious Jew could not understand Christianity, but Paul pointed out human wisdom is bound to be of no purpose, and was  to be exposed by God telling of human helplessness.
The Jews demanded miraculous signs and Greeks looked to wisdom. This was a stumbling block, which could not be overcome by Jews or Gentiles, but to those who do believe it is a message of power.
The Jews demanded that what Paul was teaching should be proved by some miraculous sign. Jews could not ever accept that the Messiah would be crucified; it was totally contradictory to their belief. The Greeks placed so much influence on human wisdom and intellectual ability to be the means of salvation.

God chose a way which ordinary people could understand. Abraham Lincoln once stated, God must have loved ordinary people because He made so many of them. Paul gave them an ordinary and simple message, believe in Jesus Christ who gave His life to be crucified on the Cross, and you will have eternal life. If we had to be very wise and academic, millions of people would never have come to know the Lord. Heaven would be only for the clever people.
The gospel message is the opposite of worldly wisdom, and is hard for some to believe, but we do believe. But there are still people who want to see some proof for what we preach. The Bible states, by grace you shall be saved through faith’. If you have to see signs or other proof to believe, you don’t need faith. True faith means believing in what you cannot see.
God said, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’.
The message of the world sees us as self-sufficient beings; there is no need of God. We have the ability to think and reason which will prove sufficient to eventually solve all of our problems.  Obviously, God doesn’t think so much of it.

Paul asks 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.  Challenging them who think they can solve life’s problems.
Just where has all the wisdom of the so-called wise brought us? How well have we done in solving the world’s problems? Have we eradicated poverty? Has all our research and expertise in the fields of science and medicine rid our world of disease? Have we found a cure for cancer? There is more suffering now than history records.

With all the highly educated professional educators, how can we still have ignorant people wandering our streets, graduating from our schools and colleges, yet not knowing basic maths or English?
Look at the enormous amount of hatred in the world, with many of the Arab countries wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the map; the barbarity of Islamic militants. Paradoxically, hatred has been introduced into our society by legislation. The (inequitable) Equality and Diversity Bill has caused considerable distress. Consider the hate mail, and persecution experienced by Christians who do not wish to surrender their beliefs to society’s morality. The unfortunate reality is, that for all our so-called sophistication, we have not been able to solve the basic problems of society–– problems that have been around since the beginning. Certainly, we have been able to see great advances technologically. We have great new gadgets. But on the really important issues of life, we don’t even have temporary solutions.
But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Each religious faith has its own symbol. Muslims have the crescent moon; the Jews have the Star of David,  Buddhists have the lotus flower, but for Christians we have the Cross.
The early Christians had the sign of a fish, which they inscribed on walls as indication of faith when the Romans were persecuting Christians.  They would make the cry, ‘Jesus is Lord’, but would not refer so much to the cross as it was a hateful thing.

Some Churches have a Cross outside, and most also display the Cross inside. It is embossed upon our Bibles and prayer books, and ladies particularly wear a gold cross.
Paul said he gloried in the Cross, and focused on the crucifixion of Jesus as the means of salvation. But it was the most horrific death ever devised by mankind. For many years it was never mentioned in polite company , and was only used to show when people were acting contrary to the power of the Cross.

When writing to the Galatian Church, Paul stated ‘God forbid that I should boast about anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’, to indicate how much he prioritised the Cross.

Paul was a clever man, he could have boasted about his own intellect, his mastery of languages; he could have boasted about the unique birth of Christ or the miracles performed, even the resurrection, but he didn’t, only the Cross.

It is not often that a sermon on the Cross is heard in Churches today, if at all; I cannot remember when I last heard one.  Indeed, a lot of sermons have only a tenuous reference to the gospel.

Paul ‘s preaching focused on the crucifixion of Jesus as the means of salvation. A man crucified had nails driven through arms and legs, and left hanging until he died, which could have lasted for days even.

The Cross upon which Jesus died, was not only a place where he bore the sins of humanity and paid the penalty for those sins, it is also a way for our lives by his power. It is saying that God became weak,, in order to save us. It says that when we surrender our lives, we truly find them. It is the very power of God, concealed from the so-called wise and sophisticated and revealed to those who come as a child, in simple faith and trust.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength
Today the cross of Christ is still a cause of offence. The message of the cross of Christ is still foolishness to those who are perishing. To them the cross is the weakest link. In the Cross, we see the power of God displayed. God was powerful enough to become weak.

Having looked at the message of this passage, let us consider the implications for us to-day.

Paul always taught there are two distinct points of view, two black or white absolutes that can never be reconciled, because they produce two different responses to the gospel. We all have to decide now which we believe.

We have a choice to make for our future when this life is over. Many people don’t want to think of that and dismiss it from their minds.  Many more believe there is no need to worry, as long as one leads a ‘good’ life we are all going to heaven. Apart from the fact ‘good’ has not been defined, how would we know when he had done enough?

I have taken hundreds of funeral services in the past forty odd years, and irrespective that the deceased never read a bible, attended church, and being totally unaware of belief, it was always thought the relatives of the deceased, the person was heaven bound.

Unless you accept the Cross and its meaning, you are not able to make an assessment of the future. The Cross is the pivotal point of Christianity.  If you tell people that all their efforts and achievements will not put them right with God, and the only way is to believe the death of Christ on the Cross, and we can do nothing to earn our salvation, they will think it ridiculous.

The Cross strikes at the heart of human pride. Just as the Jews could never accept that a man hanging on a Cross could save the world, so today people mock the idea. Those who are blind to the truth of the gospel are said to be ‘perishing’, which means unsaved and are eternally lost. To them however, it is absurd, and they refuse to believe the Biblical teaching that states to achieve eternal salvation you have to believe that a man died on a Cross 2000 years ago, in a little country on the far side of the world, and did so that our sins may be forgiven.

The other reaction is that the Cross is the power of God to those of us who have accepted Christ’s death on the Cross as our means of salvation.
Why take a risk on your eternal future? If you were due to fly to America, and as you were boarding the plane you were told there was a 1% chance the plane would not make it across the Atlantic, would you still fly?
Paul said he understood how foolish it sounds to those who are lost when they heard that Jesus died to save them, but God had said He would destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be to men, even the most brilliant of them. He said ‘you come to me my way, or you do not come at all’.
If you wear a Cross you should ask yourself, why you are wearing it, what does it mean to you? Most people just see it as an item of jewellery, such an idea would have been horrifying, bearing in mind the tortuous death it carried; it would be like wearing a model of the gallows around the neck. It was so crude a death it was never mentioned in polite company.
There is one underlying message running right through this passage. ‘There is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ’. God gave His only ,Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. We do not earn our right to heaven by all the good things we do, being saved is a gift from God, if we could earn it would not be free. God accepts us when we believe in Christ.

We need to humble ourselves in complete surrender to God. The good news is that God has given us his power.

The world doesn’t like the Cross, even though it can be the answer to all divisions pointing out the difference between truth and error. The crucifixion of  Jesus is a fact of history. He is the only means of salvation, and  we need a Saviour, meaning we follow God’s way or none.

When Jesus died on that Cross there were two men alongside him. One cried out to Jesus to save him and the other mocked. One of those men was saved, and the other died. We have to make a decision and do so whilst we are able, leaving it to a death bed may be too late.

The Bible states there are two alternatives in life, two roads, goats and sheep, tares and wheat, heaven and hell.  Jesus spoke about heaven many times, but he also warned of the alternative, which many people try to  forget.

.May the Cross always remind you of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for the salvation that can be yours. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Church to boldly proclaim this.

Paul ended the passage with a quotation from Jeremiah. It was only when we realize we can do nothing, and God can  and will do everything ,that real religion begins  . It is a fact of life that when people realize their own weakness, their own lack of wisdom, their helplessness and powerlessness, they become wise and strong.  It is a fact of experience that the man who thinks he can take on life all by himself, will in the end make a mess of his life.

We have four things which Paul points out and insists that Christ is for us.  He is wisdom, It is only by  following Christ that we walk aright, and only by listening to him we hear the truth. He is the expert in life

He is righteousness. He has right relationship with God, we can never on our own have that. This comes through Jesus when we realize it comes not from what we can do for God, but what God can do for us.

He is consecration., It is only in the presence of Christ that life can be what it should be.  He is deliverance. Men go to see the optician and the dentist, but never to the one who can cure their souls  Jesus Christ can deliver a man from past sin, from present helplessness and from future fear.


May God bless these words to our heart and may He be glorified.

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