1Cor 1:18 The Preaching of the Cross 1/24/2010 ßà
#1. Faith Cometh by Hearing (1Cor 1:21, Rom 10:17, Prov 20:12)
#2. Not With Wisdom of Words (1Cor 1:17-19, John 1:13, Isa 42:8)
#3. But With the Power of God (1Cor 1:18, 2:14, Rom 1:16)
Please open your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Cor 1:10 (2X). In the beginning of this chapter we have seen the mercy of God on us through Jesus Christ, and the greatness of His grace toward us by adopting us as His children. Some people will respond: Are we not all children of God, and is He not the Father of all mankind, for we all have been made by Him. It is true that we have all been made by Him, but God has also made my dog, and He made the rattlesnake that is in the field, but God is not called the father of my dog, and neither is He called the father of the rattlesnake. And thus the term “Father” is reserved only for those whom God loves in a special way, and on whom He bestows His favors in a special way. But since God did not, and still does not save everyone in the world, we know from Eph 1:3-8 that God has a remnant of people reserved as His elect whom He saves and nourishes in this life, and has predetermined their lot to take them into His dwelling place in the life hereafter. This is the remnant whom God addresses now in 1Cor 1, and that is why I wanted to emphasize the word us. We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. God ordained that His message of salvation must be preached by people whom He appointed to be His spokesmen, and it must be preached to those who are His elect, so that they will be saved. But over time something evil has come to pass in that preaching of salvation. Something very great has been made very small. Something very honorable and special has been made common. In fact, the preaching of the atonement of Christ has been belittled by many who appointed themselves as preachers. God did not send them. That is why the title of the sermon for today is, “The Preaching of the Cross” (2X). There is a great deal missing from today’s preaching by many pastors, and that is why I said that “Something very great has been made very small.” The basic problem is that many pastors have abandoned the God of the Bible and they have made themselves a little god, a man-made idol, not of wood and stone but of words and concepts that are not in the Bible. For example, the preachers that many of you have heard in the past say, “God loves all of you and he has a wonderful plan for your life; please come and accept him as your personal savior; He has bled and died for you, and now He is pleading with you to do your part and to come to Him.” But the God of the Bible says, “God the Father has chosen us, and predestinated us to be adopted children of God through the blood of Christ on the cross; He is drawing us irresistibly to Christ, and we will be born again from above and stand blameless in His sight.” Can you see that those are two very different Gods?
God is great. Literally, God is greater than this universe, which means that our relationship with Him cannot be like that between two human beings. God ordained that His salvation program for mankind must be preached, so that those whom He will save shall hear the Gospel. We read in 1Cor 1:10-25,
1Co 1:10-25 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The focus of this paragraph is on verse 18, 1Cor 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” And let us keep in mind that the meaning of “them that perish” is “those that are on the way to Hell.” This was understood for centuries, and we are not going to change that. Hell is not being preached in most churches today. But we are not afraid to know what we are saved from. On the contrary, we are immensely grateful for God’s action of saving us from Hell, which is the penalty for sin, and which is the process of “dying thou shalt die” as promised by God to Adam if he ate from the forbidden fruit. And then the words, “but unto us which are saved” refers to the salvation of God’s elect who are being saved by the mighty power of God. This power of God unto salvation is very great, and we should recognize it as a very great power and a very great effort on God’s part to save people whom He has elected unto salvation. But in most churches today salvation is put into the hands of man. They preach that man has a free will to be saved or not, and so they make man the king-maker. They have made the great power of God very small in the hands of man. But that is not at all what the Bible says. According to the Bible, how is God saving us from Hell? God will do it through the preaching of the cross. Let us get a good grip on this matter, for when we understand how God is going to save us, we can be useful servants of God in the salvation of others.
#1. Faith Cometh by Hearing (1Cor 1:21, Rom 10:17, Prov 20:12)
Let us begin with verse 21, which says, 1Cor 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” How is God, by the foolishness of preaching saving them that believe? Put a sticker here in 1Cor 1, and please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 10:17 (2X). First of all we must realize that if the people in the world by their worldly wisdom knew not God, then we who were in that world also did not know God, and thus we did not believe to begin with. We were lost and spiritually dead as everyone else in that world. But then one day God calls us to our senses, and makes us alive, and causes us to hear the preaching of the Gospel of grace alone through Christ crucified. And then we read in Rom 10:17,
Ro 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Faith is used here as a synonym for salvation because salvation is always accompanied by faith. And how does this faith come to a person? It comes by hearing the Gospel preached, and the ability to hear the spiritual message of salvation comes by a spoken word of God. Like God spoke the world into existence, and like God spoke to dead matter and it suddenly came alive, so God speaks to our dead soul and it comes alive and we are able to hear the Gospel message that was spoken by the preacher. And so, the preaching of the Gospel will only bring salvation to a person when it is accompanied by the action of God the Holy Spirit. Without the company of God the Holy Spirit it will be just words which go in one ear and out the other, and the Gospel message will slide off the person’s ear like water slides off a duck’s back. Please turn in your Bibles to the Proverbs of Solomon, Prov 20:12 (2X). And so, can you already see from the verses that we covered that the sovereignty of God is shining through? God is not saving everyone who hears the message of the Gospel with his physical ears. God is giving spiritual ears only to some who are hearing this message. And so, if God the Holy Spirit must decide whom He is going to give spiritual ears to hear, then God is fully in control who will believe the Gospel and who will not believe. And is this not what we read in Prov 20:12,
Prov 20:12 The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.
This does not refer to physical ears and physical eyes. The Proverbs of Solomon should actually be titled “The Parables of Solomon, for the word “proverbs” actually means “parables”. The hearing ear and the seeing eye refer to the spiritual eyes and ears that are able to understand the preaching of the Gospel of salvation. And so, in Prov 20:12 God says that He alone decides to whom He is going to give eyes to see and ears to hear the Gospel so that they will be saved. Like Jonah said, “Salvation is of the Lord”, and then the fish spit him out, for with that statement Jonah subjected himself to the authority of God. Hereby Jonah declared that God is sovereign, and He can do whatever He pleases to do.
Please turn again to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Cor
1:10 (2X). In this chapter the wisdom of man is pitted against the wisdom
of God, and here we can see how foolish the wisdom of man is. God gave us the
Bible, and God gave us churches where saved people congregate, and then those
people began to use their human intellect to win others for Jesus Christ. But
God says here, “No, that is not how you do it. That is not how you expand the
1Co 1:10-13 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
What do we see here? The Corinthian church was divided by
professing allegiance to various heroes of the faith. It was not the fault of
Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, but it was the sinfulness of man to ascribe to his
teachers supernatural properties. We can see this also today when people say,
“I am a Lutheran”, or “I am a Calvinist”, or “I belong to this denomination”.
Is it wrong to ascribe to Luther or to Calvin an infallible mind, or to believe
that what they have written cannot be improved. But since the Reformation many
churches have decided to band together because they believe the same things,
and they have elevated their founding fathers such as Luther and Calvin upon a
pedestal, to be adored for all times. And they have elevated the doctrines
which have been hammered out in previous church councils to an almost
infallible status. That is wrong. Does the Bible encourage the formation of
denominations? No! Not at all! There are no denominations of churches in the
Bible. This is an invention of man. In fact when we look at the seven churches
1Cor 1:14-17, I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Paul is not against water baptism. The apostle is listing his priorities. His priority is not to enlist more
members in the
church through water baptism, or through any other external ceremony. We must
be changed from the inside, not by washing on the outside. That is what he is
emphasizing here. Water baptism is fine for an established church, but for an
evangelist waging war against Satan and all his host water baptism is something
to be placed on the back-burner. The preaching of the Gospel is a first
priority, so that we come to understand that believing the Gospel is something
that changes us from the inside. This change is brought about by God the Holy
Spirit giving us a soul that is born again, so that we are made at peace with
God. That is the main purpose of the Bible, and that is the main purpose of the
preaching of the Gospel, and that should be the main purpose of the church. We
first need to be in a right relationship with God, and then the horizontal
relationships with people will fall in the right place. The main purpose of the
Bible is not in order that we get along with other people. Getting right with God
is our first priority, and this requires that we are circumcised in our heart,
which only God can do. Once we understand the main goal of our salvation, we
will also understand that external ceremonies cannot contribute to our
salvation. There is no magical power in water baptism. There is no hocus pocus
in the ceremony of water baptism. The miraculous power that the Roman Catholic
church ascribes to water baptism is superstition, nothing else. And
superstition is a doctrine of devils. In the past centuries missionaries have
sailed the world and have been baptizing millions of people on every continent.
But that is man’s way. It is not God’s way of expanding the
#2. Not With Wisdom of Words (1Cor 1:17-19, John 1:13, Isa 42:8)
1Cor 1:17-18, For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
What does it mean, “not with wisdom of words”? It certainly does not mean that we can evangelize if we are ignorant of the basic doctrines of the Gospel. But it does mean that if someone is converted that person’s conversion cannot be ascribed to our cleverness of presenting the Gospel, or to our wittiness, or to our persuasiveness in our Gospel presentation, or to any other wisdom of words on our part. For if it depended on our wisdom of words, the power of God the Holy Spirit would be eliminated and then the cross of Christ would be made vain and ineffectual. No! All the credit and the glory must go to God, and none to us. We are only instruments in the hands of God. We do not contribute to the salvation of any-one. We must always remember what God says in John 1:13 (2X),
Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:13 says that no one will be born again, in other words be saved, by having been born in a favorable bloodline, neither will anyone be saved by his own free will, neither will anyone be saved by the will of his father who caused him to be baptized in water, but people are getting saved by being born of God. And none of the credit goes to man. God will not share His glory with another (Isa 42:8).
1Cor 1:19-20, For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
Verse 19 is taken from the Prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 29:14 (2X). And there we read,
Isa 29:14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
The meaning of 1Cor 1:19 is that God overthrew the
stupidity of Ariel, which is another name for
1Cor 1:21, For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
What is God saying in this verse? Keep your sticker here in 1Cor 1:21, and please turn to the Gospel According to John, John 17:3 (2X). 1Cor 1:21 says that in the wisdom of God He designed mankind in such a way that by their own wisdom they could not know God. Mankind is stuck in their own ignorance. And until we begin to humble ourselves and admit that we, by our own wisdom, cannot know God, we shall never even come close to the truth of the Gospel or to salvation. Knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ is salvation. John 17 is really the Lord’s Prayer shortly before He went to the cross. The Lord Jesus told us in the Gospel According to John, John 17:3 (2X), “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” And why did God design mankind in such a way that by their own wisdom they could not know God? He did it so that by the foolishness of preaching those that believe might be saved. But who are they who believe? They are all the elect who have been given to the Lord Jesus Christ, for we read again in the Gospel of John 17:2 (2X), “As thou (the Father) hast given him (Christ) power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou (the Father) hast given him (Christ).” Paraphrased, this verse tells us that the Lord Jesus was going to atone only for “as many as Thou (the Father) hast given to Christ.” Clearly, Christ was not going to pay for the sins of all of mankind, but only for those whom the Father has given Him. These are all the elect. Put another sticker here in John 17, and please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 1:3 (2X). These first two chapters in the Epistle to the Ephesians are among the most hated passages in the Bible. These are not hated by the children of God, but these are hated by the enemies of God. And God has many enemies among the sons of man. They hate this doctrine of election. But as soon as we touch on the wisdom of God we are driven to the doctrine of election, for election is a natural outflow of the wisdom of God. We cannot help it. This is the God of the Bible. We read in Eph 1:3-5,
Eph 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
What do we see here? Before God created the first speck of dust, He knew us, and He placed our names in the mind of God the Son. Then when the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross He already had our names in His mind, and He atoned for the sins of all those whom the Father had given Him. Did Christ do this for everyone in the world? No! He did it only for all of God’s elect. All those whom He passed by have to pay for their own sins in the life hereafter. All this is in full agreement with John 17:2. And John 17:3 implies that Christ reveals Himself and the Father only to those who are God’s elect. And this occurs through the operation of God the Holy Spirit. And so, who are God’s elect? They are all those who believe this Gospel, for God has revealed it unto them through the preaching of the true Gospel and through the regenerating action of God the Holy Spirit on our soul, making it alive unto God. And so, it is:
#3. With the Power of God (1Cor 1:18, 2:14, Rom 1:16)
Please turn again to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Cor 1:18
1Co 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
“Us which are saved” refers to the elect of God who were chosen before the foundation of the world. Not one can be added to this group, and not one can be forgotten. But none of those who were passed by will want this Gospel, for they find it to be foolishness. Please drop down to 1Cor 2:14 (2X). There we
1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Those who were passed by remain in the state of the natural man. They will remain as sinful as when they were just born. They want nothing to do with this foolishness, for they cannot understand it. To them it is hidden in parables. But to the elect it sounds very true and trustworthy, for this Gospel is directly from the Bible. To the saints this is wonderful news. God says in Rom 1:16,
Ro 1:16 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
The reason why it is “Good News” to those who are being saved: it is because they realize that it is the power of God unto salvation. Historically this Gospel came to the Jew first, and then also to the Gentiles. But it is the power of God because God the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind it, and God the Holy Spirit will only work on those whose sins have been paid at the cross, and Christ will only pay on the cross for those whom the Father has given Him before the foundation of the world. That is the Gospel for all the elect. There is no Gospel for all the non-elect, for they are born as enemies of God and they die as enemies of God. This then is the message of the preaching of the cross. It comes:
1Cor 1:24-25, But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Them which are called refers to the elect, who are called in a special way. Many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 20:16, 22:14). Many are called, means the Gospel is proclaimed into all the world. But the elect are the few that are chosen. To them Christ is the power of God, for through Christ the entire plan of God is implemented from beginning to the end. And Christ symbolizes the wisdom of God. When we speak of the wisdom of God, we must realize that our God, the God of the Bible, is infinitely wise. And thus Christ, who in the incarnation was formed by uniting God the Son and the egg in the womb of the Virgin Mary, He too is infinitely wise. What does it mean that God is infinitely wise? It means that He does not increase in wisdom as time goes on. It means that God does not learn from history because He already knows all history, from eternity past till eternity future. But God knows all history not only by His omniscience, but because He causes everything to develop according to His plan, His counsel, which He drew up before the foundation of the world. God says in Isa 46:9-10,
Isa 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
God does not say that He is seeing the end from the beginning, but instead He is declaring the end from the beginning, because His counsel, or His plan, shall stand fast, unmoveable, for God will do all His pleasure. That is why Christ is the executioner of the power of God. Christ is also the executioner of the wisdom of God, for He knows everyone of His sheep, He knows all our weaknesses. He knows what wisdom He has to give to each one of His sheep, for the wisdom of God is the wisdom unto salvation. The wisdom leading to our salvation must go through the cross of Christ. That is why 1Cor 1:24 says that Christ is the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is not a separate person, but it is the wisdom that leads us unto salvation. That wisdom is totally a gift from God. And even though the preaching of this kind of a Gospel is foolishness unto men, we must leave it up to God what He will do with it. For this kind of foolishness is far wiser than anything man can produce. And so, we preach the Gospel of Christ:
1Cor 1:22-23, For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
Never forget the shameful Stumblingblock in your Gospel
presentation. Why did Christ have to be crucified? This was God’s design for
all His elect “that we should be holy and without blame before him”, according
to what we have just read in Eph 1:4. In other words, our sins had to be
erased. But our God is a righteous God, and He cannot erase sins by some hand
waving. Since we are not able to complete the full payment for our sins, God
has ordained that the Lord Jesus should make that payment for us. Who is
the Lord Jesus? God ordained that the Lord Jesus Christ shall be the Judge over
all the living and the dead. Christ the Judge pronounced His judgment on the
sins of all mankind, each sin requiring an eternity in Hell. Then God imputed
the sins of all the elect on the account of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ
stepped from behind the judge’s bench and stood in front of the judge’s bench,
and paid for the sins of all His elect. For this He had to go to the cross and
pay the price that we would have to pay if we would have to pay for our own sins.
But this was an eternity in Hell. Christ had to pay for this in His humanity,
not in His Divinity, since God cannot die. But man has sinned, and therefore
also man has to pay for those sins. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ suffered
for our sins beginning on Thursday evening in the