The Crossroads of Faith and Wisdom

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.

I Corinthians 1:21-24

The preaching of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for our sins was, to the Jews, a stumblingblock, and, to the Greeks, foolishness.  Both groups just couldn’t accept it, but for different reasons.

The Jews lacked faith.  They wanted a sign.  They couldn’t accept His Word.  They couldn’t accept the preaching of the cross of Christ.  They wanted to see something with their own eyes and handle it with their own hands.  They wanted God to send down fire from Heaven or something.  They stumbled at the idea of accepting Christ by faith.

The Greeks, on the other hand, were obsessed with obtaining wisdom.  They were always looking for something new.  To them, the preaching of the cross and the very idea of Jesus Christ dying on a cross for their sins was foolishness.  There wasn’t enough “wisdom” in it.  They expected something far more complex and mentally demanding.  But, in their search for great wisdom, they walked right past the simple wisdom of the gospel.

Those two groups of people missed the Saviour.  But He is there – right at the crossroads of faith and wisdom.  We need to have faith to believe in Him Whom we have not seen, and we need wisdom to understand who He is and what we are.  When those things come together, we see our need of Him, and we put our faith in Him.  And that is a beautiful thing!

 

The Foolishness of Preaching

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.

I Corinthians 1:19-21

After showing us that the wisdom is, in reality, foolishness, the Lord here gives us some insight into the way He does things.  He says “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

God tried to give the world wisdom.  He gave Adam a great deal of wisdom, and Adam rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him.  He gave the Israelites a great deal of wisdom and even tried to lead them Himself, but they rejected Him and rebelled against Him time and time again.  So, he decided to use “the foolishness of preaching” to “save them that believe.”

The dictionary definition of “preaching” is this: “to publicly proclaim or teach (usually a religious message).”  When you think about what preaching is, it really does sound kind of foolish.  It would especially sound foolish to a person who does not know the Lord.  Someone stands up and tells you what a terrible person you are.  They tell you how you have failed and that some of the things you like to do are actually sin.  Who would want to hear that?  That goes against everything that the “wisdom of the world” would tell us today.

That would sound a bit like foolishness to the world.  But, as the Bible says later in this same chapter: “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.”

The Wisdom of the World

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.

I Corinthians 1:19-21

Paul here gives us a reminder about the so-called wisdom of the world.  This is what God says about it: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”  That is pretty easy to understand.  The passage goes on to ask us this question: “hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”

It is easy to look around and see people who have a great amount of “wisdom.”  There are people with high IQs.  There are people who have spent half of their lives studying one thing or another.  There are people who have too many degrees to even remember.  There are people who are “experts” in every field imaginable.

But we need to remember that, even when faced with all of the world’s “wisdom,” we know that there is a far greater source of wisdom.  We know the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has all wisdom and is willing to give us all of the wisdom we need for living.  The wisdom of the world will come to naught.  The wisdom of the Lord is eternal, everlasting wisdom.  The wisdom of the world will be made foolish.  The wisdom of the Lord is perfect.

If we are looking for wisdom, there are only two options: man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom.  Which wisdom are we following today?  Which wisdom do we put our faith in today?

The Preaching of the Cross

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.

I Corinthians 1:17-18

In this passage, Paul speaks of the “preaching of the cross” and contrasts its effect on two groups of people: “them that perish” and “us which are saved.”  These two groups look at the preaching of the cross of Christ in opposite ways.

To “them that perish,” the preaching of the cross of Christ is “foolishness.”  The unsaved, natural man can not understand the things of God.  To a person who is dead in their trespasses and sins, the whole idea of a Saviour is silliness.  The whole idea of even needing a Saviour is silliness.  They can hear the preaching of the cross of Christ and scoff at it as mere superstition.  I was just reading an article the other day in which the writer was scoffing at the ideas of God and Christianity.  But, that writer, like many others, is among the “them that perish” crowd.  They do not know the Saviour, and thus have no use for the preaching of His cross.

On the other hand, “unto us which are saved,” the preaching of the cross of Christ is “the power of God.”  To those of us who know the Lord and have accepted Him, the preaching of His cross and His gospel is the most important thing in the world.  To us, it represents the power of God to save us from our sins, the power of God to forgive us of our sins, and the power of God to help us in our daily lives.

Our attitude toward the preaching of the cross of Christ will do much to tell us where we are in our Christian lives.  What is our attitude today?

 

The Wisdom of Words

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.

I Corinthians 1:17-18

In this passage, Paul makes an interesting statement.  He says that he has been sent to preach the gospel, but “not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”  Paul knows that he is supposed to preach the gospel, but he doesn’t want to do it simply with “the wisdom of words,” because he fears that it would make the cross of Christ “of none effect.”

We see this phenomenon all of the time today.  There are people who claim to be preachers and teachers of the gospel, but thy are so intent on being popular that they become, in effect, nothing more than motivational speakers.  Lost in their silvery tongued orations is the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.

It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to “sell” the gospel.  In our zeal to bring people to the Lord, we sometimes tend to try to use our powers of persuasion more than we use the work of the Holy Spirit.  If we are not careful, we can treat bringing someone to Christ like selling a used car.  It does not work that way.

We need to be careful to not let our delivery of the message get in the way of the message itself.  The message is the gospel.  Everything else is superfluous.  We are simply called to be witnesses of what the Lord has done.  How are we doing?

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us (Hymn)

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
Dorothy Thrupp (1836)

Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be;
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! We will early turn to Thee.

Early let us seek Thy favor, early let us do Thy will;
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us, love us still.

The Bible refers to God’s people many times as “sheep” and that is a very fitting description.  Sheep are not particularly smart and they are very prone to getting lost and getting themselves into trouble.  That is why we need a Shepherd.  Fortunately, we have “the Great Shepherd.”  He has promised to lead us; we only need to follow Him!

Psalm Saturday (7a)

O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.  O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; ; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy: )  Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust.  Selah.

Psalm 7:1-5

This Psalm starts out with the Psalmist declaring that He is going to put his trust in the Lord: “O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust…”  That is a good place to put your trust and it is good to let others know where you are putting your trust.  We all know that the Lord is where we should put our trust.  And we put our trust in Him because of the next part of the verse: “save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me…”

That is what the Psalmist wanted and expected when he put his trust in the Lord, and that is what we should want and expect when we put our trust in the Lord.  We want the Lord to save us from those that persecute us.  Sometimes that might be another person.  Sometimes it might be (more often than not) ourselves.  (We are very often our own worst enemy)  And sometimes it might be the Devil himself.  Whoever it is, if we put our trust in the Lord, He will deliver us!  What a wonderful Saviour!

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