“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. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to those who believe.”
“For Jews require a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who 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” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, NKJV).
Paul’s journeys throughout the Roman Empire brought him into contact with varied cultures and beliefs, often based on a certain concept of God and His work, as was the case with his Jewish brethren as he reasoned from the Scriptures with them concerning the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 17:2, 18:27-28, Ch.22, 28:21-28). He brought the message of Jesus Christ and His salvation to the skeptical Greeks on Mars Hill, who had been reared in the noted thinkers of the past and their teachings, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (Acts 17:16-34). To many of these learned men, what Paul had told them seemed to be foolishness, but there were some who wanted to hear more and were led to Christ.
Paul’s own learning had included not just the total memorization of the Scriptures, but he also possessed a knowledge of foreign teachings and customs that worked well in his dialogues with the Gentiles. The conclusion and observations he wrote about in his letter to the Corinthians were based on his own experience as a preacher of the Gospel.
Paul’s own story of redemption showed him the power of the Gospel when the glorified Lord Jesus confronted him on the Damascus Road years earlier (Acts 9:1-6). He was also grateful to the LORD for using him as a chosen vessel of service rather than having struck him dead for his treatment of the Christians and his blind hated for the message of Jesus. He realized that Jesus had come to fulfill not only the Law of Moses, which he cherished, but to fulfill the prophecies spoken of Him by the prophets in providing the salvation that Paul and all people needed to hear about and embrace as truth.
This is what he wanted to present to his countrymen, but they had refused to hear the message. Undaunted, he switched his attention to bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles who had embraced paganism or skepticism and needed to hear about the work of the real God in providing spiritual freedom and a personal relationship with Him.
The message of the Gospel is so basic and uncomplicated that a child can understand it (Romans 10:9-10). Jesus never discussed deep theological questions with the children who were eager to be around Him but loved and blessed them (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). He never wants to make His will a mystery or religious maze that demands rule-keeping and strict obedience to rituals or to be in constant fear that if you make one little mistake about following Him, that He will cut you off from His presence and saving grace for all time. He does not possess an attitude of frustration and anger over having to redeem us and remind us of it.
Some preachers today want to pound into their congregants that God is saying to us, “Boy, you’d better be glad I decided to save your worthless, stinking hides, though you do not deserve it in any way, shape, or form. You’d better love me for what my Son went through to redeem you bunch of ingrates and reprobates. Toe the line or else My wrath will consume you and throw you into hell. Got it?” That does not open someone’s heart to the Gospel.
Yes, God does warn us of the consequences of sin and the eternal death in hell that awaits anyone who rejects His offer of salvation in Christ. Scripture says so, and so did the Lord Jesus (Luke 12: 5-6; Mark 9:43-48). But God also says that He takes absolutely no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18).
When Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son, I do not see where the Father told the boy off or met his backside with a switch when he came back in repentance and sorrow for what he had done (Luke 15:22-24). That attitude seemed to be in the heart and mind of the resentful older brother. When Paul and Silas were in the Philippian jail and the earthquake broke their bonds as well as those of the other prisoners, they all remained in the jail and spared the jailer from taking his own life and ending up in hell. He asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-34).
Paul answered not with a list of demands and religious standards, but with the answer that we should give anyone who wants to be saved from their sins: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your whole household” (v.31-32). Simple, yet so powerful, and so merciful of the Lord to give us this means of grace and love. We cannot save ourselves while we remain in a state of sin. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God has provided a way out through Him and Him alone (John 14:6; Romans 5:6-11).
How easy is the act of turning to the LORD?
There was an anonymous preacher reading the words of the prophet Isaiah on a cold January Sunday that touched the heart of a young boy named Charles Spurgeon. He heard these words, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you of the Earth. For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22). The preacher then said that it takes no difficulty to look. It is a simple task to focus on the LORD and His salvation. The young boy was saved and became the greatest preacher of 19th century England. One verse of Scripture can change countless lives, and they all can testify of the saving grace of the LORD. Perhaps your own testimony is based on that graciousness.
Jesus told the people around Him not to perform some act of penance or self-punishment for every sin committed as if that would cleanse the soul. What did He say? “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
I ask you, what other religious figure, psychologist, teacher, motivational speaker, guru, or anyone on this Earth can give you that kind of assurance and truth? The world wants you to do the initial work in redeeming yourself through a ritual, chanting a mantra, or making a pilgrimage to a sacred place, or practice doing “good deeds,” or blindly obeying the leader on the penalty of death or loss of membership and being damned for every little infraction.
This world, which is under the sway of the devil (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) and who wants nothing more than to keep people deceived by the world’s definition of wisdom and peace, will do and say anything to convince them that the message of the Gospel is way too simple and lacks the sophistication and intelligence to make a difference in their lives, or deny and mock its message of Divine grace and mercy.
The evil one’s plan is not only to keep people spiritually blind, but to take them to hell with him at the Day of Judgment as an act of spite on his part. He will never repent or turn away from his evil and malicious intentions and will use the world’s definition of intelligence to fulfill his sick and twisted goal of keeping people away from God. He loves to bring confusion and strife to the house of God and turn us away from presenting the Gospel to the lost.
Scripture assures us that the schemes and plans of the devil and his brood never catch the Sovereign LORD off guard or give Him cause to worry. All things are under His control and will (Proverbs 16:9, 21:1; Isaiah 40:23, 44:25; Revelation 17:17), and He shall bring all things to a conclusion, including the futility of trying to find answers in the system of the world and its definition of what it means to be wise.
The Bible is the true source of wisdom, knowledge, sound advice, and a clear, unmistakable picture of who we are apart from the mercy and grace of God. The Bible holds nothing back as it refers to our sinful state that earthly wisdom would just as soon ignore or avoid (Romans 3:10-18). The Bible is the only means by which the LORD speaks to us and shows us the one way that we might be saved, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ and not our works nor corrupt thinking (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).
I appreciate every person who defends the faith, as Scripture commands us to do (1 Peter 3:15), but I do wish sometimes that they would place their authority on the Bible and not on the works and words of fallible men or try to sound just as intellectual as the skeptics, but to base their arguments and convictions on the grace of Christ and His call to repent and turn to Him for the answers to life. There are people who will hear the simple message of salvation, no matter if they have advanced degrees or whether they barely scraped by in school or life.
Paul certainly used the knowledge he had to bring the Gospel to the people, and I am not knocking the need for obtaining the best education possible. As a former teacher, I will say that there is no excuse for willful ignorance and the refusal to listen to ideas, but at the same time it is not hard to present the message of salvation to others regardless of where you stand in life. The simplicity of the cross was Paul’s message, and it should be ours as well. Let me conclude with words of wisdom that have guided me in both good and bad times. I have spent my life in teaching and preaching the Word. I earned three advanced degrees and absorbed the lessons of great men of God. It can all be summarized, though, in these words:
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so.”
Simple but effective. Here ends the lesson.