Monday, September 10, 2012

What the Cross Says About God's Wisdom

Part 1 of The Cross: What It Says About God

You can listen to this sermon here.



For the word of the cross is folly 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 the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:18-31). 


Actions Speak Louder Than Words 

It’s often said, “Actions speak louder than words.” Actions reveal more about a person than words.

The cross speaks louder than any words God could say. 

Imagine you know absolutely nothing about the God of the Bible. Then one day someone tells you, “God loves you.” Without knowing about the cross, how could you really understand God’s love? “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The cross is the ultimate “act of God.” It helps us better understand many of God’s attributes (e.g., his love, mercy, grace, holiness, justice, sovereignty, and wisdom).


The Wisdom of God 

God “has access to all information. So his judgments are made wisely. He never has to revise his estimation of something because of additional information” (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 302). We, on the other hand, often act unwisely because we don’t have all the facts.

Because God knows everything, he always makes wise decisions. 

“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all” (Ps. 104:24 NIV). “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33).

God’s decisions “always will bring about the best results (from God’s ultimate perspective), and they will bring about those results through the best possible means” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 193). From the human perspective, the cross seemed like a failure (Jesus’ followers) or a defeat (Jesus’ enemies). But from God’s perspective, it brought about the best result (salvation).


The Wisdom of the Cross

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (v. 18).

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (vv. 22-24).

The cross divides the human race into two groups: “those who are perishing” (who see the cross as “folly”) and “us who are being saved” (who see the cross as “the power of God”). The first group is further divided into two additional groups: the Jews and the Greeks (cultured Gentiles).

To the Jews, the cross was a “stumbling block” (v. 21). The Greek word for “stumbling block” is skandalon, which means “scandal.” The Jews, who demanded “signs” (v. 22), considered the message of the cross to be offensive. How could the Christ (Messiah) be crucified (cf. Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13)?

To the Greeks, the cross was “folly” (v. 21). The Greek word for “folly” is moria, which means “madness.” The Greeks, who sought “wisdom” (v. 22), considered the message of the cross to be stupid. How could a man who died in such a humiliating way be a hero?

The world asks, “How can a crucified Christ help anyone?” 

Those who reject the message of the cross don’t know all the facts. They think they are being wise, but they are actually making the most foolish decision possible. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). (When you’re talking with an unbeliever about the gospel, does they act like you’re speaking in another language?)

How can the wisdom of God seen in the cross?

1. The cross solves the problem of sin. 

All of us have sinned. Because God is holy and just, our sin must be punished. It can’t simply be overlooked. On the cross, Jesus suffered so that we could be spared. He willingly received the punishment that we deserved.

Amazingly, God, in his wisdom, used the foolishness of men to bring about the crucifixion. Paul writes, “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8). Had they understood all the facts about Jesus, they never would have killed him. But if they hadn’t killed him, there could be no salvation.

2. The cross makes salvation available to all. 

God doesn’t save only society’s elites. God saves “those who believe” (v. 21). A person’s wealth, fame, or power give him no advantage over any other person. Paul says, “For consider, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (v. 26). (Notice that Paul says “not many,” not “not any.”)

“Those who are perishing” either reject that sin is a problem or reject that salvation is by grace through faith. But they are not wiser than God. He knows all the facts, not them.


Boasting in the Wisdom of the Cross 

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (vv. 30-31).

Though the world mocks its message, never be ashamed of the cross! 

Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

Don’t be ashamed to share the message of the cross.