1 Corinthians 1:18
ESV - 18 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.
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1 Corinthians 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." This scripture should be read together with 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 which declares "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. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." This passage is the benediction or conclusion to Paul’s argument regarding the distinction between the spiritual and the carnal nature which runs through 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:6. The message was an interlude under Paul's rebuke addressed to the Corinthian church for their divisions which he had started in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 and later resumed in 1 Corinthians 3 where he dedicates the entire chapter to it. The message of 1 Corinthians 1:18 was therefore a strong indictment on the unspiritual conduct exhibited by the Corinthian church whom Paul adjudged as immature and carnal in nature (1 Cor.3:1-3). By means of his long argument, Paul dichotomizes that the two natures are distinct and worlds apart. He confirms that the natural man who operates under the flesh [the unregenerate nature of a person outside Christ] is incapable of receiving or perceiving the things of God. Paul concludes his argument with his declaration that believers have the mind of Christ and by this fact they ought to know or perceive the mind of God. They should therefore lead godly lives that bring honor to God and so exhibit a different conduct from that which was manifestly evident in the Corinthian assembly, a far cry for a community that claims relationship with Christ. Those who are in Christ may therefore appear foolish in the warped thinking of worldly minds but Scripture reminds us that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that should shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). Paul was called into ministry by Christ and his apostolic authority was not subject to question by any congregation under his see in Macedonia and Asia Minor. Those he sent to minister in Corinth were his assistants and all served Christ in their own respective ways and giftings. Paul was surprised that the Corinthians could be misled into preferring one minister over another. This is explained by his question in 1 Corinthians 3:5 "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?" Sadly, divisions, contentions and schisms in the church community are evidence of carnality and lack of biblical deportment among believers. Today's church community is no less immune to the perils of unspiritual leadership that resonates with the "Corinthian syndrome". Paul's message speaks to our worldview on spiritual leadership, declaring that only God truly calls men to church leadership and without His divine approval and empowerment those who rule the church do so in vain. They will be applying the foolishness of worldly wisdom which sharply contrasts with the wisdom of God which is only found in Christ. Those who are being saved therefore ought to be less culpable to carnal passions, less carnal in their worldview and less inclined to the unbridled passions that inform the craving for worldly leadership. We ought to be submissive to Christ's Spirit and accept the rule of Scripture in all reverence and only then can we perceive the spiritual direction that God has ordained for us and desist from fostering divisions, rivalries, revelries and ungodly conduct in the church community. This in view surmises Paul's message.
In other words, thus to ask; what is the message of the cross? Rather what do we understand by the cross? Or, what is hidden in the cross? Why the cross and not a hanging noose? Could we say; the message of the cross is a mystery? For a mystery is only known to an individual in terms only understandable to oneself. It is by revelation. It can't be understood in human terms. Thus for the Bible to say; "..I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent" (1Cor 1:19). By what is this to be done? Going by scripture, it is so by the cross (1Cor 1:18). To date, many people; Christians inclusive hardly get the message of the cross. They hardly get it what God intended in the cross. Why so? For the human brain which is only but extensively limited can't figure this out. Yet the cross is indispensable for the remission of sin. Jesus had wanted to avoid it (Mat 26:39), (Luke 22:42). It is not simply a necklace or earring piece. Brief history of the cross The use of the cross was first attested among the Persians. It was later employed by the Greeks. Much later, it was adapted by the Romans as punishment for slaves, and non-citizens and occasionally for Roman citizens who were guilty of treason. The use of the cross was intended for painful, gruesome public death. To apply it, they would use all means best suited for that goal. It was intended as much for slow painful death. Isn't it in order to tell you sin kills slowly and if not dealt with, it leads to spiritual death (Rom 6:23). Yet going by scripture, the cross was applied on people who had committed sin worthy of death such as murder or blasphemy. Thus to have been put to death by hanging was a direct signal of God's curse against one for having committed a sin so bad that it was worthy of death (Deuteronomy 21:22-23), (Galatians 3:13). What do we learn by Jesus' death on the cross? Why couldn't Jesus have been put to death by other means, say by the noose? The following lessons though can be drawn out of the application of the cross. At the cross; God's love is revealed God's mercy is revealed Point of exchange God's love is revealed The cross was applied on people who had committed sin worthy of death. It would create fear among the rest to avoid repeating the same. Thus the issue was not the individual but the sin committed. That this is traceable in scripture is of paramount significance. For it wasn't simply wishful that Jesus hung on a cross. It is of symbolic significance that by the death of Jesus on the same, it is no more of use to do the same for one having committed sin. For one is to look to Jesus who in the place of the sinner, died and summed it up all on the cross. For there can't be greater love than that expressed by God through His only begotten Son Jesus (John 15:13). For Jesus is the single begotten Son of God (John 3:16). God's mercy is revealed When the publican went to the temple to pray, he said; "...be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). He was justified on this account. For the cross is not simply to be looked at as so, but to understand that at it, Jesus has made it possible that if we repent, we are forgiven. At the same piece one was condemned, but by Jesus' death on it, sin is surely forgiven if repented of. Have you forgiven those who wrong you? This is so revealing of God's mercy (1Peter 1:3), (Ephesians 2:4), (Hebrews 4:16). Point of exchange At the cross, death is exchanged for life, sin is exchanged for holiness and righteousness, hopelessness is replaced with hope. Jesus was all holy and all righteous. Being that, He was to be the perfect sacrifice. He carried the sin of the whole world and through Him, sin was nailed on the cross (Galatians 2:20). But because He rose from the dead, so do we rise from the death of sin when we accept Him. This is only made possible because of the cross. Thus the life of Christ dwells in us. For at the cross, we are regenerated and made anew (2Cor 5:17).
The answer to this question may be found at the end of this very book, in the 15th chapter. Fitting that he opens his letter by drawing their attention to the message, vs 17-18, and again in verses 21-23. But in the fifteenth chapter, verses 1-11, Paul states this 'message' plainly: 'For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures' - 1 Cor 15:3-4 The message of the cross of Christ, is the good news, the gospel. It is the message that: - God is good - We have sinned - Because God is good, He must punish sin; Like darkness which must flee in the presence of light, so too must sin flee the presence of God - Thus our deserved punishment, to be eternally separated from God, who is Truth and Life and Light. So we stand condemned and without hope - But God, in His mercy and grace sent His own Son; His own perfect, spotless, sinless Lamb to drink down every last drop of Gods wrath, bearing our sins on the cross and His body being broken for us. Taking our punishment on himself - Now, because of this, we have, through faith in this work, confidence to enter boldly into Gods presence, being forgiven of our sin, and reunited with God This great and wonderful work of God is prophesied all over in the Old Testament. In Gen 22:8,14, the prophet Abraham (Gen 20:7) prophesied this great event, where God will provide a sacrificial lamb, shadowing God's sacrifice on the cross through Jesus. Jesus himself, confirms and alludes to this in John 3:14, and goes on to detail His death in John 6, and Luke 22, saying: 'And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' - Luke 22:19-20 This idea of 'breaking' here is Jesus aligning himself with the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This gloriously good news, is a stumbling block to Jews, for 'Salvation is of the Lord' - Jonah 2:9, by grace, that no man would boast, for we rely not on ourselves but on His perfect sacrifice for sin. It is foolishness to the non-Jew, who believes not in bodily resurrection or in a savior who was killed, being hung naked in a cross for all to see, dying a traitors death. But to those who believe, the very power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). So proclaim Jesus crucified, and lifted up, that: 'Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.' - John 3:36 So Rejoice! Christ is risen, Holy Spirit come, Immanuel!
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