The Third in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
When we hear someone who claims to be an evangelical state that understanding Christ’s cross as a sacrifice for sin is in reality a twisted form of cosmic child abuse–because it teaches that the death of Jesus is an act of a vengeful God pouring out his anger on his innocent son–we are shocked. While the sentiment is shocking, we shouldn’t be surprised that people think like this. It is the apostle Paul who tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that the cross is folly to those who are perishing. The message of Christ crucified was foolishness to ancient Greeks, and a stumbling block to Jews. The cross is both to modern Americans. While sinful men and women mock the cross because they claim to wise, God, in turn, mocks them, because from God’s perspective, human wisdom is nothing but sinful folly. If you’ve ever wondered why Christianity is so difficult for non-Christians to understand and accept, well then, Paul has your answer.
As we continue our series on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and we take up the subject of God’s wisdom and human folly, or as non-Christians see it, our folly and their wisdom. As we saw last time, factions had formed within the Corinthian church as people claimed to be followers of Paul, Apollos, Peter and even Christ himself. In verse 10, Paul exhorted them “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Factionalism had become a cancer in this church, and Paul wants it stopped. The Corinthians are to be united around their common faith.
As we continue to follow Paul’s response to the factions which had formed in Corinth, we quickly learn that the divisions within the Corinthian congregation reveal a much deeper intellectual problem than people merely over-identifying with the person who baptized them. The divisions within the Corinthian church stem from the fact that people are placing far too much confidence in human wisdom (sophia) instead of the gospel, which is centered upon the preaching of the cross. Over-reliance on human wisdom was a serious problem throughout the Hellenistic (Greek-influenced) world. Paul’s response to this problem is to remind the Corinthians that the wisdom of God is revealed in the message of Christ crucified. This revelation of God’s wisdom stands in complete opposition to the so-called wisdom of the Greek philosophical tradition which regarded the preaching of the cross as utter foolishness.
In many ways, this is the same issue we face as Christians today–self-centered, prosperous, and technologically advanced Americans are very much like the Hellenized citizens of first century Corinth. Both find the preaching of the cross either irrelevant or offensive.
To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here