Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
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;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
‘Lock yourself in a room with me for 15 minutes and by the end of it, you’ll be a Christian.’ No joke, that’s what I told my colleague, Marcus, when I was a fresh-out-of-school lab technician. I’d been a Christian for a whole year, and was so convinced by the arguments for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I was certain I could reason this 35-year-old man into the kingdom. Had he afforded me the locked-room time I’d requested, he probably would have been crying out to God… for the key.
Like me, Paul loved to reason with people. But unlike my 18-year-old self, he did not overestimate the power of the brain to cause lost lambs to leap into the arms of the Good Shepherd. ‘Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.’
The gospel, amazing as it is, true as it is, sounded like complete nonsense in Paul’s day. It sounded like Jesus was scratching a non-existent itch. ‘We want someone powerful, someone clever, and you’re telling us to pin our hopes on a crucified carpenter-cum-rabbi. Next!’
Perhaps you recognise something like this in our times. Gen Z look for authenticity, millennials look for affordable houses, and boomers look at their pensions hoping they’ll be enough to go on a cruise, but we preach Christ crucified. It can feel like nobody we know will turn to Jesus.
The truth is, just like in Paul’s day, the gospel sounds like nonsense in ours. Yet it remains good, and true. In pointing our friends, neighbours, and colleagues to Christ, we are not trying to convince them to purchase a product they neither need nor want. We are pointing them to the one of ultimate relevance; the one who answers their biggest questions, and fulfils their deepest longings.
But for them to embrace Christ involves a 180˚ turn with a triple pike. It would require such a radical change of worldview and lifestyle that it would be like being born again! This is where we need to be encouraged that the Holy Spirit is alive, well, and at work. While our words and deeds play a vital role, it’s ultimately God’s Spirit who makes ‘his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).