Summary: The A,B,C's of salvation are simple but not always easy.
"The Wisdom of the World" -- I Cor. 1:18-20
Luke 23:39-43 (NIV) 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43 Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
Now, according to that passage, would you say that the thief who asked Jesus to remember him is in Heaven today? Would you say that thief said or did something while he was on the cross that got him to Heaven? Yes? Then what was it? It's not a trick question. What did the man say that got him to Heaven? "Remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Would you say that what that man said is enough to get anybody into Heaven or was that just for that man? It's enough for anybody, right? By what he said to the other thief, we know that the man knew he was a sinner. He admitted, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve." And by saying, "remember me when you come into your kingdom" he was believing that Jesus was dying for him personally and he was confessing that Jesus is God.
Do you know that he was saying the A,B,C's of salvation? He admitted he was a sinner, believed Jesus died for Him and he confessed it. ABC, admit, believe, confess. It's that easy, isn't it? Well, I'm here to say this morning that that is not fair. That's too easy for this guy. How is it fair that this thief, who is getting what he admittedly deserves, is able to say one sentence and gain all of Heaven when it cost Jesus everything?
Jesus is beaten and abused and tortured after living 33 perfect years and all this scumbag has to do is say one sentence after he has lived a life of crime and all is forgiven and he is now walking the streets of gold?! I can tell you that if I were God it would be different. If I were God it wouldn't be that easy. You would have to do something to earn it. You would have to prove yourself worthy, at least a little bit. That just makes sense, right? No free lunch. You gotta work to get something, all that stuff. Jesus dying on the cross for my sins and paying the price I deserve to pay is just too hard to believe. Surely there has to be more.
A leading manufacturing company developed a new cake mix that required only water to be added. Tests were run, surveys were made, and the mix was found to be of superior quality to the other mixes available. It tasted good, it was easy to use and it made a moist, tender cake. The company spent large sums of money on an advertising campaign and then released the cake mix to the general market. But few people bought the new cake mix.
The company then spent more money on a survey to find out why the cake mix didn't sell. Based on the results of this survey, the company recalled the mix, reworked the formula, and released the revised cake mix. The new cake mix required that one add not only water, but one egg. It sold like hot cakes and is now a leading product in the field. You see, the first cake mix was just too simple to be believable. People would not accept it. The same is true of salvation by grace. (Illustrations for Biblical Teaching; Green)
But the Bible tells us that it really is just that simple. It's not just from this example in Luke about the thief on the cross. Paul wrote the whole book of Galatians to basically say just that. But he could have written 10 more books about salvation by grace and people still would not have believed him because it's just too simple. Ironically, it is the wisdom of people that keep them from believing. And that is what our passage in 1 Corinthians is talking about this morning.
This was just one of the many problems in Corinth back then and Paul wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians to try to address some of the problems in that church. Corinth, Greece was a multicultural city of both Romans and Greeks plus every other nationality that might be passing through this great crossroads of culture and enterprise. And because it was so multicultural, every culture brought their own beliefs and it was a problem in the church.