Summary: This sermon outlines the two main ideas of 1 Cor 1:18-25 as (1) The Cross divides and Unifies; (2) The Cross fulfills God’s plan to outwit human wisdom.
1 Cor 1:18-25
[Illustration] I would like you all to play make believe with me for a moment. Pretend that my name is Jose Samblanco and I have just arrived off the boat from Peru and I’m proclaiming to you the good news that a Peruvian peasant by the name Carlos Hernandez was electrocuted on the electric chair for your sins. I’ve even written a hymn:
Carlos was there on that horrible chair
They tied him down with bolts and then zapped him with 40 000 volts
It was for you that our saviour fried and died
Despite the fact that his hair caught on fire, this one is God’s Messiah.
The wisdom of the world has been refuted because Carlos was electrocuted
He is my saviour and my lamp, because he absorbed every deadly amp
Now I know that God does care, ‘cause he sent Carlos Hernandez to the electric chair
I’ve also written other hymns like, “In the chair of Carlos I Glory” and “When I cling to that old rugged electric chair”. Now imagine if people caught on to this religion and they started wearing gold electric chairs on their necklace or if they put chairs on top of building. What if the Red Cross changed their named to the Red Chair
Prior to a big race, athletes, instead of making the sign of the cross made the sign of the electric chair as a gesture of good luck. Instead of hotcross buns you got hot chair buns.
Now what would your response to that be. You’d probably say that was the most stupid religion anyone had ever invented. But really, the offence that it causes, the images of idiocy that surround it would not be wholly different to the way a lot of people regard the scandal of the cross. And it is a scandal: a crucified Jew who died for my sins, in my place, it is utterly scandalous. But how do we get around that, how do we evangelise the people who think a crucified and resurrected man is an offence to reason and common sense.
[Illustration] I’ll give one proposed solution. An visiting American Preacher gave some advice to a congregation about Evangelism. He said, “Don’t tell people about the cross, it doesn’t work. That’s why the Franklin Graham crusades are no longer effective. Just tell them that God loves them and has a plan for them.” The proof that allegedly validated his approach was that he had big Church. But note his point: The message of a crucified Jew is ridiculous to the modern mind and an ineffective tool for Church Growth. So move on to something better. A crucified Messiah is stupid, but promise them prosperity, give them emotional experiences, provide them with self esteem – then you’ll fill the pews. But this encounters two problems. First, it fails to do justice to the centrality of the cross in the New Testament
Lk 18:31: Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
1 Corinthians 2:2: For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Jesus defined his own purpose and mission in going to the cross. Paul defined his existence as having the crucified Jesus indwell him. Paul defined his ministry as a proclamation of the cross itself.
Secondly they give away too much. Keep in mind that people like this are not attempting to destroy Christianity, what they are doing is trying to save it from being irrelevant by making it acceptable to secular people on secular terms. The only way they can do that is to jettison the cross. But we must recognise the temptation that we all face, and that is to abandon the cross for what is more acceptable, more practical, more noble or even wiser in the eyes of the world. You can heaven and more even without a crucified saviour.
It is the same temptation being faced at Corinth.
The Situation in Corinth
Imagine the situation of those at Corinth. In their world in the first century crucifixion was a thing of shame, scorn and derision. It was reserved for only the most lowly of crimes and the most viscous of criminals. To Jews it was a hateful thing. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, Anyone hung on a tree is a under God’s curse.