Summary: God has made known to us "the mystery of his will."
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Most people are intrigued by mysteries. How did the Egyptians build the pyramids? What’s the truth about the Bermuda Triangle? Who was Jack the Ripper?
God has shown his grace to us by “making known to us the mystery of his will” (v. 9).
In Scripture, a “mystery” is something that was once UNKNOWN by man but now REVEALED by God.
The Greek word for “mystery” (musterion) is found 27 times in the NT (21 times in Paul’s letters).
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29). A “mystery” is something that was once a secret thing but now a revealed thing.
Even when a mystery is revealed, without God’s Spirit, it cannot be properly understood. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
In 1:7-10, Paul mentions two revelations that have been made known to believers.
• God has revealed to us the POWER of the CROSS.
Redemption is “through [Christ’s] blood” (v. 7).
The word asks, “What’s so special about the cross?”
“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” (1 Cor. 1:18). In Paul’s day, both Jews and Gentiles did not understand the significance of the cross. “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:22-24).
To Gentiles, the message of the cross was “folly.” “Folly” (moria) could be translated “madness.” “Gentiles wrote off the message of the cross not as eccentric, harmless folly, but as dangerous, almost deranged stupidity” (D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p. 22). For example, the Alexamenos graffito pictures a donkey on a cross and says, “Alexamenos worships his god.”
To Jews, the message of the cross was a “stumbling block.” “Stumbling block” (skandalon) could be translated “scandal.” The same word is found in Galatians 5:11, which refers to “the offense of the cross.” “‘Scandal’ is in fact closer to the sense than ‘stumbling block,’ since the word does not so much mean something that one is tripped up by as something that offends to the point of arousing opposition” (Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 75).
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13; cf. Deut. 21:23; Acts 5:30; 13:29). Jews understood Paul’s message of “Christ crucified” as a contradiction. How could the cursed one (“crucified”) be the anointed one (“Christ”)? In the mind of the Jew, the crucifixion of Jesus was proof that he was not the Christ.