Summary: #3 in a series on 1 Corinthians: This sermon focuses on the wisdom of God in the Cross of Christ.
Wisdom is the proper use of knowledge. It is not enough to know something; we have to be able to put knowledge into action. Some wisdom seems like nonsense to us, painfully obvious but somehow elusive. Things that we take for granted and forget, children will remind us of and we say, “of course.” We adults think we are so wise but then out of the mouth of babes comes a wisdom that sounds foolish, but it isn’t. For example:
Patrick, age 10, said, “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”
Michael, 14, said, “When your dad is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him.” And Michael added, “Never tell your mom her diet’s not working.”
Randy, aged 9, said, “Stay away from prunes.” One wonders how he got that bit of wisdom.
Kyoyo, age 9, said, “Never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time.” And Eileen, 8, said, “Never try to baptize a cat.”
My favorite bit of wisdom comes from a North Dakota Indian tribe: If you discover you are riding a dead horse, dismount.
How wise humankind is today what with our many degrees and the fountain of knowledge spewing from our computers; humankind’s potential to solve any problem seems limitless. Pretend that you consider the Bible to be a book of fables and answer this:
How would you save the world?
Using our worldly wisdom or putting our collective brains together, I believe these issues would make the top 5 on what it would take to save our world:
1) Clean up the environment; end pollution now.
2) Feed the hungry; end world poverty.
3) World peace; end armed conflicts throughout the world.
4) Develop the 3rd World and promote economic growth.
5) Cure Aids and other potential pandemics threatening our world today.
These are very real and serious issues plaguing the existence and survival of humankind. Now let me ask you in light of these problems, how would God save the world?
He would send his Son to die on a cross. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Sounds like nonsense.
That’s what the Christians in Corinth were beginning to think too. They were common folk who had been privileged to hear the gospel message and believed it. But somewhere along the line they started thinking about this cross thing and it seemed ridiculous. Forgiveness is great, but the cross? How does that save the world?
Corinthians were Greeks, very intellectual people and fond of philosophy or thinking through things. They were much like us. And the more we think about the cross ourselves, I think we could very easily come to the same conclusion: the cross as a means of rescue is puzzling.
This was no surprise to Paul, who wrote them saying, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”
This is confounding; it makes no sense at all. And they were tempted, these Corinthians, to take the cross out of their message. They were tempted to follow the guys with the best Christian-sounding ideas minus the cross. There were many good philosophers or thinkers to chase after. But they were divided on who they should follow.
Paul calls them back to the cross of Jesus as God’s only answer to the world’s problem. And despite all the great thinkers the world has ever known, Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Einstein and all the rest, not one, not any, can know God or save the world through human wisdom.
So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.
According to Paul there are two kinds of seekers of wisdom in the world. There are some like the Jews who are looking for signs, some visible proof of authenticity. If Jesus is the savior, the One we expected all these centuries, then prove it. But even after Jesus fed the 5000 with two loaves and five fish, the crowd turned and asked for a sign. They were obsessed with signs. Show me, they said, so Jesus showed them the cross.
There are some who seek knowledge and wisdom. They are like the Greeks who want everything lined up neatly, logically, and without any anomalies. They want wisdom, which is next to godliness in their minds, and again God showed them the cross of Jesus.