Summary: The logos of the cross, the message of the cross is that Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God.
For our culture the big event today is not church. It’s the Giants and the Patriots in what we call the Superbowl. Who knows how many words have been spent analyzing who has the wisest strategy to win? Which advertisers will create the best commercials and how much does one minute cost? I saw an article on how to make the best Superbowl snacks. I thought I would be a good snack tester, so please send me snack samples! The people of ancient Corinth would have understood. They were the regular host city for the Isthmian games, which were second only to the Olympics in size of crowd and importance. It was a massive carnival with vendors, advertisers, gambling and boasting over your team or athlete, prostitutes and scammers everywhere. Just like us today.
We are just starting a new series called Spiritual Wisdom in a Foolish World. Come back with me to ancient Corinth, to read a letter written to people dealing with materialism, sexuality and conflicting religions, to people full of pride, consumed with money and fun, the host city for their own version of the Superbowl. What they thought was wise, ends up being foolish. The problem was that too much of Corinth was in the church and we have a similar problem today. Paul takes us back to deep roots of our faith to show us how to live for Christ in a corrupt culture. He urges us to live Christ-like lives by the power of the Spirit as a unified church. And yet Paul’s instruction is always anchored in the prior action of God in Christ. Last week we looked at our spiritual identity. Today we will see our spiritual power.
Let’s go back and look at what was going on in Corinth. The Corinthians were full of themselves for different reasons. The Greeks were proud of their wisdom, their philosophy and artistic culture. The Romans were proud of their power, their empire as the reigning world superpower and their military machine. The Jews were proud of their heritage as the chosen people. The culture valued philosophical wisdom and political power along with money and fleshly pleasure.
Against these worldly values, the Apostle Paul presents the message of the cross with its very different values. Because for us the cross is a primary symbol of faith, it is hard to appreciate how utterly insane the message of a God who got himself crucified by his enemies must have seemed to the first-century Greek or Roman or Jewish person. We wear crosses around our neck as jewelry and put them on our walls for decoration. But back then the cross was an instrument for executing the death penalty on the worst criminals – it was the hangman’s noose, the electric chair. Imagine hanging an electric chair on your living room wall. To honor a cross and one who was executed on it, not surprisingly, looks foolish. The cross challenges values of personal gratification, whose currency is wealth, fame, and power. From a human perspective, God’s way looks foolish and weak, especially the crucifixion.
Our music sounds our values. This afternoon in Indianapolis at the Superbowl what songs are going to be blasting through the stadium? It would not surprise me to hear “We are the Champions.” We honor champions, the strong, the winners. In absolute contrast, the cross presents a totally opposing message, with very different values. To the world it looks weak and foolish. It is hardly a message for the ambitious, for those who want to win at any cost.
Open your Bibles to First Corinthians chapter one. Let’s open our eyes to see God’s spiritual wisdom and power. We are digging into the section that starts in chapter one verse eighteen and ends in chapter two verse five. The passage divides into three sections that correspond to the three points on your sermon outline: verses 18-25 look at the message; verses 26 to 31 the recipients and chapter two, verses one to five, the speaker, Paul. Once again we will see that Paul crafts his words carefully, using strong language. You will hear ironic sarcasm, such as God’s foolishness, and rhetorical questions designed to help us break out of our worldly thinking to see God’s deeper wisdom.
Last week our passage ended with verse seventeen in which Paul said he preaches, not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. This phrase sets up our passage today. The final word “power” sets up the themes of our passage today. Notice three words: “wisdom,” “eloquence,” and “cross.” In Greek the words Paul uses for eloquence and wisdom are logos and Sophia. Logos means word, message or truth; while sophia means wisdom. Now verse eighteen begins with the phrase, “For the message of the cross is foolishness.” The Greek word for “message” is also logos, so Paul turns our attention to the logos of the cross. This is the main topic of the passage. The logos of the cross opposes the logos of worldly wisdom. It is the logos of the cross that opens up a new way of being in the world, a new way of living, a deeper spiritual wisdom and power. It provides the basis for Christian identity. Please stand for the reading of God’s Word. As we read starting in chapter one, verse eighteen listen for the logos of the cross, the message of the cross.