Summary: Paul compares what the Jews and Gentiles sought to what he gave them - Christ crucified. This shows us what is really important in our message and our methods of reaching out.
March 19, 2006 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
Stick With The Stumbling Block
When you buy a book from Amazon.com, the next time you go online, they will take what you purchased and make further suggestions for things you might be interested in buying. This is called “marketing.” Marketing examines ways in which to sell things to people - trying to determine what will catch your eyes and get you to buy. Every commercial made - every sign in a window - it’s picture and it’s words are made to appeal to what you want or what they think you are looking for.
This same approach has been applied to church - how to market your church. The idea behind church marketing is to find out what people are seeking - and try to give it to them. An example of this is found behind different postcards you can buy. Here’s one that the WELS is offering -
The unchurched people in our post-modern world are looking for relationships. They want to "retribalize," according to sociologists. Think of what we have to offer them: A right relationship with their Lord, and true bonds with fellow Christians in the body of Christ. This year’s postcards will concentrate on being connected to Christ and his church.
The card reads, “a place to find new life this Easter.” The idea is that since sociologists tell us that people want to “retribalize” - that’s what they are seeking - let’s promote Christ and Church as the “tribe” they can join. Since sociologists have unlocked what today’s people are seeking, we can now “market” our church so people will feel more compelled to come and then hear the good news. It makes some sense - do what you can to at least get people in the door.
Paul plays the part of the sociologist in part as he also knew what people were “seeking” back in his time. “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom.” The Jews weren’t just seeking - they were “demanding” miraculous signs. A couple of examples of this throughout Jesus ministry come to mind -
✓ John 6:30-31 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (after Jesus fed the 5,000 - they wanted Jesus to feed them for 40 years.)
✓ John 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
✓ Mark 15:32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”
The rich man also thought that Lazarus should rise from the dead to convince his brothers of the truth. Miracles were regularly being sought as proof as to whether what someone was saying was true or not.
Instead of looking for impressive actions, as a general rule Paul said that the Greeks seem to gravitate more towards the search for “wisdom.” In New Testament times a group known as the Gnostics sought what they called a deeper and hidden knowledge - and they even wrote several books that they claimed were from Old Testament prophets as they sought to feed people with that deeper knowledge. This may have been the type of “wisdom” was talking about - but more likely he was referring more to the education of the universities and what not. Greeks seemed to be more obsessed with gaining more knowledge and education.
It seems obvious from the context that Paul wasn’t complimenting these people for what they were seeking. What’s wrong with it? Think about what faith is. It is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we DO NOT SEE. Jesus said to Thomas - who demanded to see Jesus raised from the dead, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Compare that to what a sign is - it is only used as a warning or a picture of what is to come. When you drive down the road and see a sign that says “scenic area ahead,” you know that the scenic area is coming. Imagine if someone got out of the car - and instead of taking a picture of the scenic area - took a picture of the sign that said, “scenic area ahead.” What if they all said to one another, “what a lovely design for this sign! Where can we find some more!” If you have a choice between a picture of Hawaii or actually standing there and seeing it, obviously the real thing would be preferred. Yet people seek the signs.