Summary: It may take a crucified church to bring a crucified Christ before the eyes of the world. Christ’s cross makes foolish human wisdom. The cross insults our intelligence (too simple), ability (nothing to do), and ambition (not glory for self).
Opening illustration: When Harvard University was founded, its motto was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae —“Truth for Christ and the Church.” Its crest showed three books, one face down to symbolize the limitation of human knowledge. But in recent decades that book has been turned face up to represent the unlimited capacity of the human mind. And the motto has been changed to Veritas—“Truth.”
The pursuit of knowledge is praiseworthy, yet learning can quickly lead to pride and a refusal to acknowledge any limits on our mental abilities. When that happens, biblical truth is ignored.
What, then, is the truth about truth? A wise king wrote centuries ago, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1: 7). We must recognize the relationship between God and truth. Without the help of God’s Spirit and the instruction of God’s Word, man will be ever “learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3: 7). When we acknowledge and obey His truth, however, we will be set free from spiritual ignorance and error (John 8: 32; 17: 17). That’s why we must be diligent in studying the Bible (2 Timothy 2: 15). It is the only book that tells us the truth about truth. (Illustration by Vernon Grounds, Our Daily Bread)
Introduction: Paul writes this letter to the Corinthians and begins the letter with a reminder to them about the limits of human wisdom. You’re not going to figure it all out. Faith is a great mystery. Can you imagine that Paul had to remind them nearly 2,000 years ago that they didn’t know everything, didn’t understand everything, and weren’t going to have it all figured out? Look at how much more we know today than they did then! Look at the advances in our technology and understanding. Galileo was imprisoned and later died under house arrest for suggesting the earth rotated around the sun. Everyone thought the sun rotated around the earth. We still say “the sun comes up – the sun goes down” even though most of us know the sun doesn’t move. Everyone thought the earth was flat and that if you sailed far enough out on the ocean that you would fall off the end. In the Bible, they thought rain came from heaven, we know now how rain forms, well, you and I might not, but meteorologists can explain it. And if you fly in a plane, you’ll go above the rain clouds. We have become so self-sufficient and smart as a society that many people think that they’ve outgrown God. The irony is that we only know what God allows us to know.
“There is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and Him be wrong any more than a stream could rise higher than its own source. When you argue against Him, you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.” - CS Lewis on ‘Arguing with God’
What, then, is the truth about truth?
1. The Cross – Power of God (vs. 18)
Paul makes it clear that there are only two categories of people: the “perishing” and the “saved.” Ultimately, all must fall into one of these two classes; there is no other. Paul writes that those who are perishing consider the word of the cross “foolishness.” Five times in eight verses, Paul will use a form of the word “foolishness.” Now it will help you to know the basic Greek word is moria. In 1: 25 it appears as an adjective—moros. I probably don’t have to tell you that we get the English word “moron” from this Greek word. It has the idea of something that is ridiculous, ignorant, stupid, and contemptible. If someone were to say, “You moron!” you would be insulted, and properly so. But that is the very word that Paul uses here—and not just once, but five times. What Paul is saying is this: Most people consider the cross to be moronic! Now there are countless reasons for this, but at the top of the list has to be that the cross offends our pride. The word of the cross is that salvation is freely granted by God’s grace, not human merit or intellect. Furthermore, salvation is extended to all people. This levels the ground at the foot of the cross. Everyone comes to God through faith, based upon the work of Jesus Christ. This offends man’s pride.
While the unbeliever considers the cross utter nonsense, the Christian sees it as “the power of God.” Please read 1: 18b carefully. The word of the cross is not simply good advice or helpful information … it is the power of God! In other words, our victory in salvation and life can only be attained through the cross. The cross is everything to the Christian.