Summary: God's wisdom is higher than human wisdom and His weakness is greater than our strength. Let's submit to the wisdom of God.
A couple months ago a snake handling pastor in Kentucky died from a rattlesnake bite after refusing treatment when he went home after the service. This has happened more than a few times and continues to be quite a common practice in some churches in that area. There’s even a reality show called “Snake Salvation”.
A few years ago there was a story that an African pastor drowned in front of his congregation as he attempted to walk on water. So here it goes… (handle a toy snake)
That’s the only kind of snake handling you will see me do. And you won’t see me walking out on the lake unless the ice is at least a foot thick. In some ways I admire the faith that these people have. But the real problem is what they are doing with Scripture. Does the bible command us to pick up deadly snakes, drink poison, and walk on water?
Well the end of the book of Mark includes the snake handling and the drinking poison part, but this is a portion of scripture that for one thing is not found in all the manuscripts, and for another thing, it doesn’t command anyone to do this. Yes Paul gets bitten by a deadly snake in Acts and it doesn’t affect him, but he didn’t do it on purpose, and I’m quite sure when Jesus referred to someone drinking poison and not being hurt, he wasn’t meaning to go out and intentionally drink poison to test God. And the walking on water thing was given to one man at a certain time and he actually ultimately failed, remember.
When we look around and see what man has accomplished even in the last 40 years, it’s pretty easy to be impressed with the ingenuity, imagination, and intellect of man. But when we look at how people live their lives, and what some people do under the umbrella of Christian faith, wisdom does not seem to be as prominent. The wisdom of man even as we try to interpret Scripture is very suspect. So I want us to look at Paul’s words in the first couple of chapters in 1 Corinthians. Paul is writing to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both our Lord and theirs.
So he’s talking to believers, and he begins the letter discussing the divisions that have been reported to him in the church, which of course represents a lack of true wisdom. But I want to pick it up in verse 18 of chapter 1, and I think this is incredibly valuable advice in our day when human wisdom has been exalted above all things.
Read VV 18-25…
The Jews wanted signs and they got so many from Jesus and the apostles that they had no excuse not to believe. The Greeks were a very intellectually elitist society as contrasted with barbarians. To both groups the crucifixion on a cross was either offensive, or ridiculous. It was folly to the Greek and offensive to the unbelieving Jew. But Paul says to us who are being saved it is the very power of God. Paul even said back in verse 17 that he does not preach the gospel with eloquent words, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
May I just say that what Paul was concerned about is actually happening today. There does seem to be a lot preaching that contains eloquent and entertaining speech, with excessive human wisdom and very little Scripture. I pray that’s not me because I am up here very afraid to undermine the power and authority of God’s word, and I give you permission to straighten me out if I go down that road. God is so far above us that His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, and his weakness is stronger than our greatest strength. We are to rely solely on God’s wisdom if we want things to work out for us as his children and his body.
Paul continues in chapter 2 and this is where I want to focus for now (2:1-16).
That phrase “I decided to know nothing amoung you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” is very telling. How often do we pile a bunch of other stuff on the message to make it more palatable, more relevant? But here Paul is reinforcing what this whole church thing is about. You don’t need wisdom, you don’t need lofty speech or to know Christianese. Do you know Jesus and him crucified? Paul decided to only know that.
That’s a huge question for us in terms of evangelism. So many people are afraid to talk about their faith with unbelievers, but really all you need to do is tell them about Jesus and his crucifixion, which of course also leads into his resurrection. Every Christian knows the story, and hopefully you know Christ well enough to talk about his character. We don’t have to do more than present Jesus and him crucified, why?