Summary: God’s Word will do God’s work, in you, and through you.
“For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside”. Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Before we embark upon a trek through our text verses today, it would be a help to us I think, to pay some attention to verse 17.
It would not be a bad thing for preachers of God’s word everywhere, myself included, to commit this verse to memory, or at least have it typed on a small card and posted in a prominent place in the study.
Paul has been pointing out to the Corinthian believers that he did not baptize among them, with the exception of one or two, as a means of making clear to them that they were to follow Christ and not a mere man.
Therefore, this first phrase, ‘For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…’
What I’m getting at though, is the next part. ‘…not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.’
This makes a very powerful point that all of us should ponder and reflect upon, but especially the man who is called by God to preach. This is the Apostle Paul speaking, and he is establishing once more to the reader’s mind that he was called by Christ, that Christ gave him a commission, that it was a specific commission, and that he would not be deterred or distracted from it.
Let me cite just a couple examples of what I’m talking about. Now I do not want anyone to think that I am condemning these things for what they are, because they are useful. So hear me all the way through. In recent years we’ve seen works come out categorized as apologetics.
Now that does not mean the writer is apologizing for Christianity. The word ‘apologetics’, means that the work is a systematic and argumentative defense of Christianity and its origins and validity.
So when we think of apologetics we think of people like C. S. Lewis, more recently Lee Strobel, who wrote “The Case for Christ” and “The Case for Faith”.
These are all excellent works, and I admit that I personally have read everything of Lewis’ that is in print, unless I’ve missed something along the way. But I don’t think I have.
But these very helpful writings are for the Christian, primarily. They are for his furthered understanding of the things he has chosen by faith to believe. In my own Christian life they have encouraged me and helped me understand things better, and I am thankful for them.
But as much as our minds of flesh would tell us that those things are useful for convincing the unbelieving mind to come to belief, that is simply not the case.
When Josh McDowell came out with his “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” in the early 1970’s, he strongly discouraged using the book as a witnessing tool. It was a compilation of his notes as he researched the claims of Christianity for himself, and he gathered a great deal of information useful for the Christian’s own Bible study.
But McDowell understood then what Paul is talking about in I Corinthians 1:17. The unbeliever cannot be approached on any basis except the simple truth of the gospel; that Christ died for his sins, was buried and rose bodily from the dead on the third day. He must be told that he has sinned, as all have sinned, and that he must turn from sin and come to God only by faith in that gospel truth, or he is eternally separated from God.
I’ll give you just one more example of what I’m talking about before moving on. In our adult Sunday School class we recently viewed a video made by Grant R. Jeffrey, based on his book titled, “The Signature of God”. There was a great deal of interesting and helpful information in it. His final installment concerned this Bible Code we’ve been hearing more of. It claims that there is a sort of secret code within the text of Old Testament scripture that only God could have put there. I won’t take time to explain that in detail now. I would only warn that if you get the book and read it, take it with a grain of salt and be careful not to put too strong an emphasis on it for your own faith and walk.