1 Corinthians 1;18-25
1 1-2 I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God’s plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours!
3 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.
4-6 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7-9 Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
The Cross: The Irony of God’s Wisdom
10 I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.
11-12 I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”
13-16 I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?” I was not involved with any of your baptisms—except for Crispus and Gaius—and on getting this report, I’m sure glad I wasn’t. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas’s family, but as far as I can recall, that’s it.)
17 God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.
18-21 The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,
I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as shams.
So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
22-25 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so cheap, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”
26-31 Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”
Who here likes to be called stupid? I hope no wants to be called stupid. Paul, during his ministry, heard people calling Christians foolish, which might be the same as calling them stupid. This morning I used the Message translation, “The Message that point to Christ on the Cross seems like silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18
Silly! Things don’t seem to have changed except perhaps the words. There are many people today who think you are stupid, foolish or at least silly for believing in Christ Jesus, or for going to church and wasting your time on the Christian faith.
My double major in college often challenged my faith. I had a double major one in Philosophy and one is Psychology. Philosophy focuses on the intellectual pursuit of wisdom and the search for the philosophers called the truth. Psychology by definition focuses on our emotions, the mind or the psychic. As I entered college I though these majors might help me prepare for ministry. I wasn’t wrong, but these fields did challenge my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I think of them as some of my wilderness years testing my faith.
In fact, Dr. Mason, head of the Psychology department, often would say to me, “Chuck, what a waste. You should become a Psychologist or counselor. Don’t become some ordinary miss-guided preacher.” Dr. Mason loved the study of what was called “Behaviorism.” He saw B.F. Skinner as a prophet. Skinner believed science could learn enough from the study of the brain enough to figure out why people behave as they do. Skinner believed the human brain was an evolution result of a chaotic evolution to arrive at its current state. God, well, the study of God in fields of philosophy or psychology was only useful to try to understand why people would buy not such a foolish or if you want silly myth.
I found myself constantly having to defend my faith.
I graduated from college more than fifty years ago, but nothing seems to have changed. Perhaps, if anything, it has gotten worse. One of the most common phrases in this pandemic era is, “We must follow the science.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the importance of science. I believe brilliant scientific minds have both improved life and put it in danger. Nevertheless, science is a gift from God most of the time. Science, however, is not God. I don’t believe it is silly, or foolish to place my faith in Christ Jesus.
The problem is not science but the search for truth. Science can only tell us what it has discovered, if the results are evaluated objectively. My question centers on what happens when a scientist has a biased view and wants to manipulate the data? Isn’t the truth lost?
Have I lost you yet? Sorry, if I sound more like a philosopher than a preacher. Let’s put thinking on a more basic level. What was Paul talking about when he wrote, “The message of the cross is foolishness”? Many scientists, philosophers and psychologists and even some pastors contend truth is a moving object depending on the current situation and data. I once accepted that as truth, but now I believe there is one true God.
A recent politician stated in a speech, “I prefer truth over facts.” I laughed at first when I heard him say it. It was a slip of the tongue, but after some thought I believe in reality he might have stumbled onto some wisdom. Do we prefer to believe what we think is truth and ignore or would we prefer to manipulate the facts to fit what we believe? Many in the modern world there are many who believe faith in Christ is a silly foolish or even dangerous myth.
Karl Marx believed, “Faith is the opium of the people.” He along with many today believe faith in God dulls the senses so organized religion can control us. Too many of our children and youth are being taught science will destroy the need for a silly or foolish faith.
Centuries before Paul Isaiah quoted from God, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent.” – 1 Corinthians 1:19; Isaiah 29:144 Paul believed faith in Christ Jesus overcomes those who don’t believe. The good news is that many who believe in the gifts of science also believe in God.
I believe God created each one of us to be free to live the life God created us to experience. Our Heavenly Father sent the Christ to liberate us from ourselves and our own destructive ways. Paul wrote, “God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.” – 1 Corinthians 1:21-23
If you are looking for miracles so that you can believe in God you are more like some of the ancient Jews. I love Billy Graham’s response when asked, “Have you ever seen a miracle?” Pastor Graham’s response was priceless,
“Personally, I can’t look anywhere without seeing a miracle.”
If you believe science, reason, and the pursuit of wisdom determines their understanding of life and you are thinking more like the ancient Greeks, and modern Philosophers. This kind of thinking depends on the mind and the mind of others. No wonder they don’t fee a need for God.
If you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and that he was raised from the dead, you are a Christian. Paul actually stated the same, “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9
I envy the disciples who witnessed the miracle of the resurrection. It must have been an amazing day. Paul understood what the people of Corinth were talking about, so he wrote, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
I believe I have told this story in a previous sermon. I was raised in a church that preached there was not resurrection, no miracles as told by the gospels, and faith was a moral choice not an eternal fact. I confess I believed that myth because it was taught from my early years. Interestingly, I was also taught that myth in seminary. I confess I began my ministry as what they called a “Process” theologian.
One day, however, the Holy Spirit came into my life which changed me. The Holy Spirit became real to me. I was transformed. I became a fool for Christ to the pastor of my youth and seminary days. This doesn’t bother me because I remember what Paul wrote, “This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” – 1 Corinthians 1:25
Now, don’t get me wrong. Science is still important to me. I love the incredible discoveries of science. What science is learning is important, but nothing science has discovered changes the fact we live in a God created cosmos.
I believe Christ Jesus doesn’t watch us from a distance, but loves us. Am I being silly? I believe the Holy Spirit is real! Is that foolishness? We are loved not because we deserve love, but because that is the very nature of our Heavenly Father. Is that wrong?
So, what does it mean to be a believer? How does it change your life? First, it gives us the courage to stand up against those who call our faith foolish, stupid, silly, or wrong. It gives us the courage to witness this universal truth! We witness not by showing proofs or by philosophical debate. In the letter to the Hebrews we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that worlds were prepared by the Word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” – Hebrews 11:1-3. This assurance of faith helps us to face the skeptical culture around us.
It takes courage to stand up for a faith in Jesus Christ. Why? It might cost you friendships, even jobs. Told you are silly might be the least of your problems. And yet, we can also be a light to a darkened world. We can be a ray of hope where there seems to be no hope.
I wear a cross as a silent witness to say to the world, “I am not afraid to say I am a fool for Christ. I have had this cross for years. It sits on a shelf ad a witness in our faith. On the front of the cross are these words from the book of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15. I don’t care who thinks all of this faith stuff is silly or foolish or even stupid.
Pastor Paul Grossman