1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
For some two thousand years the message of the cross has been the object of both scorn and adoration. It is a rare thing indeed to see such diametrically opposed reactions to the same object. Men either hate the cross, or they love the cross; they either fall to their knees in repentance, or turn their backs in anger.
Today I want to analyze the reactions of both believers and unbelievers to the cross of Christ, and see what we can glean, how we can grow, and what we can learn.
To those who are perishing, the cross is foolishness and an insult. Yes, the cross is an insult to human understanding, and to the wisdom of man, because the beauty and importance thereof has been hidden from them. Men have a tendency to despise that which both challenges them, and is beyond their realm of understanding.
Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”
It is difficult for the world to grasp that neither wisdom nor prudence are a prerequisite to understanding the cross. What is required for understanding the cross is the sincere and childlike desire to know the truth, and the willingness to receive it even if it conflicts with one’s preconceived notions on the matter.
The cross is also an insult to individual merit, because it proves that good works in and of themselves cannot save. The cross nullifies the ideology that if we just strive to be good people, to neuter our cats, and recycle our plastics, and hold the elevator for the lady with the shopping bags, then by the nature of our goodness, we can somehow obtain salvation. For those who are perishing, for the unregenerate, this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the cross they have to contend with. They can’t get past the fact that their good works are meaningless in the sight of God, absent faith, the applied grace of Christ and the cross.
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
There is one last segment of people for whom the cross is an insult and an offense, and that is religious people. The reason the cross is an insult to religious people, is because the cross refuses to play favorites, it refuses to be a respecter of persons or personalities. The cross sees no titles, the cross sees no office, the cross sees no bank account, and the cross sees no social standing. The cross only sees the heart, and for many religious people the heart is the one thing they desire to keep hidden. Ceremony has replaced true worship in many hearts, and a false piety has replaced true humility.
Acts 10:34-35, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘in truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.”
I’ve met people who have a difficult time accepting the fact that they are not special, simply because they get to preach a sermon once in awhile, or run a ministry. If you have been called to ministry, it does not make you better than your brother or sister, it only makes you more accountable to God in performing the tasks and duties that He has set before you.
To God, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, between rich and poor, between young and old, between male and female, the only distinctions that God holds to are saved and unsaved, regenerate or unregenerate.
Those who are being saved perceive the cross very differently than those who are perishing. To the saved, the cross is wisdom, and the wisdom of the cross reveals four major themes to us.
The first thing the cross reveals to the saved is the wisdom and knowledge of both God and of Christ.
Colossians 2:1-3, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
At one point in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes what would have been an astounding claim to those who were still lost and perishing, ‘Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.’
It doesn’t matter how many diplomas one might have amassed, it does not matter how many degrees, if they consider the message of the cross to be foolishness they have no wisdom.
The second thing the cross reveals to the saved is the love of God. Yes, love compelled Jesus to hang upon a cross, love compelled Jesus to endure being mocked and ridiculed. By way of the cross we begin to understand the true magnitude of God’s love for us.
We are also shown salvation by way of the cross. Yes, the message of the cross, for those who are being saved is the power of God. If Jesus had not hung upon the cross, you and I could not have been redeemed. If Jesus had not bled, you and I could not have been healed. If Jesus had not died, you and I could not have life.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification – that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
The last thing the cross reveals to those who are saved, is the power of God. We serve an omnipotent God, a God who is able to provide, to strengthen, to encourage, and to save.
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The way in which we perceive the cross, will betray the condition of our hearts. May we look upon the cross and see the wisdom, love, salvation and power of our God.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.