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It is written:
1 Corinthians 1:30-But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—
Recently, a friend asked me the question, “Mark, if you could only preach one more lesson, what would you preach on?”
I answered, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
An elderly gentleman nodded and smiled. He said, “Paul asked me the same question. My answer was: the cross. All the answers are there!”
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul tells us about the importance of the message of the cross that is preached. In verse 30, he teaches us some very important lessons indeed.
Because of God, we have access in Christ to the following things through the cross: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Let’s look at all these things.
The first in the list is wisdom. The word wisdom has reference to the Divine knowledge that is applicable to everyday living. It is the wisdom from Heaven that makes life on Earth livable and profitable, even as it looks beyond Earth to eternity.
However, there is another kind of wisdom that the Bible teaches us to beware of. Paul here points out:
1 Corinthians 1:19-25-For it is written: “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND BRING TO NOTHING THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRUDENT.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Indeed, there is “wisdom” that is from God, but there is also “wisdom” that is demonic.
James 3:14-18-But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James links the wisdom of this world with that which is demonic, I.e., having its’ origins in demons (spirits opposed to God).
The wisdom we have access to in Jesus is that which is able to make us whole and complete in God’s sight.
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, 2 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, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The Jews would not accept a suffering Messiah; such a Message was anathema to them. Even though Jesus fulfilled the prophecies made about Him, they were looking for something else.
“The Jews sought for signs. When the golden age of God came, they looked for startling happenings. This very time during which Paul was writing produced a crop of false Messiahs, and all of them had tricked and deceived the people into accepting them by the promise of wonders. In AD 45, a man called Theudas had emerged. He had persuaded thousands of people to abandon their homes and follow him out to the Jordan, by promising that, at his word of command, the Jordan would divide and he would lead them across without getting their feet wet. In AD 54, a man from Egypt arrived in Jerusalem, claiming to be the Prophet. He persuaded 30,000 people to follow him out to the Mount of Olives by promising that, at his word of command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down. That was the kind of thing that the Jews were looking for. In Jesus, they saw one who was meek and lowly, one who deliberately avoided the spectacular, one who served and who ended on a cross–and it seemed to them an impossible picture of the chosen one of God.” (William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (The New Daily Study Bible), 21-22 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)
The Old Testament foretold the miracles the Messiah would perform:
Isaiah 35:4-6-Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert.
Isaiah 42:6-7-I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
The Jews were offended by Jesus, as were the Greeks. The message of the cross was-and always will be-offensive. Why should it not be so? When God is deemed so repugnant by sinful angelkind and humankind, could it be any different?
Christian, your job is not to make the message of the cross inoffensive. Your duty is to embrace that message and boldly and lovingly proclaim it. Prove the message of the cross to those who are perishing (1 Peter 3:15), and live out that message without shame. Therein is the wisdom that God provides us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Luke 9:23-24-Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
The message of the cross brings righteousness. To be righteous means to be in right relationship. It is only by the cross that we have truly righteous relationship with God, and with our fellow man. By the cross, Jesus was able to become the perfect Sacrifice for mankind. His death paved the way to make atonement for our sins. All through the years I was in preaching school, I was reminded that the word “atonement” really means “at-one-ment,” I.e., the atonement make it possible to be “one” with God again. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17). Only the cross-where God Himself bore the sins of mankind-could provide the means to make us one again.
Christian, the message of the cross also means doing whatever you can to bridge the gulf between you and your fellow man. Are you willing to go to your brother who has offended you and make things right? Or, are you willing to go to your brother that you have offended yourself and make things right? The message of the cross demands doing everything in our power to be “one” with our fellow man.
The message of the cross brings sanctification. This means that we are cleansed; washed; made new. This happens in the act of baptism when we humbly submit to the Spirit’s teaching through the Gospel:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11-Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 12:13-For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
The cross makes it possible for all sins to be forgiven that man will repent of. It is only because of this message that sanctification is possible.
Finally, the message of the cross makes redemption possible. The word redemption has reference to buying something back. By our sins, we had willfully sold ourselves to Satan. Only the death of Jesus on the cross made it possible for his accusations against us to be muted and defeated.
Christian, hold to the message of the cross. The world will oppose you for this: but stand at Calvary.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.