The Foolishness of the World

Is the cross truly the center of our lives?

It’s a question I have been wrestling with ever since I began to study 1 Corinthians. From the very beginning, as Paul addresses the church of Corinth, strikingly similar to the “church of America,” we see his emphasis on one thing — the cross. The Corinthians had been filled with pride, envy, factions, and immorality only a short time after Paul had left them. They believed that even as young Christians they had reached the peak of their Christian experience. Their pride led them to focus on things of this world, their own opinions and tastes, and begin to rebel against Paul’s teaching. But Paul tells them plainly and simply that what is important is the cross — the gospel that saved them.

What struck me when I first began studying was something D.A. Carson mentions in his book The Cross and Christian Ministry.

What would you think if a woman came to work wearing earrings stamped with an image of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima?

What would you think of a church building adorned with a fresco of the massed graves at Auschwitz?

Both visions are grotesque. They are not only intrinsically abhorrent, but they are shocking because of powerful cultural associations. The same sort of shocked horror was associated with “cross” and “crucifixion” in the first century. Apart from the emperor’s explicit sanction, no Roman citizen could be put to death by this means. Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians. Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company. Quite apart from the wretched torture inflicted on those who were executed by hanging from a cross, the cultural associations conjured up images of evil, corruption, abysmal rejection.

That quote seems to make the statement that God chose the “foolish things of this world to shame the wise” even stronger. I like the new perspective it gives us into what Paul is saying right in the very beginning of 1 Corinthians. It is clear that the cross is not, in the world’s eyes, full of wisdom, nor of strength. It was even more so in the first century.

We run to the cross. It must be the center of our lives, our speech, our actions, and our minds. The cross- the gospel – must guide our daily actions. Many do not understand this teaching, but it is so evident through God’s Word. It saves us, and when we look at the cross and its suffering, we flee from sin. It is the center, it is the story.

4 responses to “The Foolishness of the World”

  1. Nicole T. says:

    This is AMAZING! It perfectly confirms what God was placing on my heart just this morning as I was reading the following article by Hudson Taylor (quoted in part):

    “‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’ Luke 9:23
    We might naturally have thought that if there was one thing in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ which belonged to Him alone, it was His Cross-bearing. To guard against so natural a mistake, the Holy Ghost has taken care in gospel and in epistle to draw our special attention to the oneness of the believer with Christ in cross-bearing; and also to prevent misunderstanding as to the character of Christian cross-bearing, and the constancy of its obligation. The Lord Jesus, in the words we are considering, teaches us that if any man, no matter who he may be, will be His disciple, he must — not he may — deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow his Lord.
    Is there not a needs-be for this exhortation? Are not self-indulgence and self-assertion temptations to which we are ever exposed, and to which we constantly give way, without even a thought of the un-Christliness of such conduct? That we owe something to God all Christians admit; and it may be hoped that the number of those is increasing who recognize His claim to some proportionate part of their income. But our Master claims much more than a part of our property, of our time, of our affections. If we are saved at all, we are not our own in any sense, we are bought with a price; our bodies we must present to Him; our whole life must be for God.
    Self-denial surely means something far greater than some slight insignificant lessening of our self-indulgences! When Peter denied Christ, he utterly disowned Him and disallowed His claims. In this way we are called to deny self, and to do it daily, if we would be Christ’s disciples indeed. ‘I don’t like this,’ or, ‘I do like that,’ must not be allowed; the only question daily must be, What would Jesus like? And His mind and will, once ascertained, must unhesitatingly be carried out.
    As believers, we claim to have been crucified together with Christ, and Paul understood this, not merely imputatively but practically. That cross put the world to death as regards Paul, and put Paul to death as regards the world. To the Apostle nothing could have been more practical. He does not say, “I take up my cross daily,” in the light, modern sense of the expression; but puts it rather as dying daily; and therefore, as one ‘in deaths oft,’ he was never surprised, or stumbled, by any hardship or danger involved in his work.”

    May we so follow in His Footsteps that the world will have no doubt as to Who we serve, Who we Love, and Who deserves all the glory, honor and praise.


  2. JosiahR says:

    This is a good post. Keep it up!!!

  3. Abigail says:

    Hello Tim,

    Hopped over here from the Rebelution, and enjoyed the look around. Great post on the cross! I find it fascinating every time I try to wrap my mind around the centrality of the cross–for God’s glory–so that He might be both just and justifier. I came across Isaiah 59:15-16 yesterday, “Now Yahweh saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice, And he saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede, Then His own arm brought salvation, And His righteousness upheld Him.” It DOES seem foolish to the world not to be able to save themselves, but to anyone whose eyes are opened to their own helplessness, only the cross CAN save them!

    Good words. 🙂 Blessings, brother.

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