Of foolishness, wisdom and unity

The power and glory of the cross is in its ability to bring together people from different backgrounds, cultures and streams of life into one Body under Christ.

There is only one place of the cross. At the Hill of the Skull Jesus was crucified for the sin of the world. Every man’s sin was placed upon Him there at the cross. In this we already have unity. We were unified in our rebellion against God. There was not one righteous. We were together in our unrighteousness and as one in disobedience to the will of God.

So, at the cross, the sin of each one of us and all of us was paid for, and forgiveness was accorded to all. The only thing we needed to do from this point on was to accept, on hearing the gospel preached, the free pardon paid for by the ransom of Jesus.

That was the power and glory of the cross. But many consider the cross foolishness. Atheists haggle that God was abysmally cruel to send His own son to die a torturous death. But it pleased the Father to bruise Him. Why? Because through His sacrifice the way was made clear for many to follow into relationship with the Father. Jesus, the obedient Son made the way clear for those who had been disobedient to be forgiven and received into fellowship with the Father.

The cross unifies those who were sinful as those who are forgiven when they receive the free gift. We are one in Christ. So what went wrong? Why do we have so many divisions in the Body when Paul makes it clear that the cross brought a unity never seen before?

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 

For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 

Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptised none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptised in my own name. Yes, I also baptised the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptised any other. 

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. 

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 it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 

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? 

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. 

For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are 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. 

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. 

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” ”
1 Corinthians 1:1o-30

Paul pinpoints the problem straight away. The intelligence and wisdom of the world is confounded by the foolishness of the cross. Throughout history intelligent men have struggled with the logic of the crucifixion.

The cross unites where human wisdom divides. And it is the same in the Church, if we attempt to prize human intellect and intelligence over the seeming folly and simplicity of the gospel. Men tend to either deny God altogether, find an alternative philanthropical substitute, or become religious if they do not embrace the truth of the Bible. There are many religions in the world which are weighed down with rules and ceremonies.

God even gave Israel a religious system to keep them until the Christ came, but they could not successfully live by it, even though God devised it and based it on the Perfect Law of Liberty, that you should love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Yet they broke every commandment and their lives were forfeit. Gentiles too, not recognising God’s Hand in the Creation, failed to acknowledge Him and broke the rules of human conscience and love placed in them by God.

Our tendency towards religion and legalism holds many back from accepting the simplicity of the cross. They feel it is not enough to accept that Jesus has paid the price of their sin once and for all, and feel, some even teach, that there is more, that we can earn our way to salvation, or work our way, or pay some penance, bleed, cut or demean ourselves in the name of sin to appease God.

There is no payment great enough to save us that we can make. It is already done. Jesus paid the price. Only a sinless Saviour could do so, because to pay there had to be a death, according to God’s Word. But death would stake its claim on a sinful man, bind him, and he would be held forever separated from his God, so the lamb that was sacrificed must be innocent. And so was Jesus, called the Paschal Lamb, the lamb who was slain before the creation.

As we are united in death in Christ, so we should be united in life in Him, yet the Body is made up of people who seek religion even though we have been set free from its constraints.

People want to judge others in respect of a holy day, or of a sabbath, or of the way they solemnise their ceremonies of worship, how they honour God, how they take offerings, if they take offerings, if they have a big gathering or small, strobes, electric lights, or candles, organs, drums or electric guitars, rules about hair, hats and who gets to sit where, in the holy chair or the high chair.

Our motives are challenged by religious human folly in every respect, even though we have put on Christ, and religion brings add-ons, such as idols, icons, strange dogmas, rituals and social orders unrelated to scripture. It arranges itself into splits and schisms rather than families and friends.

It seems even Christians can put on Paul or Apollos or Cephas or whosoever, as well as Jesus. Some cannot live their lives with one God. They must have self appointed demigods, semi-gods and idols to reference the Invisible God. They try to rationalise their separate beliefs with strange interpretations of the Bible, of life and of emotional connections with their world. They subsidise their faith with unbelief.

They conquer their exposed error with reasoned arguments to support their excess, including the use of scripture in novel, even fictional ways, to condone what their conscience decries. The human nature, even in the fervent Christian attendee, resists the tide of holiness like Canute in a deckchair on the edge of a tsunami.

Knowledge download
Intelligence is such a fool sometimes. It is God-given, yet is it estranged to God because of the fall, when the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was accessed, and a download of understanding tilted our system, adding to our rebellion information we were never godly enough to handle, like a loaded machine gun in the hands of a hyperactive ten year old on a cola rush.

So the intelligence, here called prudence, of the rational man considers the cross to be foolishness. The wisdom of the world prefers nature to creation, science to scripture, fact to faith, thinking, erroneously, that none can be married or understood in association, accessed in unison, pointing, always, to a Creator. Human intelligence and wisdom empty of the Spirit tends to form human divisions, class systems, political polarities and monitory hierarchies.

It seems the poor in spirit, who have nothing to lose, find it easier to believe God than the well educated, who have everything to lose by embracing Biblical standards in an enlightened world. So God tends to use those who are considered by the intelligent to be fools, people who need a crutch, a support system, or cannot understand rational thought. He chooses the weak, the base, the ignoble.

Gospel and cross
The reason is simple. The gospel is so powerful and the cross so permanent and just, and the Word of Faith so permanent, tangibly established, fertile and eternal that, in the hands of the feeble, disenfranchised and unlearned, there could only be One who would receive the glory, and that is God, who is the Authority behind the gospel and, through the Spirit, the Confirmer of its dynamism amongst men.

So science and intelligence, wisdom and reality have their place in our world, and we do not deny or denounce their importance. Much of it is God-given, and God-appointed, even though some do not know it. And reason is practical, pragmatic, often fun, and for some of us an essential part of our character, enterprise and desire.

But the only way to true unity in the Body is through the recognition of our hopelessness without God, that it is through the foolishness of the cross that the folly of human wisdom is overcome, and that God, in his wisdom and grace, has made the way clear for us to be unified in Jesus as one Body.

The cross is the place of death and sacrifice, breaking of curses, and surrender. Without these essentials there will never be true unity in the Body.

Posted by Steve