Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
Text: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Why are we here? What is our purpose in life? These are some of life’s biggest questions that people feel the need to find an answer to. People spend long periods of time and may spend a great deal of money trying to find the answers to life’s biggest questions. The people of Paul’s day were no different than the people of today in that regard. The answer is found in the same place for both the people of Paul’s day, as well as today. So, as we ask the question “LOOKING FOR THE ANSWERS TO LIFE’S BIG QUESTIONS?”, we will see that 1. You Won’t Find Them In Man’s Wisdom Or Strength, but rather, 2. God Reveals Them In The Cross Of Christ.
Our text for this morning is part of a larger section of the epistle to the Corinthians in which Paul compares God’s wisdom to the world’s wisdom. For example, he had written prior to our text: “[Christ sent me to] preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1:17) Later Paul quoted from Isaiah 29:14, when he wrote: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” He wrote this way in defense against those who were attacking what he and the others were preaching. They were saying that this was not the way that intelligent people think. It is in response to this type of thinking that Paul observed in verse 22, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom.”
The “Jews demand signs.” God had given the Jews many different signs that would identify the Messiah to them. He had told them where he would be born. He had told them that he would be born of a virgin. God had told them that he would perform many miracles in their presence. Every detail of Christ’s suffering and death had been foretold, from the betrayal by one close to him, to the distribution of his clothes by casting the lot. The method of his execution as well as his placement among sinners at his death and his burial in a rich man’s tomb. His glorious resurrection was foretold again and again. Jesus had fulfilled every single one of them. But the Jews weren’t satisfied with these. Many were the times that they would ask Jesus by what authority he did things. Even when Jesus was on the cross, the crowds, in their mocking were looking for signs. Remember how they mocked Jesus, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”? (Luke 23:35) They really didn’t expect that Jesus would do so. They used it as an opportunity to make fun of Jesus. The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for more spectacular signs from heaven, which would equip the Messiah to be a political leader. When Jesus didn’t fit their idea of what they were looking for, his coming didn’t accompany the signs that would capture their imagination, they quickly rejected him and poured out their hatred on him.
“Greeks look for wisdom.” The Greek people were well-known for their love of wisdom. They were impressed with human philosophy and systems of thought based on logic. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all Greek. Of the Athenians, the following was observed in the book of Acts, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” (Acts 17:21) However, when Paul came to them and told them about Jesus and what he had done for them, they called Paul a “babbler.” This was especially true when Paul told them of the resurrection. They quickly dismissed him and his thinking, because it didn’t make sense to their “logical” way of thinking.
Show us a sign. Make it make sense to me. That was the type of thinking evident in Paul’s day, and it is no less evident today. People today want to find something that appeals to them. They want it to be new and exciting. They want to be entertained. People also want the message to be completely logical. It has to make sense, and whatever doesn’t make sense to them must be a myth or folk tale. An area of recent interest is the New Age Movement. The teachers of this say that we each have our untapped potential. If we find a way to tap into it, there is no telling what we might all accomplish. At the heart of this is the idea that each of us has this sort of power that is god-like. Each of us is part of the power of the universe. The way that we grow is to become more and more aware of ourselves. This is done through meditation and self-realization. Like then, so now, people are looking for answers to life’s biggest questions, but they are looking for them in all the wrong places.
Where do we find the answer to life’s biggest questions? Paul tells us, in opposition to the rest of the world’s methods, “we preach Christ crucified.” God has revealed to us the message that really works, really saves, really answers the questions of life. For this reason, we don’t have to look any farther. Yes, to some this is, as Paul calls it, “a stumbling block.” Actually, the picture here is of the stick on a box trap. When the animal trips the stick, the trap falls shut. The very thing that God sent to the world to save the world, Jesus Christ, will be the reason that they are lost in the trap of hell, because they refuse to believe in him. To others, Jesus and what he did is foolishness. It doesn’t make sense that God would send his Son into the world to save us. It doesn’t make sense that by his life, death and resurrection, we would be saved.
However, Paul says in verses 24 & 25: “To those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” Jesus is God’s power and wisdom personified. This is in contrast to the supposedly better ideas that mankind has as to how to be right with God.
Paul speaks of the “foolishness of God.” Actually, this might be better translated, “The foolish thing that God did.” This foolishness is in the eyes of man. Yet, what God did is beyond anything that man could devise or dream up. We could plan and devise and dream about how a person could achieve oneness with God, as philosophers of the past have done. Yet, we never would have come up with the plan that God did, that would take care of our every need for salvation, that would cover every condition God has set for being one with him. What man may consider as foolishness was exactly the plan that God had set up to bring about salvation for all.
Paul also speaks of the “weakness of God,” or ‘the weak thing that God did.’ What was this act of weakness? On the surface, it would appear the crucifixion of Jesus was an act of weakness. Allowing yourself to be put to death doesn’t seem like an act of strength to the eyes of man. Yet, this supposed act of weakness was an act of God’s divine power and grace. The ones who were truly powerless is us. We could not save ourselves, no matter how hard we tried. That is because we are all sinners. God demands complete and total perfection to enter his heaven. That is something, no matter how hard we tried, we could never reach. So, in order that we might gain entrance into heaven, Jesus, in his love for us, humbled himself so that he might serve as our Savior. The Almighty God became a human being so that, through his weakness, we might be saved.
God’s ways are not our ways. He says as much in Isaiah 55:8, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.” We thank God for that. There is no way that we could ever have come up with a way that we might be one with God. There is only one way and, by God’s grace, we have been brought to believe it. What we believe, we also proclaim. “We preach Christ crucified.” The heart of our message as a church and as Christians is Jesus Christ. Many have lost that focus. They get so busy with social programs or other externals, that they have forgotten what we are here for. Yes, as Christians, we are to be concerned with the physical lives of those around us. In our Christian love, we want help those who are in need. Maybe, we forget that aspect of our Christianity from time to time.
But, that aspect dare never be the focal point of who and what we are. Who are we? We are sinners who, by God’s grace, have been washed clean of our sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are God’s children. Why are we here? We are here to serve our God with our entire lives to say “Thank you” for all that he has done for us. We also exist to tell others. The answer that the Corinthians were in need of hearing is the same answer that people today need to hear, as well. We, as Paul, preach Christ crucified. In him, and not in man’s wisdom or power, do we find the answers to life’s biggest questions. By God’s grace, we also have the privilege of sharing these answers with those around us.
At times of uncertainty, how wonderful it is to know that there are some things that are constants. The greatest of these is God’s continual love for us. He showed that in sending his Son. He shows that in his continuing care for us. He has promised that when we leave this earth we have heaven to look forward to. The answer to life’s biggest questions lies on a hill outside of Jerusalem on a wooden cross and in an empty tomb. The answer is, and always will be, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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