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The Simplicity Series #11

The Foolishness and the Weakness of God

 
 “We preach Christ crucified … because the foolishness of God is wiser than men,
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1CO 1:23-25
 
The Divine Comedy, 1CO 1:23
 
Whenever man, in his assumed wisdom and might, challenges the Sovereign of the universe, there is a great eruption of laughter from the throne of God (PSA 2:4)! There must be great laughter in Heaven today, as world leaders posture as gods and make plans to re-write history, change absolutes, and even “save the planet.”
 
The Jews wanted a sign from Heaven (1CO 1:22), but rejected the “religiously incorrect” sign of the cross. In the same way, the Greeks sought after wisdom but could not stomach the idea of God in the flesh, seemingly helpless before His murderers. To both Jew and Greek, the message of redemption through the Savior’s crucifixion was too revolting to be credible.
 
In the cross of Jesus Christ, God the Father refuted all of mankind’s boasts of greatness and revealed, through His Son, the true greatness of sacrificial love:
 
“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2CO 4:6
 
The Delivered Company, 1CO 1:24
 
Jesus often reminded His disciples that “many are called, but few are chosen” (MAT 20:16; MAT 22:14). It is of great interest to consider how the word “called” is used in contrast to “chosen” to make different points in various passages. In MAT 20:1-16, it is used to distinguish between “the called” who received a just day’s wage for a full day’s work, as opposed to “the chosen” who receive the same wage for only one hour’s work. Here, “the called” are the “last,” while “the chosen” become the “first,” in that they receive “greater grace.”
 
In the parable of MAT 22:14, Jesus uses exactly the same formula, but here the “called” are the “many” invited to the wedding feast, who “were not willing to come.” The “chosen” are those who responded to the call, “both bad and good,” who filled His wedding hall. The man without a wedding garment represents one who refused to be properly clothed, since these garments were provided free of charge by the host. This man does not represent an erring believer, as some suggest, but rather an unbeliever who assumed he was “good enough” as he was (MAT 7:21-23). The point is that, unless we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we cannot attend the feast.
 
Paul uses the word “called” in this verse (1CO 1:24) as synonymous with “saved,” as he does in ROM 8:30. These examples remind us that we need to be careful not to assume that a word always means the same thing in every context. The old grammar rule still applies in Bible study: the meaning of words is determined by their use in context! If we are asked, “Who are the called,” the best answer is that it is those who have responded to the invitation to salvation by faith alone.
 
The Deliberate Contradiction, 1CO 1:25
 
The Jewish conception of God definitely included the ideas of “wisdom and power” (JOB 12:13). God’s very name is “the Almighty” (GEN 17:1; EXO 6:3; PSA 91:1), and His works declare His wisdom (PSA 104:24). It is little wonder, then, that the message of a crucified Christ seemed an insurmountable obstacle for the devout Jew to overcome. How could the one, true God of wisdom and power be reduced to such a helpless and foolish figure as Christ on the cross?
 
The answer is found earlier in 1CO 1:19, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” God, from eternity past, chose to frame His redemptive work in such a way that it would confound and confront the pride and complacency of the so-called wise and mighty of this world. In the eyes of the arrogant, the cross becomes a satire to be scorned and mocked as worthy only of an imbecile! As a result, the self-wise of this world go laughing into eternal condemnation.
 
In a stroke of divine genius, the heavenly Father stooped to the depths of “foolishness” and “weakness” at the cross. However, in doing so, He surpassed the wisdom and power of the greatest of men—providing eternal salvation for the weak and the foolish of this world, who are “rich in faith” (JAM 2:5).
 
Fools for Christ’s Sake, 1CO 1:21
 
Paul was very conscious of the fact that he appeared to be on a fool’s errand in the preaching of the Gospel. He even copied the taunt that was often cast at him, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise …” (1CO 4:10).
 
My brother, Lynn, used to wear a shirt that said on the front, “I am a fool for Christ,” and on the back, “Whose fool are you?” It used to be interesting to watch people walk by him, and start laughing as they read the front, only to be convicted—some to the point of anger—as they passed and read the back. How many of the multitudes of history who laugh at the ludicrous message of the cross will die only to find they were the fools of Satan?
 
Paul’s Secret Power
 
It was from his constant preoccupation with the cross of Christ that the Apostle Paul learned the secret to spiritual power. It was the key to his success as a communicator of spiritual truth (1CO 2:2), and to his great endurance in the face of constant opposition and suffering (2CO 1:8-10). Here is the truth that Paul adopted, which led to his great historical impact as an apostle:
 
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’
Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ
may rest upon me … for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2CO 12:9-10
 
We only diminish the impact of the Gospel message when we attempt to “bolster” it by adding human strength. In these days of upheaval and chaos on a global scale, we would all do well to bear Paul’s lesson in mind. We overcome, not by effort or skill, but by resting confidently on the “Rock of our salvation” (PSA 95:1).
 
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.” ZEC 4:6
 
Gene
 
 
 
 
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