T he following Email was recently sent to Blow the Trumpet’s by a visitor who had watched a video clip we produced on Christmas. She then asked a question regarding Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. Below is the letter as well as our response.
I recently watched your video on Christmas, and would like to know what your teaching is on I Cor.1:18-23?
Thank you for visiting Blow the Trumpet and for your question regarding Paul’s words in first Corinthians 1:18-23.
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness."
In this chapter, Paul explains that the message he preached was not the product of form but rather of substance. In other words he did not rely on eloquence of speech when proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, nor did he employ enticing words or philosophical language when proclaiming God’s truth. Why? Because he did not want eloquence to prevail. Paul desired the truth to stand on its own. Therefore, those who believed his message would do so, not because of his compelling oratory, but rather because the truth he spoke was unimpeachable. In essence, Paul did not want the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to be eclipsed by the words of a man.
This great apostle who was taught at the feet of Gamaliel (Ac.22: 3) as well as in the Arabian Desert by Jesus Himself (Gal. 1:12), preached of the Messiah’s crucifixion in plain language. Furthermore, he did not require pageantry or ceremony to carry the day. He proclaimed that the same Jesus who was crucified in Jerusalem over twenty years prior to this epistle, was in fact, the Son of God—the very one spoken of by the prophets centuries before that.
Additionally, Paul declared that if one truly desired salvation, he or she must repent of sin and submit to Christ and His government. Later in this letter Paul acknowledged that even he would forfeit his own salvation if he refused to do so (1 Cor. 9:27).
However, the effect of Paul’s message was different depending on who heard it. When explaining this fact, Paul wrote, “To those who perish it is foolishness, but to those who are saved (more properly rendered “being saved”) it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18). He went on to specifically identify certain audiences and their reaction. To the Jews it was a “stumblingblock,” and to the Greeks “foolishness.” But what did Paul mean by these words? And why would he express them this way?
The point Paul was making was that “Christ crucified” was a hurdle (stumblingblock) to the Jews because they expected the Messiah would be a great conquering hero who would deliver them from Roman oppression. This certainly wasn’t the Christ Paul spoke of. Therefore they rejected his message.
When it came to Gentile audiences the result was no different—only the reason for it. They sought “wisdom” and had no use for simple talk. They craved intellectual gratification and they would find none in Paul’s’ message.
In essence the Jews Paul spoke of sought a military champion in their Savior, while the Greeks sought a great philosopher and thinker. What Paul presented to them was Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Is there a lesson for us today?
Regrettably, much of professing Christianity today creates their own personal version of God as well. They fashion them into something of their liking. Nothing more graphically illustrates this fact than the festivals they keep today.
In the Protestant world, the two most “holy” times of the year are Christmas and Easter. However, these days are not Biblical, but rather come from ancient pagan worship. This is a fact that even leaders in professing Christian churches will admit. However, their admission is usually followed with words to the effect of: “It doesn’t matter because God looks on the heart,” or “It’s ok because we confiscated it for Christ.” This justification is advanced despite the fact that God’s word says, “Learn not the way of the heathen” (Jer.10: 1) and despite the fact that God’s word prohibits integrating pagan practices into the true faith. Notice His command to the children of Israel as they prepared to enter the land of Canaan.
Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Dt.12: 30-32)
Consider the power of these words; “you shall not add to nor diminish from it.” Here the Eternal God is stating in the strongest of language that man does not have the moral authority to decide for himself how he will worship his Creator. God alone has that authority.
Despite this command, millions who consider themselves true believers actively promote festivals that not only contradict the scriptures but actually mock the very God of the Bible. They embrace Pagan festivals and reject the days God set apart as holy convocations (Lev. 23). The prophet Amos once recorded God’s opinion of man’s holidays and festivals and his words were not flattering. God declares they are abhorrent to Him.
I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. (Amos 5:21-22)
If the apostle Paul saw how Christians today express their faith, he would be furious. Why? Because it goes totally contrary to the Truth—a truth he preached.
God is a Great and Loving Father who desires with all His heart that His children prosper and grow in grace and knowledge. He also knows how corrosive false religions are. This is why He admonished Israel to avoid them altogether. He even instructed them to not mention the name of another god.
And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of your mouth. (Ex. 23:13)
Despite this warning, man can’t seem to resist the urge to fashion traditions into their faith. This is a HUGE mistake that has only brought misery and suffering. It may start small, but it can, and will grow. Today there are religions that believe a host of things that the true God rejects. Some of them lead to unspeakable violence like that perpetrated on 9-11. Others are more subtle, but every bit as dangerous. Furthermore, mankind is so attached to its conception of God that it will actually rise up and fight against Him when Jesus Christ returns.
A final Thought
Clearly, the story of mankind is a story of defiance. It is a story of man thinking that he can decide for himself how he will serve the God who made him. The danger of such arrogance is staggering and even threatens those who consider themselves to be true believers. Notice the sober warning Jesus gave concerning some who thought they could worship God on their terms.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity. (Mt 7:21-23)
Here, the Messiah declares with great force that simply confessing “Jesus is Lord” is not enough. God requires action. The faith of His people must be a living faith (Jas. 2:20) – one that demonstrates a total commitment to the Great God of Heaven. Such a commitment is reflected in obedience to Him and His law. It is never demonstrated in man-made traditions, regardless of how pious they might appear.
Once again thank you for your interest in God’s word and we hope you will continue seeking His will.
Blow the Trumpet
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