The Word of the Cross

No one likes to be foolish. Even those times when we do something foolish there is an edge of wisdom behind it. It seems foolish to jump from a perfectly good airplane unless there is a good reason. But for those that find wisdom in the thrill of skydiving, taking that leap is not foolish at all. Even someone intentionally playing the fool (think court jester, a clown, or the class comic) is doing so for reasons that seem wise to them. We could perhaps say that foolishness is in the eyes of the beholder.

That thought helps us understand this – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NASB95) To be complete, the entire context is found in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Paul concludes, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30–31, NASB95)

The utter wisdom and truth in verse 18 are staggering. The center of our faith in Christ is foolishness to those who don’t yet believe. Why do we think it will ever be otherwise? But perhaps we need to back up for a moment and be clear on what “the word of the cross” is.

What words about the day of Christ’s crucifixion come to mind? Perhaps, sacrifice, love, forgiveness, death, suffering, pain, plan, blood, forsaken, finished. All of those, one way or another, are words connected with the cross. In the economy and valuation of the world, it seems foolish for God to exist let alone care about our lives. And yet God’s apparent foolishness is the greatest wisdom.

The math is simple. We all sin and turn from God. By heavenly justice, we deserve death and separation from God because of our sin. But God (amazing how those two words change everything) paid for our guilt and shame through Jesus because of His love for us. He could have wiped us out and started over, but God chose to redeem us instead. It’s all on God, we are passive heirs of His gift if we turn towards the cross. As a result, we are loved, forgiven, made alive in Christ, born again from above, saved, sanctified, and redeemed.

For those who receive this word, the wisdom of God is undeniable and indescribable. For those perishing it is foolishness. To them we seem like clowns or sky-divers or simpletons not knowing any better – or worse, we are the enemies of their desires, goals, and schemes. Sometimes the world will let us play the useful idiot, the clown that proves to them how right they are. But eventually, the line is drawn. We must choose to go along with them or get lost. We must either approve of their sin (negating the cross) or face the consequences.

It is at that moment we decide whose wisdom we will follow. Do we embrace the world or embrace the cross? To embrace the cross is to follow in Jesus’ footsteps of ridicule, suffering, mockery, and possibly death. But life follows death, both in the eternal sense and in nature. When we choose to die to the world’s way we live for Christ (Colossians 3). It is a choice that we make in ways large and small every day of our walk with Jesus.

The word of the cross is wisdom and power for those who choose Christ.   

Dale Heinold
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