SCANDAL OR NONSENSE?
Almighty God, you are the self-existent one, the God who makes things happen. You were, you are, and you will be. To you be glory forever and ever.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 1:18–25
Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom
18 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. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a]
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 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.
- 1 Corinthians 1:19 Isaiah 29:14
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘In the cross of Christ I glory, / towering o’er the wrecks of time; / all the light of sacred story / gathers round its head sublime.’1
Believing in one, holy, transcendent God, Jews found the cross of Christ scandalous. Paul spoke of ‘the scandal of the cross’ (v 23, Greek scandalon; NIV ‘stumbling- block’).2 Jesus said his death would ‘scandalize’ his disciples.3 Bible translators struggle to express the force of this word. The idea that the omnipotent, eternal God could die is outrageous, offensive, an obstruction, a stumbling block, an impediment to accepting the gospel. Christians presenting Christ to people of other faiths who believe in a supreme God meet this same obstacle today.
To the ‘Greeks’ or ‘Gentiles’ (to the rational, secular mind), believing that Jesus’ death had eternal significance seems ‘foolishness’ (v 23, Greek moria). Can an intelligent person accept that God fathered a child with a Jewish teenager and this son was also God? Did this God-child die and rise again? Does believing this gain forgiveness of sin and eternal life with God? My atheist neighbor considers me rational and intelligent but is amazed at my naive credulity, believing myths from the past.
Why can’t I listen to reason? Why? Because the power of the cross of Christ cannot be known through human wisdom. It is not scientifically verifiable. It is grasped only by faith.4
We cannot reduce salvation to doctrine, to theologies systematized by the human mind. God gave us the power of reason, but it cannot save us. God also gave us his image,5 the capacity to know him beyond the limited capacity of human reason. Salvation does not depend upon codified beliefs – not even cherished convictions like the virgin birth or biblical inspiration or transubstantiation. The creeds matter, but they do not save us. Only the cross of Christ saves us.
‘… by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension … Good Lord, deliver us.’6
Thank you Lord; when I need it you fill me with your wisdom. When I waver, you infuse me with your power and strength.
1 John Bowring, 1792–1872 2 Gal 5:11 3 Matt 26:31 (‘you will all fall away,’ NIV) 4 Heb 11:1 5 Gen 1:26 6 The Litany, Book of Common Prayer
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