The scandal of the gospel…



Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Observation: The apostle Paul is writing to address the problem of divisions among the believers of Corinth. It’s possible one source of division is centered around how best to appeal to non-believing Corinthians – both Jew and Gentile. Jesus instructed his followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28), so the fundamental desire to share the gospel is a good one. But it would seem the way the Corinthians were going about it was a problem.

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…”

There was no way to dress up the gospel to make it more palatable to either Jews or Gentiles. The risen Jesus was not a genie to be called upon at will to perform signs and wonders (for the Jews) nor was the gospel intended to be shaped into an acceptable philosophy (for the Gentiles). But to those in whom God was already at work, it would not matter. They would embrace the gospel nonetheless and receive its blessing.

Application: There has always been the temptation to alter the gospel to make it more acceptable to secular culture – even today. On the left I see a desire to orient faith to accommodate secular progressive ideas (such as support for abortion). On the right I see the gospel presented as a pathway to success and the American dream (prosperity gospel).

I’m often no better. I am guilty when I teach/preach on the benefits of Christianity without attending to the sacrifice required. Let’s face it, “Come and die” is not a very appealing message to secular ears. But that’s the call isn’t it? In following Jesus we surrender our own agenda, our own desires, our very lives – and submit ourselves to the call of God, wherever that may take us. Yet the gospel promises that only in losing one’s life may life truly be found.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, yesterday we remembered your resurrection on the third day. It was a glorious celebration! Today we’re reminded of both the immense blessing of the gospel, but also the sober implications therein. Give us grace to embrace, and proclaim to others, both death and resurrection for we cannot have one without the other. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.

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