1Co 1:18-19 “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.”
These verses of scripture are often read as though this were teaching how the preaching of the cross is different to the child of God than to those who are not God’s children. We often refer to those that are not God’s as being spiritually dead, and we consider this in terms of a loss of life. However, one who has not been quickened by God is not dead in those terms. If one is never quickened, then from a spiritual standpoint they are dead like a stone. It is not that they have lost life with God; they have never had life with God.
Like a stone, these individuals do not accept or reject the word of God. I can line up stones of all shapes and sizes and declare the alphabet to them for hours. This is not foolish to the stones nor is it instructive to them: they are dead. They did not lose life because they never had life. The stones are not rejecting instruction and they are not perishing. Both these actions require life which the stones (or those that do not belong to God) never had.
The preaching of the cross of Christ is, to those headed for destruction and loss, foolish. In Jesus’ day, the preaching of the cross was going to bring them a loss of prestige and position, to their way of thinking. They could no longer point to the Gentile world and claim superiority because the Gentiles had the same access to this New Testament as the Jews did. After years of being secure in their religion that they alone were the chosen people of God, they were now being told that the Gentiles were receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was utter foolishness to them.
The preaching of the cross is foolish to many of God’s children today as well. They want a doctrine where man makes some contribution to his eternal salvation. It is not in our Adam nature to place our future in the hands of someone else. We need to feel that we are in control, and as long as we are left in that state it is foolish to tell us we are better off in the hands of another. Even when we begin to see our failures and realize that we are perishing, we cling to the idea that we can fix the problem.
It is important to notice that Paul does not say the preaching of the cross saves us. Rather, he says that to those that are saved (the salvation has already taken place) the preaching of the cross is the miraculous power of God. While trusting on self, we were on a path of having our peace and consolation destroyed and dying to the joys of His kingdom here and the surety of our destiny hereafter. The preaching of the miraculous love and power God that comes to us through the cross of Christ teaches us that He saves us through the revelation granted us by the Holy Spirit.
In this blessed revelation, God destroys the wisdom of the wise. The Greek word translated as “destroy” in verse 19 is the same word that is translated as “perish” is verse 18. God brings our understanding, no matter how prudent we are, to nothing. By the foolishness of preaching, He delivers us that believe from our vain self-reliance and teaches us that salvation is truly of the Lord!
May we honor Him that in His salvation we are able to rejoice in the preaching of the cross!