For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – I Corinthians 1:17
There is something about the cross that just draws people. It is powerful in it’s draw of the elect. The last half of the first chapter of I Corinthians is all about the cross and its affect on people. It is very peculiar how some peopel respond to the cross. According to Paul, there are three responses to the cross from three types of people.
First, the Jew sees the cross as offensive. Paul calls it a stumbling block. A crucified messiah was (and is) offensive to the orthodox Jew. They believed the Messiah would usher in true freedom for the Jewish people. A messiah who was crucified is no messiah for the Jew. The cross is a revulsion to the Jew.
Second, the Greek sees the cross as foolishness. While the gods of that day (and our day) were temperamental and moody, no Greek would ever follow a god who could be killed. What kind of god gets killed by the very people he came to save? There has been early grafiti found that depicts a man on a cross with the head of a jackass with another man below the cross worshiping. The caption reads, “Achimedes worships his god.” To the western mind, a crucified god is ludicrous.
The final group of people are simply labeled by Paul as “those who are being saved.” They represent both Jew and Greek. Their response is something of joy combined with adoration. In verse 18, Paul gives their response. It (the Cross) becomes the power of God. What an odd response. Paul says that they are called. To some people it just clicks. Something inside of them says, “Yes!” They jump at the cross and embrace it and love it. I believe this text is teaching the doctrine of unconditional election. The something that makes the cross powerful is God’s unconditional electing love. It’s not like these Jews and Greeks are some how smarter than those who reject it. In fact, Paul says that most of them were weak and lowly…that God chose them to shame the strong and puffed up. It is not man, but God who acts and works. Regardless of your thoughts on the doctrines of grace, I do believe we can coalesce around the following.
We spend too much time not preaching the cross. We have all these diversions. Fancy screens, big choirs, cool music…the list is endless. We are long on the things Paul was short on. He says in I Corinthians 2:1 that he did not use lofty speech or wisdom. He made known only Christ crucified. Paul was the greatest missionary of all time. Perhaps we should follow his lead. Didn’t Christ say he would build His church? Why do we spend so much time trying to convince people to choose something they find stupid? We try so hard to make church friendly and light, in the hope more people will come, but once their there, are they there because they love the Cross of Jesus, or because they feel good? Heaven and Hell are weighty matters. Salvation is a weighty matter. Why are most church services so light and fluffy? The implications are scary! Perhaps we should spend more time worrying about proclaiming Christ crucified. I would be willing to bet that God would grant many to come to true salvation.
Some people are just going to reject the cross. It is their nature to reject it. Why do we change everything we do to attract people into the church who reject the idea of the cross? Why do we want that? We water down the gospel and risk lulling people into a false sense of eternal security. We need to be like Paul. Let Christ build the church and just preach the cross! To those whom eternal life has been appointed will be drawn and saved.