Chapter 1:18-21 (ESV) - For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
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? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Question to consider: What is the difference between Law and Gospel?
Yesterday’s study ended with Paul stating his primary purpose was to preach with the central focus of his message being the cross, for adding worldly wisdom to his messages only served to empty the power of the cross of Christ. If you’ve been reading these studies for any length of time, you may notice that I repeatedly make the distinction between Law and Gospel. Items of Law are those requirements by God that we “do” in order to be holy. The purpose of the Law is to act like a mirror and show us how far we fall short of our perfectly Holy God. The Gospel is the good news that Christ completely fulfilled the Law and then took all of our failings of it upon Himself and received the full wrath of God for those sins. In exchange for our sins, Christ clothed us in His own righteousness so that we could become the children of God (rather than the objects of His wrath). Thus, our guilt under the Law drives us to the cross.
Many preachers today preach worldly wisdom rather than the cross of Christ. At most, the cross gets a flyover mention toward the end of a sermon with an altar-call for the unbeliever or (to boost their responses) the Christian who wishes to rededicate themselves to Christ. In these churches, the pastors preach worldly wisdom because they believe Paul’s statement that the “word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” and they desire to engage the unchurched. The hope is that they will eventually join a small group to hear the finer points of the gospel.
However, in Romans 1:16, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation…” If a pastor is not in the business of preaching the gospel, he should not be in business at all. Paul’s whole point in this passage is to show that the wisdom of this world glorifies man instead of God so God gave us a specific message that He wants us to preach which drives people to Christ and gives Him glory, even though that message is folly to the world. Tomorrow, we’ll dig into why this is so.
Dear heavenly father, we lift up our pastors to You for courage to preach Your Law in all its truth which shows us our sin and need for Jesus, and to preach Your Gospel which gives us Jesus. May the refreshing waters of the Gospel not only bring people to faith but renew us in our faith every time we gather together in the name of Christ that we may continually repent and produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Amen.