God is faithful and He uses His Holy Spirit to speak to His people... And today we will be speaking on a very important topic.... "The great divide!"
"But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." - 1 Corinthians 1:23-25
Paul had been bred up in Jewish learning; but the plain preaching of a crucified Jesus, was more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy of the heathen world. This is the sum and substance of the gospel. Christ crucified is the foundation of all our hopes, the fountain of all our joys. And by his death we live. The preaching of salvation for lost sinners by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, if explained and faithfully applied, appears foolishness to those in the way to destruction. The sensual, the covetous, the proud, and ambitious, alike see that the gospel opposes their favourite pursuits. But those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works. God left a great part of the world to follow the dictates of man's boasted reason, and the event has shown that human wisdom is folly, and is unable to find or retain the knowledge of God as the Creator. It pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. By the foolishness of preaching; not by what could justly be called foolish preaching. But the thing preached was foolishness to worldly-wise men. The gospel ever was, and ever will be, foolishness to all in the road to destruction. The message of Christ, plainly delivered, ever has been a sure touchstone by which men may learn what road they are travelling. But the despised doctrine of salvation by faith in a crucified Savior, God in human nature, purchasing the church with his own blood, to save multitudes, even all that believe, from ignorance, delusion, and vice, has been blessed in every age. And the weakest instruments God uses, are stronger in their effects, than the strongest men can use. Not that there is foolishness or weakness in God, but what men consider as such, overcomes all their admired wisdom and strength.
There was something unique about the crucifixion of Jesus. He was not just a common man.
The message we read above from Corinthians, the very heart of the message of Jesus Christ is the Cross. Purpose of Jesus was not to convert the water into wine or walk on the water or heal the blind. His purpose was to fulfill the will of His Father.
According to the Gospel of Matthew 16:21-23, "21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jesus rebuked Peter death on cross was His only purpose.
Jesus to the Jews a Stumbling Block
As we already have seen, not only is the cross not a proper sign to the Jews, it is a stumbling block to them. The Greek word translated “stumbling block” is ‘Skandalon’, the word from which we get our word “scandal.” The cross is a scandal to the Jews. A Jewish Rabbi debating this matter with Paul immediately would have referred to Deuteronomy which reads, “When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night on the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” ‘Skandalon’ also refers to a 'trap' or a 'Snare'.
When Jesus was supposed to be crucified, the punishment that was assigned to Him was generally given to people who are murderers, thirds etc. However, Jesus was crucified because he had become a Stumbling block to the Jews. Jewish people couldn't accept Him then. Jesus said that time, "I will give you eternal life." They refused to accept Him them and still today they are waiting for their messiah.
Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteem Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted." - Isaiah 53:4
As it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." - Romans 9:33
And "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do." - 1 Peter 2:8
To the Greek it was Foolishness
Christ died and rose again and lives forever. To the Greeks it was foolishness because if he was God he didn't die, and if he did then he wasn't much of a god. And it also is a mean and vengeful god that would require his subjects to die. To the Jews it was a stumbling block because it destroys everything they believe in: Their goodness, their specialness, their uniqueness, their laws, their sacrificial system, their temple etc. They could not accept that so it became a stumbling block.
The word foolishness in Greek literally means, "Moria". This very word lead to other words such as stupid, moron etc.
Greeks, to make fun, used to make mockery of the Cross. The bodies crucified used to be kept on display and was considered to be given to someone for an act of shame. It was utter humiliating.
Even though the crucifixion was an act of shame. Few people still consider the crucifixion a foolishness, yet we and we must preach Christ.
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures." - 1 Corinthians 15:3
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." - Mark 10:45
Jesus died and we don't need to cry for His death or feel bad about His death. That was the purpose of His life. Different people have different opinion. When you say "Jesus is the only way!"... Many of them disagree. Nevertheless, the message of Cross will never change. Foolish world will not understand and even people thought that Paul was foolish since he had given his everything, money, life to the Gospel of Christ.
"For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute." - 1 Corinthians 4:9-10
"Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." - 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
Illustration: Jim Elliot was an American. He became a Christian at a young age and after university he became a missionary in Ecuador, South America. He, with a few other young missionaries wanted to reach a tribe of Indians who lived in a remote region beyond civilization. The tribe was known for its violence so no-one ventured in their territory but they were people for whom Jesus had died to bring them towards forgiveness and salvation.
Jim Elliot and his four friends thought the best way was to try to make friends with them. They made contact by flying a small aircraft down their river bank. They made contact from their airplane with the tribe by using a loudspeaker and a basket to pass down gifts. After several months, the men decided to build a base a short distance from the Indian tribe. There they were approached several times by small groups of Indians, and even gave an airplane ride to one curious man. Encouraged by these friendly encounters, they began plans to visit the tribe, but then a larger group of Indians arrived who were vicious and they killed Elliot and his four companions on January 8, 1956. After his death, an entry was found in his diary: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
A cross can be a Stumbling Block and foolishness.... Nevertheless, people thought that this missionary was a fool, yet they became fools themselves.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." - John 12:24
God can use foolish things of your life and can use you like he used Noah. Noah was fool in front of the society. God used Abraham and Joseph yet both were rejected by their families. David had and illegal affair and Moses was a bad communicator, yet God used them. God used Elijah, Hosea and Isaiah... even Though they used to be discouraged, lacked confidence.... Peter was a hot tempered man, yet God used him.
Have faith in God because He can turn everything. God can use an ordinary man and change him or her completely.
"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." - 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
God did not choose philosophers, nor orators, nor statesmen, nor men of wealth, and power, and interest in the world, to publish the gospel of grace and peace. He best judges what men and what measures serve the purposes of his glory. Though not many noble are usually called by Divine grace, there have been some such in every age, who have not been ashamed of the gospel of Christ; and persons of every rank stand in need of pardoning grace. Often, a humble Christian, though poor as to this world, has more true knowledge of the gospel, than those who have made the letter of Scripture the study of their lives, but who have studied it rather as the witness of men, than as the word of God. And even young children have gained such knowledge of Divine truth as to silence infidels. The reason is, they are taught of God; the design is, that no flesh should glory in his presence. That distinction, in which alone they might glory, was not of themselves. It was by the sovereign choice and regenerating grace of God, that they were in Jesus Christ by faith. He is made of God to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; all we need, or can desire. And he is made wisdom to us, that by his word and Spirit, and from his fullness and treasures of wisdom and knowledge, we may receive all that will make us wise unto salvation, and fit for every service to which we are called. We are guilty, liable to just punishment; and he is made righteousness, our great atonement and sacrifice. We are depraved and corrupt, and he is made sanctification, that he may in the end be made complete redemption; may free the soul from the being of sin, and loose the body from the bonds of the grave. And this is, that all flesh, according to the prophecy by Jeremiah, may glory in the special favor, all-sufficient grace, and precious salvation of Jehovah.
The death on cross is not an end to all, but a beginning to our journey to perfection and to Christ.
Illustration: When evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature. As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out... "Stop! I have something more to give you."
The surprised robber paused.
“My friend”, said Wesley, “you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember: The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!”
The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.
Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before!
“I owe it all to you, said the transformed man.”
“Oh no, my friend, Wesley exclaimed, not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!”
God's Word is an arrow that never misses its mark. Pray that God’s word may move you, your friends and your families as well.
We hope you like today's sermon. We look forward seeing you again next Sunday. God bless!