You Are In Christ Jesus By His Word

YOU ARE IN CHRIST JESUS BY HIS WORD

 

1 Corinthians 1:18–31 (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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 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.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 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. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Dear fellow redeemed: We aren’t so smart, really, not powerful, not rich, and yet here we are in the presence of God, in fellowship with Him, and receiving His priceless gifts. If WE are in the presence of God, then being a Christian, being a believer, being in harmony with God doesn’t come from being worldly-wise, rich, or powerful.

It is that pure word of God, the Gospel, not the wisdom and power of human beings, that God uses to conquer the world.  It is because of the Holy Spirit, working through this gospel that…
 

YOU ARE IN CHRIST JESUS BY HIS WORD
I.  The Wisdom of the World Perishes
II.  The "Foolishness" of God Endures Forever

 

I.  The Wisdom of the World Perishes
What does the wisdom of the world get us? Paul quotes Isaiah, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.

The wisdom of the wise is failing. Look at the news. The 20th century wars were the bloodiest in human history, since 1900 governments have killed more of their people than the wars did, and more children have been killed by abortion than that.

Divorced from the word of God, so-called science has become a religion, putting its faith in the hope that there is only the material world, and that it is able to create even life itself. Meanwhile, the real data shows such a feat impossible.

Divorced from the word of God, people place their hope in worldly powers like government, industry, or political power to save them. Yet convinced of its materialistic religion, the powerful of our society destroy it. They have undermined marriage, the family, and any vestige of even natural morality. This is not unique to our society; sadly, we follow in the paths of those who have gone before.

If the wisdom of this world perishes, then it cannot bring us to God. Paul says clearly, “in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom.” By using its wisdom, the world has never found God. Those who have found God didn’t find know him through wisdom.

Like many today, some in Corinth credit their wisdom in becoming Christians and in their life as Christians. But if their wisdom was so great, why didn’t they know God before Paul came?  Where was their wisdom before they heard the Gospel?  How were they in a right relationship with God before they came to a saving faith in Christ, and were baptized into Christ? (They weren’t.)

The great heresies by which people fall away from the faith are often a dependence upon human wisdom, power, strength or righteousness. The desire of humanity is to “do it my way.” This takes many forms.

There are the modernist heretics who call themselves progressives or liberals, but those can be confusing terms. They frankly don’t believe the Bible is God’s inspired and error-free word. They accept the parts they like and reject the parts they don’t. Leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Episcopal church, and many others so reject the basic doctrines of Christianity that they deny the faith. One cannot deny the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the substitutionary atonement of Christ and be a Christian. They will perish.

And yet, there are probably many in these churches who hear the Gospel and believe in spite of worldly wisdom.

There are the experience-centered heretics who “feel” their way to God, or so they think. Scripture is subject to their emotions, as in “I just don’t feel God would have made his own son pay for my sin.” Their emotional “wisdom” separates many from the gospel of Christ. They will perish.

And yet, there are many in these churches who hear the gospel and it overcomes their emotional worldly wisdom.

And of course there are those who think or feel God’s grace isn’t enough. In their worldly wisdom they require action, decision, works, or some measure of cooperation to be reconciled to God. They will perish, as Paul says Galatians 5:4 (ESV) You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

And yet, there are many who in spite of the works-righteousness confession of their churches nevertheless put their trust in Christ, because the foolishness of preaching has captured them for Christ.

II.  The "Foolishness" of God Endures Forever
The foolishness of mankind will come to an end. Nations rise and fall. Unbelievers perish. Heretics meet their maker and bow before Christ at the end, and are judged. The fleeting nature of human wisdom, wealth, and power has been remarked upon over and over again. Very memorably in the poem “Ozymandias” by Shelley, (hopefully) read by every high school student:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”[1]

That’s a good commentary on the foolishness that is man’s wisdom and power.

As we speak, the power of Communist China is arrayed against the gospel. But Christians there proclaim Christ and baptize – foolish things – and people come faith and a life that has no end.

As we speak, the power of Islam is arrayed against the gospel, lest people believe in Jesus Christ is Lord. But Christians proclaim Christ and baptize – foolish things – and people come faith and a life that has no end.

As we speak the power of our own academic system berates and belittles those who acknowledge God as Creator and Lord. But Christians there proclaim Christ and baptize – foolish things – and people come faith and a life that has no end.

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. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

And here we are, against all odds, humanly speaking. Worldly wisdom sees no reason for our gathering around the word and sacrament. But we have come to know our sin, and to know who is the true and living God, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the power of God who speaks through the seeming foolishness of the declaration, “In the Name of Christ, I forgive you.”

We aren’t so smart, really, not powerful, not rich, and yet here we are in the presence of God, in fellowship with Him, and receiving His priceless gifts. We are in the presence of God, but not from being worldly-wise, rich, or powerful.

It is that pure word of God, the Gospel, not the wisdom and power of human beings, by which you have been called, and brought to faith and life. A life that has no end.

AMEN.

You Are In Christ Jesus By His Word

 

[1] Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ozymandias, accessed 1/25/2017.