It has been a little over 3 months since I have posted anything on this blog and I must say, it is good to be back! April was a crazy month because I was finishing up my Junior year of college online during a pandemic, which we are still in the middle of, unfortunately. The month of May was also very busy, as I was working hard to publish my first ever book, which you can find here. After publishing my book on June 1st, I decided to take a little break from writing because of how rigorous the writing, editing, and publishing process was until I was ready to get back into things. And now that the summer class I was taking is over with, I decided that now is a good time to get back into a regular routine of publishing blog posts at least every 2 weeks, maybe even more often than that.
Now that I am done rambling about what’s been going on with me the past 3 months, let’s get into today’s post. I want to focus on just 3 verses that give us so much insight into the message of the atoning work of Christ on the cross. We will be looking at 1 Corinthians 1:22-24. Here it is:
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.
We are going to break this down into 3 parts, which is also how the actual verses break down. 1) “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,” 2) “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,” 3) “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Let us start with the first part.
“For the Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom.” Both groups of people had in mind what the Messiah would look like for them. For the Jews, they expected the Messiah to be a powerful political figure who would overthrow the Roman government, which was ruling them at the time. But because Jesus wasn’t meeting the standard they had set as to what the Messiah would do, they challenged Jesus’ authority on multiple occasions, asking him to prove that he was, in fact, the Son of God (Matthew 12:38, 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; John 2:18) even though Jesus had already done many miraculous works for them, which were sufficient to leave them without an excuse for their unbelief.
The Greeks, on the other hand, didn’t seek miraculous signs, but instead, sought wisdom, insight, and intelligence. After all, Greece is known for producing some very famous philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (all of them lived before the coming of Christ, as a side note). For them, they were looking for something that made sense logically. However, despite what both groups desired and what standards they had set, neither group got what they wanted.
“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” The message of the cross leaves both Jews and Greeks up in arms about what they were expecting. For the Jews, a Messiah crucified and killed is offensive. Again, according to them, the Messiah was supposed to be a powerful political figure who would overthrow the Roman government. Yet, when the true Messiah came, he did not meet their standards of what the Son of God would be and do, so they killed him, accusing him of blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-66).
The Christ was supposed to come in roaring with power, a power that was merely earthly and would set them free from earthly bondage. But the true Christ lived a life of what many would call earthly weakness. He was born in a stable with animals, spent much of his time ministering to the sick, poor, and outcasts of society, all while claiming to be the Son of God and offering the forgiveness of sins to those who trusted in him. This was the complete opposite of what the Jews were hoping for.
For the Greeks, on the other hand, Christ crucified for their sins makes no sense at all. Why would God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, come down to earth, take on human flesh, live a perfect, sinless life, just to be brutally murdered so that they could put their trust in him and have eternal life through him? At its face, this sounds ridiculous. It is “folly ” to them (also see 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, 25, 2:14).
So the Jews seek signs (i.e. power) and Greeks seek wisdom, but neither one of them gets it because they’re not thinking big enough for two reasons. #1: In what they are seeking (Jews: power; Greeks: wisdom), neither is satisfied in that end. The Jews don’t get the power they want, and the Greeks don’t get the logic/wisdom they want. #2: They are missing the other half of the equation. They are not only thinking too shallow in what they’re seeking after, but they’re also thinking too narrowly! They don’t see the big picture. In order to come to a true understanding of the only true gospel of Christ and him crucified, they need to look deeper and also wider. This is where we come to part 3.
“But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” There is another group of people that we have not looked at yet, and these are the people who see the full picture, who see Christ as both power and wisdom, and are also satisfied in those ends.
Paul says a few verses earlier that “the word of the cross…to us who are being saved…is the power of God” (verse 18). He also says a few verses later that his message of Christ crucified is “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (2:4) and “the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (4:20). Finally, he also says that the gospel of Christ “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The gospel, Christ crucified for our sins and raised from the dead is a power like no other, and not one that can be attained by human effort. It is the power “of God” and must be given by God, and it is a marvelous act of grace.
The message of Christ is not only power, though, it is also the wisdom of God. “[In Christ]…are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3). God “lavished [the riches of his grace] upon us in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8). Because God is the Creator of the universe, he not only knows everything, but all knowledge flows from him and is of him. “For by [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible…and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).
The lesson of these verses from 1 Corinthians is this: We must not set our own standards for what God is and what he should do based on our own personal preferences and convenience. That is not God of the Bible. The God of the Bible has said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14) and does not change based on what we think is best for us at any given time (Hebrews 14:8). If do this, the “god” we set up will fail us every time, because we fail us every time. We are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1) and can do nothing to save ourselves. We need a miracle of both power and wisdom to save us.