The Power and the Wisdom of the Cross

I Corinthians 1:18-31
The Power and the Wisdom of the Cross

Problem: The Corinthians were guided by Pride. The problem is, any time we are motivated by pride, we’re being guided by what Paul refers to as “man’s wisdom”, which is just another way of saying, “I’m going to do things the way I think they ought to be done.”

Jeremiah 8:9 “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?

God doesn’t view the Cross the same way the world does.

The very idea that God would take human form, be crucified on a cross, and be raised from the dead in order to provide for man’s forgiveness of sins and entrance into heaven is an idea far too absurd for some people to accept.

The Greek word for foolishness is “moria,” from which we get the English word “moron.”

Even the apostle Peter didn’t understand the cross when he first heard Jesus talk about it.

“And Peter took in aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you!'” (Matthew 16:22).

Peter thought that the Messiah should demonstrate power and authority. His understanding about the Messiah had no place for a cross. But Peter’s wisdom was contrary to God’s wisdom, and so Jesus’ reply to Peter was a bit sharp: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23).

Read I Corinthians 1:21-25 The Jews stumbled at the weakness of the cross.

When Jesus came along as the Suffering Servant, it didn’t make any sense and so the Jews refused to accept it.  They shouldn’t have been surprised because passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 pointed to a Messiah who had to suffer and die. 

You see, dying on the cross doesn’t look like success or power.  It doesn’t look like victory.

The Greeks regarded the Cross as foolishness.

To the Greeks, the cross was absolute, utter foolishness. They were a people who emphasized wisdom. They loved philosophy which means “a love of wisdom”. We still study the profound writings of Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates.

Reason tells you that babies aren’t born to virgin girls. Reason tells you that God doesn’t become flesh. Reason tells you that almighty God will not allow puny men to nail Him to a cross.

Reason tells you that when a man dies he cannot be resurrected back to life again. None of that makes any sense. So the Greeks looked at the cross as foolishness.

Christians see the power and wisdom of God.

I Cor. 1:24 “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

 God doesn’t see things the same way the world does, and neither should we. Ironically, the very part of God’s plan and work that seems most ridiculous and useless from man’s perspective actually exhibits his greatest power and greatest wisdom.

God doesn’t view Christians the same way the world does.

Read I Cor. 1:26-28 How Do You Measure Up as a Man?

1. A man is measured by his ability to make money.

2. The cost, style and age of his car.

3. How much hair he has.

4. His strength and size.

5. The job he holds and how successful he is at it.

6. What sports he likes.

7. How many clubs he belongs to.

8. His aggressiveness and reliability.

**Raleigh News and Observer.

God looks at different Criteria

God is looking for men who are humble, meek, gentle, loving and sacrificial.

It’s the feeling of inadequacy that makes people aware that they have need for God, and often draws them to the gospel.

Paul said the church’s appeal to the outcasts and dregs of society demonstrated God’s love and shows that He doesn’t judge men and women by externals but by their hearts.

The world measures greatness by many standards. At the top are intelligence, wealth, prestige, and position — things which God has determined to put at the bottom. God reveals the greatness of his power by demonstrating that it is the nobodies who are His somebody’s. The reason is this:

READ (I Corinthians 1:29-31).

Pride is the Problem

Paul wanted the Christians at Corinth to see the uncomfortable position their pride and arrogance had put them in. They had the same pride that the world had. But, if they used the same standards that the world did, they had nothing to be proud about!

There’s nothing about the message of Christ — or the church which wears his name – which would cause us to be puffed up with pride. In the eyes of the world, the gospel message is “foolishness” and the church is “despised”.

But God intended it should be that way so that none of us would ever have a reason to boast before God.

Summary

All that we have to offer today is just a cross—an old, rugged cross.  It may not seem like much.  It may appear to be weak and foolish. 

But the cross of Jesus Christ is, central to our message and the blood of Jesus Christ is essential for our salvation. 

You can’t make it on your own.  But Jesus died on a cross to do it for you. 

“Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

If it is possible to fall from grace, how can a Christian have any assurance?

If it is possible to fall from grace, how can a Christian have any assurance?

This lesson is best read with an open Bible.  Go ahead and get it now, I’ll wait.

We teach that a Christian can fall from grace.  Many others teach that it is impossible for  Christian to fall away.  The statement of faith is usually stated, “We believe…in the Eternal Security of the believer; that it is impossible for one born into the family of God ever to be lost.” 

Because we disagree with many of our religious contemporaries, and they wonder how can we have any assurance?  Can we even be sure that we are saved? 

We may even wonder, “Can God forgive the sins I have committed?”; “Am I doing enough to be saved?”; “If I were to die right now would I go to heaven.”  Sometimes our language may not reflect any real assurance of salvation. 

Believing that apostasy is possible, how can we overcome such feelings?  How can we have assurance today?

  1.  Christians Can Indeed Fall from Grace.

Falling from grace is a possible. Christians are warned against falling from grace.

I Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”   Even Paul said that he could fall, 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, let after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Falling from grace is a real and grave danger.  Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harn and holding him up to contempt.”

The Jewish Christians to whom this book (Hebrews) has been written are thinking about going back to Judaism.  And the writer warns them not to leave Christ (fall away) for they would not make it back into a right relationship with Him.  At least many of them would never repent and come back to Christ.

How many have we known who have left never to come back?  Few if any ever return.  There is danger is leaving Christ and His church.

Falling from grace is a fact. Galatians 5:4 “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”  

This verse reflects not only a possibility, but a reality.  It has happened to some!  Those that have tried to be justified by the Ten Commandment Law, Paul says have fallen from grace.

Falling from grace leads to destruction. James says “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20. 

James (Jesus’ younger brother) was writing to Christians.  He said Christians could sin; they could be converted or changed. If that occurred, then one would be saving that sinner who had sinned from death. The sin of leaving Christ and His church is death.  

Christians can sin; they can fall away; they can sin in such a way as to be eternally lost.  Apostasy is a real possibility.  I do not take any pride in this, nor do I wish it to be so.  But it is a Biblically stated fact.

But even though we can fall from grace, we can still have the assurance of salvation.  Here are some reasons why I am saying this.

  1. Christians Can Have Assurance.

First, because we can be sure that we were saved.

The way to salvation in the NT is plain.  We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8,9) through the blood of Christ (Eph 1:7).  To be saved we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Lord and be willing to confess our faith in Him (Matthew 10:32-33 or Romans 10:9-10).  We must also repent, stop sinning, turn from our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  And then we must be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galations 3:26 and 27). 

Having done that, we can be certain we have been saved.  Baptism, following faith and repentance, results in remission of sins (Acts 2:38)…having sins washed away (Acts 22:16)…being saved (I Peter 3:21)…getting into Christ and putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27). 

When NT writers addressed Christians, they never showed the slightest doubt that the fact that the people to whom they wrote had been saved. 

Read Galatians 3:26, 27.   Read Colossians 1:13, 14.  Also note: (I Peter 1:3, I Peter 1:22, 23 and I John 3:1).

If NT Christians had that kind of assurance that they had been saved, then we should have the same kind of assurance.  If we have obeyed the gospel, we can be sure, without a doubt that we were saved.  WE can say: I have been saved.  I have been born again.  I have become a child of God.  I have become a member of the church and a citizen of God’s kingdom. 

We can remember a certain day in our lives when we were baptized into Christ to have our sins washed away.  Therefore the NT teaching that we are saved when we obey the gospel provides assurance of our salvation.

Second, we can have assurance because we can be sure that we are being saved.

We must admit that, since we believe that a Christian can fall from grace, being absolutely certain that we have been saved sometime in the past does not in itself provide us today with the kind of assurance we need.  After all, we could have been saved sometime in the past, but be lost today.  How can we be sure we are saved right now?  We can have this assurance for two reasons.

Reason #1 

We can have assurance because of what God has done to keep us faithful. 

God does not want us to turn from Him.  Therefore, He provides us with everything we need to stay faithful. He has given His children:

A loving father.     I John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

An advocate to plead our cause. I John 2:1 “I am writing these thing to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

A Holy Guest.  Galatians 4:6 “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Another Holy guest is the Holy Spirit.  He has been given to us as a earnest, or guarantee of our inheritance, (Ephesians 1:13, 14), to strengthen us (Eph. 3:16) and to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. (Gal 5:22, 23)

An encouraging fellowship.  God has added us to the church (Acts 2:47), a fellowship of believers which exists, at least in part, to help its members remain faithful.  During a recent Wednesday night Bible class, one of our members stated that they were upset with their Christian walk, and their ability to live the Christian life.  The members of the class felt for this person.  They tried to give encouraging words to them.  Many sent notes of love and encouragement.  We were given an encouraging fellowship to help us remain faithful.

A helpful message.  The Bible contains “the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance  among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32.  

Heavenly servants.  Speaking of the angels in Hebrews 1:14 we read, “Are they not all ministering spirits send out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”

The privilege of prayer.  Listen to Jesus.  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7. 

Precious promises.  God has given us promises to encourage us to remain faithful.

Reason #2

We can have assurance because, when we fall short of God’s requirements (and we all do), God has made provision for our forgiveness.

Our continuing salvation depends, in a sense, on us.  We have to be doing the best we can to do the will of God. But does that mean that we are on our own as Christians?  No.

The Lord provides for us the kind of help we need to be zealous, to be diligent, to be faithful. 

But not only is our assurance based on the provisions God has made to help us stay faithful, it is also based on the fact that God has made provision for our forgiveness when we fall short of doing His will.

 Specifically, we have the promise that Jesus’ blood washed away our sins: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”   (I John 1:7)

We can be sure of our present salvation, not because we are living sinlessly, but because Jesus’ blood is continually cleansing us of our sins!

It is well that we do not have to depend on our sinlessness, on our own obeying God’s law perfectly, on our own righteousness.  If we did, none of us would be saved because none of us live without sin!  We cannot rely on ourselves.  WE must rely on God’s saving grace and Jesus’ blood as we continue to walk in the light.

Reason #3

We can have assurance because we can be sure we will be saved.  Even if we believe that we are saved now, we may be unsure about whether we will be saved eternally.  We may be reluctant to say, “When I die, I will be saved,” or, “I’m going to heaven. No doubt about it!” 

Paul had no doubt of his eternal salvation.  Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8. 

Paul did not say that he alone could have assurance; he said that “all wo have loved his appearing” can have the same assurance of eternal salvation.

But how can we be sure of going to heaven?  Do we have to live sinless lives before we can be assured of eternal life? 

Staying in 2 Timothy, Paul speaks here of a good man, Onesiphorus.  “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,…may the Lord grant him to find mercy for the Lord on that Day!”   (2 Timothy 1:16, 18)

As good as Onesiphorus was, he would still need mercy on the day of the Lord.  So will we all.  The good news is that, just as mercy was available to Onesiphorus, it will be available to us on that great day! 

After we have done all that we can for Christ, we are still unworthy servants. We still fall short of the mark, but God’s mercy will make up what we lack!

SUMMARY

We can sing songs like “Blessed Assurance” and actually have assurance, even though we believe that a Christian can fall from grace.  We can be sure that we were saved in the past, we are being saved on a daily basis, and we will be saved in heaven forever!

Illustration:  When I was a child my father represented to me strength.  Now many of you have met him, and he isn’t the tallest, the strongest man you ever met.  But as far as I was concerned he was a tower of strength.  As I got older I still saw him as a person of strength.  This gives me assurance.  Of course, his love and care included discipline.  But I knew that there was forgiveness for all my mistakes.  In this too, there was assurance.  I know that if I would ever stray, dad would have some words for me.  But I know that those words and disciple do not mean that I am no longer his son. 

If having a good father can do that for a son, how much more will having God as our Father give us assurance? We can believe that our God has our good at heart, that He cares for us, that He is powerful enough to take care of any problem and that in all the changing circumstances of life, He is the unchanging One. 

Yes, God is our Father; we are His family!  That is assurance. 

INVITATION

If you are not a Christian, it is an assurance you can have too, if you will become of Child of God through faith and obedience.

If we must be led by the Spirit to be saved, how can we be guided by the Holy Spirit today?

Romans 8:14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

If we must be led by the Spirit to be saved, how can we be guided by the Holy Spirit today? 

Does the Holy Spirit lead us to Salvation by Miraculous Means?

God has in the past led people in this way.  See Hebrews 1:1,2.

In I Corinthians 12 Paul begins speaking about miraculous gifts.  Then in I Corinthians 13, he said that “when the perfect comes” this system of miraculous gifts would pass away (vv. 8-10).  I believe that is exactly what happened!

See also Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:2-4. Signs were used to confirm message.

What we read in the New Testament is this, when the Lord wanted a particular individual to be taught the gospel, He always provided some human messenger to bring the gospel message to him. 

Acts 8, Phillip is sent to the Ethiopian.

Acts 9, Ananias is sent to speak to Saul.

Acts 10, Peter is sent to Cornelius.

If you want to be saved by the leading of the Holy Spirit, do not expect a miraculous visitation by the Spirit.  Instead, do as Cornelius did: look for a messenger who will tell you how to be saved. 

Does the Holy Spirit lead us to salvation by special illumination of the Word?

James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Wisdom is the ability to make correct decisions. 

When we read the Bible, we are not reading something that was to be impossible to understand.

Ephesians 3:4 “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.”

Paul expected the Ephesians to understand what he had written.  He did not expect them to need miraculous help, or diving illumination, to understand.  Indeed, when we read the Bible, though we will discover that there are some difficult passages, most of the Bible is fairly easy to understand. 

We Received the Bible though the Holy Spirit

See 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20, 21.

The problem today is not that the message is so hard, the real problem is that men today choose to reject the simple teachings of God. 

When people claim to be seeking a special illumination, they are not always seeking to know God’s will.  Sometimes they want to have a “feeling” that justifies what they wanted to do in the first place. 

Does the Holy Spirit lead us today by the Word of God?

John 16:8, 9 “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;”  In order to be saved we need to be convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment!  But how did the Holy Spirit convict people in NT times? 

Conviction came through the preaching of the Holy Spirit-Inspired Word. No wonder Paul said the “the sword of the Spirit…is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17). The Spirit uses His sword, the Word of God, to cut, convict, and convince, as He leads people to salvation. 

The Bible says we are, or must be, born of the water and the Spirit to be saved. Therefore, we are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3: 5, 9).  But the Bible also teaches that we are born again through the Word. 

I Peter 1:23 We have “been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”

Further, the Bible says that we are sanctified in the Spirit: I Corinthians 6:11 “…you were washed …you were sanctified…you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”  We are sanctified through the Word.

Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

The Bible teaches that we are saved by the Spirit: “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Hoy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5)  (For more on this see also James 2:21)

Where does the Holy Spirit lead us?

He leads us to put our faith in Jesus Christ.

He leads us to be convicted of our sins.

He leads us to stop sinning and turn to God. (Repent).

He leads us to confess Christ as Lord.

He leads us to submit to Baptism where the blood of Christ cleanses us of all of  our sins.

He leads us to be a part of Jesus’ church.

He leads us to be faithful unto death.

Summary

Will you be led by the Spirit? If He were speaking to us today, He would tell us to do no more or no less than what He has already given us in scripture.  What He has written matters.  His message has been relayed to you. 

Will you hear it? Will you obey this message from God?

If God is Gracious, Could Good, Honest and Sincere People Possibly be Lost?

Questions…

If God is Gracious, Could Good, Honest, Sincere People Possibly be Lost?

What Does the Bible Teach?

  1.  Atheist: “can you be saved without faith in God?

2 Thessalonians 1:5-9.  Those who do not know God will be lost.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction.

Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” 

A good and honest and sincere atheist can be lost, and is lost.

  1.  How about people who believe in God but who never put their faith in Jesus, the Son of God?

John 8:24 “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

A good and honest and sincere person who does not believe in Jesus and does not put their faith in Him will not be saved. 

We have now eliminated about 67% of the world.  It is estimated that only 33% of the world believes in Jesus.

  1. What about those who have faith in Jesus, but have never followed His commands, or who are religiously wrong. 

We are not talking about followers of Christ who make mistakes and who are weak.  We are talking about those who claim to be Christians but have failed to be scripturally baptized.  They have never repented of their sin.  They have not confessed Jesus as Lord. Will they be saved?  Can we be saved without obeying the gospel? 

Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 and Matthew 7:21-23

The gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I Cor. 15.

What about some examples from the book of Acts.  Could we just be good, honest and sincere in what we believe or what we want to believe and still be pleasing to God?

Read Acts 10:1-4.  Cornelius was a good man.  But he needed to hear words whereby he would be saved.

Read Acts 8:26-40.  The Ethiopian was a religious man. 

Read Acts 9:1-19.  Saul, a righteous Jewish man who was on his way to become the high priest also needed to obey Christ. 

How is this Possible?

Who will be saved? Where is the dividing line? Which of these groups will be saved?  All or part?

Non-Christians?

Unbaptized Christians?

Baptized (for any reason) Christians?

Baptized for forgiveness of sins Christians?

When using the Bible as a dividing tool, where does it divide?  Wherever we put the line, there will those on the wrong side of the line who are good, honest and sincere or who, we think ought to be excuses for not being so.

We Still have a Problem…

The answer to our question lies in these great facts that are taught in the Bible.

 All have sinned.  Romans 3:23

The wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life. Romans 6:23

Man cannot save himself.  In sin, we are hopeless, condemned to die.  We are also helpless; we cannot lift ourselves up from our sin.  Thus, nothing we are, and nothing we do, is sufficient of itself to remove our sins.

Just being good, honest, and sincere will never make amends for our sin.     The Bible does not say that all we have to be is good, honest and sincere.  So how could these people be lost? 

Our God wants all to be saved.  But all have sinned; rebelled against God.  We offer to God our goodness, our sincerity, but it is not enough to save us. 

Salvation:
It all Depends on the Blood of Christ

What does blood do?

It purifies the conscience.  Hebrews 9:14 “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Matthew 26:28 “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Revelation 1:5  He “freed us from our sins by his blood.”

Certainly the blood of Jesus saves us.  It blots out the sin that condemns, kills, and separates us from God.  But how does this occur?  What must we do to have forgiveness by the blood? 

We Contact The Blood in Baptism

I Peter 3:20, 21 “in the days of Noah…eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Acts 2:38. Peter tells the crowd, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”

In Acts 22:16, Saul had been praying for 3 days (Acts 9:11).  Ananias comes and speaks to him about Jesus and then says… “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” 

Romans 6:3,4 “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him in baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  

To be saved by the blood, you must be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

First, we have to hear about Jesus.  Hear His word.  Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” 

Second, we have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  John 8:24 “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.”

Third, we must repent of our sins.  Luke 13:3 “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Fourth, we have to be willing to confess our faith in Jesus.  Romans 10:10 “For with the heart man believes, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Finally, we are scripturally baptized for the remission of our sins. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” (Acts 2:38)

Summary:

Are you really good, honest and sincere? 

Are you really good if you have not completely obeyed the commands of the Lord?

Are we really honest if we do not follow through with the truth of Jesus?

Are we really sincere if we decide to pay no attention to the Bible and never hear or heed its truth?

Where Faith Becomes Family