The first chapter of 1 Corinthians describes the contrast between the wisdom of this present world and the wisdom of God in sending His Son to die for the world on a Roman Cross. The idea of crucifixion was disgusting to people in the first century. That a man would be subjected to the cruelties of such an instrument of death was unthinkable. So much so, that people rarely spoke of crucifixion in a civil setting. Just as people today do not talk much about death in a gas chamber or by an electric chair, the cross was considered a curse by the Jews and Romans and unworthy of civil discussion.
For this reason the Jews of the first century did not consider a poor carpenter from Nazareth who died upon a cross, a serious candidate for Messiah. In the minds of the Jew at that time, when Messiah arrived He would set the Jews free from their Roman oppression and establish a righteous kingdom on earth that would never end. We see evidence of this hope in the questions asked of Jesus by His disciples:
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 1:6-8
1 Corinthians chapter 1, describes the wisdom of God in sending Jesus to die upon the cross as superior to the wisdom of this world. The primary method whereby God has shown us His wisdom is by what Jesus accomplished for the world when He gave His life to die for us.
Some People Stumble At Jesus’ Cross
The Jews of the first century demanded a sign that God had acted. If Jesus was truly the Messiah predicted by over 400 prophecies of the Old Testament, then He would show the Jews a sign by overpowering the Romans and establishing His kingdom on earth. Because Jesus did not do what the Jews expected of Messiah, they rejected Him and shouted for His death before Pontius Pilate.
The Jews had a long history of miraculous signs from God, beginning with the Exodus from Egypt and through the days of Elijah and Elisha. When people began to shout that Jesus was the Messiah, they demanded that He perform the same signs that they had expected in the past, but Jesus refused. The only sign Jesus said that would be given to the Jews is the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish, so also would Jesus be three days in the the heart (center) of the earth.
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. ~Matthew 12:38-40
In 1 Peter 3:18-20, Peter describes Jesus after He was crucified and died, descending into the center of the earth where the unsaved are kept for judgment until the end of this present age of grace when anyone can be saved. Jesus preached to these person and revealed that they should have listened to Noah when he warned of the coming judgment. When Jesus rose from the dead He took those who were in a second chamber at the center of the earth, who were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah and had trusted in God for their salvation. When He ascended back to heaven, Jesus closed this second chamber at the center of the earth, called “Abraham’s Bosom.” Today when any person dies while trusting in Jesus for their salvation, they ascend immediately into heaven.
Messiah Will Come Twice
The Jews during the time of Jesus’ arrival on earth, did not understand their own scriptures, much as they do not understand them today. They were watching for a mighty conqueror, not a Suffering Servant. The scribes of those days noticed that the prophets had predicted the Messiah would suffer and die. Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53 pointed to a different Messiah than the Pharisees had anticipated. The scribes and the Pharisees were not able to reconcile how Messiah could be both a Suffering Servant, dying for sins, while also being a conquering King. They didn’t understand that He would do both by coming on two occasions. Once to die, a second time to judge the world and reign over an eternal kingdom.
Jesus explained this to the Jews when He went to Nazareth and was handed the scroll of Isaiah and described chapter 61 as written for Him as the Messiah.
So Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” ~Luke 4:16-20
Isaiah described two arrivals for Messiah: first, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord in His first appearance as He dies for the sins of the world. Then a second time, to bring judgment and the vengeance of God.
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God. ~Isaiah 61:2
Notice that the actual text of Isaiah 61 contains additional text in verse 2 that Jesus did not read on that day. “To proclaim …the day of vengeance of our God…” Jesus did not read these words because He would not bring the vengeance of judgment to the world during His first arrival, He brought “the acceptable year of the Lord,” the forgiveness of sin. When Jesus comes again the second time, it will be to fulfill the rest of Isaiah 61:2, bringing God’s vengeance upon the world for those who rejected Jesus’ offer of forgiveness of all sins.
The Jews did not see these two arrivals of Messiah, they saw only one; reigning in victory over the world. Because Jesus was not the Messiah the Jews expected, they saw the cross Jesus was crucified upon as weakness and failure.
After Jesus had completed His crucifixion and resurrection described by the prophets, He appeared on the road to Emmaus. Two of His disciples were traveling from Jerusalem and while on this journey, they were discussing what had happened to Jesus and how they had thought that He was the Messiah, until He was crucified.
That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago. “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ~Luke 24:13-27
Jesus corrected their errors of assumption by taking these men through the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah which predicted His crucifixion and resurrection on the third day. There are 400 of these Messianic Prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.
In the book of Romans, Paul wrote that this cross, considered by many as a failure, was “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). The greatest event that has ever taken place on earth which proves the power of God, was when Jesus was crucified and rose again.
In this we see the difference between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God. Many people today ignore the narratives of Jesus in the New Testament because they think they are foolish and not true. In fact, it was by Jesus’ death and resurrection that God chose to reconcile the world to Himself and end sin and death on earth.
The critics and scoffers ignore the wisdom of God and go on about their lives as though it is not true, when in reality it is the very power of God which reveals who He is and how much He loves the world.
Some People Laugh At Jesus’ Cross
Those who consider themselves intellectuals in this present world, view the existence of God and the cross that Jesus died upon as foolishness. “How could the death of one man, pay for the sins of the whole world?” They do not consider that the narratives of Jesus describe Him as unique amongst all men who are born on the earth. Jesus was without sin. There is not a single place in the entire story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection where we see that He ever sinned. The men who had been with Jesus for nearly four years said that they had never seen Him sin. John the Baptist stated that Jesus was the Sinless Lamb of God. Jesus asked the leaders of Israel which of them could truthfully accuse Him of committing any sin.
There has never been anyone born on earth who was without sin. This is one of the singularities that sets Jesus apart from all other alleged gods and religious leaders. Every religion that man has created is headed by sinful people. Every ancient god or leader of religion is revealed to us as sinners themselves.
Only a human being who is without sin could die for sinners. Any person who was themselves a sinner, is in need of a Savior. They could not die as a perfect substitute for anyone. Jesus was without sin and He is God living in the body of a man. It is the power of His endless life as God that has sufficient value to pay for the lives of everyone on earth. The only thing that prevents anyone from obtaining forgiveness for their sins and eternal life is to believe in Jesus and trust Him for their entire life.
Many people who have achieved a Phd, or advanced education are told during their university years, that the narratives of Jesus are myths and not true. People are indoctrinated into these ideas as they are achieving an education and by the time they graduate, Jesus and His cross are seen as foolishness.
What a tragedy to become one of the world’s most intelligent persons but have it mean nothing in the end. In this world many people become famous, wealthy, achieve academic notoriety, but then they die and are lost forever. All of their earthly achievements are worthless on the day of judgment. Rejecting the way that God provided for every human being to be forgiven of their sins and not be guilty at the judgment of their life, they forfeit it all for 80 years of life here on earth.
Jesus said, “what does a person profit who gains the whole world but loses their own soul? What will a person give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul asked how the Philosophers, disputers, and debaters of this world can reconcile their alleged wisdom with missing the most important principle given to the world: Jesus’ death on the cross is the answer to all of man’s questions and problems.
God has impeached every argument of the atheist, agnostic, critic, and scoffer by sending Jesus to die for us and raising Him from the dead. God created a universe, sent His Son to earth to show us God, and has written us 66 books by 40 authors, all telling us exactly who God is and what He requires of every person.
In spite of this massive evidentiary record, people laugh at the idea that the universe proves God’s existence. They deny the New Testament as documenting the arrival of God’s Son, they reject the words of the Bible as foolishness.
And these three things are what God gave us to prove who He is and what He expects from us.
In 1 Corinthians 1:21, Paul wrote that the foolishness of preaching Christ crucified, is the wisdom of God. We obtain grace from God by obtaining the forgiveness of our sins by believing this simple message. God made salvation so simple that the least educated person on earth could obtain it, while the most educated ignore and laugh at it, and miss eternal life.
Believers in Jesus have courage for the conflict and we do not lose heart. We have a glorious ministry that transforms lives; treasure in earthen vessels; confident faith that conquers fear, and a future hope that is both a destination and a motivation.
Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Alleged Contradictions, Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics, How Salvation Occurs, Jesus is the Messiah, Messiah comes as a child, Messianic Prophecies, New Testament Criticism, Not understanding salvation, Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus, Reasons For Unbelief, Religion vs. Relationship, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation is a free gift, The First Arrival of the Messiah, The Historical Jesus, The Second Arrival of the Messiah, What happens after death?