Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Word of the Cross
06/29/2005 - James White
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
This is directly connected to what came before: why is it that preaching the gospel with the words of wordly wisdom, with "wise speech," speech marked by earthly wisdom, can empty the cross, make it null, and void? It has to do with the context in which God has placed the gospel: the sinful, fallen world. The gospel, in all places, at all times, calls rebel sinners, no matter what their culture, their language, their education, to repentance and obedience to His Lordship. Man will always respond to that message---and outside of grace, that response will always be negative. To those who are perishing, the preaching of the cross is foolishness. The contrast is striking, "but to us who which are being saved, it is the power of God." Same message, heard very differently, having very different results.
What is the preaching of the cross? Is Paul saying that every sermon he preached had only one theme? I don't believe so. But the cross is indeed the focus, the center, of the gospel, and hence anything that can be called "preaching" must be related thereto, and even when preaching on other aspects of the gospel's impact upon our lives, we do so standing in its shadow.
One thing is for certain: there is no such thing as Christian proclamation without the cross. There is no preaching without the full message of the cross, and that includes God's wrath against sin, His holiness, and His provision of full and complete salvation in only one way, through the cross. Abandon the cross, atonement, forgiveness, and all you have is...worldly wisdom.
Nullifying the Cross
06/28/2005 - James WhiteLast Sunday morning I began a series of sermons drawn from 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. Toward the end of my time I commented briefly on Paul's words in verse 17:
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. (NASB)
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (ESV)
The final two phrases really struck me. In Greek, we have, "ouvk evn sofi,a| lo,gou( i[na mh. kenwqh/| o` stauro.j tou/ Cristou/." The NASB's "cleverness of speech" carries a thought not necessarily found in the ESV's "eloquent wisdom." The NIV has "words of human wisdom" and the NET "clever speech." We should be very concerned to identify what Paul is referring to in light of the dire result of preaching the gospel in this manner: the nullification, emptying, of the cross of Christ! Whatever we do, we want to avoid such a heinous act of treachery against our Lord. What follows gives us a good idea of what he is referring to, for v. 18 begins an explication of the concept raised here. As I work through this text I will be posting snippets of my research, reading, and thinking on this tremendous passage. It has deep relevance to the church today and for all serious believers who desire to conform their thinking and their lives to the biblical norm.
Just a Quick Thought
06/25/2005 - James WhiteI had written about two pages in response to "Crimson Catholic" but decided I just didn't have the time this weekend to continue it. I have to fly up to Mill Valley Sunday afternoon after preaching the morning service at PRBC, tomorrow is my wedding anniversary (talk about a patient woman!), and next week I talk with Bethany House about a really exciting project (tease, tease), so I just don't have the time to pursue the amazing stuff you find being expressed in the context of the Envoy of CA boards for now. Onward and upward as someone is known to say.
I will be doing a series on "Practical Christian Epistemology" over the next number of weeks at PRBC in the Sunday morning and evening services. I don't know that I will use that title, but I will be working through 1 Corinthians 1-2 exegetically. Now, Crimson Catholic may choke when I say this, but the only sound Christian philosophy is that which is grounded in the inspired text. And, though he will utterly blow a circuit here, I believe exegesis is, in fact, the "queen of the theological arts," the most important of the fields of study, and that it is foundational to all else, including systematic theology, Christian philosophy, apologetics and the like. And there are few passages as rich with insight into what it means to think as a Christian than these first sections of Paul's epistle to the Corinthians.
Just two quick notes about the passage (I'm sure there will be more coming): first, note the metaphorical use of kenwqh/| at 1:17, "so that the cross of Christ would not be made empty, void, of no effect." Obviously, the literal meaning cannot fit here, and those of you who have read through my treatment of Phil. 2:5-11 know this is one of the other places where Paul uses keno,w in this sense of "of no effect" (in Phil. 2:7 it is best translated "of no reputation"). And consider what Paul says in light of certain theologies in this passage. Not only is the "preach/baptize" contrast important (how many today have a highly imbalanced view there?), but goodness, how long could we go on reflecting on how preaching the gospel in "cleverness of speech" (sofi,a| lo,gou) could possibly result in making the cross "void"? Talk about a concept with massive ramifications for the church in America today! ...
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