“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-24
Paul is always talking about the cross and Christ crucified. And I think we should follow suit. This is a lot easier for me to do when I think about the incredible truth behind Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. This truth, displayed in passages like 1 Corinthians 1:18-24, grips my heart, my mind, and my soul and produces in me awe and worship. My prayer is that it would for you too.
Paul says that the cross seems ridiculous to those who are perishing, those who are against God and have hard hearts toward him, but to us who are being saved, the cross displays the power of Christ. He expounds upon that further, saying that he and his partners in ministry preach Christ crucified, in which Christ, his crucifixion, and resurrection are revealed as not only the power of God but the wisdom of God as well. This got me thinking, how do the events of the cross display these things?
Christ crucified displays the power of God in that Jesus, as God, was able to command angels and creation, but chose not to. He says in Matthew 26:53-54, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?” Jesus has the power to save himself, and he also has the power of self-control and obedience to God. He knows the cross is the way God has decided to offer forgiveness, redemption, and new life to humans, and he has the power to submit himself to the torture, abuses, and death of the cross. He also has the power to love so unconditionally that he would be willing to die for us in such a painful and humiliating manner.
Another display of power in the cross is in the event that happened afterward: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In doing so, he proved that he was more powerful than death and sin. He conquered these things that hold power of us. We have such a propensity to sin that Paul says we are slaves to sin (Romans 6:16-18). But Christ crucified and resurrected has freed us from that bondage and we can live rightly. He has the power to choose good every time, and through his power, given to us by the Holy Spirit, we too can choose righteousness instead of sin. He has also given us power over death, because after we die physically, our souls are resurrected and we live in heaven, in God’s presence. This takes the sting and the fear out of death (1 Corinthians 15). God is more powerful than anything, even death and sin. This gives even more confidence to Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And even more assurance that He is worthy of our complete trust, faith, and surrendering of our will and desire to live for ourselves.
The cross also displays the wisdom of God. God made a way for both justice and mercy, rightful wrath and grace. No one seeks God (Romans 4:10), no one is righteous (Romans 4:10), all have sinned (Romans 4:23), and all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 4:23). The consequence of sin (not seeking God, not being righteous, falling short of the glory of God- all different ways of saying the same thing) is death (Romans 6:23). As much as we try to deny this, it is reality. God set up these consequences when sin entered the world. All sin leads to death. As an aside, God punishing sin is actually to be desired, because we don’t want sin, evil, and injustice to be able to go on forever. Human trafficking, the sex slave industry, murder, betrayal, selfishness- we all truly want these things to be punished and no longer allowed to exist. Because of this reality, God’s perfect justice demands death for our sin. In other words, our sin condemns us to death. Yet, God also desires to show mercy and compassion (Micah 7:18-19, Psalm 145:8). So, in his wisdom, God designed that Jesus Christ, the perfect, righteous God-man, would take on our sins (“be sin for us,” as 1 Corinthians 5:21 put it) and experience the punishment for sin. God would take his wrath out on sin in the person of Jesus Christ. In exchange, he would show us mercy and grace by giving Christ’s righteousness to us as we believe in the truth of this exchange. The cross allows justice, wrath, and punishment of sin, as well as mercy, grace, and compassion. And guess which part we get? None of the punishment, ALL of the mercy, grace, and compassion! How wonderful!
And the cross is God’s wisdom because he knows that our cold and stubborn hearts are melted and changed only by the free gift of unconditional love and grace. Things like rules, peer pressure, and cold logic cannot truly change us. God in his wisdom, gives us new hearts and makes us a new creation, so that we can change from the inside (2 Corinthians 5:17). This ability to change is made possible by Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Though this is a long post, it is definitely not comprehensive of the ways Christ crucified displays the incredible power and wisdom of our God. I hope that we continue to look for and think about more ways in which we see this truth. And I pray that this truth causes praise and adoration to well up in our hearts for our great God!