Only One Message- 1 Corinthians 1:22-31

Our previous post examined the first section of this passage and demonstrated one way in which worldly philosophy had infiltrated the church, resulting in a mistaken understanding of what true power and wisdom are and how they are to be used. This post will continue our examination of this passage and present another way in which the philosophy of the world may infiltrate the church, a way whose use has now become rampant. We find first, in verse 21, that God’s ordained method of salvation is through the “foolishness of what was preached”. And what was this “foolishness”? It was “Christ crucified” (verse 23)! Paul tells us that “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom” (verse 22). What we find here is that Paul preached one message and one message only, regardless of who the audience was. There was no tailoring the message to fit the audience, no “seeker sensitive” or “user friendly” messages, watered down from the pure truth of the gospel in order to win “converts”. Paul saw his only responsibility as being to preach Christ crucified. Some would accept the message and others wouldn’t, and that was God’s business, not Paul’s. Paul remained faithful to this one message and did not change it to get “conversions”. It did not need to be augmented by human cleverness and marketing techniques (worldly wisdom), for the message itself was the “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (verse 24), and any combination with human wisdom and cleverness actually served to distort it and rob it of much of its power. This becomes clear in verse 25, where we find that “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom”. Any attempt on our part to adjust the message, to tailor it to our audience to meet their “felt needs”, to make a sales pitch, selling Jesus as a magic solution to all of life’s difficulties, as a way to live your best life now or live forever in health, wealth and happiness. All of this is in reality a combining of the gospel with worldly philosophy, an adjusting of the message to be accepted by the audience. What must be noted here is that none of these modern “gospels” contain the very thing which Paul tells us was at the heart of his message: the cross. In none of these modern adaptations of the gospel to the audience can one find a call to a cross, for these messages rather ironically do not seek to lead those who accept them to “empty” the self as Jesus did, but actually serve to magnify the self, to use everyone and everything (including God) to build their own earthly kingdom. This “gospel” is also actually devoid of the “power” it seeks, for “the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (verse 25). This gospel has the “power” to obtain “conversions”, but this is a false power, for it has no power to transform the hearts, minds and lives of those who believe it. It merely serves to magnify the self, to make life more about “me” and what I can get God to do for “me” (not much has changed in 2000 years, has it?). The power of the true gospel, the gospel of the cross of Christ and a call to the cross for His followers, can truly transform hearts and minds, can cause those who accept it to leave behind once and for all any “worldly philosophies” and understand that true power comes not from exalting the self but through humbling it, from embracing the cross of Christ, which is the power of God and the wisdom of God, which alone has the power to truly transform those who embrace it. So we find, then, that not much has changed in 2000 years. The tendency of those in the church to attempt to adjust their message to be accepted by the audience, to stoke their own egos by citing the number of “converts” they won or how rich and successful their followers are becoming (although it is generally only the ones preaching that message who become rich and successful), is a modern version of a very old problem, the problem of adding the current philosophy, the wisdom of the culture, to the message to make the message more palatable to the audience. Paul steadfastly refused to do this, and much of the modern church has lost its power and effectiveness because it has not steadfastly refused to do so as well. May we all return to the preaching of one message, the message of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) which is the “power of God unto salvation for those who believe” (Romans 1:16).

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