The Power of the Cross- 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

In our previous post, we briefly examined the Greek understanding of power, and how true wisdom, in this philosophy, consisted of learning how to tap into the power of the logos (the dunamis) to use it to magnify one’s self and increase one’s own power (ischuno). We will now examine this passage in 1 Corinthians in order to see how Paul contradicts this worldly wisdom with true biblical wisdom, using the same terms very differently to arrive at a very different conclusion. He begins, in verse 18, by referring to the “message of the cross”, which is the “power of God”. The Greek word translated message here is logos, and he is using it here to assert that it is the cross which really makes sense of the world, it is the cross which explains all things. So what does Paul mean here by the “message of the cross? The reference here is to Jesus “emptying himself” (Phillipians 2), to Jesus submission of His will to the Father. This is the “cross” to which Jesus calls all those who would follow Him (Luke 9:23), the submission of our will to God. This is the real means of tapping into the power (dunamis) of God, the real way in which we put the power of God to work in our lives. We must note here that the power referred to is not primarily physical but mental and intellectual, for the power and weakness referred to throughout the passage are contrasted by the terms wisdom and foolishness. The message of the cross is foolishness (Greek moria) to “those who are perishing”, to those who do not know Christ this message of the cross is literally “moronic”. Paul then quotes Isaiah 29:14 as a way of informing us that the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world always have been (and always will be) contradictory to one another. Paul then mentions wisdom in verse 20, to show us that the power he refers to here is primarily a mental one, and he tells us here that the message of the cross exposes the foolishness of the wisdom of the world, which is why he explains to us the message of the cross here. Paul then, in verse 21, contrasts two different kinds of “wisdom”, two different philosophies, two different ways of looking at and understanding reality. The first is a worldly philosophy which leads people away from God and magnifies “self”, the second is a Godly philosophy which leads people nearer to God and produces the true “self” by magnifying God. Those who operate according to the world’s philosophy cannot “know God”, cannot enter into a personal relationship with Him, for entering into this relationship requires embracing the message of the cross. This is the message which saves those who “believe”, those who reject the philosophy of the world and embrace the message of the cross as true. So we find, in these verses, a dramatic contrast between the worldly philosophy with which these Corinthians had been inundated and the Godly philosophy which Paul was preaching and teaching. This worldly philosophy taught that true wisdom consisted of learning how to tap into the power of “God” and put it to use for your own ends, that God was someone or something to be manipulated by human beings for their own selfish purposes, to magnify and glorify themselves. The godly philosophy taught that true wisdom consisted of the message of the cross, that we tap into the power of God only by submitting our wills to His, that we truly glorify ourselves only as we magnify Him. Thus we see that the basic message which Paul presents here is a contrast between two “wisdoms”,two “philosophies”. The first is the philosophy the Corinthians had been taught by the culture, a philosophy which taught that true wisdom and power came from man learning how to use God for his own glorification. The second is the philosophy of the Scripture, which teaches that true wisdom and power come from man learning how to be used by God for God’s glorification, that this is what truly magnifies man’s own “ischuno”, his own inherent power, which is truly unleashed only as the message of the cross is embraced, the message which is “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.

No Comments Christian Philosophy  //  Christianity  //  Growing In Grace  //  Living with a Purpose

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