February 8, 2016.
Well, I have completed my journey through the bible which I set out to do last year where I took a daily reading plan and wrote about each chapter in that plan as my daily blog. I didn’t quite finish in a year, but I did finish before the end of January, which I am content with. I truly appreciate all the support and following I had along the way, as it was quite a difficult process. I hope that some good came out of it, however, and I believe it was well worth it. Perhaps I’ll have more on the future direction of this project later. That being said, I am very excited to get back to my other style of writing, which I did most of the first year of my blog, posting more topical blogs as opposed to chapter-by-chapter. I have decided to go to a one or two posts a week format which will focus more on quality rather than quantity. I already appreciate any support and following you will give me from here on out, as I certainly will need it. If you ever want me to write about a certain topic or question, just let me know and I will try to do my best to present the biblical side of whatever the topic is. So, without further ado, tonight let’s consider some things Paul said in I Corinthians.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
(I Corinthians 1:10-25)
I have been in/on various classes and retreats where we have discussed some of the reasons that hinder us from truly going out and spreading the gospel to the world around us. So often, one of the main answers is “I don’t know enough” or “I don’t feel like I could present a good case.” We know what we believe, but we don’t think we can convince the world (the actual implications of this belief are striking if you carry them all the way out). I believe that a lot of Christians feel this way in our present age because of the increasingly hostile views that our culture is taking towards Christianity. Though we are not physically persecuted (for the time being), I do believe there has been set in place a mental persecution that is so subtle that we tend not not notice it. However, if it is not recognized and dealt with, it has the potential to destroy us spiritually.
If you pay close attention to the media and the world around us, you should begin to see that ‘fundamental’ Christianity is being painted in an ignorant light. In fact, the very word ‘fundament’ now carries with it overtones of ignorance and blind tradition which ignores all intellectualism. Those who preach Christ crucified are now typically seen as people who are holding on to something science has long disproven. We are seen as those who only believe something because we were taught it from birth, raised in the church, or brainwashed into conversion. Whereas this is not strictly the case, and it certainly isn’t overtly practiced, there is a gradual and subtle movement in this direction that has largely gone unnoticed. Yet I believe it even reaches us and influences the way we think about things. It influences our actions, perhaps when we don’t even realize it. This social pressure is the little voice in our heads that says “You don’t know enough to defend your faith” or “your faith is blind, and you wouldn’t even know how to present it to someone else.”
But here’s the truth: this social phenomenon we are experiencing is not new.
For the past 100-150 years or so, America has sat in a very unique position that was not hostile towards Christianity. In fact, if you were to travel back 50 years ago, it was very easy to be a ‘Christian’, at least in name. There was little physical or intellectual persecution, and it was perhaps even encouraged for you to be a Christian. I want to be clear that this was a unique phenomenon- the world does not typically work in this manner. And now, I believe America is becoming more normal, and we who have not experienced intellectual persecution for hundreds of years are now getting a tastes of what worldly wisdom truly is.
Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church above. His statement comes in the context of division in the church, where people were following after various men who preached the gospel, forming factions and cliques. What Paul emphasizes here, however, is that it is not the wisdom of the world that makes one wise, for God had chosen that which would seem foolish to the world to teach true wisdom. Look at how Paul describes the word of the cross: foolishness! To those who are perishing, at least. It doesn’t make sense to the world that a revolution would be started with the death of the Leader. It doesn’t make sense to the world that God would choose to come into the world as flesh, and be killed by the creation that He made, or order to save our souls. It doesn’t make sense to the world that an Almighty God, who needs nothing from us, would sacrifice His own Son, while we were in our sins, to demonstrate His love for us and to call us into His kingdom. That doesn’t make sense to the world.
But the foolishness of God is wiser than men.
True wisdom has to start with God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10) If one is to truly seek knowledge and wisdom, he or she must first start with the knowledge of the Creator, for it is through Him and by Him that all things were made. You cannot understand the creation without first knowing the Creator. Sure, there are things we can figure out, things we can study. But until we see these things through Him, we can never fully understand their meaning. You cannot get the ultimate answer to the question of ‘why?’ until you first learn the answer to ‘Who?’
The world does not understand this, and we should not expect them to. The world thrives in foolish wisdom, the wisdom of men. But the wisdom of men will always fade. The wisdom of men will fail. History has shown us this time and again. One man’s wisdom may work for a while in his own time or culture, but fails in another. We may have the words of wise teachers preserved from times past, but honestly, how many lives today to these words change? See, the world revels in its own wisdom, yet it doesn’t have longevity. What the world prizes quickly passes away.
The wisdom of Christ has influenced minds far and wide, and continues to do so today.
It is not our job to convict the world, but rather the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8). It is our job to plant the seed. Paul goes on to say this in a couple of chapters,
“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
(I Corinthians 3:5-7)
He is telling the Corinthians that there is no use in putting their full faith and trust in man, even the apostles! It was not by their power that they were doing anything, but rather by the power of God through them.
So, what’s the application? Whereas I’m sure there could be many, let’s focus on one, the thing that hinders us from spreading the gospel- fear of being ignorant. When we recognize that the preaching of the cross is indeed foolishness to the world, it should no longer surprise us when people don’t understand at first. We have been warned. But we also have been assured that this foolishness as the world sees is not foolishness at all, but rather the wisdom of God. We have been given a secret and hidden wisdom of God, and invited to share it with the world, even if they don’t fully understand yet. This is why our character and relationships with people are so important. We have to show Christ on earth, for by showing Christ, we show the wisdom of God, and people start to be convicted by the Spirit. They see us, and know us by our love. And through this love, God begins to reveal the wisdom that comes from above, pointing out the foolishness of the wisdom that is from below.
So, the next time you think ‘well, I don’t know enough,’ just remember- you actually possess a wisdom that is hidden from the world. You do know enough. You know so much more than you think you do. You know God. Allow His wisdom to show through you.
Be His witness and testimony.
Suggested Reading: I Corinthians 1-3.
You are the salt of the earth.