“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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.” (1 Corinthians 1:17, 18 NIV84)
In these verses Paul continued to address the topic of arguments and division within the Corinthian church. Paul had made it crystal clear already that there should not be division within the church. He had already said that if there is division, it is most likely because human beings have made the issue about themselves, and in doing so, have usurped Jesus as the head of the Church. In our verses for today, he went on to say that there is an inherent danger that we can strip the message of the cross of its power. We do this by not leaving well enough alone. When we feel it necessary to add our human wisdom to the Gospel message, it begins to lose its power. Why? Because the inherent power of the message of the cross is the Holy Spirit that powerfully works through the truth of God’s Word. When we start adding and qualifying God’s Word, we make it more about us and our interpretation than about the Word of God itself.
Understand, Satan knows how powerful the cross of Jesus is. His head was crushed and his kingdom destroyed as Jesus spoke the words, “It is finished!” Satan’s desire today is to strip the cross of its power because it has the ability to save people from eternal destruction. He knows that if he can water down God’s Word with human wisdom, it will lose its ability to save. We philosophers, theologians and teachers have to be careful that what we think is enhancing the Gospel message is actually not stripping it of its power to save. The Word of God must be our master and not the other way around. We need to know that the wisdom and power of the “old” Gospel message is just as relevant today as it was centuries ago. May we 21st-century Christians be faithful proclaimers of the cross’s powerful message rather than its re-definers.
May the powerful message of the cross be source of our faith, our life and our confession.